When my husband said brutalist,
I thought oppressive and impenetrable
because I lacked imagination.
In Montréal, we biked by Habitat 67
and the one-hundred forty-six
block-stacked apartments emerged
from the shadowless landscape—sky
and cubes gray upon gray, all
concrete and corner with rectangle
windows wrapping the tops. He pointed
out stairs, access points, garden spots.
When he said brutalist and concrete,
I thought severe and unevolved because
mixing limestone, gravel, sand, and cement
meant rough and simple, like sidewalks.
In Collegeville, Minnesota we drove
toward St. John’s Abbey, concrete
curved across blue sky, an undulation
stilled. Cast into wooden frames on site,
the church looks like folds of fabric.
Inside: a symphony of stained glass
and honeycomb windows, sunlight
the texture of tulle. In that space,
where Marcel Breuer designed every
element to seek truth, my understanding
transfigured. Light stands for God
in that place concrete created.
St. John’s Abbey (photograph)
Copyrighted © by Brian T. Rex. All rights reserved.
Reproduced here with photographer’s permission.
These ekphrastic pieces are truly collaborative in nature, representing conversations and studies of each other’s work that are reciprocal and multidimensional. The pairings are a “slice through” of a more holistic artistic dynamic as opposed to the typical one-way response (writer responds to art) that ekphrastic endeavors usually produce.
is South Dakota’s poet laureate, and the author of several books of poetry, including Untrussed (University of New Mexico Press, 2016) and Bluewords Greening (Terrapin Books, 2016), winner of the 2018 Whirling Prize. This professor of English at South Dakota State University edited the poetry anthology South Dakota in Poems (South Dakota State Poetry Society, October 2020), and looks forward to the forthcoming release of her book The Poet & The Architect by Terrapin Books in 2021.
Find her work at: www.christinestewartnunez.com
is an Associate Professor and the Head of the Architecture Department at South Dakota State University.