Welcome to the circus.

In the Circus Of You

Book trailer for IN THE CIRCUS OF YOU: An Illustrated Novel-in-Poems by poet Nicelle Davis and artist Cheryl Gross. The book will be released in March 2015: preordering begins in February 2015.

More information at http://www.rosemetalpress.com.

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I am not a barker. There is no kiosk here to see. No ticket vendor. No brightly lit sign, painted hand or enormous arrow that points to this place.

We are not attending the carnival or the midway but we are all gathered under the big top. We are the attractions. We view ourselves with equal parts delight and horror.

Out in the Midway, as the ride begins, it slowly lurches forward with us tightly belted in to our seats. It is a journey that promises much; fear, anticipation, and joy all wrapped together. We are pulled past windows where we are shown carefully created dioramas depicting Oddities that somehow both match and outstrip our own imaginations and orchestrations.

These tickets were bought a long time ago. Life is a freak show and all of us are participants. We jump from audience to performer as quickly as we wish to be separate from one or to belong to the other. We slide in and out of shadows, like   shape-shifters of compromise. We contort ourselves in service of the pragmatic, the mundane, or the bigger whole. We desperately wish we were seen as the magician, sorcerer or conjurer of our own illusions.

We are in awe of giants, coveting their power and perspective. We fear them for the same reasons.

I don’t have a tattoo. I appreciate the art. Even more, I understand the need to make a mark or public display of being an outsider. The act of covering my skin with an image has just never seemed to fit with the desire to peel back and expose the truth of living in that skin.

The broken knuckle from a forgotten fight that blooms from a finger is an awkward ornament. The scar that sits just above the knee from a reckless moment on a bike is a crescent moon drawn into the skin. Our scars, creases and configurations are the art that history makes of our bodies and illustrates our humanness.

As with any good sideshow, if we are lucky to look long enough, we end up seeing each other. We are a lucky audience to find ourselves in what is revealed in others.

As we catch our reflection in the peripheral mirror of vision, we recognize ourselves in the performer’s knowing gaze. We are what we are delighted by, when we are invited under the flap of the sideshow tent. We are freaks.

Cheryl Gross is an illustrator. Nicelle Davis is a poet. They met through the publication, Broadsided, which puts visual artists and poets together to collaborate and create literary-posters that are distributed across the world.

This process of collaboration almost always results in a revelation for each, because poets can’t anticipate what an artist will see in their words and the artist is always surprised by the power of words to suggest the image.

The power in this particular partnership illuminated and infused both the words and the images. The words are twined with the illustrations as though the poet and artist are sharing the same soul. As with conjoined twins the two share “In the Circus of You” as an expression of a unique bond that creates an additional intimacy, as though sharing arms, legs or a torso.

The collaboration you hold in your hand is joined by all of us who hope to recognize each other in our search for what makes us beautifully human, joyous in the expression of our differences and willing to celebrate the intrinsic connections between us.

Welcome to the circus.

Sneak Peek: In the Circus of You

We’re excited to give you a preview of the cover of the Rose Metal Press spring release, IN THE CIRCUS OF YOU: An Illustrated Novel-in-Poems by poet Nicelle Davis and artist Cheryl Gross. The cover features artwork by Cheryl Gross and was designed by Heather Butterfield. The book launches in March. Subscribe now to be among the first to receive a copy! Preordering will begin in February.
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Evie Shockley says of In the Circus of You:

“Nicelle Davis’ newest book mythologizes pain, makes grief, anger, disgust, and fear bearable by transforming them into finely wrought poems. These poems are filled with sharp edges, dissections, illusions, and images of flight, both in their language and in the ways they occupy the page. They are perfectly matched by the drawings of Cheryl Gross, who translates Davis’ poetry into an equally grotesque, equally eloquent visual language. In the Circus of You is a visceral spectacle of controlled excess; it dismantles the three rings we use to contain our most domestic horrors and shows us the way through vulnerability to release.”

Douglas Kearney says of In the Circus of You:

“Accompanied by Cheryl Gross’s illustrations of stretched flesh and biomechanical anatomies, In the Circus of You writhes in a fever dream of divorce, depression, and an undercurrent of poverty. Nicelle Davis directs a cast of disfigured pigs, desiccated pigeons, and circus freaks in poems whose forms are often cinched with wasp-waisted girdles or filed into jagged angles. Never simple oddities, these afflicted characters and music amount to a harrowing account of loss and how one has to fracture herself in private to appear unbroken in public. Don’t miss Davis’ acts of lurching grace and terrible beauty.”

 

The Living Poetry Project: AWP Treasure Adventure

My favorite book find at AWP this year is I Take Back the Sponge Cake by Loren Erdrich and Sierra Nelson.

I Take Back the Sponge Cake is a lyrical choose-your-own-adventure that is ageless—as in, the book transforms its adult readers back into children. The book uses sound-alike words to create a variety of paths through the book. Take this gorgeous page for example:

I first encountered this book at a post-punk-era punk bar where Loren and Sierra were giving a reading. We cheered and clapped as Sierra and Loren presented us with word choices. I have never seen the relationship between reader, writer, artist, and viewer shine so brightly as in the dimly lit bar.

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The illustrations by Loren Erdrich are dream abductions—the drawings triggering narratives that beg for continuation. Sierra Nelson’s poems are brimming with possibility. Anything can, and will, happen in this book the choices.

To celebrate this book I took it to Forever 21—a store devoted to the forever young. In middle-school girl tradition, I took photo booth shots of I Take Back the Sponge Cake and left them in the trusty hands of manikins.

This book is the adventure I’ve been craving—an adventure in homophones. I tested this book in my classroom, and it works like magic; I hope to formally teach it next semester. Great thanks to Loren and Sierra for making the density of language fun.