Friday, June 16, 2017

Is There Enough Chagall in Your Life?

Melinda Palacio

In front of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art's Chagall painting

I love it when my two worlds collide, Louisiana and California. Earlier this month, Santa Barbara poets were invited to revisit the Museum of Art's permanent collection for an upcoming anthology on poems inspired by the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. I admit I had seen Marc Chagall's Young Girl in Pursuit at the museum before, but had never given the painting or the artist a second thought. This painting might representing a young woman riding on the coattails of her grandmother. I haven't sat with this artist enough to offer much more at the moment. However, New Orleans poet Gina Ferrara has. She has been inspired by the works of Marc Chagall throughout her career. She is no stranger to the world of poetry. Last year, she was nominated for Poet Laureate of the State of Louisiana. She has an impressive new book, all inspired by the works of Marc Chagall, Fitting the Sixth Finger. I don't write many reviews, but I'm happy to share my review of her poetry book.
Gina Ferrara's Fitting the Sixth Finger

   Gina Ferrara's new poetry book, Fitting the Sixth Finger, is a dazzling collection that challenges familiar paradigms of color. If you thought you knew what a color was or its potential to inspire both visual artist and poet, thing again. Ferrara sustains a full-length collection of 53 poems, all inspired by the works of Marc Chagall. Ferrara's third full-length poetry book gives the reader a glimpse of the talent displayed by this mature collection and offers a retrospective of the poet's ongoing conversation with Marc Chagall.

            Works from her earlier books, such as the title poem from the 2009 Trembling Pillow Press collection, Ethereal Avalanche, include: "Explained in Color", "Fitting the Sixth Finger", "From Dirt", "Indigo Stirrings", "Over the Village", and "Yesterday's Explanation". This previous canvassing shows an astute and lyrical penchant for the pairing of artist and poet, diffusing Chagall's tender color to turns of phrases that haunt the mind long after the poem and book are read. Examples from the poems include:  "a saffron sky, framed/by the scythe/you once held/blade glinting with the sheen of a wish/" and "Even with one wing/tufted in deep blue down,/a blue more authentic than sleep" and "The ground is colored as confetti/or a heap of taffeta the morning after./The audacious earth appears yellow/and rises like a song".

            In this confident book, Ferrara is a poet's poet who brings to words Chagall's beauty, a love of colors, and a love of life. The reader who may not be a lover of art or poetry will fall under the spell of color, love, and beauty expressed in Ferrara's trusted poetics.


Do you aspire to become a writer or a poet? Join the Santa Barbara Writers Conference on Sunday. Come for a day or an evening. If you're serious about this writing thing, stay for the week. 

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