Two Former Vermont Laureates Collaborate, Again | Live Culture

Two Former Vermont Laureates Collaborate, Again


  • Courtesy of James Kochalka
  • An image from "LEAF"

Call it "graphic poetry." Two former Vermont laureates have teamed up — again — on a new project that combines poetry and cartoons.

Outgoing Vermont Poet Laureate Sydney Lea, who cofounded the New England Review in 1977 and has taught poetry at various colleges and universities here and abroad, partnered with former Vermont cartoonist laureate and longtime Seven Days cartoonist James Kochalka on a six-panel project simply called "LEAF." It's published in Rumpus, but you also can read it below in its entirety.

This isn't the two artists' first collaboration. In 2013, the Vermont Arts Council and the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction sponsored a slim, 12-page graphic poem Lea and Kochalka worked on together called Vermont Double Laureate Team-Up.

Kochalka, who was laureate from 2011 to 2014 (Edward Koren picked up the torch last year), says he drew the panels first, then gave them to Lea to add the poetry. He provided him no theme or other guidance. The two "mushroom guys" in "LEAF" are the same as the ones featured in Kochalka's 2014 graphic novel Fungus: The Unbearable Rot of Being, an outgrowth of the "Fungus" strip that ran previously in Seven Days.

Kochalka and Lea were hardly strangers when the two first paired up. Lea's son, Creston, plays in Kochalka’s band, James Kochalka Superstar. (Incidentally, Kochalka has a new album coming out on October 6 called Good Morning Glorkian Warriorinspired by his Glorkian Warrior video game and graphic novel series.)

Asked about their collaboration, Kochalka says, “I was hoping to get the attention of the more straitlaced poetry crowd, and I think Sydney was looking to get the attention of a hipper crowd. We’re both hoping for crossover.”

  • Courtesy of James Kochalka
  • "LEAF"

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