Creased Map of the Underworld
Nothing is so beautiful as death
"I replaced Spring with death"
Interviews with poet Kim Addonizio and filmmaker Bryan Michurski by Carrie Ann Golden
Kim Addonizio is an award-winning poet known for writing edgy poetry. Creased Map of the Underworld is no exception. This is a dark and gritty poem which shows how “death” views the grisly demise among humans, nature and celestials.
What prompted/inspired you to write this poem?
It started with a perversion of Gerard Manley Hopkins’s first line of his poem “Spring”: “Nothing is so beautiful as Spring–” and found its way from there. Obviously, once I replaced Spring with death (lower case because Death is an entity observing its manifestations, not to make things too complicated), then instead of thrush eggs and lambs, other images crowded in.
When you sit down to write a poem (in this case, Creased Map of the Underworld), do you already have in mind the format that it would be written in?
I don’t think of poems in terms of format, at least not initially. Usually, the language tells me something about how it wants to be arranged, whether it’s going to fall into a regular pattern or be something more ragged. It finds its form.
Have you noticed any recurrent themes in your poetry?
Of course. I have recurrent themes as a human being, and they all show up in my writing. They are what I pin my longing to, my questions and confusions.
I read that many poets write their poems with a musical beat in their heads…would you say the same for yourself?
I’d say that I follow the music of the poem as it appears, then go back and fool with it to bring it out more strongly.
When people read this poem, what do you hope they will take from it?
Whatever they take from it is theirs. Once I write it, it’s out of my hands. Even though it’s a dark poem–maybe because it’s dark–I’d like to think someone might derive some hope from it, or some sort of comfort, even though I guess the poem is saying that Death is voracious and going to devour everything and everyone. Given that, what’s left? I see those lit hearts in little boats at the end of the poem sort of like the bugs in Basho’s haiku, translated by Robert Hass as “Insects on a bough/floating downriver,/still singing.”
Here’s a quote from Robert Frost: “Poetry is what gets lost in translation.” In regards to your own poetry (especially Creased Map of the Underworld), what are your thoughts and feelings about this quote?
I’ve seen variants of this quote and never been sure exactly what it means. Is it specifically related to translation from another language, or is it saying that whatever is contained in the poem is itself untranslatable? You can “translate many poems back into some sort of pedestrian prose, which is useful in the way that, say, understanding the intervals in a piece of music (oh, there’s a minor third; now it’s modulating to a major key; etc.) is useful. Minor key: a kind of sadness; modulation to major key: a kind of hope. But the music is the music, and the poem is the poem. To go back to Hopkins, here’s a line I love from “Spring”: “Thrush eggs look little low heavens.” You can talk about thrush eggs being blue. And heaven coming down to earth. And the egg as, actually, a Christian symbol of the resurrection. Useful, but not the poem. “Thrush eggs look little low heavens.” Put that in your pipe and smoke it. The other stuff won’t get you high.
Have you had an opportunity to view the film for your poem yet?
Yes, totally unexpected, very cool.
How was it unexpected?
I (naively) thought there’d be some images from the poem. But like how the words are set against the simple actions & the mood it all creates.
Thank you so much for answering all my questions. Is there anything else that you’d like to add?
Yes–I’m so happy to have my poem made into a film for Motionpoems! Adding the visual element not only gives it a new and surprising dimension–I think it also can make poems more accessible to people who are new to poetry. I’m very honored to be part of this season.
Bryan Michurski has a wealth of experience as both a creative director and as a commercial director. In this particular film for the poem Creased Map of the Underworld, he does the “unexpected” as poet Kim Addonizio said. Instead of showing horrifying images of death, he chose to show death in a more simplistic and ultimately more powerful setting as seen through a child’s eyes.
Please give us a brief overview as to who you are and what your background in the creative industry is.
I spent 20 years as an Art Director/Creative Director in the Minneapolis advertising scene. Most of that time was spent creating broadcast campaigns for large companies like Staples, Target, and E*Trade. The rest of that time was spent at Chez Jays bar in Santa Monica, which is where the real creativity happened.
How did you discover you had a creative talent for art and advertising? Which aspects of the creative industry are you most passionate about?
I was one of those kids who was always drawing and acting. Put myself through art school as an actor in commercials and industrial films and eventually discovered that I could use both of those passions to solve problems–that’s why advertising was a good fit. Originally, I wanted to become an animator, which is the perfect conflux of art, performance, and problem solving, but it’s a patience-driven medium. I need the adrenaline and the unpredictability of a live set.
How would you describe your directing style?
I like to prepare, but I don’t like to plan. I have shots in my head that I want, but experimentation is essential for me. I always have my fingers crossed for that surprising moment or happy accident. It’s like carving a marble statue–something good is already in the scene, I just need to chip away and find it.
Can you describe the creative process behind the film for Creased Map of the Underworld?
It was the first poem I read and knew immediately I wanted to work with it. I was drawn to the “innocence of death” idea. At first I struggled with how I could visually play along with the vivid imagery in the poem. The treatment I created was much different, using high contrast black and white, with a much more diverse scene and shot list, more like a music video. I realized as I was in first edit that I didn’t need to illustrate the poem because it was powerful enough. I wanted to add to the idea and not distract from it.
Did you find it more difficult to create a “poetry in motion” as compared to your other films?
The difficulty was removing myself from the need to “make a film about a poem”. I had to separate myself from belief that it had to follow a style, thus becoming a parody of another film. Once I decided that I didn’t care if anyone liked it, it was much easier to let all of the expectations go and just let it be.
What prompted you to use a specific animal to symbolize death?
It was between the girl viewing the body of an older self or discovering an animal. I even entertained a version where those visuals alternated, but the idea of how death sees death gets too twisted and meta in that scenario. The deer works well because its size and innocence matches the girl’s.
What do you hope that the audience will take from watching this film?
I hope they pay attention to an amazing poem told from an alternate perspective. As humans we have an adverse, and sometimes unhealthy reaction to death and we don’t appreciate the necessity and fascinating beauty of it.
Carrie Ann Golden grew up in the Adirondack Mountains and now lives in the suburbs of Raleigh, North Carolina. She’s a stay-at-home mother, wife to a former Navy officer/meteorologist/now program manager for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, writer, and animal-lover. Her short fiction and poetry have been published with Piker Press, Zombie Poetry, Asylum Ink, and Kids For Literature. Follow her on Twitter @cagolden71