These are poems and comments from the students in English 111 to the Ross Gallery show, In Material: Fiber 2012. The shows features works by Lucy Arai, Mi-Kyoung Lee, Sonya Clark, and Cynthia Schira. The responses are organize by artist.
photographs of the performances in the gallery on Feb. 20, 2012 here




2006.04 by Lucy Arai


Hannah Sciver


3 columns of color, 2 black stripes edge a blue chaos streaming down the center. a flash of lightning streaks down the blue, pillowing smoke round itself and scattering black splatter. 
within the blue deep and splatter, watery smudges bleed together.
it is stark, vague and startling. murky hedge and dabble cloud. warm(flash) and cold(eternity). collision of form and light and shape and color.



Rebeca Liberbaum


When G


We've been looking at the skies

Hoping for heavens to meet earth

Waiting for redemption, for men to put down swords

Sweep the bloods from sidewalks

Clean tears that've been shed since

G-d created the Heavens and the Earth


G-d waits on us too

Don't look at the Heavens

You are created in His image

The soles of your feet step souls meet in the streets

It's hello goodbye

Each day a fight


One day it will come

Something will change

Children will create clouds

Our skins will be translucent

Our bodies lampposts of good


One day it will come

It has always been

Natural in nature

In the corners of fields

In the pollen of flowers

In the hidden days of years forgotten


What do you fear?

Bring the day

Not sunrise

The day

Not dusk

Years have never waited for me

Run to fire, what do you fear?


You are silence wrapped in the encounter of Heaven and Earth



Will mean birth

Races of embraces

There will be no colors

Skins eyes mouths

Eternity will be loose


We will mold always with the tips of our fingers

And forget traces of a lifetime behind our nails


One day it will come

We will meet G-d

Years won't cry

Time will wait

And stay


Don't look at the skies

Clean waters

Kiss children goodnight

Hold the heart of the ones you love

And try to it feel on your skin


One day it will come

We will taste the stars

Burning in our tongues

Sweet like the taste of daylight,

like the cry of dust


Come, come home.

Build homes of words

Light candles, break bread


One day it will come.


Tiffany Kang


the darkest places do not cringe in fear
as gladiators crusted in the blood of victory
     (arguably defeat)
do not scuffle their feet in small circles.

he prefers a marble-confetti sky
canvas for echoes echoes the last echo
not the whisper of surrender but 
an elegant retreat
into the pupil of triumph
dilated, nearly blind as it envies only the sun

the sickening reminder of twinhood
what-if and could-have in living flesh
how dare you roll in the mud, pearl-speckled

do not speak of our dining room table
and its stale silverware
     the peas rolling like cubes
     it was not your talent, to begin with




"Untitled 2011" (Red Twists) by Mi-Kyoung Lee


Rebeca Liberbaum




I weave the threads of your blood

Around a space unknown

The red tumbles, a vampire's Sunday brunch


Trickling drop by drop down your body

Twirling blood

Twirling red

I just weave questions

Your veins

Eternity, grabbing the sky with my pale hands and crying


The sun has set in your words

And silence guards evil

As I sew your feet together

Sew the threads of hair

Ginger, which have been stained

But blood is innocent

And never cried




Tiffany Kang


from the side of its cheek, tumored loud 
an interruption

the sin of monstrosity is no one's fault
in the least, of the monster

we bid you tiptoe 
in the night, if you wish
come up for air, it's quite creation in here
quite so.

how crumpled you must cramp
in purgatory, hell no place for shame
though neither in heaven

how crisp, though recycled
reincarnations of mundane

a gentle monstrosity you are well-forgiven 
for crimes not your own
for crimes not your own



Christina Lisk 


Tied: Abusive Love and Kidney Failure

Tied to this glass

Tied to this chair

Tied by red lines

I am sick wihtout you

I need you to live

You always protect me.

Sea of blood

Explosive vomiting

All of this happens when you're gone

Smack me

Slice me

I don't care!

I don't care!

I don't care!

I don't care!

At least that's

What I tell myself

As I take my medicine.

My tonic, my elixir

My cure for ailments

My cure for heartstrings and for you

You break me

You make me

You always forsake me

I wish

That you wouldn't

Lie anymore.

Tied to this glass

Tied to this chair.

Tied by these red lines.

Tied to you.



Hannah Van Sciver


scatter-red, plastics
vomit cornea form and
fissure,  swept like too many
twist-ties, too many
bags of bagels
now condensed into

darkly chasm of 
red-shiny and
where does the
rabbit hole twist
out of sight?



Catherine Wei


Petrified blood funneling expanding pulling in opposition
Violent twisted crimson
Unleashed liquid defying gravity 
Plastic yet flesh like, platelets and liquid and oozing  
Reliving anxiety pain and murmurs seeping out across the wall 
It takes energy to be always so fiery



"Untitled 2012" (Yellow thread) by Mi-Kyoung Lee

Kiri Nakamura

The egg yolk

Splashes to the floor.

Inside was not a

Baby chick

But Big Bird's girl.

The tulip wilted

Face down.

This is how

Alice must have

Felt when the

Flowers sang to her

In Wonderland.

The room asks:

Do I look good in blonde?


Allison Bienenstock


Fluffy Yellow Stuff

the sun dripped down past its place in the sky

rapunzel's hair cascading down a high tower,

long, braided, flowing.

a sunny teepee for us to play a game

a secret hide


no one will find us here.

an egg dropping into a pan,

bright in its descent,

a perfect sunday morning.

Christina Lisk






Did Rapunzel lose her head?

Or is it I

As I account for my losses?

The yellow hair of Rapunzel


Twisting, oozing

Like a flood of golden lava

Creeping on the floor

Is it coming for me?

I hear voices

BUt they are all swirling

Winding into the explosion

On the wall.

Angry tornadoes

Fiery, in pain, bloody

It is my stress

From too much work

Or working too hard to hear?

Fiber, quilts, clothes, fashion

Things I can see

But not hear

The colors swirl, and that's all I need

Swirling in artwork

Not a strain-induced migraine.

Knots, details.

