About the Book: “Georgia Banks-Martin walks us through an art gallery. We view art, which she has processed and questioned, through her lens: Lawrence, Monet, Van Gogh, Beardon, Sargent, Degas, to name a few of the artists. She challenges the reader to face slavery, grief, and joy, to feel the weight the South bears, to examine art across centuries for lessons. These poems revive what has been omitted in our history books-individual life stories. She uses sound, music and voice to make imagery pulse in these ekphrastic poems. In her poem “Railroad Station,” after a Jacob Lawrence: “Those leaving the towns where father and mother/labored in fields without being offered a yard of thread spun/from the cotton they pulled, have assembled./Packed: Hopes of work, three bedroom homes/water heated in water tanks, classrooms.” As memories populate her poems, so does the theme of hope permeate her book; in Death Dancing, after a Max Slevogt: “I wish memories could be buried as easily as bodies.” . . . a book to remember as you stand face to face with art.” — Julene Tripp Weaver, Author of No Father Can Save Her
Rhapsody for Lessons Learned or Remembered
Author: Georgia Ann Banks-Martin
Published by: Plain View Press (Novemeber 1st, 2010)
Age Recommendation: 18+ for Adult & Mature Themes
Format: Mass-Market Paperback
ISBN 13: 978-1935514640
Number of pages: 80
The title Rhapsody for Lessons Learned or Remembered came as part of the writing process. The collection was originally created to be my M.F.A thesis which was to be titled Rhapsody for Things Learned and Remembered. I decided early on that the collection would be a project book—a book that focuses on a single concept. My focus was to explore ekphrastic poetry; which is art-inspired poetry. Ekphrastic poetry can be written in response to any type of art, but I chose to focus almost exclusively on paintings and wanted everything related to the project to connect in some way to the fine arts.
However, I also wanted the title to reflect the overall emotional feel and tone of the collection. Since many of the poems address strong emotional states, ranging from despair to joy, I wanted a word that captured the idea of emotions bursting forth; thus, I choose the word “rhapsody”. Because many of the ideas I discuss are things that I have learned: i.e., historical facts and events, such as the migration of African - Americans from the South to the North and Midwest; and the civil rights movement -- thus the phrase things learned which later would become lessons learned because it is the results of history that was taught that dictate current society. The or was suggested by my mentor and at the time I accepted the change without much thought, but what it does is point to the way our life experiences are blurred by memory and sometimes we are uncertain or unable to say what we learned-was taught or we observed. It also offers a way of noting that there are things that we know, but don’t really know, how we have come to know them.
Art has always been an important part of my life. I grew up drawing and tracing on whatever paper that was available. I loved to draw free-hand faces. I drew hundreds of circles by tracing jelly lids, and jars. I used my mother’s cookie cutters, some of which were shaped like horses, hearts and flowers. I remember my mother and me making Valentine’s cards for my kindergarten class, by tracing the heart shaped cookie cutter on colored construction paper, and lacey white paper dollies.
Later, during my twenties, I spent about ten years working as a docent and art instructor at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, where I learned a lot about artist’s such as Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, Marsden Hartley, Edward Hopper, John Singer Sergeant, Jean Michel Basquiat. It was during this time that I started to become aware of possible connections between visual arts and poetry. First, I discovered that Marsden Hartley was both painter and poet and became fascinated with The Collected Poems of Marsden Hartley, 1904-1943, published in 1987 by Black Sparrow Press. In 1996 Stewart, Tabori and Chong published Maya Angelou’s poetry book, About the Life Doesn’t Frighten Me. About the Life Doesn’t Frighten Me is a children’s book that combines poetry with the art of Jean Michel Basquiat. The book’s publication coincided with the opening of the Jean Michel Basquiat retrospective at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts.
As a result, I began to consider ways I could mix written language and visual arts. I started by illustrating a few poems, sometimes creating collages, and one time created a small insulation [KW1]exhibit of my poetry which was included in an exhibit that several friends and I put together for a brief weekend show. What this entailed was the building of sets that were inspired by the images from my poetry, the idea being that if you entered the room you would enter the literal space of the poem.
So, by the time I began my study in the M.F.A. at Queens University I have really thought about the idea, but had never found a way to present my working that would engage a large number of people. The thesis project presented the perfect platform for the exploration of combining poetry and visual arts.
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Georgia Ann Banks-Martin was born in Lincoln Park, MI on Feb. 6, 1971. She was raised on the southwest side of Detroit in the area known as Marion Park. She attended Beard Elementary, Wilson Middle School, and Southwestern High. However, she completed high school at Sidney Lanier in 1989 after relocating to Montgomery, AL during the summer of 1988. She earned her BA in English, Language Arts at Huntingdon College, Montgomery, AL(1997) and her M.F.A. (Poetry) at Queens University of Charlotte, located in Charlotte, NC (2009). Currently she is pursuing a Ph.D. in Mythological Studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute, Carpentaria, CA.
Her poetry currently appears or is forthcoming in: African-American Review; After Shocks: The Poetry of Recovery after life Shattering Events; Fieralingue; Möbius: The Poetry Journal; Pearl Magazine; Prick of the Spindle; Thanal Online; Up the Staircase; and Xavier Review; Rhapsody for lessons learned or Remembered a collection of ekphrastic poems is expected to be published by Plain View Press next year. She and her husband, Roger D. Martin currently live in Montgomery, AL with their dog, Gargoyle and their two lovely cats: Nikkie, and Socks.
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