Grant Recipients Grants to Artists Poetry 2015

Julie Patton

Black and white profile of Julie Patton wearing a patterned head wrap and holding a book.
Photo by Harald Rumpf.
  • 2015 Grants to Artists
  • Poetry
  • Poet, Composer, Performer, Permaculturist, Recycler
  • Born Cleveland, OH, 1956
  • Lives in New York, NY

Thank you so much for an extraordinary year as a grantee of the Foundation for Contemporary Arts. Never in my wordland could there be words to reveal in a phrase how I feel (why I am tardy with this letter and speaking in other tongues) about your grace. If ever there was a time when I needed validation, support and a release, 2015 was it. Your high note arrived in my most challenging hour... The Foundation of Contemporary Art helped shore up my ecopoetic Salon des Refuse, 425 miles away from the East Village in the former “Forest City" of Cleveland, Ohio... This unruly affordable housing project dedicated as selvage for creatives of all circles, scholars, naturalists, misfits, and permaculturists (like myself)... Passengers on the Underground Railroad fleeing thru this damp miasma for Canada called it Hope City.

- Julie Patton, December 31, 2015

Artist Statement

There is something very organic to me about the writing process, about poetry with a Planguage with an L, and the feel of books, fingers on paper, shapes of letters, and hammering of keys. “A line is a dot that went for a walk" (Paul Klee) and keeps on going, swirling, spiraling, morphing into print, playful graphics, typography and topography, altered books and texts, music and sound recordings, drawings, illustrations, maps, collages/assemblages, objects, and installations. My predilection for the concrete condition of Language, for its visual/visible, phonetic/sonic, and silent/gestural manifestations, and for its immense productivity in the ethereal, or abstract realm of ideas/meaning/semantics, extends from my education as a visual artist, and also from my ear for traditions of orality, storytelling, wordplay, blues, jazz, and ballads.

Moving back and forth between visual impressions of sound to live recitation with its sonorous peaks, and plains, and valleys, I seldom look before I leap. I just go—and I go on paper sheets and stage, performing readings as writings (living, breathing compensations), and writings as legible performance scores. Among other approaches in this vast, encircling body of work, my sense of text as landscape, and my expression or vision of nature as text (the Book of Nature), unfolds... I keep flowing as I think on feet—ABC daring—blocks and boxes of projects later; making good on a promise I made to trees (when I was a young budding poet) not to 'waste' them or the lives of birds (due to the dioxin toxic papermaking process). So I continue to research alternative ways of 'publishing' or making my work public—from one of a kind limited editions, to site-specific installations in welcoming literary journals (off the walls of pages), to 3-D spaces that function as books, and to music gigs displaying pen den din.

- December 2014


Julie Ezelle Patton is a permaculturist, poet, performer, artist, and sculptor. Her poetics take the form of scrolls, extended texts, limited edition work, performances, and site-specific installations.

Patton's performance work emphasizes improvisation, collaboration, and otherworldly chora-graphs, and bridges literary and musical composition. She has performed at many international venues and festivals including the Stone, Jazz Standard, Festival Internacional de Poesía in Medellín, Colombia; The Kitchen, La Bâtie-Festival de Genève. Patton is also a frequent collaborator with choreographers, poets, filmmakers, and composers including Uri Caine, Henry Hills, Don Byron, Henri Grimes, Sally Silvers, and Anne Waldman.

With the support of her 2015 FCA grant, Patton participated in readings at the Page Poetry Salon, Poets House, and the New School. Her writing was also featured in the anthologies What I Say: Innovative Poetry by Black Writers in America (University of Alabama Press, 2015), Please Add to This List: A Teaching Guide to Bernadette Mayer Sonnets (Tender Buttons Press, 2015), and Best American Experimental Writing 2016 (Wesleyan University Press, 2015).

Patton is the author of Teething on Type (1996), A Garden Per Verse (or What Else do You Expect from Dirt?) (1999), Notes for Some (Nominally) Awake (2007), and Using Blue To Get Black (2008), (Tender Buttons Press, 2015), and Writing With Crooked Ink (Belladonna, 2015). Her work has appeared in ((eco (lang)(uage(reader)) (2010), CritiphoriaI'll Drown My Book: Conceptual Writing by Women (2005), and other publications. The Building by the Side of the Road (2012), chronicles Patton's adventures creating Let It Bee Ark Hives on the Glenville edge of Cleveland, Ohio's University Circle cultural district. This living, breathing, D-I-Y home-ec[o]arts INNstallation houses visiting and resident creatives and scholars, a number of Patton's own projects in visual and performance art, as well as permaculture. As a Green Horizons Fellow at Bates College, Patton created a sculpted library called “Room for Opal," an eccentric take off of 19th century naturalist laboratories.

Prior to receiving her 2015 Grants to Artists award, Patton received the 1993 New York City Arts-in-Education Roundtable Award for Sustained Achievement in Poetry. She was also the recipient of a 2006 Mellon Learning Fellowship and a 2007 New York Foundation for the Arts Poetry Fellowship. She was a 2007 National Poetry Series Finalist, and received a 2008 Acadia Arts Foundation Grant and the Doan Brook Association's 2012 Watershed Hero Award.

She has taught at Teachers & Writers Collaborative, Learning Thru Art at the Guggenheim Museum, the Studio In a School Program at New York University, Case Western University, Naropa University, and Schule fur Dichtung in Vienna, Austria. Patton received her B.F.A. from Antioch College in 1979.

Fragments of multi-patterned material collaged into the outline of a dress on wax-resembling paper. Deer antlers emerge from the dress sleeves and at the bottom, feet wrapped in nasturtium leaves and slippers stand on a patch of exposed dirt.
Collage for Wetlands journal, 2015.
Shelved Library, 2014.
Photograph of a pile of tags cut-out and decorated with ribbons and drawings.
Mile Long Tongue, performance book, 2010.
A sepia photograph and a black and white photograph both depicting persons in a grassy yard piling sticks juxtaposed together on a sheet of paper with red floating letters.
Everything there is to say on Earth (collage based on Alfabet Fence site-specific installation, Cleveland, Ohio), 2008.
Black and white photograph of a person washing a floor with large letter shapes and a bucket and mop collaged atop a black and white print of abstract letters and warped text.
"Untitled," works on paper, published in Tripwire 5: Expanding the Repertoire: Innovation and Change in African-American Writing, 2001.
Two black and white reversed photographs of hands wrapped in and clutching crinkly material covered in white lettering.
"Untitled," work on paper, published in Tripwire 5: Expanding the Repertoire: Innovation and Change in African-American Writing, 2001.
Two hands clasping, their fingers illuminated white and smudged against black space, wrapped in material displaying the words
"Untitled," work on paper, published in Tripwire 5: Expanding the Repertoire: Innovation and Change in African-American Writing, 2001.