Featured Artist: Daniel Barrow
In contemporary society, technology has the power to connect us in ways we wouldn’t have dreamed possible twenty years ago. Through the internet we have a method of fast, easy, and relatively inexpensive communication with almost anyone in the world. Simultaneously, technology can create isolation. Individuals choose to relate to electronic devices in their hands or on their laps instead of interacting with the person sitting beside them. Daniel Barrow’s work illuminates this problematic absurdity. Using antiquated technology paired with storytelling Daniel replaces isolation with empathy and connects people through the shared experience of performance.
Barrow’s performances are like graphic novels coming to life in the present moment. Armed with an overhead projector, drawings, and music, he creates a sense of intimacy between the audience and the characters in his stories. Using animated gestures and viewer interaction, Barrow tells tales involving gender transmutations, bizarre fantasies, and desperate obsessions.
Upon winning the Sobey Award, Canada’s most prestigious prize for young artists, the jury described Barrow’s work as “Wry, politically astute, and strangely heartbreaking.” Loneliness is an ongoing theme in many of his pieces. Barrow develops fragile characters with qualities that are found in everyone, but exaggerated. In one story a woman is so eager for something to love that she constructs an imaginary baby using a bag of onions. In another tale, a character with chronic eye infections digs through people’s trash in order to find connection to others. Barrow’s audience relates easily with these characters as it would be difficult to find an individual who has never felt a similar longing for love and companionship.
In some of the most moving moments of his performances, characters communicate statements that many of us think but rarely admit. In one scene, a woman slowly writes, “I just want to be touched” on a sheet of paper. Her longing expresses that touch is a basic human need, and one we all deserve. Barrow states, “I’m just trying to say those things that people in their daily lives find it so difficult to express.” He suggests that, ultimately, he desires his work to connect us back to our humanity.
Daniel Barrow uses obsolete technologies to present written, pictorial and cinematic narratives centering on the practices of drawing and collecting. Since 1993, he has created and adapted comic book narratives to “manual” forms of animation by projecting, layering, and manipulating drawings on overhead projectors.
His performance work expands upon dualistic, universal themes: good vs. evil, shame vs. pride, experience vs. innocence, and the balancing of one’s belief in miracles with an increasingly bleak, and rapidly advancing future. All of his work aims to collide popular imagery from the cultural and digital past with emotional, usually melancholic, content; in doing so, he attempts a return to a former, primitive, or nostalgic experience of stimulus.
Poet Eloise Klein Healy published A Wild Surmise: New and Selected Poems and Recordings earlier this year. Gertrude’s Allison Tobey had the honor of reviewing Healy's work for issue 20 of Gertrude. The full text of the review appears here.
First, I need to come clean: I am not an impartial reviewer. I have been admiring Eloise Klein Healy and her work since before I was accepted into the MFA program at University of Antioch, Los Angeles, and Healy, if you don’t know, is the founder of this magnificent program (no, that is not hyperbole). I’ll put it all on the table here: I have placed her on a pedestal—even though that is the last thing she would want. Eloise Klein Healy is my Sappho. Her voice is wise, imperfect, lyrical, strong, brutal, kind, but, above all, unflinchingly real.
A Wild Surmise: New and Selected Poems and Recordings is Healy’s newest book of poetry, released just this March by Red Hen Press. It includes work from all seven of her previous collections, as well as about fifty pages of brand spanking new poetry. And, yes, it does contain recordings. Throughout the collection, selected poems include QR Codes (those black and white mottled squares we now take pictures of with our phones), and this adds a whole new layer of what I call brilliance. I recommend reading through the book in its entirety and reading it again start to finish with your smart phone in hand. Mind you, that previous statement is actually coming from a person who still doesn’t know how to use her phone and was kicked off Gertrude’s Twitter duty because she couldn’t figure out what the hell was going on, but I mean it when I say this technology goes with Healy’s poems like, well, the proverbial bread goes with the proverbial butter. It’s just plain exciting how many new things pop from each poem with Healy’s steady, reflective voice as a guide.
The journey begins with a poem from Healy’s 1976 collection, Building Some Changes, called “Furnishing.” In one of the final stanzas of this poem Healy writes:
I have seen things coming at my head
like this. I have been transfixed, watching
the object arriving like a cow at slaughter watching
the mallet descend, but judging, judging all the way.
