W@G Book Release Celebration for Ralph Savarese.

Thursday, Nov. 11, 8 p.m. in the Grinnell College Museum of Art

October 07, 2021

Writers@Grinnell celebrates the book release of Grinnell College faculty member, Ralph Savarese on Thursday, Nov.. 11, 2021, at 8 p.m. in the Grinnell Museum of Art. A chapbook of Ekphrastic poetry written in response to paintings by Tilly Woodward.  

The event can also be viewed via Zoom

Did We Make It?

Did We Make It book cover - Painting titled "New House, Empty Nest


It’s no coincidence that this volume was produced during the pandemic. Alienated from one another, stuck in our houses or apartments, worried about the future, we all, I think, dreamt of bridges. Zoom was the most conspicuous and ubiquitous one — essential, of course, but glitchy and insubstantial. You might as well go for a walk in space. 

When my friend Tilly Woodward approached me about working together on an Ekphrastic project — writing poems to (not about) her astonishing hyper-realist paintings — I immediately said yes, but I pictured a footbridge across a canyon, actually felt it with my feet. High winds, swaying, mortal fear. Is that me screaming? I so desperately wanted to get to the other side of poetry where image reigns without words.

I wanted to connect, bring things together. Tilly sent me the link to her website, and I chose the images I would write to. The title of the project came first, which never happens. I liked the pun: it spoke to the pandemic (will we survive?) and to collaborative engendering — its surprise (did we make that?).

Tilly loves to pair things. She also loves nests, empty ones; dead birds; fruits; vegetables. The light she casts seems to come from some unidentifiable below — as if the Great Chicago Fire had happened in hell and night, that black sky, had become day. Her paintings are so composed, so still, and yet at the same time so dynamic and otherworldly. I was attracted to their drama. Realism is anything but ordinary.

One by one, the poems emerged. Tilly would comment on them. I would revise. The Iowa derecho of last summer, a friend’s stroke, my son’s early years in foster care — these things found their visual partner. I learned to walk across that bridge in a storm.

— Ralph Savarese
April 2021

Ralph James Savarese is the author of three books of poems: Republican Fathers (Nine Mile Books 2020), When This Is Over (Ice Cube Press 2020), and, with Stephen Kuusisto, Someone Falls Overboard: Talking through Poems (Nine Mile Books 2021). He is also the author of two books of prose, Reasonable People: A Memoir of Autism and Adoption (Other Press 2007) and See It Feelingly: Classic Novels, Autistic Readers and the Schooling of a No-Good English Professor (Duke University Press 2018). Finally, he has co-edited three collections. His creative work has appeared, among other places, in American Poetry Review, Bellingham Review, Fourth Genre, Modern Poetry in Translation, New England Review, Ploughshares, Seneca Review, Sewanee Review, Southwest Review, and Threepenny Review. He is at work on a fourth book of poems, Life Sentences, and a monograph about Herman Melville.

Tilly Woodward grew up on a farm, graduated from Phillips Academy, Andover, holds a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute and an MFA from the University of Kansas. Her artwork has been exhibited in more than 194 museums and galleries nationally and can be found in museum, corporate and private collections in Israel, Ghana, Uganda, India, and throughout the United States. She is the recipient of numerous grants and awards including two Fellowships for Drawing from the National Endowment for the Arts, and has initiated many arts outreach projects designed to help communities address social issues, foster creativity, build compassion, and engage with joy. She is well known for her highly realistic, meticulously detailed oil paintings of small things. She is Grinnell College's Museum of Art’s curator of academic and community outreach.

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