I want details I can see

Not the knots in my neck

I listen with my eyes

Not with my ears

The space

A visual symphony

I see crescendos


A place where sight can set me free

I want to hang on this wall

This gallery needs some purple and pink

Colors I wear

In my fashion, on my face

Visual symphony

I want to be of this space.



Ali Castelman




I hear from the guard that it's the center of the storm, this yellow willow, I wonder what it's like to live inside it. The windows of the gallery, gentle Gothic, slants across on the right—I want to live in that corner of this yellow forest where light steals the pigment from the threads themselves and air becomes color; it falls to the floor in perfect hyperbola, unfurling, tendrilically outwards on the floor, like a mermaid's hair; like I'd always try to emulate in the bathtub or pool or on my pillow, the ends, delicate as ripples. Then up, most miracle, in the knot that grips the threads together there is something beautiful about the heaviness of happiness, weight like a violin chord, silk that can tear you in half: how is it held as if from floss (less than that)? Frayed strings show the terrible part of fragility; the suicide wish in precariousness. At the top there's no room for even that,

just the decision to exist.

Come, let's make light of a hurricane.


Tiffany Kang


I have never thought it obnoxious to wear a yellow dress, only daring. A demand from the 
     body to command with boldness, 
the limb hip bulging lump receding jawline hung dry leave me alone with your grotesque and pimpled knee lip mole between the awkward bones comes yellow. 

A yellow dress, one must be dizzy curled frizzy to wear an overstatement, blast it up a couple decibels past the socially appropriate but sartorially magnificent. I hope you know you lightbulb the room, the sun of you long in hiding, 
     polka-dotted, freckle-knotted, 
braid my hair country-style, won't you? Thicken my waist with pirouettes, 
     perhaps even from unflattering angles, 
I am ready to wear a yellow dress in front of you.

— Description: yellow sparkling dress, extremely thin and threadbare at the top, gradually grows form and body, braided with momentum and braided physically, wavy at the ends when it hits the floor, elegant and subtle, understated spatially so as not to disturb the air, but bold in colors — rich hues of bright yellow, several shades catching the light at different angles, grounds the entire room






In/around/about the gallery


Kiri Nakamura



The Room


From the corner of my eyes

A pack of primary colors.

Yellow – on the ground

Tired people could use some optimism.

Red – on the wall.

Accidents happen.

Blue – on the ceiling.

X-Rays for clouds.


The floor

matches my sister's wooden cutting board,

and fabric is now a cooking show

under the threat of viewers (knives).


The ketchup fight and

the dollop of mustard

steal the show.

The contemporary wins again.

I cough and the art receives it well.

It's a refreshing response from the crowd.

Doors opening and closing,

An all too perfect symbolic soundtrack.

I remember, I'm in a library.

Hair on my paper.



Christina Lisk


A Victory of Sight and Sound


Wave your flag to art

Watch the fabric

Color makes sense

In the dark

Light comes through the flags

Illuminates the movement

Unzips my restraints

Reduces my strains

Releases me from the silence

A piano, made of all black keys

Narrow and thin

OPens the door

Composes a black and white score

Makes this girl of silence scream "more!"

The beginning

A second keyboard of color

Animal-print keys compose a flag of their own

A rhythm for me to march to

A song for flags to dance to

A song for the deaf too.

Taken far from the flags

Of gray, blue, and gold

Flags or the wall telling songs of old

I hear, become normal

Yet I want my flags to remember the miracle

A final flag at the beginning

Reminder of what I'm winning

The right to sound

And color all around

A life richer than dark silence

A black spine in the flag

Makes me never forget

Why I am visual

In a space so audio

Some silence is residual

Gold, shades of blue

In a changing space

Mixed media of the miracle

Of being here with you

Of ending the chase

I see myself

On the walls and in the air

Maybe it's from

My obsession with color

Or my 28 inch hair.

I am here

And space and sound

And color and my body

My victory is waved in these flags

I am here.



Elan Kinderman



whereas that unfontinalian nothing like the left side of the McDonalds arch but for if
however once you see it it is nothing but for it watches you not it but
that panorthoginal visor as if
to say looks much rather like the right side of the arch with its
acrylic teeth sauntering slowly open to slow open and i want nothing
less than to argue but they glazes say right right
fuck you obscure a camera i couldn't touch it if i wanted to
slimy saunter just the thought of limboing under that livid "nap"
makes me sick
coiling under my folded limbs reaching unimpressively for my toes
as i reach almost as unimpressively for the push to exit only
to have been set in place by
as if i have half a mutiny to be pushing on 19th-century inventions 
all the while accorded by eye-washed tongues skin-washed skin
and consumed, as it were, before ALARM SOUNDS
before OPEN 
iffier considerations have tripped these handles long before you were bone



to be read simultaneously with a kitchen timer stopped unexpectedly with a kitchen timer

A twist tie is a metal wire that is encased in a thin strip of paper or plastic and is used to tie the openings of bags, such as garbage bags or bread bags. A twist tie is used by wrapping it around the item to be fastened, then twisting the ends together (thus the name). They are often included with boxes of plastic food bags or trash bags, and are commonly available individually in pre-cut lengths, on large spools, or in perforated sheets called gangs.

Detailed Construction and Use

The outer covering can be in a variety of colors with or without printing. Plain paper, metallic paper, plastic, and poly[1] coatings are popular for different applications. The plastic, poly, or metallic paper twist ties withstand water better than the uncoated paper versions. Water-resistant twist ties are sometimes used to package lettuce and other vegetables, although hook and loop closures are beginning to replace it. Different sizes and strengths are used for different applications, from a small closure for a bag of bread to a large, heavy tie to hold unwieldy garden hoses in place. The Eight O'Clock Coffee company provides a very strong double-wire twist tie with its bags of coffee. A twist tie with a broad paper covering may also be used for labeling purposes.
Compared to some other closure methods, like adhesive tape, twist ties offer the advantage of reuse.
The original twist tie was invented by the California based packaging company T and T Industries, Inc. It was patented in 1939 and marketed as the Twist-Ems.[2]
A non-twisting plastic fastener similar to a cable tie may also be called a twist tie, although this is technically incorrect.
Twist ties, particularly metallic colors, are occasionally used to decorate packages.

