Sarah Rice reflects on her new poems ‘Components' and 'My father's portrait', created as part of her Red Room Poetry Fellowship 2019 shortlist commission. 

I was thrilled to have been shortlisted for the Red Room Poetry Fellowship this year – and was excited to produce a series of poems in relation to my proposed project. While I have been interested in the materiality and texture of words for many years, my current project is motivated by an interest in the materiality and texture of things – particularly crafted things. I am interested in the way we both craft a poem and craft an object, in how we mould meanings and objects, and how objects and meanings mould us. It is this relational aspect that drives my project – as phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty says; “things pass into us as well as we into things”.
I have connections with some wonderful craft artists, and for this commission, I chose to work with the talented glass artist Lucy Quinn. I interviewed her about her materials, tools, techniques, inspirations. It was a pleasure to see her in her studio, to watch her process, observe and photograph her drawings, tests, and final creations, all in the lead up to her solo show. For me, this interview process is a crucial part of the creation of a poem. The artist’s studio is transformed into a place of interaction, encounter, and exchange, as art theorist Eilean Hooper-Greenhill says; “objects are sites at which discursive formation intersects with material properties”.
As part of this discourse with Lucy, I discovered that her work (earlier versions of which I had seen exhibited at ANCA gallery in Canberra) was made in response to the death of her father. Having lost my own father a few years earlier, I resonated with the power and symbolism of her work – in particular, three black glass casts of framed photographs and mementos. One of these formed the basis of an exhibition catalogue poem (now a concertina chapbook) commissioned by Outer Space Gallery in Brisbane for Lucy’s solo exhibition The Residue in August this year. Another of these black cast frame works entitled ‘My father’s portrait’ provided the inspiration for my Red Room commissioned poem of the same name. The poem responds to the nature of glass – its opacity and malleability, as well as the sense of the impossibility of casting, catching, containing the spirit of someone who has died.
My second poem sequence ‘Components’ is based on Lucy’s creation of a multitude of small kiln-cast and cold-worked lead-crystal pieces. I was particularly drawn to Lucy’s use of black glass, to the beautiful amber honeycomb structures, as well as to the very concept of ‘components’ – a world, a life, in bits and pieces.
Overall, I really enjoyed the process of writing these poems, and of embedding myself in Lucy’s parallel process of creation. Thanks to the Red Room for the commission!

Go to Sarah's profile to read her poems >