I first had the pleasure of experiencing Adam Vines’ luminous work when our Associate Editor, Okla Elliott, urged me to read a few of his most recent ekphrastic poems. In the weeks that followed, Okla passed away unexpected at the age of only forty, and at the outset of a brilliant career in the arts and letters. While the literary community will never fully recover from this sudden and great loss, I’m grateful to Okla for broadening my awareness of the literary landscape we inhabit. These stunning, singing lyric pieces are merely one example of how Okla’s outstanding literary citizenship remains an ongoing gift to our artistic community.
When I encountered this folio of Vines’ poems, I was perhaps most deeply moved by his efforts to transpose the techniques of painting onto language. Vines’ use of the page as a visual field, which establishes its own patterns, repetitions, rhythms and order, introduces this exploration (and dismantling) of the boundaries of genre and medium. Language becomes a material medium, a made thing. What’s more, the use of the image to imply narrative, to suggest what we do not yet see and what we will never know, struck me with both its subtlety and its subversiveness. The poem becomes tableau, becomes a spark that ignites the reader’s imagination, “a flash just burst / above a photographer’s / shroud.”