Color coding for bread age
In the United States, the color of twist ties is used on grocery store bread shelves as a form of inventory management,[3] which indicates the day a loaf of bread was baked:[4]
Monday = Blue
Tuesday = Green
Thursday = Red
Friday = White
Saturday = Yellow.
The color coded twist ties allow stores to remove older bread so that generally only fresh bread with one or two colors of twist ties should be present on the shelves.


Ali Castelman


"Poem to Be Read in Fisher Fine Art's Library"


First, could you all come closer

thirteen words in people start to stare.


See? Well, I'll lower my voice to a whisper

better, whisper sounds better when whispered


doesn't it, now what? Wait—

that cough was my cue to go on


long, but silence is part of the poem

though accurately, silence is wrong


there's so much noise in me not saying anything

scuffles, chairs, paper


rustling keyboard click our own breathing

everything I said were just words





but everything we just heard

that's something else entirely.






"Etymon, 2010" by Cynthia Schira


I dreamt of blue crystals. 
I dreamt of the tribe, 
blazing its way cross roads crossroads. 
I saw her face, face-down the equator. 
There were no oceans between us, only water. 
Blue crystals winking in time 
with the second-hand grandfather, 
carpeting his spine into a comfortable worm. 
These hands have known and not known enough. 
Enough to bind intangibles to breathing objects. 
Be selfish enough to demand life, 
somehow just another transitive property that day. 
Circled the worn footprints with red ballpoints, 
let slide the angular fists from beneath the cape. 
Zoomed to momentary replay, 
rewind through all half-lives of happiness. 
Without wonder for memory, 
roll on. 
Lick the edges and 
I dreamt of blue crystals.

— Description: egyptian cotton, greys blacks and off-whites/cream, features columns of approximately equal width but different vibes; calligraphy, polka dots, zigzags, triangles, floral print patterns, squiggles, circles, right angles, maps, iconography, hieroglyphics; interesting to note that some columns use the same visual idea (circles, maps) and even the same print, but featured at different zoom levels; some zoomed in closer than others, some hued in lighter or darker saturation than others


"Hair Wreath" by Sonya Clark

Kiri Nakamura


With roman roots

        > A new kind of wig                      and split endings.

Dreads                                                             PLEASE DO NOT

TOUCH                                                                      Tarantula leg crown

         Scraggly white                                            scribbles.

                        Dead cells            =              hair.

                                            Your Hair


                 Life in Death.



Hannah Van Sciver


let me crown you
thus, with this
refuse of my
shower drain.

let me raise you
up with this
wired waste, 
the contortion

of my shedding.
these fibers have
abandoned my body,
but I have not

abandoned them.






Allison Bienenstock


I touched

your hair

               spinning and ugly                                                       thick and braided

               like a dying sun                                                               I had never seen

                     ALL YOU                                                                        something so

                 ALL YOURS                                                                             beautiful

I will keep you with me                                                                             I asked for a

                             here.                                                                      lock, maybe two

                                   a                                                                  and you gave it

                              dark sun                                                           to me

                                          sewn into an                     and I will                   

                                                angel's wreath    treasure it




"Mother of Pearl" by Sonya Clark

Kiri Nakamura

We grew hair

when we were in our mothers,

So hair it is.

Near the carpet edges

the hair you shed and

the hair I shed hold hands.

We are given

An organic plate.

So now I hold your hairs

In me.


Ali Castelman


In a wooden bowl

in her open right hand

lies the egg of her origin.


(there is the beauty in delicate)


Tiffany Kang


Pearl Long Strand

infantile breath
rolling in burlap sacks
ask them how it felt
or why the sun sets so


even on days when nothing comes easy
not even infantile breath
heaving in burlap sacks

curl a finger round my wrist
say it isn't so
catch the dread in a cup
pour it into mouths of unopiated masses

ask all these questions
with answers that never change

only unanswered questions
round enough
to change


Tiffany Kang


Mother of Pearl

I no longer have qualms in calling you mother. Only when our skin meets in fear of its similarity do I shy from the brilliance of long suppressed gifts. Long have I suppressed the need for your touch, fashioned a coarse ball of it, round and tossable, a second-best balance to absence. Or given the circumstances, a static reminder of how easy it is to roll away against one's will, down the nearest excuse of a hill. Fear has a way of finding rest on pillows, feathered in the convenience of gravity when the sisyphus inside you finds one less reason to dig than yesterday. Bitterness, angelic wings clipped to some intentional blueprint of faith. Incomplete, say it's easier on Sundays than Wednesdays, to forgive as all weeks smother weakness anew. Non-days I wander the borders of distorted circles, calling them perfect, yet far from any center. Curved as wooled womb, curved in the palm of a broken wrist. Does it still count if our elbows points south, professing open spaces in the face of silence? I have grown taller since then, filling the blank with a couple inches, half-cowardice. Fully human, I choose stillness over silence.

Anything but silence. 




"Uncurl" by Sonya Clark



Tiffany Kang


frontier unfurling
down trench
into chest
against vertebrae eleven
where is God in this place
where is place in this God
remember me when i am gone
they will say, when gone
too late to comb your hair
into strands of upright order
fall instead
fall instead
fall in




Kiri Nakamura


A black lacquered centipede

Heavily stretches its spine

From its defensive coil:

The welcome mat of

In Material: Fiber 2012.

Held up by two thin twins,

His body becomes a stairway

where eyes put on their legs

And hike down its pulse,

Feeling the Treble-Clef of

"I care how you end it."




Catherine Wei


Why are we here

Groaning for laughter 

Seems too parfait to hold much longer

(from the Gallery Piece piece with black hairs tied in knots…forgot the name)




"Threadwrapped" by Sonya Clark



Kiri Nakamura


Spaghetti blue pond t rusty penne Grenada roof tiles

Spaghetti blue pond o rusty penne Grenada roof tiles

Spaghetti blue pond u rusty penne Grenada roof tiles

Spaghetti blue pond c rusty penne Grenada roof tiles

Spaghetti blue pond h rusty penne Grenada roof tiles

                        Rusty penne Grenada roof tiles income

                        Rusty penne Grenada roof tiles income

                        Rusty penne Grenada roof tiles income

                        Rusty penne Grenada roof tiles income

                        Rusty penne Grenada roof tiles income

                        Rusty penne Grenada roof tiles income

                        Rusty penne Grenada roof tiles income






L  e f   t


Is there,

Not n.