I have seen the pieces of an action
slowly coalesce and grind to a halt
like the plates of California locking
far off underground months before a quake. (83–90)
Healy’s poems aren’t always about disaster, but she approaches every subject her poetry broaches with the same intense focus and fearlessness. She carefully breaks down, piece by piece, the once indescribable.
This collection of poetry follows the progression of a poet’s voice for almost four decades and, somehow, Healy’s voice is both fluid and static at the same time. Maybe it’s because the heart of Healy’s voice is always a constant, but as the collection progresses this voice dares to keep pushing into new territory. Healy is not a poet content with being safe. A primary example is Healy tackling her own mortality in her newest set of poems. For instance, in the poem “Looking Up at the Ceiling,” Healy, now in her late sixties, stares death right in the face. Here is section three of this poem:
You can guess where this thought is going, can't you?
It’s shifting a mile off underground.
My death is building itself out of incidents
starting with my birth, my various broken bones
and system failures of one kind or another,
the little slippages that barely register in a life.
Richter-wise, they’re nothing more
than a bad edit in a movie
or dropped syllable in a voice-over.
In the mirror, there’s someone working her way
back to sucking her gums like a baby,
twisting the hair on her head in little circles with her fingers,
a shiny drop of something like the ocean
running down her chin. (20–33)
Healy’s directness gives you the feeling she might be sitting next to you, perhaps sharing some tea or, better yet, a pitcher of margaritas. But that’s neither here nor there; the point is that just as Healy confronts the imperfections of life head on, she invites her reader to do the same. Healy doesn’t sugarcoat things; she tells it like it is, and sometimes it can shake you to the bone. Yet, when it’s all said and done, Healy still renders as beautiful whatever she describes. This is true whether Healy is addressing flowers, a beloved pet, or “the little slippages that barely register in a life.”
I’ve been paging through A Wild Surmise since early March. My deadline for this review was the beginning of April—it’s now mid-June. I’ve written plenty of book reviews in the past, and I just kept thinking that somehow I’d be able to find those perfect words to describe Healy’s poetry but, alas, I have to admit defeat. But I will say this: if you want to be inspired, whether as a writer or just as a person—read this book. I’m going to write some damn poetry.
Winnipeg-born, Montreal-based artist Daniel Barrow has exhibited widely in Canada and abroad. He has performed at The Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), PS1 Contemporary Art Center (New York), The Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles), The International Film Festival Rotterdam, The Portland Institute for Contemporary Art‚ TBA festival, and the British Film Institute (London). Barrow is the winner of the 2010 Sobey Art Award — Canada’s largest prize for young Canadian artists‚ and the 2013 Glenfiddich Artist-In- Residence Prize. He is represented by Jessica Bradley Art + Projects, Toronto.
Kristi Carter has poems published or forthcoming in journals such as Spillway Magazine, So to Speak, CALYX Journal, andHawai’i Review. She is originally from the foothills of North Carolina. She currently lives in Nebraska.
Holly Day is a housewife and mother of two living in Minneapolis, Minnesota, who teaches needlepoint classes for the Minneapolis School District and writing classes at The Loft Literary Center. Her poetry has recently appeared in The Tampa Review, The Comstock Review, andSt. Paul Almanac, and she is the 2011 recipient of the Sam Ragan Poetry Prize from Barton College. Her most recent published books are Walking Twin Cities andNotenlesen für Dummies Das Pocketbuch.
Jeff Golomb reluctantly abandoned his rent-controlled Manhattan apartment over twenty years ago, and relocated to Los Angeles. It was supposed to be a temporary move, so he hasn’t completely unpacked yet. He worked as casting director and casting associate on more than three dozen television and film projects. Jeff is currently exploring the worlds of memoir, fiction, and creative non-fiction. His work has appeared online at AARP.org, WeHoNews.com, and in print in West Hollywood Senior Moments.
Joshua R. Helms completed his MFA at the University of Alabama in 2013. His work has appeared in Copper Nickel, DIAGRAM, Fairy Tale Review, Phoebe, New England Review, andRedivider, among others. His first book, Machines Like Us, won the inaugural Dzanc Poetry Collection Award (judged by C. Dale Young) and is forthcoming from Dzanc Books in September 2014. He lives with his partner & their cat.
