Monday 22 November 2010

Poetry from Art at Tate Modern: Ana Mendieta

Tonight at Tate Modern we'll be working in the Ana Mendieta room in the Energy & Process wing on Level 5. As Ana Mendieta is from Cuba, we'll read the Cuban poet Nancy Morejón’s poem ’Ana Mendieta’, which celebrates her spirit and mourns her early death.  We’ll watch the artist's video Blood and Feathers #2, where she pours animal blood over herself, rolls onto white chicken feathers, then stands with arms outstretched like wings, on the riverbank.

Mendieta was influenced by indigenous Tainan myths of Cuba and the Caribbean and the writings of Carlos Castaneda, particularly The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge. I've always been drawn to rituals about transformation into a bird and have written about Amazonian transformation rites in my first and second collections Heart of a Deer and The Zoo Father. Amazonian peoples stick white harpy eagle down feathers in their hair for journeys to their sky worlds.

Tonight we'll also look at the poem 'Animal Dress' by Sharon Olds (from One Secret Thing) and ' The World's Entire Wasp Population' by Selima Hill (from Violet), as alternative takes on ritual dress, the former celebrating her daughter's coming of age by dressing her in the world's animals, and the latter enacting a ritual of revenge by covering a rival in "this jam" then inviting wasps "to enjoy her".

The thirty poets in the group will read the results from tonight's session and their poems from the six week course next Monday, 29 November, at 6.45pm, in the Poetry and Dream gallery at Tate Modern. Everyone is welcome and entrance is free. The other art they responded to are paintings by Gauguin, Joan Jonas' fairytale installation The Juniper Tree and the surreal works in Poetry and Dream. The still below is of another piece by Mendieta Bird Transformation.