Allison Bienenstock


Colors (1)

(response to Sonya Clark's Threadwrapped (Brown + Blue)

key: N = navy, RB = royal blue T = turquoise C = copper G = gold SB = sunny brown







                          C C C C SB SB RB C C C C G SB Cg SB SB SB C C C C

                          SB SB SB SB SB SB SB SB SB SB SB SB SB SB SB SB SB SB SB  T N

                          SB SB SB C C C C C C C C C G G G G G Cg C C C C C Cb T R B

                          B B B B B B B B B B B B RB B Tg B N RB N T



Tiffany Kang


flesh teeth, eat me good
raw as flesh, teeth me good
in light or underneath it
in light of hue, depart from flesh
ripple cross stitch the bone into skin
winged and flown too far
a charcoaled flesh
eat me good




Allison Bienenstock


Colors (2)

(Response to Sonya Clark's Threadwrapped (Brown + Blue)

blue blue blue blue

but those two look different-

there, between the first and fourth,

different, like, more royal

different blues.

are they still both blue if they're different?

a scale of blues, a scale of hues,

and the next turquoise- a dash of green,

some sparkle, an colorful child.

who said blue is sorrow? it glistens in the

light unlike that brown (or is it copper?),

putrid and matte.

that copper, there, is that the same as that

other brown? no,

that one is slightly friendlier,

yet he hovers in the shadow of his golden brother,

strewn about, strung weightlessly across

different combs like a pricey feather.

I had a hunch this had meaning,

a little symbol here, there,

but I do not stop to ponder it,

just staring into the blue,

when all of the sudden,

out of the blue,

the brown begins shining, too. 



Shadows of Tradition by Lucy Arai


Ali Castelman


"Shadows of Tradition"


Above me, that's paper

floating in a breeze I can't feel.

It caresses the air almost independently.


If I wore such paper as a scarf

it would tear within two minutes.

I think of Paramecium, Amoeba,


for some reason, knights in castle halls…

I want to nestle against nothing I can see.

I want to be that sensitive to stimulus.



Rebeca Liberbaum



This reminds me of my grandmother.

She always had a gray quality to her. Maybe because the pictures of her days were black and white. Maybe because I only met her through the dusty photo album we keep in the bottom drawer on the left of our living room.

I know her eyes are green. Everyone tells me I have her eyes, and her name.

I suppose she used to wear a hat. I don't think she loved my grandfather. I suppose she knew how to smile. My dad can smile and love.

My dad cries. In his silence he has never longed for his mother, but I know I remind him of her too well. That might be why I am the favorite.

I sit underneath her shade. It's gray. It's past. I have blown away the dust from her face, black white. Only her smile is left behind. And her green eyes.

I wonder if she ever wore lipstick. My eyes match red. Hers should too.

Her arms are wrapped around my grandfather. He wears a top hat; he's shorter than her, I think. They are dressed European. But it's Brazil and they are probably hot. They are probably sweating, smiling in the album, buried in the bottom drawer of that shelf for years.

Even though the photo is silent, I can hear the busy streets of Rio whistling good morning. I'm not sure if there were cars busying around this day. He whispers something in Yidish to her, something so that the person who is taking the picture can't understand. Something mixing a little Portuguese with Yidish like "esse cara é um fercokt". And they would laugh for a moment, a laughter that only those who have been married for years can understand.



Naomi Hachen


גם כי אלך בגאי צלמוות, לא אירא רע כי אתה עמדי
This valley of death and its shadows surround me.
Or once surrounded me, and not that I've left
but the valley
does not exist,
found only in its shadows.
And these wisps of dark fiber are only what they become.

Red twist ties
and flow, a structure of character.
Yet who would have thought?? Red twist ties. A pulsing current pouring forth. 
Inspect from far—a mess. Inspect from close—ordered mess.
Such power lies between close and far.

Rapunzel rapunzel, dare you let down your hair? starring at the detached, morphed dreads and strings and beads of ringlets frizzed and tamed and balled out of nature. They return her stare in envy and steal glimpses at my locks. I retreat to the twist ties, lest I become too much a part of them. Whose nature comes in balls, which energy-form can wire contain? And yet it sits open, the palm of the hand.
I dare not understand.

In out
in out
and over.
Pain. Use pain. Heal pain.
That's unique, you know. Not everyone can heal. I once knew a girl to live in the fibers of her arms, and when they stopped pulsing she moved away.
When the stitching is done, you turn to death.
And its then you return us to those same deathly shadows,
wisps in their most basic wisp-form.
They make, not a whole, but something to
and flow and fill regardless, regardless
of being whole
or of whose whole it is.

Forget the math, forget the logic. Convince yourself of this:
One hole + one wisp + one hole = one whole. 
I am true.
For who are you to define my wisps and holes?
I will have both
and will regret to say wholes.
My fibers will come and go, and I can even give you a few if you'd like.
You can use them, too, to build your own shadows;
it is permitted to build shadow-wisps
with more than one




Comments by students:


Hannah Van Sciver

confession: i had planned on visiting the gallery for a few hours sunday afternoon, but due to a greatly delayed train home from new york, i didn't make it back to philly in time :(.

Thus, I based my images on three online pictures from the gallery's current exhibit.

That being said, I found this assignment extremely challenging. I wasn't sure what I was meant to "do," per se. (This was probably the point.) It was difficult to try to render an already abstract image into concrete language. Ultimately, I found success in a stream-of-consciousness/language-based approach. I imagined myself interacting with the piece, and tried to think critically about how the pieces "felt," and what the artist was "trying to say."

