"I am 3/4ths Canadian, and one 4th New Englander - I had ancestors on both sides in the Revolutionary war." - Elizabeth Bishop

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Two Arts -- EBSNS Virtual Exhibit 2020 -- Part 2



Natallia Pavaliayeva (b. 1971, Minsk, Belarus) is a writer, graphic artist/book illustrator, and a professor of English Literature in BSU (Belarusian State University, Minsk, Belarus). She teaches modern and contemporary English Literature. She is also a translator from English and Swedish.

Natallia has been drawing since the age of two. She studied at an art studio under the Belarusian artist Vasily Sumarev and has taken courses in sculpture and art history. Her pictures have been sold in many countries around the world, including the USA, France, Germany, Norway, Finland, and Italy. She is doing a lot of book illustrations and book cover designs and graphic art in mixed media. 

(Natallia Pavaliayeva)

I had never heard about Elizabeth Bishop before I watched the movie “Reaching for the Moon”. This happened in 2015. And the poems from the movie struck me at once. So I started – quite predictably – with “One Art.” And I knew at once that that was “my” type of poetry. I liked the poem’s deceptive simplicity which covered deep reflection on love and loss and all those things. I liked this “ordinary” tone of speaking, definitely ironical, mixed with true tension. I liked the precise use of every word. And – most important of all, since this is my almost instinctive reaction to any text I like – I felt the desire to draw an illustration to this poem, which I did the next day – that was the first attempt (later I made another version, which has been represented here). But the character of Elizabeth Bishop that inhabits all the illustrations came a bit later – in the illustration to the poem “Dear Dr. Foster.”

Since that time, I have started reading Elizabeth Bishop’s poems almost every day. I liked her permanent interest in ordinary things, her ability to say a lot using only a few small details; I liked the “prosy,” narrative structure and tone of her poems. And of course I liked visual imagery of her poems. I think that Elizabeth Bishop is a poet whose texts address first of all to eyes, not to ears (and let’s not forget that she herself was a visual artist too). That’s why her poems are a real treasure for an artist, for an illustrator.

Soon just reading Elizabeth Bishop’s poems wasn’t enough for me, and I started reading Elizabeth Bishop’s biographies, her letters, and some academic materials about her. Somehow, very fast and in very natural way, Elizabeth Bishop became an important part of my life. And what was very motivating for me is that I’ve had encouragement and support from some people in Elizabeth Bishop’s world: Jonathan Ellis, Sandra Barry, and John Barnstead.

Recently I’ve read an essay about Swedish poet, Nobel Prize laureate Tomas Tranströmer. The author of the essay, Sara Danius, stresses the importance of “first places” – first room, first house or apartment, first street, first town, etc. – for a poet. These “first places” are the vessels for memory, and by this they are the forming power for poetry. And of course all this is very true when we speak about Elizabeth Bishop. And I am really happy that my illustrations are exposed in Elizabeth Bishop’s most important “first place,” Great Village.

My deep gratitude to everyone who made this exhibition possible!

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