It's not often that poets get to see their work off of a page (or screen). This summer I had the chance to display some of my erasure poems in an art installation for Made Here: Future, a project by Hennepin Theatre Trust.
Made Here is a walkable urban art experience that temporarily fills empty storefronts and commercial spaces with the work of Minnesota artists. Located in the West Downtown Minneapolis Cultural District, the project aims to highlight artists but also bring attention to available downtown properties—piquing the interest of renters and entrepreneurs. In fact, my installation came down prematurely when the former Rosa Mexicano restaurant in City Center was leased after being vacant for nearly a year.
"Dystopia Erased" showcased erasure poems sourced from four different dystopian novels, with themes including the existence of fact through memory; women’s bodies as political instruments; language as a tool of power; the causes of complacency; environmental and economic crises; racial and ethnic tensions; immigration; institutionalized population control; and perceptions of otherness. My source texts included The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood; Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler; 1984 by George Orwell; and Ink by Sabrina Vourvoulias.
Presenting my words as an art exhibit was filled with a lot of new challenges. Once I wrote the poems I had to design each 36"x64" panel, do test prints, revise, print again, and then transport and install the poems at my site. Erasure already forces you to work under constraints and this project presented even more of them. However, one great thing about Made Here is that the staff are available to help you through each step. The program is very accessible to emerging artists—the application does not require a resume or even previous exhibition experience, just a good idea.
In order to curate four poems that worked well together for the installation, I wrote over 40 erasure poems sourced from the four novels. Below are some that didn't make it onto the windows for Made Here, but I think are still worth sharing.
Erasure poems by Erin Dorney, 2017