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Poetry and art combines in exhibition, English Department Reading Series

Philip Terman reads a selection of his poetry to the small group of listeners. (Northern Review photo/Kasy Long)

Philip Terman reads a selection of his poetry to the small group of listeners. (Northern Review photo/Kasy Long)

Poetry and art may not seem to go hand-in-hand, but it’s a perfect combination for poet Philip Terman and artist James Stewart.

Ohio Northern University’s English Department and Department of Art & Design combined for an event on Sept. 16 in the Elzay Gallery of Art that kicked off the 2015-16 Reading Series. This unique event allowed English and art students to learn about how artwork and poetry are strikingly similar.

Terman, a visiting poet at ONU and professor of English at Clarion University, is the author of four books of poetry and four limited editions of poetry chapbooks. His poetry has been featured in various publications, including Poetry Magazine, The Kenyon Review, The Georgia Review, 99 Poems for the 99 Percent, and The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry.

Meanwhile, Stewart earned art degrees from Thiel College and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. His artistic work has been shown in exhibits in New York City, Philadelphia, and many other galleries throughout the New England states. Stewart has earned numerous awards for his work, including the Guggenheim Fellowship in painting.

Sharing similar religious passions, the creative artists have become close friends, with Stewart’s sketch portraits serving as accompaniment for Terman’s poetry.

“Imagery helps explain the poem,” Stewart commented during the reading and conversation to ONU students, faculty members, and guests. “Paintings provide unique images to help the mind create a clear picture of what you’re reading.”

Terman adds, “Our collaboration was special and valuable to us. Our ideas matched and our works blended together. I didn’t want my poetry to overpower the artwork. It’s a mutual partnership.”

Both creative illusionists shared the creative process together, and it has been an impactful journey. 

Terman’s poetry explores nature scenes. For instance, “Like a Bird Entering a Window and Leaving through another Window,” “Isaiah at Rest,” and “The Book of Summer” represent the connection between nature scenes and actual objects. Other works are centered on Terman’s favorite artists, scientists, and writers, including Vincent van Gogh, Albert Einstein, and Walt Whitman.

During the ONU reading session, Terman specifically discussed his poem “Isaiah at Rest.” Within this piece, the words remain the same, though the images evolve with each element to best suit the written work.

“My Jewish faiths and practices inspire my writings in really unique ways, and I allowed this piece [Isaiah at Rest] to embody what I was expressing,” Terman claimed.

The most fascinating element of the evening may have been the discussion on how a poet (Terman) and artist (Stewart) collaborated to develop a poetry book.

“It’s really cool to see the visual and literary elements working together in the work,” said Rachel Cruea, a junior creative writing student. “There’s a dual connection. When you read a poem, you create a visual image, but then the images of the artwork create something else, allowing even more interpretation.”

For Terman and Stewart, it was important for them to create an object in the digital age of literature. They wanted to create something that people could relate to and appreciate. Their collaboration will be on display until Sept. 27. 


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