Cannot Predict Now is an ongoing Q&A series highlighting the work of experimental writers and visual poets. This time, we’re talking to Amanda Earl, creator of the new remix, Language in Furs, out today with The Babel Tower Notice Board.
1. Who are you?
I’m Amanda Earl , a Canadian polyamorous pansexual feminist writer, visual poet, editor and publisher living in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada with my husband, Charles. I’m a misfit who’s never fit in but since my 40s, I haven’t wanted to. I almost died of pneumonia and full body sepsis in 2009 at 46. I am grateful to be alive, but this survival has turned me into an over sharer of personal info about myself, and someone who is intolerant of bullshit and pretension. I am a chubby old broad with a prodigious imagination and an insatiable libido.
I’m not an activist per se, but it’s become increasingly important to me to amplify and fight for the voices of the oppressed and marginalized. We’re in a horrid era, we have to take care of each other and stand up against the Ogre in the House of White and his ilk.
2. Describe your current project.
So Many Silenced, So Many Unnamed is a new section of the Vispo Bible, a life’s work to translate the Bible into visual poetry. SMS/SMU focuses specifically on the women of the Bible to address ongoing misogyny, violence and silencing of women. I combine passages from the Bible with women’s clothing items. I’m thinking about the male gaze, objectification, slut-shaming, women’s labour in the fashion and garment industries, along with body issues and more.
3. Which artist or movement has most impacted what you create?
I’m discovering so many great women visual poets these days. One of my main sources of inspiration is the FaceBook group, Women Asemic Writers and Visual Poets Global (WAAVe) run by Kristine Snodgrass. I’d have to say that all of them are impacting my work, along with fellow poetesses and dear friends too numerous to mention but special shout outs to the following women:
the calligrapher, Lalla Essaydi;
Julie Faubert and Héloïse Audy, the creators of the Hive Dress
Kate Siklosi, Handle with care: A study in (poetic) fragility
Also, as a side note, Dani and Kate’s curation of Gap Riot Press and their attitude of making visual poetry because it’s fun, not because of any attempt at perfection.
Christine McNair, dear friend and author of Conflict and Charmed;
Sandra Ridley, dear friend and poetesse of many books;
Klara Du Plessis, author of Ekke and the forthcoming Hell Light Flesh;
Helen Hajnoczky’s, Tight-Lacing;
Asemic writer, Dona Mayoora;
Collagist, photographer, hiromi suzuki;
Judith Copithorne for her gorgeous visual poems that gave me permission to use colour in my vispo.
Mary Ellen Solt for those concrete flowers. I didn’t learn of her work until about five years ago and I’ve been making vispo for about fifteen years. I’ve been self-conscious about wanting to make beautiful, flowery, full and wild visual poetry, rather than colourless and spare work with a dirty aesthetic. I like that stuff, but it’s not what I do. I felt until I saw Solt’s (admittedly spare and minimal) flowers and Copithorne’s colour work, that this wasn’t valid or acceptable.
Paula Claire for paving the way and inspiring so many visual poets now and in the past;
Mirella Bentivoglio for her curation of international women’s concrete poetry exhibits and her exploration of the roles of women in her work.
And all the women artists who work with thread and craft.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention a few men here too: rob mclennan for his prolific work and willingness to explore; Gary Barwin, with his unlimited imagination; Sacha Archer and his thoughtful and playful work.
4. Are there recurring symbols in your work?
For this project, women’s bodies and clothing. The Vispo Bible, someone pointed out to me, has a lot of shapes that look like mandalas. People have also seen insects, flowers, and other things in the work, but I didn’t deliberately make those. With SMS/SMU I’m deliberately working with particular shapes and objects, which is not my usual way of making vispo. I hope it doesn’t come across as too cheesy.
5. Which writer or aspect of language has most impacted your perspective?
The way language can be used by people in power to manipulate, lie and hurt others. This is what I am working with in this project, but also in general in my creative practice, the power of language to elicit joy and sorrow, and also its inability to articulate what’s in our heads, our emotions etc. I think that’s why I keep writing…because I haven’t yet succeeded in translating my weird thoughts and feelings into something tangible. My main goals in my creative work are love, whimsy, exploration, and connection to kindred misfits. I’m always trying to find ways to reach out and let fellow misfits know they are not alone.
6. Describe the environment in which you create.
Right now, I’m in my shared home office with my husband, it’s full of August’s golden light, books and papers are piled up beside my computer and folks’ visual poetry and postcards and cards friends have sent me are on the bulletin board behind, while shelves behind me overflow with books. Aunt Molly Jackson is singing Ragged Blues Pt. 2. We’ve just had a breakfast of my husband’s version of toad-in-the-hole. He’s a great cook. I’m sated.
7. What are your preferred art supplies and mediums?
For vispo I work with Photoshop and do everything digitally these days, but I also make hand-made books of whimsy for dear friends out of old journals of mine and those multilingual instruction manuals that come with appliances and gadgets. I adore playing with water colour paints. I’m a maniacal doodler in my red sketchbook moleskine. I love playing with metallic paint pens to make asemic writing on dark heavy paper from St. Armand in Montreal.
8. Is there a hidden part of you accessed only through your creative process and works?
I think nothing is hidden about me, but perhaps the little girl who likes to play comes out more when I make visual poetry or books of whimsy or doodles. She’s also been coming out when I write a lot more lately. I find myself needing to write to share her stories. I tried to forget about her for the longest time, and I’m sorry I did. As I write that, I have tears in my eyes.
9. Do you consider art or writing to be a meditative or spiritual practice?
I’m driven by Lorca’s concept of the Duende, “To help us seek the duende there is neither map nor discipline. All one knows is that it burns the blood like powdered glass, that it exhausts, that it rejects all the sweet geometry one has learned, that it breaks with all styles, that it compels Goya, master of greys, silvers and of those pinks in the best English paintings to paint with his knees and with his fists horrible bitumen blacks; or that it leaves Mossen Cinto Verdaguer naked in the cold air of the Pyrenees; or that it takes Jorge Manrique to wait for death in the wilderness of Ocana; or that it dresses the delicate body of Rimbaud in an acrobat’s green suit; or that it puts the eyes of a dead fish on Count Lautréamont in the early morning Boulevard." —Lorca, Theory and Function of the Duende
(I’ve quoted this everywhere, including an essay I wrote.)
10. Describe your future masterpiece.
It will be a monsterpiece! An artist’s book with moving parts and doodles of flowers, quotations, collage, reimaginings of Victorian morality poems, hybrid genre-defying texts in fragments and shards, photographs of broken glass and dead flowers. The ghost of Henry Darger will approve. His Vivian girls will be there, fighting creeps and assholes and winning. It will be a book dedicated to survivors of abuse and trauma. It will contain numerous lists, recommendations on podcasts, music like All My Favourite People Are Broken by Over the Rhine, sets of operating instructions for imaginary machines that can save the world. It will be made with love.