photographs by Lisa Hammond

photographs by Lisa Hammond
photographs by Lisa Hammond

Thursday, March 23, 2023

We See: Creating from Verse

Short version:

Look at this AMAZING exhibit of art responding to my poems!! Scroll down to the link just below the red strip on the webpage linked below!

We See: Creating from Verse, National Association of Women Artists, South Carolina chapter


Long version (because you know if it’s me, there’s gonna be a long version):

One of the greatest compliments I ever received on my work came from Ursula K. Le Guin. She wrote an essay called “The Only Good Author?” in which she wonders why critics ignore the existence “of the person probably most interested in their work”—the author. When I finished my master’s thesis on Le Guin, I sent her a copy, and she sent back an elegant little thank you note. She wrote, “What is beautiful is that you seek and see beauty. Thank you! dear collaborator!” Thirty years later this letter still makes me teary-eyed both because of her generosity and because she gave me words for something about myself—that beauty and art are part of my heart.


I had the rare and astounding experience recently of having a very different but equally profound compliment and complement to my writing, this time through art. My own dear collaborator, Fran Gardner, with whom I have shared art and poetry for more than twenty years, is the president of the South Carolina chapter of the National Association of Women Artists. She asked last year if I would be interested in contributing poems to an exhibit, where artists could choose a poem and create a work of art responding to it. I pulled all the poems I’ve published in chapbooks, sent them off, and didn’t think much about it again.


Last week the NAWASC exhibit went live, and a week later I’m still trying to find words for it. The show, titled “We See: Creating from Verse,” features 33 pieces of art by 21 talented South Carolina artists. Juried by lowcountry artist Mary Edna Fraser, the exhibit is online now for viewing, but will have an opening at Brookgreen Gardens during the chapter’s annual meeting next month. Those of you who know me well know that Brookgreen is one of the first places I learned to be an artist, from when I was too small to remember. The idea of seeing my poems projected on the gallery walls at Brookgreen Gardens would be a dream come true, if I had had the boldness to imagine such a thing.


And the art! It’s amazing! Some pieces respond so directly to the poems, and others just blow a little kiss as they go their own merry way. Whimsical! serious! bright! muted! One hydrangea a bold explosion of color and another a quiet old garden run wild, both speaking to the same poem! Fran and I have collaborated on art/poetry projects before, but this was something else—seeing the images from the poems rendered a new way by artists I have not even had the pleasure of meeting (yet, I hope!). A friend asked if the show was a retrospective of my poems, and it does have a certain quality of that, since the work spans such a long time—from 1997 to 2021. But to call the exhibit that would not give credit to the art, which has its own wild glory.

So it is my privilege to share this art and these poems with you today—I hope you enjoy! So many thanks to the artists who created the work, to Mary Edna Fraser for jurying, to Sandy Dimke for building the show, and especially to Fran Gardner, for creating opportunities for women artists, for sharing my work, and for a friendship where we hold each other up as we build and rebuild the finding aids of our lives. 

Title slide from the exhibit, We See: Creating from Verse