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This Is Not a Sky by Jessica Piazza

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 38 pgs.
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This Is Not a Sky by Jessica Piazza is the first interactive poetry chapbook I’ve ever read that has QR codes that link to famous works of art. Her ekphrastic poems infuse some masterpieces with new life and connects the art viewer and the poetry reader through her poems. Shining a new light on the relationship between reader and writer, painter and museum goer/art aficionado, Piazza is breaking down barriers and asking the audience to imagine alongside the artist, to create their own realities. Interpretation does not have to be confined to the outlines on the canvas or the lines and words chosen by the poet, much is left outside those constructs, leaving wide open spaces in which to venture on our own.

I love the idea of an interactive poetry collection, but in some cases (22%), the QR Code links to the artworks failed to bring up the correct work or went to an error page. However, a quick search found the pieces Piazza used for inspiration, so it wasn’t too much of a burden. I can truly say that you can enjoy these poems without looking at the artwork or being familiar with it.

In “Cafe Terrace at Night” after the Van Gogh painting, Piazza draws from the subdued lantern light the hidden “tipsy” patrons, looming dark figure in the doorway, and the ominous nature of the darkened streets and inebriated passersby. There’s an undercurrent of danger on these streets where patrons are dressed well and enjoying themselves, except for a lone woman who may be concerned about the shadow in the doorway or may be ruminating on some greater loss.

Gun” after Andy Warhol is a stunning poem, each part represents each of the guns portrayed. In this case, I’m happy the QR Code worked because Warhol painted several different gun paintings in his life. In Piazza’s poem, his painting says so much more about gun violence – the smugness of it, the horror, the guilt, the righteousness, and the empty satisfaction of it. This is a multilayered poem that begs you to read it more than once. I think I spent the most time with this poem. It’s one of my favorites in this slim collection. Underneath these layers, you’ll also find hints of verbal, emotion, and all kinds of abuse and the toll it can take on its victims, even so, is gun violence their only satisfactory response?

Adam and Eve” after Chagall, the narrator (who could be Eve) says, “Overtaken by this goneness (his fingers/in mine soft and white, malicious).” There is so much darkness in just these two lines. Waiting for the last bang of the apocalypse is heady business that engulfs Adam and Eve, but even in the middle, she wishes it to end but by ice. The poem not only calls out the differences in Adam and Eve, but the fate of these two having already been decided. There’s a desire for change but it is useless as the end has already happened. We’re taking a look back as the reader and viewer to lives no longer being lived. Is this a call to reassess our own lives now, rather than wait? Perhaps, but that’s your call.

This Is Not a Sky by Jessica Piazza is art unto itself and a must read for those who love painters and some of the most iconic artists of our time. Piazza will have you looking at the art on the museum walls in vastly different ways. She creates vignettes for the players and for those outside the frame.

RATING: Quatrain

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About the Poet:

Jessica Piazza is the author of two full-length poetry collections from Red Hen Press: “Interrobang” (2013) and, with Heather Aimee O’Neill, “Obliterations” (forthcoming, 2015) as well as the chapbook “This is not a sky” (Black Lawrence Press, 2014). Originally from Brooklyn, NY, she holds a Ph.D. in Creative Writing and English Literature from the University of Southern California, a Master’s degree in English/Creative Writing from the University of Texas at Austin and a B.S. in Journalism from Boston University. She is co-founder of Gold Line Press and Bat City Review and a contributing editor at The Offending Adam. Her poetry has appeared in Agni, Indiana Review, Mid-American Review, Rattle, No Tell Motel, 32 Poems, Forklift, Ohio, National Poetry Review, Pebble Lake Review, Anti- and 42 Opus, among other places.