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Poetry Break with Dickinson College Poet-in Residence, Adrienne Su

Elliot Erwitt
Mt. Fuji & Sign, Mt. Fuji, Japan 1977, Gelatin silver print on paper, 13.75 x 11 in. (34.925 x 27.94 cm), 1979, 20th c., 1986.1.1.1, Gift of Lawrence and Carol Zicklin

 

We reached out to award-winning poet and Dickinson College Poet-in Residence and Professor of Creative Writing, Adrienne Su, to ask if she might suggest a “poetic pairing” for our Soul Food page.  In this case, Su picked this work form our collection by Elliot Erwitt, and paired it with the following poem by William E. Stafford.

 

Traveling through the Dark

BY WILIAM E. STAFFORD, 1998
Traveling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.
By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car
and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;
she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.
My fingers touching her side brought me the reason—
her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,
alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.
The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;
under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;
around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.
I thought hard for us all—my only swerving—,
then pushed her over the edge into the river.

 

 

On the pairing, Su writes:

“What’s odd about the pairing is that I know the mountain to be in Japan, while Stafford’s poem takes place in the sort of location with a ‘Wilson River road,’ and the mountain in the print looks wintry, while we don’t know the weather in the poem. I take the weather to be mild because there’s no description of it.

Combining the arrow sign with the poem makes the print more ominous – it suggests that a traveler ought to go up there and find a dead but still pregnant deer on a precipice. Why on earth would this experience be desirable? It isn’t, but maybe the realization that follows it is valuable.”

 

What do you think about this pairing? What do you see between the two, and how does it make you feel?

Let us know @TroutGallery

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