Poems in Silk Installation

I am honored to share an art installation Poems in Silk of poetry and printmaking. The artwork is the result of a collaboration between myself, poet Anne Waldman, and engineer and artist Akın Köksal. As Anne Waldman says: “Working in collaboration is one of the most important practices for artists in these times. All kinds of new structures present themselves and new dimensions of space and time”.

With referrals to history, mythology, politics, and spirituality, Waldman’s poetry is intricate, intimate, and delightfully surprising. I had many late nights deciphering her poems and I am still not sure if I completely managed to do so. Then I made prints inspired by Gypsy Nun, trick o’death and crepescular. I created abstract forms that in my mind represented the powerful messages in her poems and printed them on diaphanous paper to give the feeling of impermanence. The installation has a deliberate simplicity and quietness so the viewers can have the space to contemplate Waldman’s wisdom without any distractions. I am grateful to Anne for her sharing her beautiful wisdom with me. 

Poems in Silk by Belgin Yucelen Anne Waldman

I would like to share a few prints and some sections from Anne Waldman’s poems here:

Gypsy Nun inspired by a poem by the 20th century Spanish poet Lorca, is about a young woman whose desires contradict her religious calling.  Through the visual details and the symbolic references Anne portrays, I visualized a room behind an isolating mashrabiya made of the poem itself.

Gypsy Nun
After Lorca
She wants to be weaving
imaginary flores:
all these for
the end of time
In a nearby kitchen
5 yellow grapefruit
5 wounds of Christ
She doesn’t cackle
she gives up her pain
—something outside —
distant—ho —
where did her youth
her sex go?
What reminds her of what?
A white dress loosens
Her heart of herbs, sugar,
of spice
isn’t broken
Longitudinal pain recedes
further back
20 suns above blink on, off
on, off

She reverts tension to
flowers, horizontal
light playing
a game over her window

on, off

Anne Waldman

I created a print inspired by the talismanic shirts ornamented with text, magic squares, and other elements common to portable talismanic objects. In these shirts the use of letter magic provided a protective function through preserving the fleeting traces of human contact. Yucelen inspired by the poem trick o’death filled up each of the magic squares with Waldman’s words on the awakening powers of death forming a deliberate contrast for a wish for longer life to create Death is Awakening. 

this is what to do

libation in small drops

on heart center

coins of ancient India on eyes

feathers and serpentine


and open words like talismans

that shake the cosmos

as in opening a crypt

asleep too long

for death is awakening

and the alive, like you, ahunted

like “art” like “phantasm”

they will guide you

around the heart

circle around heart’s cold

with drops of amrita

leave them there

of candle, frugal

or flame

can she see?

just nothing, no breathing is inpired by the following section of trick o’death:

she’s getting out of this

into another maelstrom

or just nothing, no breathing

streets are quieter

world violence

feels less structural

lies as secrets seem truer now

The poems are used by permission of the author and the City of Lights, SF and Penguin Random House, NY.

The group exhibition PINKPROGRESSION: COLLABORATIONS which includes Poems in Silk is on display at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities from July 2 – November 8, 2020. 

Pink Progression: Collaborations features ideas of feminism, equality, inclusivity, gender identity, unity, and community. Over 150 artists, writers, dancers, and musicians utilize the power of networks to inspire social change.

You may make free reservations to see the exhibit at the following link.

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