After the first year of the MFA in Creative Writing at Rutgers-Newark, I spent two weeks at Ithaca College at an Image-Text workshop taught by writer Catherine Taylor and photographer Nicholas Muellner. We created powerpoints that experimented with images, prose and negative space. I kept thinking of my photography and my words as separate beings, only they insist on merging. During that week I played with a project that fused images of Mewat, archival images, and excerpts of a short story. It was thrilling.
The workshop concluded with a Symposium of writers and visual artists. Claudia Rankine kept giving us student-interns projects. We did what she asked without question, only to learn that she was having us work on a powerpoint project with her. We fused our images with one of hers of a woman walking through the Tate museum and overlayed it with our own images (mine was a series of steps of the Jama Masjid in Old Delhi) and overlayed with a voiceover from a philosophical text. Claudia Rankine worked to teach me how to read this text, encouraging me to slow down, take breaths and pauses, enunciate at the right places. Watch and listen to the final version here:
The whole process was a deep form of play.
John Keene, who later became my thesis advisor, worked away quietly in a corner. In those few days, he produced the skeleton of book of poetry, later accompanied by photographs with Nicholas Mueller and published by ITI Press. I met many artists there, including a friend Ching-In Chen who wrote a novel-in-poems called The Heart’s Traffic. So much experimentation.
Ithaca too is beautiful, full of greenery and gorges.