slow literature

Robert Schultz, Poem.

Binh Danh, Image.

Produced by Katherine McNamara for Artist’s Proof Editions.

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Some years ago, Robert Schultz, a poet, witnessed an exhibition of photographs printed in the flesh of leaves of trees and plants, portraits of war-worn Vietnamese and of Cambodians documented in the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge.

These chlorophyll prints, as they were called, were made by Binh Danh, a Vietnamese-born American photographer. About his method, Binh Danh wrote, “This process deals with the idea of elemental transmigration: the decomposition and composition of matter into other forms. The images of war are part of the leaves, and live inside and outside of them. The leaves express the continuum of war. . .  As matter is neither created nor destroyed, but only transformed, the remnants of the Vietnam and American War live on forever in the Vietnamese landscape.”

Robert Schultz responded to Binh Danh’s chlorophyll prints with a series of poems, which he composed formally, as if in grief after suffering. He turned back, he said, to the “circular movement of traditional forms (the villanelle, sestina, pantoum) to enact cycles of natural and historical recurrence.”