(About) Artist’s Statements

I’ve needed to write an artist’s statement for a while, but it’s been difficult. It’s easy for me to list my accomplishments as facts, turning lines on my CV into sentences. But despite writing about personal things in my poetry, I haven’t been comfortable writing a full statement about what I believe about creating art. ThenI was confronted with the need for an artist’s statement for a project proposal. Here’s what I wrote. What should I add? What should I take away? I know the statement will be fluid, and change over time.

Artist Statement

I come to poetry from a background of music performance and scholarship and the study and love of literature. I believe in the philosophy of tikkun olam, “repair of the world,” and I believe that through art, I can leave the world a better place that it was when I arrived. Inspired by history, language, and the mythopoeic, I create works that address social justice issues, particularly those involving women; the environment; and the nature of compassion.

My work includes poems, lyrics, libretti, and plays. In my poetry, I’m interested in how language works in creating a story or a moment. I consider word histories, regionalisms, and slang, and often use wordplay. I use words taken from an influential source or write using a meter from such a source. In my poem “Re-Writing King Lear in a time of Pandemic,” for example, I use almost exclusively words from Shakespeare’s play and those that can be anagrammed from “King Lear” and “Covid.” I’m interested in the scientific names for plants and creatures, and use these in writing about the environment. I use place-names from history and folklore in poetry about race, destruction, and erasure. I match cadences and rhythms to the sounds the objects I write about make. I think of language and sound as a sandbox for me to work in, in all of my writing, and I create connections between words and images and meanings in ways that communicate with a wide range of readers and listeners.

In writing text that will be sung, I tell stories about women; about prejudice; about resilience; and about my own lived experiences. I work to create texts that singers will want to sing, both from technical and artistic perspectives, and texts that lend themselves well to the medium of vocal music and opera. I think about diction and pronunciation and phrasing and where singers will need to breathe. I craft lyrics that fit the requirements of a piece: short, regular lines for young singers, texts that offer opportunities for virtuoso passages or extended techniques for more experienced performers. I work closely with composers and performers throughout the process of creating new works that will be set to music, re-writing and changing elements as the piece demands.

My playwriting also engages with women’s issues, exploring the place and rights of women in society, how women are viewed by men, and the concept of the monstrous feminine. I’m influenced in all of my work by feminist authors and visual artists, like Marcin Nagraba and Agnieszka Osipa, whose Pagan Poetry photograph series inspired my song cycle From Wild Sleeping Waters; by writers who are creative and intelligent in their use of language, like Helen Macdonald and Paul Kingsnorth; and writers who work with important issues through highly imaginative frameworks, like Maria Headley Dahvana, Margaret Killjoy, and R. B. Lemberg.

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