Poetry and art combine in new book launching next week

Book coverScrawled underneath or to one side of the photographs in a new book by artist Daniel Ehrenworth and York English Professor Priscila Uppal  – Curse. Sleep. (That’s the Thing About Trouble) – are bits of an ongoing conversation. Things like: “Protect your heels,” printed in capitals under a photo of a backyard with a swing set and slide with a tiny woman on her back in high heels.

This is the third time Uppal (BA Hons. ’97, PhD ’04) has collaborated with Ehrenworth, a former fine arts and cultural studies student at York. The book, Curse. Sleep., is a manifestation of an earlier exhibit by the pair and will launch on Thursday, June 2, from 5 to 7pm at Sweaty Betty’s, 13 Ossington Ave., Toronto. The event is free and everyone is welcome. The book is designed by Justin Broadbent.

Written in cursive under another photo with a willowy impression of sunlight against a fence, it says, “My mother still asks about you.” “They’re inner confessions,” says Uppal. Unlike the full lyrical poems she wrote for Ehrenworth’s 2003 exhibit Holocaust Dream, which was also made into a book, this time they are brief poetic expressions that help tell the story of a boy and a girl, two halves of the same person, struggling to return to wholeness after an unnamed trauma splits them apart.

Art and poetry run together in the book, Curse. Sleep. (That’s the Thing About Trouble)Left: Art and poetry run together in the book, Curse. Sleep. (That’s the Thing About Trouble)

“There’s very much a graffiti feel to the writing,” says Uppal. Most of the art from the exhibit is in an eclectic mix of sizes and dimensions, but the writing doesn’t necessary correspond to the piece closest to it. “They are almost free floating between images,” says Uppal. “So the narrative is a little different from the exhibit. They are scattered like a dreamscape, as if you can hear some sounds, but can’t quite make them out. The impact is still haunting.”

It is with this work that Ehrenworth has returned to his photographic exploration of dream states, trauma, sexuality and texture. He is currently at work on Curse. Sleep. (Away Away Away), the second part in the Curse. Sleep. trilogy, expected in 2013.

And Uppal has provided “the verbal subtext, which goes along with the images.”

Artist Daniel Ehrenworth and English Professor Priscila Uppal collaborated on an exhibition, which led to the new bookRight: Artist Daniel Ehrenworth and English Professor Priscila Uppal collaborated on an exhibition, which led to the new book

Uppal’s publications include seven collections of poetry, including the Griffin Poetry Prize shortlisted Ontological Necessities (Exile Editions, 2006), Traumatology (Exile Editions, 2010), Winter Sport: Poems (Mansfield Press, 2010) and Successful Tragedies: Poems 1998-2010 (Bloodaxe Books, 2010). She is also author of critically acclaimed novels The Divine Economy of Salvation (Algonquin Books, 2002) and To Whom It May Concern (Doubleday Canada, 2009); and the study We Are What We Mourn: The Contemporary English-Canadian Elegy (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2009). She was poet-in-residence for Canadian Athletes Now during the 2010 Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic games. She was dubbed “Canada’s coolest poet” by Time Out London.

Ehrenworth works as both a commercial photographer and a photo-based artist in Toronto, Canada. He has exhibited work at numerous galleries across Canada and was the co-curator of Stranger than Fiction: The Delicate Art of Faking History at the Forest City Gallery in 2007. His artwork has been published in Maisonneuve, Applied Arts, Black and White Magazine, numerous art blogs, and is collected among various private collectors throughout Canada and the United States. He has also won awards for his commercial work.

For more information or to order the book, Curse. Sleep. (That’s the Thing About Trouble), visit Daniel Ehrenworth’s website or contact him at dan@dephoto.org.