My third "poem" is the straight-description piece. However, even this one was very stream-of-consciousness. I tried to give my unedited, unrefined description of what one piece looked like, and the result was as rambling as the first two, more self-aware poems.

In the end: This was a great way to spark creativity/use an external stimulus to generate a more personal response. I'm interested to see what other people came up with/compare work with people who chose the same images.

See you guys in class!



Catherine Wei

Hair intertwine
Black strings
Softness it is tender 
Sweeping in feathery fashion
Like they do on my kitchen floor,
Except barely noticed and cast aside.
On my head I always wrestle with such strands
But here, appears gentle, tender, submissively soft
Instead of wiry, unruly, never behaved
It swirls like little flames 
In knots, weeps and waves. 

It took me a while to be comfortable writing anything to be frank - walking into the Gallery and seeing...plastic combs, I know all of these things must have great layers of meaning in them but sometimes conceptual art just all seems to have the sum effect of generally destabilizing you or pointing the middle finger. Not to be dismissive but it took me a while to be comfortable thinking about what to say, so I walked around the gallery a little and just stopped thinking about writing something and looked around. I think maybe letting the ambiance of a place get to you instead of trying to ascertain it, the way you tackle an "assignment" or a job, is something I arrived at, so after a while I felt much more relaxed about it, more passive like a window shopper rather than active like a bargain-hunter. I started thus by writing about a smaller piece, rather than tackling the prominent, colorful and somewhat more intimidating structures.


Ali Castelman

I found this week's assignment inspiring on multiple levels. First and foremost, I love In Material. True, it is only the second show I have attended at the Arther Ross Gallery, but it is also one of my favorites I've experienced in general. Apart from the space itself, which I felt was calmy conducive to contemplation and inspiration, I was particularly captivated by two pieces; first, the untitled yellow sculpture suspended from the ceiling, and second, Sonya Clark's "Mother of Pearl". As opposed to describing everything I saw in every piece, I focused on capturing all of my observations and reactions to the former. By the time I was done, I felt I had an exhaustive catalogue of detail and so when I set about describing the second piece, I felt all I needed was a haiku of sorts. Because the prose poem I'm posting does not drastically differ from what I wrote while in the space, I am choosing not to include that rough response on Coursekit. 
I had a lot of fun with my last poem of the week. I wanted to choose a place that would impose restrictions on the potential poem's performance in and of itself, and seeing that my mind was already dwelling in the Fisher Fine Arts Building, I found the next door library to be both convenient and conducive. It is a space towards which I have conflicting feelings. On one hand, I think it is the most beautiful interior on Penn's campus and there is something awesome and romantic about working there. On the other hand and in practice, I find it personally counterproductive. The austere air atmosphere makes it harder to concentrate there than at a coffee shop. Still, in a space where one is more likely to get a dirty look than a ‘bless you' after sneezing, the smallest sounds are amplified. I thought this tension would be an interesting subject for a poem, especially one conceived as a performance piece.




Tiffany Kang

Description: metallics threading every two combs together by their spines, different hues of blue and brown – oranges, teals, aquas, yellows, greens; the light goes through some combs easier than others; shaped in the form of half a block "T", ornamental quality, can almost hear the sound of chimes just by the visualization


Commentary: This piece reminded me of pleasant torture - the juxtaposition of brilliant colors with tightly bound combs made me think of pain bleeding in rainbows, rather than in red blood. The arrangement of the combs into somewhat of a hanging, half-T shape reminded me of hangman, the childhood spelling/word-guessing game, further exacerbating my impression of the piece as "pleasant torture." I played with this idea in the poem, juxtaposing cannibalism with color and movement. It created a bit of a cyclical structure, ultimately leading me back to the idea of pleasure sandwiched and stuffed with painful concepts throughout. 


 Description: black combs, stacked face-down (or up?) glued together in form reminiscent of outdoor piping/drainage, landscaping material; curls in and out of flexibility/shape, especially at the bottom like a lock of hair; tucked into cinnabon circle at the bottom; the light hits the middle section with the least curvature


Commentary: This artwork, all-black, dangling, and curled at the bottom was united yet depended so much on each individual comb. I instinctively associated the image with war — soldiers on the front, marching to death yet so vigorously determined to fight for their cause. The free association led me to thoughts of piercing bodily injuries, and the thought of death as a rhetorical question to god, or perhaps a question of god's existence. The comb element paralleled my thoughts of how much we may or may not miss little things in life after death — combing one's hair perfectly, rather than leaving it knotted. Little pleasures vs. responsibilities, and the potential regret that accompanies the loss of both once they are gone.



 Description: human hair, seems curly, dark brown borderline black, balls of different sizes but relative to one another, much like pearls with heaviest/largest at the bottom, very symmetrical in shape but unusually long, would probably hit pelvic area when worn; fashion statement


Commentary: I imagined wearing a necklace as light and long as this artwork. As rough in texture, yet weighty in meaning — for some reason, this triggered free association with the Holocaust. Thoughts of remains of human hair, rolled into balls somehow brought me to the way children were smuggled in and out of concentration camps, some making it, others caught. The theme, again, of death and this time, its impact on loved ones rang loudly in my mind as I wrote this poem. Perhaps I've been having lots of despairing thoughts tonight, but the idea of death in both its beauty and suffering really spoke to me through Clark's works. Maybe one would wear a necklace like this in remembrance or honor of a passed loved one. The thought of having a real part of someone's body as jewelry really intrigues me, and I made a trip through the process of death unfurling itself to the dying, as well as to the surviving. I then zoomed out into a broader picture with my own questions and frustrations about life vs. death, all seemingly aimless and unanswerable. 


