Some readers of this blog will be familiar with my series of poems on the paintings and logs of Walter Inglis Anderson, which I’ve called “Barrier Island Suite.” They’ve been around for a few years and have been published individually in magazines over the years, but I’ve never quite decided what to do with them as a collection. Enough have appeared in magazines now that I can begin to think of book publication, but the collection is on the long end of chapbook range and a little too short for a full-length book. There are 20 poems in the series so far, though most would go to 2 pages in a book, so I’d be looking at a 40-page chapbook. I’ve never been quite satisfied with that, and recently I began rethinking the collection.
Since a suite is a related series in art, a suite of poems could be any length, but a suite in music is a more definite form of related movements, usually 4 in the suite de dans, though modern suites especially can be any length. To break up the series, I had initially thought to organize them in sections, which might roughly correspond with a movement in music. With this idea, I’m considering using the first several poems as a prelude, then having four more movements, which would involve keeping two existing series of poems intact and composing two more new sets. What I like about this idea is that it would allow me to write on two themes I would like to include.
Most of the poems take place on the barrier islands where Walter Anderson would camp and draw or paint for weeks at a time. They explore his relationship to nature, but also the relationship between madness and civilization, since Anderson suffered from an undiagnosed mental condition, which led him to leave his family and the Shearwater pottery for these extended solo trips. Though I initially wanted to keep the family and life at the pottery on the sidelines, it has begun to intrigue me how that part of his life was related to the solo artist. I’m planning to do some more research into his life at home and incorporate some images (especially from the mural he painted in his cabin) and stories from that side of his life into a movement that may take a different poetic form than the other poems.
Again, the idea of a suite helps here, since the music is typically in different time signatures and tempos. It may mean making some changes to existing poems as well, and I might add a few poems to the sections that already exist. The last section I’d like to write is on the Mississippi River, and will be based on his statue, “The Father of Waters” and may enlarge the focus of the suite to encompass more than Anderson himself.
Those are just a few notes of what I’d like to do. It’s a project I’ve been mulling for some time now, and 2014 seems like the right time to take it on. The additional research is exciting, as is the prospect of returning to this project with the goal of creating new material.