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Sunday 25 January 2015

Nin Andrews / Vanessa Winship: Home Comforts


Image © Vanessa Winship

Untitled: photo by Vanessa Winship, from She dances on Jackson (2011-2012), Mack Books, 2013

Southern Accent

The day I came home with a busted lip and two black eyes,  
my mother said the problem with me  
was my southern accent.  Get rid of that extra y  
in Dayaddy, and you’re talking about your father,  
not some deity. 

I tried to tell her it began with a dayare,  
but my mother said it was dare, not dayare,   
and besides that, she didn’t want to hear one thing about it.  
A girl is supposed to act nice.  
And speak like a lady.  
If you’re going to fight like a boy,  
you can cut your hair like one, too.   
What’s more, that stuff growing on top of your head  
is not hay as in hayer, it’s hair. 

Driving to Watson’s Beauty Salon downtown  
on Jefferson Park Avenue, she instructed me  
to open my mouth nice and wide, say ahhh, not ayyy.  
I didn’t mean to, I tried to explain.  
It was just an accident.   
Not everything rhymes with Bayer, my mother commented.   
She was from New England.  She wasn’t like me. 

But I never could get it right.  No matter how hard I tried,  
I’d hear my father’s voice,  
his Memphis drawl in the back of my head:  
You being about as helpful as a crawdayaddy under a rock?  
When was the last time you peeled your mama spuds  
or washed your hayands and said something sweet  
with a smile on those rosebud liyips

I knew how to answer him, keep my eyes cast down,  
my voice a wisp: No, Sir. Yes, Sir. Or, if I dared:  
Can I please be excused?   
No Ma’am, he’d answer just as quick as a blink.   
You can.  But you may not.   
Not as long as you don’t know  
which word is proper,  
and what kind of excuse you might be. 

Nin Andrews: Southern Accent, from Southern Comfort (CavanKerry), 2009

[Untitled: photo by Vanessa Winship, from She dances on Jackson, c Vanessa Winship 2013]: image via Caroline T @martine_hi, 12 May 2013


Sometimes in the middle of the day, Jimmy and I’d rest on the upside-down feed buckets beside the sugar maples, sip Cokes and talk about our dreams, maybe watch the horses slurp water and swish off gadflies. Jimmy talked about Sarah Lee, his girl (he liked to say so long after she wasn’t). Then he would lie back with his ball cap over his face while I fished dead frogs out of the trough. I’d think about what it’s like to be the girl every boy talks to about the girl he likes. Sometimes I watched him sleep until the lizards ran out to wait by the water for insects to light. If I wanted to, I’d pick off their tails and show them to Jimmy when he woke.

Nin Andrews: Summer, from Southern Comfort (CavanKerry), 2009

[Untitled: photo by Vanessa Winship, from She dances on Jackson, c Vanessa Winship 2013]: image via Lydia @LydiaEvansPhoto, 10 August 2013 Westminster, London

Embedded image permalink

[Untitled: photo by Vanessa Winship, from She dances on Jackson, c Vanessa Winship 2013]: image via Art Limited @arlimitednet, 15 June 2013


Mose23 said...

Speaking as one with a voice too proper for school and too many Brummagen inflections for pretty much everywhere else, the poem resonates. Beautiful.

erin said...

your title, coupled with the poem and photos, expands this all exponentially. perfect, tom.


Nin Andrews said...

Thanks so much, Tom! I wish I had these photos in the book. I so appreciate your posting this!

TC said...

Thanks, people.

I love everything in this post.

Nin Andrews, whose voice will be familiar to anyone who's been coming round here these past six or seven years, is an American artist who was brought up in Virginia and now lives in Ohio where she writes sharp, edgy poems and reviews and produces terrific poetic cartoons on her blog.

Vanessa Winship is a British photographer who was brought up on Humberside and has worked on portraiture, landscape and reportage in many places round the world, including the US (where these photos were obviously made) and in the Balkans and surrounding territories of Turkey and the Black Sea. She is the first woman photographer to win the prestigious Henri Cartier-Bressso Award (2011).

I've represented her American work here largely in portraits, but in the series from which they come, the relations of figures to landscapes is critical. The shock of the unfamiliar lurks quietly within many of the most composed images.

In an interview posted at the time of a major Madrid retrospective of her work last year, she said: "In my work I have always spoken about land and what it means – from the work in Georgia onwards, I’d been moving towards using the landscape to articulate my feelings about the place, and in she dances on Jackson, the larger body of the work is landscape."