Karla Linn Merrifield

DIPTYCH: Wizard, Not and Spot On

Some dude in the news,
some bad guy, gotta be, babe?
One vile predator.

On classic post-it:
yellow, 2 by 2-ish.
Sticky notes, right on!…

What evocative, visual, and symbolic connections are there between a famous American artist and Karla Linn Merrifield’s poems? The words of this diptych make this inspiration suggestive and glaring.

Like John Sloan’s paintings, particularly those of female nudes, Karla’s poetic duo DIPTYCH: Wizard, Not and Spot On strike the reader with layers. Sloan seduced the viewer with his gestural brushstroke, Karla with words and lines. They are not layers of colour but of text. The poet experiments with words as painters experiment with watercolour and brush: overlapping hues, mixing styles and vocabulary, and layering to achieve an increasingly impressionistic vision. On her Moleskine journals and with her felt-tip pen, Karla traces abstract poetic compositions. They follow the stimulating flow of her thoughts.

From a technical-stylistic point of view, the poems written by Karla are varied. The author ranges from different metrics, moving from modern sonnets to free verses and experimenting with types of poetic composition outside the Western tradition, such as haiku and tanka from Japanese literature. Even the vocabulary shifts from contemporary one, often linked to the domain of digital chat and common language, to high-sounding words. Her diptychs appear as an interesting mix of styles and intentions, creating hybrid atmospheres and miscellaneous mental images.

Among many other stimuli, the art of painting is a source of inspiration for Karla. This is particularly evident in the second composition of the diptych, where the nude artworks by Sloan, an exponent of the 20th-century Ashcan School, become material for poetry. There is nothing precise and explicit, just an idea of this female nude portrayed with a nonchalant use of blue colour and dishevelled curls. We are not given to know what Sloan’s work of art is precisely; we just catch its abstract impression. Through words, Karla transforms the concreteness of the painting medium into abstract poetry, a back-and-forth between visual and verbal languages.

The literary references in Karla’s poetics are many and span various creative fields. Like the American poet William Heyen, Karla emphasizes a few meaningful words to trace the overall feelings of her subjects. Music is also an indispensable source of inspiration, from poets and songwriters like Warren Zevon to iconic singers and authors like Patti Smith. It is poetry that proceeds by impressions, approximations, and particular focus.

Karla Linn Merrifield is now a renowned poet with a fruitful career. She has more than 1000 poems and 16 published books to her credit. Her newest poetry collection, My Body the Guitar, was recently nominated for the 2022 National Book Award and brings together musical and art inspirations. A frequent contributor to literary journals such as The Songs of Eretz Poetry Review, Karla Linn Merrifield is eclectic, constantly experimenting with different styles, subjects, and interdisciplinary influences.

Karla Linn Merrifield is the Gold Writer of the ArtAscent Abstract call for writers. To see the full body of work and profile, get a copy of the ArtAscent Art & Literature Journal Abstract issue.


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