HAPPENING NOW: Antelope Valleys Arts new initiative, the AV ArtConvo, featuring poems by Hollie N. Martin.
Presenting poems by Hollie N. Martin – “Laguna’s Labor” & “Shakes in Heat”
SATURATION 2.0: The Arts in Conversation project at Antelope Valley Arts is now live: Local artists (painters, poets, photographers, fiction writers) have been invited to submit art and partake in a conversation on artistic influence and inspiration as the print arm of Antelope Valley Arts is going digital.
This week we are featuring the work of Hollie N. Martin, a poet with a vivid and deeply rooted connection to the arts. When she is not actively meditating on sound through her writing, Martin teaches at Antelope Valley College, where she is probably also meditating on vowels and consonants in delicate contrast and delightful pattern.
Waters of sanctification scattered.
The sonogram of fish.
A birthing, writing baby
begging to issue from the womb.
Waves do not seem as harsh
from so great a height,
from so small a whisper
not wanting to crack the air with human language.
The tide sings an aria of rocks,
of an intercourse between liquid and solid.
Freely you have received.
Waters of sanctification scattered.
The out-spray of a crash.
Brute force munching a foundation,
eating the cracks of the earth.
And you are down there,
deep-sea decked in 80s yellow.
World never to be born.
World who wonders what it must be like
to inhale deep and
escape amniotic fluid.
And I am up here,
arms cradling the metal guardrail, my own tightrope,
waiting for this foundation’s dissolve,
for the moon’s glow to liquefy my heart
and issue a prayer.
Interview Part 1
Who is your favorite writer? How does he or she influence your work?
Li-Young Lee will always be my favorite poet, and Book of My Nights will always stand in my mind as his best work. I was first exposed to Lee as an undergrad at CSUN, and I fell in love with the spirituality and sensuality of his language.
I love the recurring theme of the father figure in his work, as in the poem “Little Father,” which discusses burying the father in the heart and birthing him again into the child’s own image. This is especially touching now, as my own father is suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease; I am having to rebirth him today, to take his sounds and movements and make words out of them.
Lee also brings in song and birds, which are two intense touchstones in my life; these images brought me through my own “book of nights.” This line from “Lullaby” comforted me when I was suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts while in college: “After crying, Child / there’s still singing to be done.” The capitalization of the Child spoke to me of importance and significance, as a push to keep existing. Then the lines, “After wings // and the shadows of wings, there’s still / the whole ungrasped body / of flying to uncover.” This spoke to me of the promise of potential: there was, and is, so much more flying to do.
I have wanted to emulate the sense of pause and depth in his work, and while I am far from achieving that goal, Lee gave me a deep appreciation of the way one word can change the timbres of a work.
Shakes in Heat
does not feel like Christmas
until there are lights.
Small and white
like rain drops.
Large and pied
like gum drops.
Lights from trees, cars, overpasses,
lights from a city screaming daytime in nighttime tongue.
And I whisper words
while the lights scream. Somehow.
They pulse. I think it’s my eyes.
I think it is lack of 20/20,
lack of hindsight, no time to reason,
only to eat the moment
one droplet at a time.
Sometimes I choose to unfocus.
I open eyes wide and rest.
The lights explode in blur.
Then I strain, then I readjust,
then the light’s song rushes toward me
and it shakes in heat.
Completely mechanical. What
Christmas becomes a series of bulbs
dangling from gaunt-green strings.
at the raising of a killed tree.
So I look for a miracle in shivering lights.
(They’re cold from lack of attention.)
I look for a dream through bars
locking away the view.
Dear city of angels,
I look for winged creatures under every bush.
We with our snowless eves.
Us with questions and pleas.
You and I and cries for peace.
My heart matching a pulse too great to be a machine.
I think light is magic.
I think the city is lit by Gabriel’s torch.
The cries accompany glorias.
I will catch the light in my hands.
I will take it home, sew a little nest,
and watch its wings develop.
I will ask it to fly inside my eyes.
Interview Part 2
How does music influence, shape or fit into your work?
To be honest, I often can’t write anything creative without music.
I have been singing since I was little, and I learned to play guitar when I was 21. I tried to form a band with my sisters for a time, and we had our own level of success, but it never went very far. I think I was more fascinated with the writing process of music and performing it for a few friends than for “musical success.” (One of my favorite pieces of ours was a melodic rendition of pieces from Eliot’s “The Hollow Men.”)
Musical sounds captivate me. Playing a chord progression in a repetitive manner will often allow me to “see” words or images (I’m a sucker for very traditional time measures with sticky melodies). I will get a concept, set the guitar down, and start writing. Some of my strongest poems have been written in these moments.
I have also produced work while listening to the music of others. My musical tastes tend to not reside in the mainstream—and I’m not talking about the “cool” non-mainstream. I grew up surrounded by music that was written from the perspective of people who were followers of Christ. I attended concerts almost every weekend through my teens and twenties, and some of those musicians have remained in my auditory repertoire ever since.
The artists Jason Upton and Rita Springer are two of these people, and they produce music that I just can’t classify into a specific genre. Upton is extremely free-flow, in the sense that he often writes songs while in the concert experience itself. That creativity helps uncork me, especially when I am suffering from writer’s block. Springer channels a Janice Joplin type of voice and pounds out melodies on the piano. She is very raw—like a wild lioness who could kill you at any moment and afterwards comfort her baby cubs. She is so different from me that she also uncorks new arenas of creativity. Their albums can’t even capture how they sound live, so whenever I can, I try to see them, often with a notebook and a pen in my hand.
Most recently, I have been moved to write while listening to “When the Music’s Over” by The Doors and “The Fire and the Flood” by Loud Harp (a duo who sings the Psalms).
Note: Image above of “Rocky Sea Coast” by William Trost Richards (public domain image).