Article

Miriam Karraker contributes poems after Jennifer Nevitt’s "Sans Terre" at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, enacting the slippage between language and what is seen or felt.
January 2, 2018

Artwork by Jennifer Nevitt. Image courtesy of Minneapolis Institute of Art.

 

keeps        watch

poems after Jennifer Nevitt’s Sans Terre[1]

 

What looms and carries: the headstone                  but also what is behind 
it              tall cedar pillar                 so whole                    smells sweet and 
larger          than life-like          torso-less figure leaps left           pushes my
eye                            to follow outline and fill                         the degrees of
which             and what fleeting traces                 what movement        what
still            remnants

 

Artwork by Jennifer Nevitt. Image courtesy of Minneapolis Institute of Art.

 

Consider a sailor on a lonely vessel painting flags, stand-ins for saying I am 
altering my course, I am dragging my anchor, I require medical assistance, 
keep clear— I am maneuvering with difficulty.
 I remember how often words 
are not good or enough,

how they turn to stutter in the wind, though, anyway, I put word to air in 
speech— feel how pitch shifts, how it may muffle or echo, how tenor is 
held—no, beholden to body.

 

Signals, Jennifer Nevitt. Image courtesy of Minneapolis Institute of Art.

 

Concrete sill holds a doorway
with tenuous draping.
I do not walk through,
for fear of covering:
for both the shroud
and my own undoing.

With tenuous draping,
a balance of tension
my own undoing
between weft and warp
winding right angles
slight light seeps:

a balance of tension
through an evidence,
warm quiver of hand
in fear of covering:
circle each passage,
gray shades centrifugal,

behind the darkest dyed
center, the tide is loosed,
it will not hold: most parts
of room fade from view
through this film,
blurred covering.    

 

Passages, Jennifer Nevitt. Image courtesy of Minneapolis Institute of Art.

 

Hesitant monument:
concrete anchor slab
on which cedar armature
as body rests hollow
and of tenable height
wrapped in threadbare
such sparse fibers
and silver sheaths
slipping off     in air
and with air     vent
tugging        this
the alert    symptom
some       thing
amiss     how
body keeps
watches    falls
a    way.

 

Sentinel, Jennifer Nevitt. Image courtesy of Minneapolis Institute of Art.

 

At seven, wake—  
rise through folds
of cotton,
news     paper
and self   so
trying      must
find     clothes—
until  kettle scream,
my tea steeps
I sip     steam
out wrinkles in
last night’s dream, no,
must    retrace lines,
see signals flag
through oil grime
in     through time,
no faint glyphs etched
just creases in ink
impressed fine,
I want for peel:
bright orange,
its rind, one S in pith     
now sealed on page,
this beacon,  mine.

 

Lighthouse, Jennifer Nevitt. Image courtesy of Minneapolis Institute of Art.


[1] This sequence of poems aims to linguistically reflect on time spent experiencing and reflecting on Sans Terre, both in the gallery and outside it. These poems work within the poetic tradition of ekphrasis (Greek for “description”) which serves as textual documentation and rhetorical exercise— an endeavor that enacts the slippage between language and what is seen or felt. 

 

Jennifer Nevitt: Sans Terre is on view at the Minneapolis Institute of Art through February 25, 2018.

Miriam Karraker is a writer and performer based in Minneapolis. Her writing has appeared in Indiana Review, Gulf Coast, Kenyon Review Online, Gigantic Sequins, DIAGRAM, TAGVVERK, BOAAT, Full Stop, 3:AM Magazine, and fLoromancy.

MN Artists