Canadian Artist Celebrates Poets with Portraiture
April 28, 2016
Melanie Janisse-Barlow, a Canadian artist and poet, has been working on Poets Series, a portraiture project of contemporary poets that grew out of “an exploration in the poetic form of encomium.”
The poets in the series so far have included such writers as Christian Bök and Hoa Nguyen, and in the future it will include portraits of Claudia Rankine, Sachiko Murakami, David O’Meara, Sandy Pool, Frances Barber, and several others.
“So far, it has been an interesting articulation of poets,” Janisse-Barlow wrote in an email, “and I expect that as the series grows, it will be quite an amazing archive of portraits.”
Janisse-Barlow began the project with a Kickstarter in late 2015 and crowdsourced poets to participate. Each poet in the series selects the next, and currently there are over fifteen threads operating in the series, which began in Canada but has since incorporated American poets, making the project North American in its representation.
“The response has been astounding,” she said. “As the beginning poets included other poets, the archive began to grow, branch by branch, into an amazing narrative of contemporary poetry.”
Asked why she had the poets select other poets to add to the portraiture series, Janisse-Barlow explained, “I stipulated that each poet choose the next in order to allow the archive to be anarchic, honest, heterotopic, non-hierarchical. I wanted to let go of a curatorial positioning and take a look at the role of transcriber. I wanted the project to take me on a trip—one that ran scattershot through contemporary poetry and taught me about my own biases, preferences, and ideations. So far it has not disappointed me.”
“Who better to celebrate than those who dedicate themselves to the reachings of language and ideas? And what better way than a portrait in paint?” she added. “As a poet myself, I have nothing but respect for the beautiful and challenging work of making poetry.”
Janisse-Barlow will have a coloring book anthology based on the series—Poets: A Colouring Book Anthology—released by BookThug this fall.
Photo Credit: Syx Langemann.