Description: hair of the artist and mother, black/brown and grey respectively, hand outstretched, palm upwards holding ball about 1/3 the size of the palm, delicate and curled texture, wrist thick and strong, sense of balance and stillness to formation, stabilized by wooden plate/curvature on which it is set


Commentary: This poem was really hard to write, because I couldn't avoid the obvious. I knew the artwork was of the artist's hair and her mother's hair, implying some kind of symbolism about their relationship. Naturally, I thought of my own relationship with my mother and it conjured a great deal of emotion. I reflected, as I have often done, on how far my relationship with my mom has come since back in the day, yet also reflected on how much more it still can grow. Though I chose the obvious route, I am glad I wrote this, considering that any confrontation of the issue is a step away from denial. The work truly inspired me to take a moment and address the rawness of my opinion now in comparison to before, with an objective eye to the past and a subjective eye to the future. I chose this divide because the past can only be seen as what it is — unchangeable. The future, however, is much more in my control, and therefore can be molded as I wish. The image of the small ball in the artist's hair-hand reversed the relationship of caretaking — mother to daughter vs. daughter to mother. This prompted further reflection on the efforts I have taken to try harder — as well as the halfhearted attempts I have excused as ‘efforts'. I really needed this poem to be written — and many more like it.




Description: contrasting same colors and ideas with different presentations, darker overall spatial distribution of color on the left, more white space on the right, left reminiscent of ocean, waves and imminent disaster, right

   reminiscent of clouds, sky and even hint of sun; choice of gold marbled down on the left, splattered circular on the right


 Commentary: I approached these two artworks as a pair, partly because of how close they were to one another, and also because I felt they complemented one another. The idea of twinhood and rivalry took root, becoming somewhat of a scattered stream of consciousness poem with illustrations of these concepts, some more bizarre than others. I loved the way the light and darkness played a role in the two works, and the way the artist utilized (or chose not to utilize) white space as a means of intrusive versus non-intrusive visual claim to attention. I couldn't help but classify these juxtaposing images in terms of good and evil, or at least two enemies made of the same material, yet somehow extremely different and bitter towards one another. The force of the artwork on the left overshadowed the artwork on the right, so I remember more of its intrusive quality and therefore wrote the poem in its point of view. The end result is probably a bit unbalanced in favor of the painting on the left, but I grew to like the fact that it's so egregiously biased — at least it has a strong sense of conviction, whereas for the painting on the right, I felt it resulted from a more ambivalent emotion and therefore produced less of a tangible "interior monologue" as I struggled to interpret or solidify a perspective through which it could speak.


Commentary: This was my favorite artwork in the gallery, not just because it was the largest and boldest in color, but because of how it reminded me of yellow dresses on beautiful (any) women! I've always had a thing for yellow dresses, although I have never really worn one. But to me, they say so much about negotiating self-confidence, body image and charisma into one garment. Even the way the artwork was shaped reminded me of the curves of a female, and the way the threads hit the floor like a gown really prompted my exploration of the poem as an encouragement to all females, regardless of size of shape. That there is beauty to be found not just in the way you carry yourself, but in how you can choose to clothe yourself with garments that radiate confidence.



 Description: knotted twisted ties of wire, reminiscent of twisties used to close bread bags or other type of packaging, plastic material, intricate knobs; single limb pointed outwards on left side from thick to thin, muscular texture yet flimsy at the toe, no paw or heel for support; entire wall has rippling feeling; subtle morning waves


Commentary: This piece was probably the most difficult to write, because I wasn't sure what to make of it. I decided to go with a relatively animated interpretation — it looked like the leg of an animal or beast coming out of the wall to me, somewhat afraid to emerge. I therefore approached this poem as an address to the creature, encouraging it to come out of hiding and look around for a while, even if just in the dark with no witnesses. I got the impression of its insecurity through the material — some kind of plastic, half-flimsy, half-strong when continually reinforced. The potential left unexplored was the theme of the writing. If there's one poem in this set that I'm relatively unsatisfied with, it's probably this one. The mystery of it intrigued me, yet presented barriers for further creative endeavors, especially since I couldn't quite wrap my mind around it, let alone put words to it.



Commentary: Again, this poem was pretty difficult. I found this artwork so universally appealing and captivating, as if it had taken the discourse of so many different nations, emotions, and ideals, molding them all into one grand tapestry.  I also noticed, however, the artist's experiment with diverse patterns, zoom levels, saturation and angles.  I tried to bring the same diversity to the poem by asking myself not to free associate on the first level, but on the second. What I mean is, I would always trash the first immediate association, and go for the next one, which was usually further removed from the original idea. I found that this produced a quite hallucinogenic, "trippy" poem. I also experimented with verb tense to mix up the impression of time for readers, and especially when read aloud, I liked the obtuseness of the past and present clashing. Because it drifted so far off into odd dimensions, I wanted to bring it full circle (perhaps a bad habit in my poetry), so I reintroduced the concept of blue crystals, except this time, I hope with a completely different connotation and tone.


Complete Description: I am not posting a complete description, because my poem is quite close to my description. My method was that, after walking around and reading/ thinking about all the pieces, I sat on a bench and recorded all of my initial reactions to what existed in the spaces around me. I felt a strong tie between the different works. Those then became my poem (with some degree of modification.)


Naomi Hachen

My commentary: I really like this work. I didn't really know what I was getting into going in-- I've never written as a reaction to a visual work before. But seeing the pieces held so much power, particular these pieces I think. What helped a great deal, also, was reading the artists' own reactions to their pieces, as that allowed me to react not only to what I was seeing, but to the feelings that the artists themselves were trying to express through the works. I was in particular awe of Lucy Arai, as perhaps comes through in the poem.
I decided to write only one poem because my thoughts seemed to flow, for me, directly into one another, and I didn't want to break them up, nor did I want to write a poem based off memory alone.


Elan Kiderman


Ekphrasis: You are free to approach this assignment as you like, but let me make this initial suggestion: Write down everything you see in the work, a complete description. This can be in prose. When we meet at the Ross gallery, you will each present your work; this will be a performance situation, where you will find a spot in the gallery to read from; and we will talk about reading in the space and performance in general. It is also possible to involve others from the seminar in the performance. It is also possible to write something for the space rather than a specific work. 

Arthur Ross Gallery, In Material: Fiber 2012

While I spent a lot of time looking at each of the exhibit's pieces, I kept being drawn back to an enclosed space in the corner that contained an emergency exit – this had something to do with a combination of the door's cryptic instructions, the odd perspective the space gave to Mi-Kyoung Lee's Untitled, and the untrusting camera aimed directly at the exit.


