Living Well in Litchfield County, Connecticut

Mar 11–Apr 22, 2023

Time & Fever & Nothing More, Artwork from The Fever Poems by Kylie Gellatly

The Cornwall Library is excited to present poet and visual artist Kylie Gellatly’s Time & Fever & Nothing More, consisting of poem collages from her book The Fever Poems that she created during June 2020 in response to the great wave of uncertainty and grief as Covid, racial violence, and accelerated climate change rose up before her.

A collage is an artistic composition made of various materials, such as paper or cloth, glued on a surface. Gellatly’s collages use text and images that she cut from pages of The Arctic Diary of Russell William Porter. The text is embedded in each collage as a poem, and positioned, sometimes scattered, to enhance the impact of the underlying image.

Porter (1871-1949) was an American artist, engineer, and member of 10 Arctic expeditions who assembled his diary from journals and sketchbooks. He did not suffer the extreme privations that occurred on some expeditions–no freezing to death or madness–but he did experience hardship and require rescue by Inuits. His diary and drawings communicate a profound feeling for a barren and fragile Arctic, which Gellatly uses as a stage for the present vulnerabilities of both human and planet. Porter’s diary also contains the vocabulary and imagery of life in the Arctic, as recorded by a person possessed by what was called “Arctic fever” in his time: an obsessed yearning to explore and adventure at the poles. In Gellatly’s poems, “fever” is used in this sense. For example, “our footing was an archipelago / with its smoking volcanoes / feeling for wood / to build fever”.

Gellatly employs Porter’s text and artwork as an Arctic palette. She doesn’t copy passages or sentences, but slices out words or parts of words and phrases, rearranging them to create poetry. For example: “You know, the / storm / went out, and / I believed you were down here / for it has never / been / a different story / living as a key / forged full / of hell”.

Words are pasted in with deliberate disorder, creating a kind of movement between them that recalls Nicole Rudick’s observation in Paris Review, when writing about visual poetry, “Movement disrupts the continuity of a sentence, a phrase, a word. And language, unsettled, is unbound.”

Gellatly doesn’t present Porter’s artwork as it appears in the diary, but overlays images with color washes and various opacities. Significantly, she uses a rectangular cutaway method to create windows into either a vantage or void. Cutaways to the void suggest redacted information, textual or visual, increasing the sense of mystery and isolation.

At the outset of her work on the collages, Gellatly committed herself to producing one completed collage a day. This, with her exclusive use of material from Porter’s diary, effectively created a vessel of temporal and material constraint where she was forced to suspend her attention to disheartening news and concentrate on making art. The resulting collages mirror her mood day to day. She says, “Within such suspension I was able to work entirely on trust and intuition and create a space to sit with complicated networks of ambiguous grief.”

Audrey Gidman writes in DIAGRAM Journal that The Fever Poems is “…a tomb for the desperate desire to glean answers …an altar for surrender, for confusion, for glittering stars and clenched jaws. It toes the line, circles the line, steps over the line, then steps back, over and over. It spirals. It changes its mind. It forgets itself. It fears itself. It erases itself, over and over.”

Kylie Gellatly is a visual artist, poet, and editor, and the author of The Fever Poems. Her poetry has appeared in journals including Fence, Tupelo Quarterly, and Poetry Daily, and in the forthcoming anthology Roads Taken: Contemporary Vermont Poetry. Her visual works have been exhibited at the Vermont Studio Center, Other Places Art Fair, Smith College, and elsewhere. She graduated from Mount Holyoke College and has received support from the Vermont Studio Center and the Juniper Writing Institute. She currently serves as Managing Editor of Plant-Human Quarterly.

March 11–April 22
Artist’s Reception March 11, 5–7 PM with a reading by Gellatly at 6:15
Registration requested for reception: https//

The Cornwall Library
30 Pine Street, Cornwall, Connecticut 06753

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