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Poetry and Art Intermingle in “A Thing I Cannot Name”


In a room of otherworldly beauty, with black-and-white pastel drawings hanging amid tree branches, pinecones, and leaves dressed in plaster, a young woman reads haunting poetry. This was the setting for “…a thing I cannot name,” a pop-up joint art exhibition and poetry reading, displaying the craft of Paul Ryan’s Drawing II class, Dinah Ryan’s Poetry Writing II class, and Sky O’Brien’s Fiction Writing II class.

The exhibition’s theme was inspired by Surrealism, an artistic and literary movement encapsulating a “love of the unknown, oddness … yet based in Nature,” writes Paul Ryan. Drawing II students began by collecting natural objects, transforming them with plaster, and then photographing and drawing their creations.

The exhibition is a spotlight on the students’ achievements over the semester. Ryan remarks, “It's not until we actually have fully installed the exhibition that the students really see the project as a whole, and I have to say, it's really wonderful to see the students are proud of what they've done.”

Instead of displaying art on the walls, the Poetry Writing II and Fiction Writing II students stand and put a voice to their words. From pantoums to sonnets and villanelles to ghazals, students engaged the audience with their poetry, which can be a daunting task.

“What's thrilling,” says Dinah Ryan, “is that they can hear and feel how powerful their words are and how beautifully they're received by the audience. They can feel the way the audience is moved or delighted or enlightened or surprised by the things that they have shared.”

The multi-faceted exhibition and reading gives students the opportunity to demonstrate their craft and the cultivation of talent throughout the semester, evoked through a multitude of mediums, “… a thing I cannot name.”