And now, some poetry

Reveling in my love of old maps!

I’ve been meaning to do some drawings inspired by poetry for some time now and, in particular, the work of a very talented friend named Sheila Squillante. Both a poet and essayist, Sheila writes gorgeous narrative verses and evocative essays interweaving, among other things, memory, motherhood, love, and cooking (yes!). Recently, Dancing Girl Press released a chapbook of her prose poems called A Woman Traces the Shoreline, which is the inspiration for the above drawing.

Although the poems in this chapbook are grounded in the present day and largely reference one woman’s ritual of writing in a café while she is pregnant with her first child, they also evoke elements of the heroic journey. Lines such as “I feel the hero fighting. I am the hero fighting” and “We quest and billow. We wait” reference something epic and powerful, as if the expectant mother becomes the ancient hero—or perhaps one of those great ships carefully outlining the shores of a new and undiscovered country.

I absolutely love old maps and cartography—the star-like, navigational vectors, the wobbly coasts, and all those beasties and ominous warnings of HERE BE DRAGONS. They’re visually stunning, and I knew the drawing would start with one of them. I used my silhouette-style, as it seemed to better fit the idea of shapes and outlines and allowed the speaker in these poems to remain faceless. I liked the idea of referencing ships somehow, so I positioned the figures in a way that might suggest the three, tall masts of a clipper ship. I wasn’t certain if I should include any text, but the writing ritual is such a challenging, yet magical thing for me as well, so I included that line. Underneath it all are the lines of a yellow legal pad upon which the speaker writes and which, I think, expect to be filled.

Sheila has another chapbook coming out in August called Women Who Pawn Their Jewelery. It will be published by Finishing Line Press, and although I didn’t get this blog post up in time for her pre-sale rush (it’s been a crazy week, alas!), you can still pre-order it like I did. Like Shoreline, she had me at a great title, so I asked if she might send the title poem so I could be inspired by it to do another drawing. And she did!

I probably need to exercise a bit more restraint on the use of background patterns. But sometimes, I just can’t help myself.

In this poem, a pawn shop owner speaks of the women who trade their tokens of past loves and lost moments for “a flat cash value.” The mix of emotions is clear; these women “come after death, divorce or break-up/to sell jewels as bright and various as their pain.” The metaphor of gems, memories, and women’s bodies is expertly done, and no doubt representative of the tender lyricism the rest of the chapbook will bring. I look forward to reading it!

Next up on my list is A Day in Boyland by Jesse Randall. I’m also looking forward to my good friend Jessica Wicken’s collaboration with Della Watson called Everything Reused in the Sea, which is coming out later this summer. (Do you see the octopus on that cover? Heck yes, I’m reading that!)

I’m currently looking for other terrific, contemporary poetry to read, so if you’ve got a recommendation, please let me know. I’d love to do more poetry-inspired work. Hooray for poems!