They met at a party and their conversation naturally turned to art. Mary Hatch is a visual artist; Elizabeth Kerlikowske a poet. The two began to exchange their work, matching words to images. It worked – so well, in fact, that they decided to create a business and then a book. Art Speaks: Paintings and Poetry pairs poems with paintings.
Kerlikowske says her writing process was a problem - literally - as she looked at Hatch's paintings without knowing their titles. “There’s some kind of problem that’s happening in each of these pictures. It’s my job to figure out what that problem is and how it may be resolving. It may not be apparent to Mary or anyone else — just me. Some people have said that we have the same sense of humor or sense of disjointedness in the world, which helps us do this.”
Hatch says she's been interested in art since she was a child. She was always drawing, and as she grew, so did her art.
“I took a painting class when I was 14 years old,” Hatch says. “I loved it. I can still see the room. Everything in it is still perfectly ingrained in my mind. I went away to boarding school and they actually had "life art" classes, which is unusual. This was in high school: Cranbrook Kingswood School in Bloomfield Hills. And then I majored in art in college. I think art finds you. It’s just something you have to do.”
As artist and poet began their collaboration, Hatch emailed her images to Kerlikowske, and later, Kerlikowske emailed her poetry to Hatch.
“My work is a jumping-off place for Elizabeth,” Hatch says. “It inspires her and it makes total and complete sense to me. It’s not a description, it’s not a critique, it is itself.”
Mary Hatch studied art at Skidmore College in New York and then earned a BA in art education and an MA in painting from Western Michigan University. She now works full-time in her studio in Kalamazoo. Hatch’s work is included in more than 300 public and private collections.
Elizabeth Kerlikowske is the author of three chapbooks of poetry, a collection of children’s stories, and a prose poem memoir of her father, all issued by March Street Press in North Carolina. Dominant Hand, her first full length book of poetry, is available from Mayapple Press. Recently retired from a teaching career at Kellogg Community College, Kerlikowske is the president of Friends of Poetry, a Kalamazoo nonprofit dedicated to the enjoyment of poetry. Elizabeth completed her doctorate at Western Michigan University in 2007.
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