3 Photos, 2014

"I approach taking pinhole camera photos in much the same way as I approach writing poems: both make me notice. I wrote a poem called 'My Defect' that ends like this: 'I’ll show a little world off / in the material of it.' I like how the aesthetic of these pinhole photos shows off the material world of this—harsh—place, my grandparents’ former cattle ranch in South Dakota. There’s roughness in that world and way of life, even violence. I like a little roughness in my poems, too—breaking standard syntax and trying to let the unexpected show off. And there’s mystery in the process of both art forms. I built my pinhole camera out of an Altoids mint tin I could carry in my pocket around the ranch; it had a magnet for a shutter that I removed to expose the film, never quite knowing what the result would be until it was developed. I like the defects: bleeds of light, strange scratches, what look like tufts of cow hair." - Kelsi Vanada


"The Dump"

the junk rotting in the dump in the draw

All My Default Images


Damn it, great-grandfather, you’re so quiet I can’t hear you in this photograph. A dramatic entrance I did not intend: I meant to write about how Katrine’s plant grows straight vertical. Whenever, his sister always said in place of when. Time opening to include him in that ever. A detail he’d forgotten since leaving Faxe, but how would I know. In the photograph these characters don’t speak to one another. (Small noise this woman makes in anyone’s memory.) A fruit to be explained: it is only in leaf growth that the photograph differs from the scene, leaves in her full hands now. I told no one about it, it’s just in a picture. Katrine’s plant. I heard the eye catches dark patches in paintings or photographs first. Surveying her brother’s visit to the old farm in Denmark, his first in 40 years. A figure in each pane. Nobody knows they should have let me in on the speech between siblings. I mean hidden by them.

"The Barn"

the vehicle was totaled, the bend marked
KV005 edited - The Barn.jpg



I’d thought to narrate a couple moments in a slew of sounds, but a break in the loop means there’s no loop. It’s a brittle prairie. How to indicate an understanding of a composition, or hand-wash simplicity and hang-dry it. Here I’m putting in a name: Anna. I’m making an arc across the Atlantic (or Anna is). She’s like giving a gift, it’s good to have her name. Sing us that run-down, played-out, light-on-things: a hay-green grave-making high glow. Wild in the back of the back forty is Anna. But she’s Ida. Wanted to be photographed before she lost her beauty. Didn’t she fit into the family? Stranded into Anna’s roam? Norwegian was close enough (I think) to understand her portly Danish husband in the dark. In America. Straighten syllables, gut the glottal, Anna/Ida picked a place. Anna/Ida knew the other’s face.

"The Yard"

a wind could draw it off if I say it was a little house  
KV009 edited - The Yard.jpg

Kelsi Vanada holds MFAs in Poetry from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and Literary Translation from the University of Iowa. Her translation of The Eligible Age by Berta García Faet was published in 2018 by Song Bridge Press. Other poems and translations have recently appeared in The Iowa Review, The Massachusetts Review, and Prelude. Kelsi is the Program Manager of the American Literary Translators Association.