Olena Jennings: THE MEMORY PROJECT

In 2018, a New York City poet Olena Jennings created poetry based on her family’s stories, attempting to visualise photography with words. The poems that resemble photography, carry them as frameworks of memory. In Olena Jenning’s THE MEMORY PROJECT: The memory comes before the poem. The poem comes before the art.

“I chose ink and paper for the poems. I chose fabric for the art. The poems are a small slice of time in which I experienced memories, many based on photographs in my grandparents’ photo album. I experienced the memories in 2018 and they were embellished by memories I was creating as I lived.” 

The project was presented in various incarnations at Queens Farm, the Red Barn, and Bliss on Bliss Studio.

POPPIES        Olena Jennings 

Red and blue on the dresser,
dust in the folds,
stretching towards the dim lamp.
Click of lipstick cap,
spritz of perfume,
snap of purse,
and she will turn the light off.
The flowers will wither
into their dreams
and I will put my lips
into their centers,
ready to blow away pollen.
The yellow dust caught in my eyes,
when I see for a moment
from her perspective, I look out
onto the yard. I see myself
throwing a rubber ball into the flowers,
crushing their petals,
the place where I convinced
my little brother there was a snake,
there was something to fear.
To make up for my deception,
I gave him one of the plastic flowers,
deceiving him again, pretending
I bought it at the corner gas station
from which we had collected all
of our dishes with the points we got
from pumping gas. I want to make up
more than that now—absences
when I would become like that yellow dust,
a quiet star.

Olena Jennings, Map Dress, installation view. Photo: Elvis Krajnak.

PAPER MAPS        Olena Jennings

Even flat maps have texture.
They carry with them
someone’s memory of the streets.
I will walk near the water
to draw the places off the map
on the palm of my hand.

We used to make paper
out of recycled letters,
rough, imperfect,
for a moment – wet,
on our knees
ripping

We mark our way to the castle
with the handle of a shovel.
We could live inside
our fairytale, find our way
despite the sand
in our eyes.

Poems and dresses by Olena Jennings. Photos of the dresses by Elvis Krajnak.

https://www.olenajennings.com/