Four Chambers Poets Draw Inspiration From Phoenix Art Museum

By Annika Cline, Mark Brodie
Published: Friday, April 3, 2015 - 3:12pm
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(Photo by Annika Cline - KJZZ)
Poet Jack Evans reading in front of "American Landscape" at the Phoenix Art Museum.
(Photo by Annika Cline - KJZZ)
Poet Mackenzie Brennan reading in front of "Lobby, Gadsden Hotel, Douglas, Arizona" at the Phoenix Art Museum.

When you see a work of art, how do you know if you like it? Is it the color? The size? Or does it just have a certain je ne sais quoi?

Poet Jack Evans wrote a poem to describe what he feels when he looks at a 1938 painting titled "American Landscape." He read it inside the Phoenix Art Museum, standing right next to the subject of his poem.

Voices stretched thin in pale sun. Empty visions cluttering the space behind the eye ...
Dreams stacked on pallets, rust inside the storm walls of blinded weather ...
The arrow of old promises points to barbed wire shards of light dancing on afternoon air.

It’s art celebrating art, like a movie about movie-making or a song about singing. But the point is to add another layer to the museum experience.

"Like it’s one thing to see it on a wall and to read a plaque, and it’s another to actually hear a person read about it and interpret it," said Jake Friedman, founder of  the Phoenix literary magazine Four Chambers Press.

The magazine put out a call for submissions for poetry and prose about artwork in the museum and then published some of them. But Four Chambers staff wanted to connect the writers with the artwork and other museum visitors.

So they created a museum tour of sorts. Each stop is a reading at the location where that writer got their inspiration.

For Allegra Hyde it was Louise Nevelson’s "Royal Tide V."

"Well, it’s a group of wooden boxes with table legs and wooden shards, and it’s almost actually hard to tell what is in here," Hyde said.

Still, the abstract sculpture fed Hyde’s imagination.

The apartment swallowed things, always hungry like the insides of a clock.

You might look at one of the larger-than-life artworks in a museum and think “Wow, I could never make that,” but Friedman said we all have the power to create our own interpretation.

"So the people who are in front of you don’t have any specific expertise," Friedman said. "They’re just telling you about their experience and that is a way for us to connect both with the piece of art and the person who is reading it and to build community."

You can join the walking tour Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m.

Find more details about the show, check out

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