Poetry as portraiture: Book art with Sara Blazevic

Sara Blazevic ’15 is a poet, photographer and book artist who studies Comparative Literature in English and Spanish. This week, the Phoenix catches up on Blazevic’s past work, as well as her plans for the future.

Nithya Swaminathan: Can you give us an introduction to your work and to your background?

Sara Blazevic: I’m mainly a poet, and I’ve been writing since I was in high school. I also started bookbinding my second year of high school — I took a class where our final project was making artists’ books, and after that, I got really interested in the process. I love books, and so I used the class as an excuse to teach myself more about book making even though that’s not really what the assignment required. I’ve been making my own notebooks ever since. I make people cards using bookbinding. Last semester I made one entirely out of recycled paper bags I saved.

When I was in high school I did a lot of darkroom photography and spent a couple of summers taking glass blowing classes. I found visual art really relaxing and therapeutic.

At Swarthmore I’ve continued creating poetry and things I can share with people. I’m really interested in how the poetry I write can engage with the photographs I take, and what that interaction looks like.

NS: What are your biggest influences and inspirations?

SB: I’ve always been most fascinated in the people around me and getting under their skin. As a result, I mostly do portrait photography and am starting to realize that my poetry works in a similar fashion: it is essentially portraiture. I’m curious about people and want to understand them, and poetry helps me write into their heads and experiences. Although my visual art process isn’t as refined and disciplined as my writing process, I find that it works in much the same way.

NS: What did you do this summer?

SB: I was travelling around France working on farms, and spent a couple of weeks with family in Croatia. I was writing every day because there were so many things I wanted to write about — I had really fun adventures and met a lot of beautiful people, and part of my motivation for writing was so that I wouldn’t forget the experiences I had.

NS: What are you working on right now?

SB: Right now I’m in the middle of an independent poetry project with Nathalie Anderson in the English department. I’m working with her to produce something tangible by the end of the semester, whether it’s a zine or a chapbook. I also produce visual art in conjunction with that venture. Part of the project involves working on persona poetry, which involves taking out books of photography out of the library and writing poetry using them as inspiration. I’d like to take that to another level and formalize the interplay between photography and poetry by shooting and writing pieces that respond to each other.

I also have a couple of small projects I’ve been working on with some friends; in particular, I collaborate with a friend in West Philly who graduated last year. We’ve been making a book called “The Other Body,” which will consist of our poetry, his photographs and my figure drawings, and will be centered on our relationship with other bodies. I’m also collaborating with my friend at Princeton, where we each write one line to construct a poem.

There are some personal projects that I’m working on too. I found this Tumblr (http://theburninghouse.com/) which documents what things people would grab if their house were on fire, the physical objects that are most precious to them. I really want to do a similar project with the people I live with, without confining the results to just photography. I’d love to turn it into a project I could easily distribute and send to my friends.

NS: What other student activities are you involved in?

SB: I’ve been working on Mountain Justice’s campaign since I got here. This semester I’m really interested in broadening my organizing experience on campus and working with different students groups who focus on social justice issues. A couple of years ago, I helped co-found the Swarthmore Housing Co-op; this is my second full year living in the Barn. I work on planning events for them and I cook meals.

Blazevic’s work can be found on her blog at sarablaz.wordpress.com.

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