Banner Poems: “Betwixt” by John W. Love, Jr.

By Armando Bellmas

“It’s about the in-between spaces.” 

John W. Love, Jr. is arguably Charlotte’s most intriguing and engaging artist. A conversation with him lasts beyond the time spent face to face. Long after we’ve parted, Love’s connections are still evolving in my brain.

“It’s about that in-between place – between a thought, between a moment. In this case, what happens between night and the next morning,” he reveals. 

Love is talking about his poem “Betwixt.” I commissioned him to compose the poem so that we could feature it on the vertical banners that hang on the front of our building here at McColl Center for four weeks in June.

Normally, the banners are a marketing tool we use to promote an exhibition or feature the artwork or an in-studio photo of a current or alumni artist-in-residence. However, with scheduled building maintenance happening here this summer – resulting in no artists, exhibitions, or events – I wondered what we could do, during the down time, with the banners. 

My first thought was finding a way to get an alumni artist involved.  

Taking a cue from the beloved Wall Poems of Charlotte, I asked Love if he’d want to participate by composing a short poem for us to display. He enthusiastically said yes. 

Excited at the prospect, I sent Love the very specific parameters that would conform the poem to the format of the vertical banners: Each poem would have to be in two parts (one for each banner), each part between 15-20 words, and each word on its own line. 

Within days, Love emailed the poem to me. Listen to him read it aloud here:

“I particularly like the blue hour,” says Love, referring to the opening of the poem. 

“The blue hour is that hour right before dusk. I like the light of the blue hour. I like the way that it makes me feel. I find that time of day particularly magical. It’s part of the transition from day to night and things literally do cool down. I find that intriguing. That’s always a rich place for me to dig around in.”

Detail views the “Betwixt” banners

“With any kind of literature, but especially with something poetic, you have to be really comfortable in what you don’t say,” Love would tell me later about the poem. 

The banners have already come down. As our building stands bare, the exterior stone ready to receive a necessary pressure wash and waterproof sealant application, “Betwixt” still lingers.

We’re in an in-between place ourselves here at McColl Center: Between a vibrant and powerful spring residency that ended in May and a fall residency starting in August filled with new opportunities and directions

We’re digging around in it, right where we belong.

Armando Bellmas is the Director of Marketing + Communications at McColl Center. His favorite poets this month are Donald Justice, Philip Larkin, Elena Medel, and Frank Báez.