What began four years ago as an open-ended assignment has become Brittany Billmeyer-Finn’s debut full-length book, “The Meshes,” which Black Radish Books will release this fall.
“It started in a workshop at Mills (College), with Susan Gevirtz,” Billmeyer-Finn said by phone. “She was working with us on interdisciplinary writing and gave us a list of visual artists, filmmakers and select installation artists to respond to critically and creatively. I chose Maya Deren’s ‘Meshes of the Afternoon,’ so I did a poem in response to that film.
“And then it turned into a generative practice, so I just started going through Deren’s filmography and responding to her films, which are mostly silent, occasionally with music in the background, but mostly dealing a lot with choreography, and space, time and embodiment, ritual, things like that. So trying to interpret that into poetry.”
Billmeyer-Finn was well on her way to completing a book of poems when she came across Deren’s definitive documentary text “The Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti,” which Deren published in 1953 after a handful of trips to the country and extensive filming of, and participation in, Haitian vodun (voodoo). That text, which was a major departure for Deren, and the 1977 film of the same name made from Deren’s footage, caused a comparable shift in Billmeyer-Finn’s project.