“Live in the layers, not on the litter.”

“Live in the layers, not on the litter.” ~ Stanley Kunitz, 1905-2006, American Poet; Poet Laureate Consultant to the Library of Congress – 1997, 2000

My friend Butch shook his finger at me and waved  his arms, his raspy voice a little elevated. “There you go, having to look at all that symbolism and crap. Why can’t you just take the story as it is and be happy with that? Hm? Mary is the Mother of God. Period.” Boom! His palms smacked the table.

“Because that’s where the stories are! In the layers!” I’d just made the comment that I liked how Mary was referred to as ‘the new Israel.’

Rest assured this was a friendly debate during adult religious ed. class on Sunday, no blood was shed or hard feelings lingered. Butch and I often see things not quite the same. And the usual source is that I enjoy living in the layers and he doesn’t 🙂

I believe most writers and artists do.

Sunday was also the opening of Vistas-Vision and Verse~an exhibit of ekphrastic poetry and the art that inspired it. It’s an exhibit showing the connection between the literary and visual arts. How these sister arts, complete in their own right, can enhance and deepen each other and finish each others’ stories. How they each add layers.

After I read my poem, To Margaret, from Al~Aug. 14th, 1910, I explained the significance of the color yellow throughout. The summer of 1910 was the summer the Women’s Suffragette Movement strengthened and yellow was its rallying color. Women planted gardens of yellow flowers, a ‘secret sign’ among movement sympathizers.

In my art piece, Family Tree, ribbons represented DNA and hieroglyphs my family-both in shadow and vibrant color.

What was at first a poignant little poem or an interesting response to a quilt challenge became something deeper, richer.

All fourteen poet/artists showing in the exhibit had similar experiences. We watched as our guests ‘got it.’ They would look at the art, read the poem, then look at the art again. We could see the look of understanding settle on their faces. It was interesting and fun to watch.

Despite what Butch might think, I can and do appreciate the surface- or litter– in conversation, books, religion, art . . . But it’s in the voice inflections, nuances, shadows, symbolism and details – the layers – that the good stories hide. And who doesn’t like a good story?

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