Outside the world of poets, poetry does not have a huge readership, and Lisa Zerkle wants to change that.
Four times a year, around the fourth day of the month, a Charlotte Lit “poetry+art showcase series,” called 4X4CLT, releases four artistic posters, each including an artwork and poem that Zerkle feels are a good pair.
(The artist and poet don’t create together; she pairs already-completed works.)
The poet reads and the visual artist(s) talk at a release party for each set of posters. Then the eye-catching pieces go into about 50 locations around town, up on the walls of local businesses – waiting rooms, coffee shops, storefronts – for the world to see.
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June 9 is the next release party: 6:30-8:30 p.m. at The Light Factory (1817 Central Ave.).
Zerkle created the showcase, matches artists and poets, and distributes the posters. It’s one of the endeavors of Charlotte Lit, a local art group that supports writers and promotes arts-focused conversations. 4X4CLT is funded by the Knight Foundation.
“An average person could spend a whole day never running into poetry,” says Zerkle, which clearly pains her despite her own attempted resistance to the form. “I tried not to be a poet,” she says. “I’d rather be a writer – but it kept pulling me back in.”
Zerkle spent seven years editing Kakalak, a poetry and art anthology featuring work by Carolinas artists. Part of her job was matching the selected poems to art. “Most journals run the poetry alphabetically, or they will have art sprinkled throughout, but not necessarily related to the work it is with,” she says. “I really liked when I could find an image that brought a deeper meaning to a poem.”
When Kathie Collins and Paul Reali were brainstorming about Charlotte Lit, Zerkle approached them with her idea to match poetry with art. The happy coincidence resulted in 4X4 Series One in March 2016. Each poster featured a poem by Linda Pastan, a former poet laureate of Maryland, and photography by four artists.
Zerkle makes a wish list of poets she would like to feature, with a goal to attract poets who might not otherwise consider coming to Charlotte. The poets are nationally known, established, contemporary poets. “The goal is to bring outside voices in,” says Zerkle. In December 2016 Queens’ Morri Creech, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, was featured, along with poet Richard Garcia, whose awards include a Pushcart Prize.
She wants the posters to be as beautiful as broadsides, which are sheets of paper printed on one side, often with a poem and/or image.
The June posters feature poems by Gabrielle Calvocoressi, an assistant professor and Walker Percy Fellow in Poetry at UNC Chapel Hill (whose latest work, “Rocket Fantastic,” will be released in September and who will teach a master class June 9 at Charlotte Lit).