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Stop-Motion Animator

A Poetry Sequence
by Jessica Fordham Kidd

She said call her auteur or call her god (the stop-motion animator speaks)

I'm not going to say I subscribe to the auteur theory,
that the director is the only one whose art is vision.

Maybe I subscribe to musculature theory,
in which the crafted sinews and bubbling biceps

of my ogres and dandies, wrought damsels
and angular crones tell the real story,

that no narrative comes except
in the slightly stilted movements

of my little pygmalions.
Or maybe I subscribe to the theory of choreography

and no meaning exists except in the meticulous posing
of every tiny grimace or flexing of the back, the arrangement

of figures and limbs in space.
Whatever I believe, the auteur doesn't have to know. I exist to shape.

She exists to tell me to shape. We are the snake eating its tail,
and her face will inspire the face above the dry ice cauldron

in the penultimate scene.

The stop-motion animator flourishes under strange guidance

Often, the primary roles are played
by humans, and my sculptures
are filmed from afar
to obscure the difficulty
of translating flesh to armature and clay.

The auteur is different. She wants
all acting performed
by my menagerie.

My witch is exquisite -- tormented, sinewy,
beautiful when she puts on her screaming head.
Enchanting when I attach the spell casting hands.

I decided that power and beauty
are linked in her metal joints.
She can be both crone and maiden.

I’m beginning to see the shape of my jaw
right above her neck.

On my worktable (the stop-motion animator takes stock)

Hyper-articulated leg cannibalized from my previous feature (a world ruled by sentient insects)
Extra steel ball-and-sockets, enough for 108 finger joints
Large hinge joints for creature backbones
Smaller hinge joints for knees
Clay and half-finished disguised woman soldier maquette
Faux fur and some shavings from my collie
A clandestine shaving from the neighbor's cat
8 packages of unopened plaster
6 packages of unmixed latex
Cup full of sculpting tools
Monofilament wire
5 heads for my beautiful witch, all watching me

My head, recumbent, waiting for the lightning that will animate me

* * * 

Image: detail of mural by Josep Guinovart (1957).

* * *

Jessica Fordham Kidd lives and writes in Coker, Alabama with her husband, daughter, and dog. She is the associate director of first-year writing at the University of Alabama, and her poems have appeared in Drafthorse, The Paris Review, Eye to the Telescope, and OVS magazine among others.

What do you think is the attraction of the fantasy genre?

The attraction of fantasy and the most important aspect of a fantasy piece is the presence of wonder. I love literature and all types of art that ask the reader/viewer/participant to suspend their notions of what the world is and experience new possibilities, new questions, new angles. As a participant myself, I love these moments of newness and openness, places where I feel deliciously off balance.