I am competing for the Wonderland Awards because I both create and curate surreal poetry and art. I have loved poetry since I was in elementary school, when I wrote a poem about the fish on my shower curtain and placed in a competition at my local public library in New Hampshire. In high school, I studied it independently, and in college, I concentrated in poetry and creative writing for my liberal arts focus, a concentration I was able to choose alongside my major in film. I write poems that exist outside of our reality, but somehow make sense of it; talking objects, animals, and nature becoming unnatural are often present in my work, as I explore themes of isolation and adaptation to unstable worlds. This is what Alice in Wonderland has always been about for me; it is a tale that exists in a surreal space, but gives us incredible insights into ourselves and how we move through our own world. As the sole editor of bee house, an online journal dedicated to showcasing surreal poetry and artwork from entrants all over the United States, I love discovering and sharing work that strays from reality as well. I try to arrange the poems and art in a captivating, narrative online format, in which the art informs the writing and vice versa. Because, what is the use of words with pictures and conversations?
I visited the G. Edward Cassady, M.D., and Margaret Elizabeth Cassady, R.N. Lewis Carroll Collection to read Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll and view Alice in Wonderland playing cards by Tatiana Ianovskaia. I was inspired by the inky, cross-hatched style of John Tenniel’s drawings in Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, and the colorful, washed out and childlike design of the playing cards for my own painting. I also used quotes from Alice in Wonderland in my poem, applying them to my own surreal world of the pandemic era in Los Angeles. Being unemployed and unable to leave home except for walks and essential needs for over a year has left me often feeling directionless, isolated, apprehensive, and even a little mad, as the Cheshire Cat would say. I included this character as the stray cat in my poem, as he is someone who cannot tell you where to go or how to fix your situation, he only points out that everything in this world is unnatural. Alice spends a lot of time searching for answers in her story, and the past year has been the same for me.
As for my creative process, I first wrote my poem, focusing on images around my neighborhood that evoked the lost and unsettling feelings I have been feeling for the past year. I included quotes from my reading of Alice to emphasize these ideas, and tried to craft a narrative of directionlessness. For the painting, I used water-mixable oil paints to create a light wash on canvas with several saturated areas, and let the paint drip to create a melting effect of the world. I drew defined lines over the paint with a micron brush pen, using crosshatching to shade, like Tenniel’s work. I was inspired by Chapter 3 of Alice in Wonderland, “A Caucus-Race and a Long Tale,” for my placement of the poem into a winding shape on canvas. As the poem reaches the bottom of the canvas, it begins to read upwards, to emphasize the unnaturalness of the world of the piece.