The recent micro-chapbook, How Darkness Enters a Body by Sarah Nichols takes inspiration from a selection of photographs by Diane Arbus. Each piece within the collection is an ekphrastic poem which speaks to one image from Arbus’s vast collection of portraits that together shed light on marginalized populations. Nichols translates the images with powerful interpretations and commentary aligned with the master photographer’s intentions. These poems center on gender pressures, influence of family and interpersonal connectivity while nodding heavily to the imagery inspiring them. I would suggest reading the pieces while also consulting the original pictures since each piece ignites interest in the partnership between the visual and linguistic mediums.
Throughout this brief collection, Nichols integrates photographic jargon in fascinating ways. She refers to “the aperture of our / mother’s body” in one moment, then shifts to capturing a subject “in the snare of my lens” and even refers to the camera as a “killing jar” implying the way it freezes and preserves a moment. Through varied methods of free verse, Nichols both preserves and expands each moment. She transports readers into the emotive aspects highlighted by her oculus. “Etiquette for a Headless Woman” explores the concept of being lady-like even when one literally loses their head, leaving a voiceless yet poised specimen of femininity. Later, in “Nicotine Birthday Cake”, she embellishes a snapshot with a chilled despondency in contrast to being embraced by a higher power that can look beyond cosmetic imperfections.
This short work is a gateway to further explorations into emotions and art which transcend and reforge normalcy.
Purchase your copy of How Darkness Enters a Body from Porkbelly Press.