The Sunday Poem: Sierra Nelson and Loren Erdrich

Loren Erdrich (left) and Sierra Nelson (right)

 

If you’re close to me in age and were a voracious reader as a young person, you undoubtedly remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books, a series created by Edward Packard and originally published by Constance Cappel’s and R.A. Montgomery’s Vermont Crossroads Press in 1976. The books were written from a second-person point of view, with the reader making choices to determine the protagonist’s actions and the plot’s outcome. Choose Your Own Adventure was one of the most popular children’s series during the 1980s and 1990s, selling over 250 million copies between 1979 and 1998.

Poet Sierra Nelson and visual artist Loren Erdrich have created their own twist on this concept with their new book I Take Back the Sponge Cake: A Lyrical Choose Your Own Adventure, just published by Rose Metal Press. Each page turn features an ink and watercolor drawing, a poem, and a choice between two sound-alike words that create a variety of paths through the book. The adventure always begins in the same place, but depending on your choices, your reading experience moves by emotional meander until it finally reaches one of the possible endings.

 

 

Loren Erdrich and Sierra Nelson met while working at the Vermont Studio Center. All of the drawings (primarily ink and watercolor) are by Loren, some of the poems are written solely by Sierra, and some of the poems were written collaboratively by both specifically for this project.

Each drawing and poem comes with a choice between two homophones (or sound-alike words), with strange and lovely definitions borrowed from a 1900’s spelling book. The pairing of the images in conversation with the poems and the mapping of the book’s meandering structure was a collaborative process as well.

The book will be launched at AWP in Chicago next week with three special readings and events on Wednesday, February 29th and two events on Saturday, March 3rd. There is also an upcoming reading in Portland, Oregon. The full schedule is included below.

 

A drawing from Nelson and Erdrich's book

 

Sierra and Loren have been kind enough to send me the opening page of the book, along with the two branching choices, so you can get a sneak preview. To get a closer look at the drawings and text, just click on the image. I’ve also included the text below each spread, so it’s easier to read.

Instructions: Read the poem and image. Then choose one word from the given pair, using the provided sentence as a guide. When you’ve made your choice, click the corresponding link.



SpongeCakeExcerpt1-FINAL

 

 

You Will Go Back Again

We have seen your future, and it’s all eyes,
you crazy head of bees.

Hurry, while they’re still sleepy—
get out the gate.

 

 

Wait: to stay
Weight: heaviness

____________, my heart is breaking.

 

 

If you choose wait, click here.
If you choose weight, click here.

 

 

 

About Sierra Nelson & Loren Erdrich

Sierra Nelson (Photo by Rebecca Hoogs)

Sierra Nelson’s poems have appeared in Crazyhorse, Poetry Northwest, City Arts Magazine, Forklift Ohio, Painted Bride Quarterly, and DIAGRAM, among others. For over a decade she has collaboratively written and performed as co-founder of The Typing Explosion and the Vis-à-Vis Society, including at the 2003 Venice Biennale and on the Wave Books Poetry Bus Tour. She received her MFA in poetry from the University of Washington and is a MacDowell Colony fellow. She currently lives in Seattle, Washington. Loren and Sierra continue to collaborate under the name Invisible Seeing Machine.

 

Loren Erdrich

Loren Erdrich is a mixed-media visual artist working primarily in drawing, sculpture, performance, and video. She has exhibited nationally and internationally, both individually and as part of CultureLab Collective. A 2011 show at the Joan Cole Mitte Gallery in Texas featured her work alongside that of Louise Bourgeois, Kiki Smith, and Félix González-Torres. Loren completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, receiving a BA and BFA respectively. She received her MFA in 2007 from the Burren College of Art and the National University of Ireland. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. To learn more about Loren Erdrich’s work, visit her website.

 

 

A drawing from "I Take Back the Sponge Cake"

 

The Launch of I’ll Take Back the Spongecake

At AWP in Chicago on Wednesday, February 29

Loren Erdrich and Sierra Nelson reading from I Take Back the Sponge Cake and Tiff Holland reading from Betty Superman in an AWP Conference off-site reading at 9:00 pm. With co-readers from Hopewell, Lowbrow, and Paper Darts. Free and open to the public.  Weeds Tavern / 1555 N. Dayton St. / Chicago, IL

 

At AWP in Chicago on Saturday, March 3

Loren Erdrich and Sierra Nelson will be signing books 11:30 am – 12:30 pm at the Rose Metal Press table (N4) in the AWP Conference Bookfair at the Hilton Chicago. (On Saturday the AWP Bookfair is free and open to the general public all day.)

 

At AWP in Chicago on Saturday, March 3

Loren Erdrich reading from I Take Back the Sponge Cake and Adam Golaski reading from Color Plates in an AWP Conference off-site reading at 7:00 pm. With co-readers from Big Lucks, Gigantic Sequins, Knee-Jerk, and Magic Helicopter. Free and open to the public.  The Beauty Bar / 1444 W. Chicago Ave / Chicago, IL

 

At Powell’s in Portland, Oregon, on Monday, March 12

And if you’re going to be in Portland in March, Sierra Nelson will give a free reading on Monday, March 12 for the Smallpressapalooza at 9:00 p.m. at Powell’s.  Powell’s City of Books / 1005 W. Burnside / Portland, Oregon

 

Sierra Nelson (Photo by Rebecca Hoogs)

 

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Excerpts from I Take Back the Sponge Cake appear courtesy Rose Metal Press. Copyright © 2012 by Sierra Nelson and Loren Erdrich. Used by permission of the authors.


By | 2016-11-11T21:53:07+00:00 02.25.12|Images, The Sunday Poem, Words|1 Comment

About the Author:

I’ve spent almost 20 years helping thousands of successful artists of all disciplines and working to make the arts more accessible. (One friend likes to call me “the arts enabler.”) From 1999-2012 I worked at The MacDowell Colony, the nation’s oldest artist colony, but I've also done time at an arts magazine, a library, an art museum, and a raptor rehabilitation center. In May of 2012 I left MacDowell to pursue writing, speaking, curating, and creative projects full-time. In 2015 I was named a “Top 100 Artist, Innovator, Creative” by Origin magazine. I've appeared as an arts and culture commentator on New Hampshire Public Radio, and in 2017 I was the recipient of the Wampler Art Professorship at James Madison University. I am the founder of the Gwarlingo Salon series, which connects artists like DJ Spooky with rural audiences in the Monadnock region. In 2017 my collaborator Corwin Levi and I will publish our first book, Mirror Mirrored, which combines Grimms’ fairy tales with vintage illustration remixes and the work of contemporary artists like Kiki Smith, Carrie Mae Weems, and Amy Cutler. I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, but have called New Hampshire home since 1999. My studio is located in the historic, mill village of Harrisville. I miss fried okra, the early southern spring, and restaurants that stay open past 9:00 p.m., but rural life agrees with me. In New Hampshire I can see the stars, go kayaking or snowshoeing, watch bald eagles fish in the lake, and focus on my creative work in silence. I no longer have to worry about traffic jams; deer, wild turkeys, and frost heaves are the primary road hazards here. Although I live in the country, I’m fortunate enough to be part of a vibrant arts community that extends beyond this small New England village. The quiet days are punctuated by regular travel and frequent visits to museums, theaters, readings, arts events, lectures, and open studios around the country. (You can read my full CV here.) Thanks for visiting Gwarlingo. I hope you'll be in touch.

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  1. Nelson medusa | Everythinghome February 26, 2012 at 6:22 pm

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