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"Perception As A Generative Act"

Nancy Chen Long on her contributions to the Diode anthology, Beyond the Frame

Cover for Beyond the Frame features distressed imagery by Flora Fanzutti

In Beyond the Frame, poets respond to vintage abandoned photographs, and to the experimental, abstract images that were created from the photographs. The anthology features a multiplicity of voices, styles and perspectives. Like Allan Sekula in his meditation on a found triptych of photos, the abandoned images in Beyond the Frame appear “in an almost archaeological light.” Like Sekula, the poets sought to discover “What meanings were once constructed here ... who spoke, who listened, who spoke with a voice not their own?”

"Meditations on a triptych"

By Allan Sekula

Published in Afterimage, Summer 1978


Distressed negative by chemical process produces abstract shapes and gradients

A few months prior to my father’s passing a couple of years ago, he told me a deathbed secret. Up until then, I had been working on a poetry manuscript that explored perception as a generative act—what we see as individuals and how that differs, the physiology and psychology of seeing, and so on. After he told me the story, work on the manuscript stopped. The only kind of writing I was able to do was journaling. When I later became aware of Patty Paine’s images in her Wrecked Archive collection, I was obsessed. The images are so evocative. I began by simply using them for meditation, but quickly started to write prose poems in response to them, approaching the images as if I had dreamed them. I suspect meditating on those surreal and abstract images provided my mind with a way to deal with my father’s passing and the surrealness of the whole situation. The images in Wrecked Archive held such power and importance for me that for a while I only wanted to write poems when I was meditating on one of them. They are a gift.

Nancy Chen Long is the author of two poetry books: Wider than the Sky (Diode Editions, 2020), which was selected for the Diode Editions Book Contest, and Light into Bodies (University of Tampa Press, 2017), which won the Tampa Review Prize for Poetry. Her work has been supported by a National Endowment of the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship in poetry, a Poetry Society of America Robert H. Winner Memorial Award, and an Oxbow School of the Arts Writer’s Residency. She is a poetry reader for Guesthouse and is employed at Indiana University in the Research Technologies division.


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