Ekphrasis: You are free to approach this assignment as you like, but let me make this initial suggestion: Write down everything you see in the work, a complete description. This can be in prose. When we meet at the Ross gallery, you will each present your work; this will be a performance situation, where you will find a spot in the gallery to read from; and we will talk about reading in the space and performance in general. It is also possible to involve others from the seminar in the performance. It is also possible to write something for the space rather than a specific work. 

Arthur Ross Gallery, In Material: Fiber 2012

Along the lines of the emergency exit, I was fascinated by the image of being held in space for 30 seconds only to be interrupted rudely by a liberating siren. As such, I imagined a poem kept alive only by a kitchen timer.



Kiri Nakamura

Description:  Centipede up wall, black, white reflection, snake, monkey tail, treble-clef from a music sheet, a giant comb made of many combs, spine, against wall, welcome mat of the gallery, held up by two pins, dominos, stairs, ladder, kind of erotic, next to receptionist, gossip, "you can't be scared Honey.  You can put your coat there.  Don't criticize something you don't know about.  I care how you end it."

Commentary:  The first piece that caught my eye when I first entered the gallery was Sonya Clark's "Uncurl" and I could already sense my excitement unfurling.  I absolutely love looking at things and seeing other ideas or objects within them (this statement might have just sounded slightly obvious, bizarre, or pointless – but to me, this is a very important [personal] notion in my head and always will be).  Not only was I allowed to look at art this week but make poems for them, about them.  Everything deserves a poem, or history, personality, or story.  I liked going through the steps of describing what I saw in front of me with pencil in a small notebook.  It was nice bringing back the physical to poetry.  I tried to be aware of not just the piece but what was around it.  I wrote down my gut observations in a list so I could see connections between ideas, or perfect disconnects.  What I didn't really like about having a description was that it was hard to break the prose block.  I started the poem seven times.  I sounded like I was trying too hard to produce a story.  The story made too much sense that it alienated itself from the piece of art.  At one point it sounded like a journalistic article.  I tried to get away from my computer and circled a few words I liked in the description so I could break up the wall of words looking back at me.  I had to write this poem with a trial and error mind set, which was unfamiliar, since I tend to write poetry fluidly.  The most important goal was to stay true (at least stay true to what I believed was true) to what my eyes saw and interpreted in the piece.  I later realized how much pressure this assignment was – I was writing a poem for an artist who doesn't know me!  I didn't want to disappoint or miss the point of the artist.  However, I used techniques from last week and moved lines around and tried a few different variations.  In the end I finally made something I felt comfortable with and made a mental note to perhaps try something different for the next poem.


Allie Bienstock

This poem was my stream of consciousness as I looked at Threadwrapped. I decided not to let my hand leave the page, hence the reason I wrote "blue" four times before starting the poem. I spent a lot of time looking at the different colors and trying to pick out the differences between shades of blue and brown. The colors started blending together and I really liked that there was a structure to the arrangement of the combs, but that there was no set order for the arrangement of colors. I thought a lot about why the artist picked certain colors, and why we have ideas about what colors "mean" (ie. blue means sad, white means purity, etc.) and how silly that is when you think about it. This poem is a general translation of my thoughts as I looked at the combs.


Allison Bienenstock

This is what I would call a more "literal" translation of what I saw in Threadwrapped. This was the last piece I looked at in the gallery, and I spent the first few minutes "dissecting" the piece by going through all the colors and trying to see which colors were the same and which were different shades and where they were all placed. So, naturally, I decided to translate that into words. I used shorthand to reference the different colors, but if I read it aloud I would use the full words I chose for the colors. It was my little attempt to translate art into words, as inspired by the translation exercises we did 2 weeks ago!


I've actually seen artwork made of human hair before, and in all honesty it really creeps me out. However, I thought Hair Wreath was incredibly interesting and pretty in its own way, so my poem reflects the contrasting feelings about the work. I liked that the wreath wasn't a perfect circle and that it had pieces veering off to the sides like sun rays, but was also intrigued because the wreath is dark brown. My poem reflects my reaction because the diction is simple, like the wreath is, but I think the combination of all the stanzas makes the poem more intricate and thought-provoking. 


This poem was my stream of consciousness as I looked at Threadwrapped. I decided not to let my hand leave the page, hence the reason I wrote "blue" four times before starting the poem. I spent a lot of time looking at the different colors and trying to pick out the differences between shades of blue and brown. The colors started blending together and I really liked that there was a structure to the arrangement of the combs, but that there was no set order for the arrangement of colors. I thouht a lot about why the artist picked certain colors, and why we have ideas about what colors "mean" (ie. blue means sad, white means purity, etc.) and how silly that is when you think about it. This poem is a general translation of my thoughts as I looked at the combs.



Christina Lisk

Here is the story behind each one:

For my first poem, I was inspired by the twist tie piece and the yellow piece. The latter especially appealed to me since it was reminiscent of Rapunzel, a character that has been a huge part of me for a long time. When I was seventeen, I played Rapunzel in "Into the Woods", and was repeatedly compared to her for the length and texture of my hair. On my 20th birthday, October 2nd, 2011, Disney had a worldwide celebration to honor Rapunzel as the 10th Princess. There was no way I could avoid writing about myself and Rapunzel tied together as one unit.

My poem segued into myself as an individual struggling with hearing loss. In the same year that I first played Rapunzel, I discovered my 9 hearing restoration surgeries had failed. Symptoms of the failure included frequent migraines and constant tension from straining to hear. I recognized each of these in the twist tie piece parallel to Rapunzel's hair. There was no way I could write a poem without connecting the two, especially considering that I was in a space where it was borderline impossible to hear.


The second poem harkens to struggling with hearing loss, but also acknowleding the miracle of being able to hear and having synesthesia. "In Material", the title of the exhibit, harkens to the mixing of sight and touch. Color was all around us, and it was hard not to grab the twist ties or the yellow strings of Rapunzel's hair. It is a mixture of these senses that has gotten me through the low points of my loss, and allowed me to experience the world in a colorful fashion.

