Anna Paige & Matt Taggart
by Peter Tolten
*A= Anna Paige M= Matt Taggart
What brought you two together for this project?
A: I ran into Matt and he said we should collaborate sometime. I believe his exact words were, ‘We should make noise and poetry babies.’ And I told him, ‘Good thing those are the kind of babies I like.’ [whispers] I don’t want to say that Matt was drunk.
M: Luckily my family doesn’t own computers.
A: I think Matt had just enough to drink to actually talk to me that night...
M: I did. I don’t know…umm…
A: I knew that Matt was back—He had left Billings to go east and had just returned. I was always interested in working with him because I find the type of art Matt makes is an immediate response to the world around him. And even though poetry is that, my process is much more drawn out and I spend a lot more time revising, editing, and overthinking my work. Whereas I think Matt spends a lot more time in the immediate nature of sound and that fascinated me.
M: Believe it or not, I always wanted to work with spoken word. Anna always came to mind because she’s proactive and she’s putting herself out there, on stage, and in front of people. In fact most of my inspiration comes from poets and writers. I’m not inspired by musicians as much as I am visual artists and writers. I don’t know how that works into what I do, but I was always inspired by procedure. So, reading about modern composers and electronic musicians, I was much more fascinated with why they did things versus the end result. A lot of the artists I started engaging with were writers and visual poets and men like Jim Leftwich, an experimental poet who opened the world to me that everything is poetry—whether it’s paintings or music, it’s a new way of recognizing that. A lot of my collage and performance art became an extension of that—music doesn’t always have to be sound.
What are you talking about in your upcoming work?
A: I’ve been studying and been involved in loss for the last few years. I mean, who hasn’t been involved in loss in all kinds of forms? I’ve been observing how people respond when something or someone you love is gone. And I wanted to articulate that. I found this collaboration to be a way to do that because it doesn’t have the narrative arc of the kind of poem I typically write. It doesn’t have a beginning, middle, and end. It’s more playing with language, words, and sounds.
M: I think one of the things in this piece is exploring people's response to loss. It can seem automated and not as deeply heartfelt as it should be. A lot of people’s response to loss is based in social media, where you might feel like you can console somebody without actually having to console somebody.
A: So we’re playing with the ability of language to become meaningless as well as the bipolar nature of how someone feels in the moments of grief and loss.
M: It is a little bit. I think I’m approaching my sound like a Foley would in theater—creating an atmosphere to enhance the language. We’re trying to unify both aspects. It’s not music plus poetry; it’s its own entity. I’m trying to blur the lines. I don’t want them to be separated.
A: I was just talking to Martin Farawell [poet and director of the Dodge Poetry Festival] and Dave Caserio. I asked Dave how long he’s been working in performance poetry and Martin came into the conversation saying the idea of “performance poetry” is fairly new. Within the last 30 years, that term has been thrown around. But poets, by nature, are performative. That is the essence of a poem. Illiterate people can speak poems out loud. It’s meant to be an auditory art form. A spoken word poet is just a poet. And sound is poetry. We’re all just looking for ways to express ourselves in a way that other people can relate to.
M: It has all the same attributes as music: rhythm, cadence, pitch, melody.
A: Yes. Although, when I first met Matt, some of the music and sounds he was making made me incredibly uncomfortable, and I did not understand it.
A: Which is the point. That is what poetry has the capacity to do. I mean, who doesn’t want to work with a mad scientist? It’s about playing around in different mediums that can make you really uncomfortable.
M: It should always be a learning experience. You should always walk away having learned something.