Field Notes
Field Notes

When Art and Diatoms Collide

Tuesday, July 26, 2016
Posted by
Mark Edlund

Book launch party:
Monday, October 24 - 7 p.m.
Republic, Minneapolis
Live music
Cash bar and food
Books and art for sale

A new book of poetry, You This Close, by Minnesota writer Su Smallen and published by Red Dragonfly Press, incorporates diatoms, rivers, science, and the happenings of nature in more than 50 poems that explore how their imagery provides meaning to our emotions, our relationships, and love. A few stanzas from her poem Desire (below) paint a picture of how Su conveys feeling in her poetry using diatom and river ecology.

Su conceived the book during her tenure as an Artist-at Pine Needles residency at the research station. Artists stay at the Pine Needles cabin, built in 1918 on a bluff overlooking the St. Croix River, for up to a month to experience the life of the river and interact with scientists at the research station to discern how science might intersect with their art. In the same summer, artist Jessica Zeglin was also in residence at Pine Needles. Jessica provided illustrations for You This Close, relying on her interpretation of diatoms for cover and in-text illustrations. Jessica gratefully acknowledges that she "relied on the excellent website Diatoms of the United States to provide visual guides" for her artistic representations.

From the poem "Desire"
By Su Smallen (2016) in You This Close (Red Dragonfly Press) 

Newborn diatoms are huge, in micron terms.
They happily divide until they’re small
Enough for sex. Consider desire
As photosynthesis, in the sense of 

Awaiting light. Diatoms chain themselves,
Sometimes, into tasty arrays converting
Sunlight. But they might not get to have sex.
They might get eaten. Thus, by sex or by 

Delicacy, diatoms synthesize happiness
And it’s floating down this river. 

Purchase the book on

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