Poet George Kovalenko discusses his residency
I’ve spent the majority of my time here assembling my first manuscript. All of the poems in it were worked on as totally isolated pieces over the past five years, so it’s been very exciting to listen for how they start harmonizing as a collective of ideas. This is something I’ve never done before. I pretty quickly fell into the schmaltzy crime cinema cliché of putting everything up on the walls to get a sense of where there were gaps in the construction or in what order might these notes better support each other. A few new things slotted themselves between or in place of the existing poems. But what was most interesting to me was the clarity with which I felt I could finesse the old stuff. Poems that refused to go dancing for years were suddenly teaching me the tarantella.
Mandy’s food, about which I cannot speak highly enough, the extraordinary landscape, and most importantly my beautiful fellow fellows—through their laughter, generosity, and comradeship—have all been part of this work.
Perhaps relatedly, I have become very attached to a book I found in one of the colony’s bookcases. It’s Gustav Doré’s illustrations for this massive renaissance saga of a poem by Ariosto called “Orlando Furioso”—which I have never read—only without the text of the poem itself to give the pictures context. I’ve spent more hours than I’m willing to admit looking it over on the veranda, imagining what the actual verse or narrative of the thing might look like. Orlando seems to fly to the moon at one point! Whether directly or not, I’ve gotten a few curious little turns-of-phrase out of this practice, which I never would have pieced together otherwise.
That’s maybe the most tremendous thing about this place: ephemera becomes fruitful. The space starts working at your habits, routines, even thought-patterns, rearranging them. When you have all this time and this solitude, what might have seemed essential in the ‘real world’ suddenly gets thrown into flux. It becomes malleable, almost like something you can work with. – George Kovalenko