Megan Kruse’s debut novel, Call Me Home, is forthcoming from Hawthorne Books in 2015, with an introduction by Elizabeth Gilbert. Find her at megannicolekruse.com.
Martha Lundin is a recent graduate of Northern Michigan University where she studied English writing. She lives three blocks from a lake so large it makes its own weather. She is the proud nanny of two beautiful children and in her spare time leads tourists through the Upper Peninsula forests on horseback.
Freesia McKee is a feminist from Milwaukee. Her words have appeared in the Huffington Post, The Outrider Review, Burdock 13, ssissterss, Painted Bride Quarterly, and other venues.
This year Michael Montlack’s work has appeared in Cimarron Review, Barrow Street, Huffington Post, Gay and Lesbian Review, New America (anthology), and other journals. He is the author of the poetry book Cool Limbo (NYQ Books, 2011) and the editor of the Lambda Finalist essay anthology My Diva (University of Wisconsin Press, 2009). Montlack splits his time between NYC and Portland, OR.
Nancy Carol Moody lives in Eugene, Oregon, and is the author of Photograph With Girls (Traprock Books). Her poems have appeared in The Journal, Salamander, The New York Quarterly, The Los Angeles Review, andNimrod. She has just completed a new manuscript titled The House of Nobody Home. Nancy can be found online at www.nancycarolmoody.com.
Robby Nadler is a baker for Independent Baking Co. in Athens, Georgia.
Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, The Nation, Poetry, The New Yorker, and elsewhere. His most recent collection is Almost Rain, published by River Otter Press (2013). For more information, including free e-books, and his essay titled “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities,” please visit his website at simonperchik.com.
Thomas Piekarski is a former editor of the California State Poetry Quarterly. His poetry and interviews have appeared in Nimrod, Portland Review, Kestrel, Scarlet Literary Magazine, Cream City Review, Poetry Salzburg, New Plains Review, Poetry Quarterly, Boston Poetry Magazine, Poetry Pacific, Third Wednesday, Avatar Review, Vox Poetica, Main Street Rag, The Artistic Muse, South Jersey Underground, The Tower Journal, Poetry Super Highway, Lowestoft Chronicle, Eunoia Review, and many others. He has published a travel guide, Best Choices in Northern California, and Time Lines, a book of poetry. He lives in Marina, California.
M. M. Pryor recently graduated from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her short stories have appeared in Jeopardy, Tales of the Zombie War, Flashes in the Dark, andBone Parade. She lives in Seattle with her partner and is working on a chapbook, When Silver Fox Met Rage, about two vigilante superheroes who meet on a rooftop shortly after midnight and fall in love. More of her work can be found on her website, mmpryor.com.
Ron Riekki’s books include U.P. and The Way North. Find out about U.P./MI Book Tour 2014 events at rariekki.webs.com & The Way North at wsupress. wayne.edu/books/detail/way-north. U.P./MI book tour 2014 — 23 authors, 16 events, 15 cities.
Writer and humorist Ryan Anthony Rogers serves as the Creative Director for an advertising agency based in Lafayette, Louisiana. At 25, Rogers has produced award-winning work for clients across the Gulf South. The New Orleans native is also a contributing writer for ProfessionGal.com and the creator of ExboyfriendMaterial.com, a gay-themed personal blog with global readership.
Nicole Santalucia is pursuing a PhD in English and Creative Writing at Binghamton University. She founded a literary outreach program in 2011 — The Binghamton Poetry Project — and continues to work as the project’s director. Nicole won the 2013 Ruby Irene Chapbook Prize from Arcadia Magazine Inc. for Driving Yourself to Jail in July — published in January 2014. Her non-fiction and poetry appear in The Cincinnati Review, Paterson Literary Review, Bayou Magazine, Flyway: Journal of Writing and Environment, Burlesque Press, and others. Nicole received honorable mention awards from Astraea Lesbian Foundation Writers Fund as well as the Allen Ginsberg Award.
Lela Scott MacNeil holds a BFA in Screenwriting from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and is an MFA candidate in Fiction at the University of Arizona. She works for the University of Arizona Press and teaches at the Writers Studio Tucson. Her work is forthcoming from Gutter Books.
Per Wiger has studied creative writing at Cornell College and the University of Iowa and his work has been previously published by 365 Tomorrows and Nevermet Press. He currently lives in Mount Vernon, Iowa, with his husband and wife and their cat Gunther.