When I can mix sound, sight, and touch together, the world is an absolutely beautiful place--a victory in and of itself, even if not all of my senses are perfect.


The third poem was inspired by the twist-tie piece because of the two sets of evoked memories. My words are a bit ambiguous. They tell the story of my mother's struggle with a kidney transplant and my struggle with an abusive relationship. I got the idea for the former from the cautions my mother must take as a transplant patient. She cannot share water with anyone, so she marks her glass with a red twist tie. I will not go into details about the latter, except to say that it involved being tied down in multiple respects. All of these hit me as I saw the twist-ties, and thought about the word 'tie' repeatedly.



Rebeca Liberbaum

I've done this exercise a little differently, not like Professor Bernstein suggested. I hope that's ok. 

I took a look at the pictures and when at home, thought about what the pictures reminded me of. What sentiment did they spark in me? 

I wanted to comment especially on the first poem, which was actually inspired not only by the art piece, but also by a song that I've been listening to consistently. I just felt that the plastic art and the music were in dialogue with one another (maybe it's my crazy mind), but I really believed they were in conversation with one another. That inspired me to write the poem "When G".



Kiri Nakamura

The first piece that caught my eye when I first entered the gallery was Sonya Clark's "Uncurl," and I could already sense my excitement unfurling.  I love spending time watching objects or events, and projecting other ideas within them (this statement may have just sounded slightly obvious or pointless but to me, this is a very important [personal] notion in my head and always will be).  Not only was I allowed to look at art this week but make poems for them.  Everything deserves a poem, history, personality, or story.  I liked going through the steps of describing what I saw in front of me with pencil in a small notebook.  It was nice bringing back the physical to poetry.  I tried to be aware of not just the piece but what was around it.  I wrote down my gut observations in a list so I could see connections between ideas, or perfect disconnects.  I experienced some difficulty as I attempted the poem seven times.  At first the poem sounded as if I was trying too hard to produce story.  The story made too much sense that it alienated itself from the piece of art.  At another point it switched and sounded like a journalistic article.  Finally, I decided to go back to the beginning, took the list of descriptions into consideration, and created a poem that could express the art happening to me as a viewer rather than me happening to the art.


I really wanted to approach writing this poem differently than I have been this semester.  I made a few sketches in my notebook that graphed out the colors and shapes of the piece.  I then concluded that my poem should emulate the art itself by becoming a visual poem or a literal translation of the image.  I wanted to acknowledge that the blue and orange touched so I wrote in "touch" vertically with a bruised red or burnt umber color.  It was exciting to see that each letter in "touch" when matched with "rusty" birthed new words and novel meanings (ex: crusty penne… trusty penne…u rusty penne…).  I wanted to address the missing corner as well.  The first thing that came to mind was "be there or be square."  I realized this message pertained to both the viewer and art piece; we were both certainly there so there was no square in sight.  Instead, a more dynamic form stood before me.  This exercise helped me open up my thought currents to find a connection to the art.  It was surprising, nerve-wracking, and encouraging.


:  I've had long hair for most of my life and I am really lazy about brushing it so the back of my head tends to get knotted up into chunks.  More than twice I have had to chop off sections of hair that knotted so badly that they became irredeemable – they were stuck in tight cocoons and would forever remain dreadlocks on my head.  Hair has always been a consistent theme in my life.  I remember hair changed for me the day I saw "The Nightmare Before Christmas."  The main female character falls out a window, loses her leg and arm, yanks out a hair from her head and threads it through a needle, and sews herself together.  Hair has always been the topic of discussion as well.  Split ends.  Bangs.  Bad dye jobs.  Nose hairs.  How to shave the stubborn hairs on your knees.  Men want to die when they see women with hairy legs and armpits.  Hair was serious, a source of pride, confusing, symbolic, necessary, the reason for many arguments, etc.  And this time I found it so funny that "Hair Wreath" was another hair accessory.  Hair on hair action.  Hair decoration for hair.  And on top of that – a wreath, a crown.  Hair now had something to say.  It was royalty.  The circle shape also begged itself to be part of my poem.  I wanted to play with this idea of hair as dead cells in a circle, in continuation, and in a way, banned from death.  Roots also played an important part - hair roots and the roots that wreaths carry.  The free element a poem in a circle is that there is no chronology or order that a reader needs to follow.  You could read from left to right, up and down, in a circle, across, and in several other ways.  I was also happy with the ambiguity of the poem shape – it recalls but isn't limited to a circle. 


Hair is incredibly bodily.  For the artist to entwine her hair with her mother's hair is absolutely binding.  To me, mixing hair is equivalent to being nude around someone.  To mingle hair must mean the artist and her mother are close.  I wanted to translate this intimacy by writing a poem that was centered.  It establishes the form of the poem into a ball and somewhat gives the lines a uniform center of mass.  I'm not sure what else to say about the making of the poem.  I just knew it had to be simple and quick but heavy with intimacy.


I really wanted to write a poem dealing with the entire gallery.  I couldn't help but connect fabric with foundation.  Then I began noticing the primary colors – another building block.  And each color was on a basic level (floor, wall, ceiling).  The red and yellow large installations kept catching my eye so it was hard to notice the room as a whole.  When I need to see the general outline of things, I usually squint to blur out details, so I squinted at the room and turned my head so I could see what was happening through my peripherals.  I wanted to begin with "from the corner of my eye" and I placed it to the right, alone and separated from the rest of the text so readers could feel the distance I felt between me and the rest of the room.  It took a few tries to get this poem down.  I kept going back to it each day.  I wanted the reader to travel to each part of the room.  I started thinking about the performance aspect.; Four people could read it – 3 below each primary colored piece, and one sitting on the bench reading the rest of the poem.  It was almost as if an unconscious sense of structure was making itself known. 


I didn't know how to respond to the large yellow structure.  I was intrigued by it but it seemed so important and so big that it was hard to say what I wanted to say or to know what was even going on in my thoughts about it.  It seemed to have a deep meaning but all I could think about were images that were more humorous than profound.  I wanted to create a poem that played as a shape-shifter. And each description or image projected seemed to audition for the title of the piece.