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Exquisite Fantastic

For many years, I’ve dreamed of using the TLE space to create an original exquisite corpse-inspired collection. So, in honor of our 10th year, we’re doing it! Every couple of weeks, from November 2019 through March of 2020, we’ll feature the work a new Baltimore-area writer or artist has created in response to the one before them. Follow this page to see them all in one place, and see what happens!

Contributor 11: Timothy Nohe, March 27, 2020

Sentience Dreaming


Timothy’s Inspiration:  I was thinking of the “predatory mollusk” in Moss’ work, and I wondered about the unique evolutionary path that cephalopods took, their manifest intelligence, and the flashing colors of their lucid dreams. I was inspired by the images of Heather Moss’ poem “Twelve: The Conflagration,” especially the lines: “When best to serve a chewable tablet / on a scalloped plate? An optical / illusion in billowing ink from / the predatory mollusk: do you / see the manta ray, or twin faces / staring hash marks into each other’s / dilated pupils?”

Timothy Nohe is an artist, composer and educator engaging traditional and electronic media in civic life and public places. His work has been focused upon sustainability and place, and musical and video works for dance and live performance. Nohe has exhibited and performed his work in a range of national and international venues and was the recipient of a 2006 Fulbright Senior Scholar Award from the Australian – American Fulbright Commission. He is the founding Director of the Center for Innovation, Creativity and Research in the Arts (CIRCA) and a tenured Professor of Visual Arts at UMBC.

Contributor 10: Heather Moss, March 14, 2020

Twelve: The Conflagration 

Harlequin moms sheathed in tight t-shirts
slalom the sideline fathers shouting
their curly brackets at the field. Girls
run — remember the picture you drew
of her before she was born, her fists
like petaled sand dollars– a battery
of gemsboks over the grasslands. Which
bright cutouts by Matisse? Whose guitar
frets inset by mother-of-pearl? When
best to serve a chewable tablet
on a scalloped plate? An optical
illusion in billowing ink from
the predatory mollusk: do you
see the manta ray, or twin faces
staring hash marks into each other’s
dilated pupils? A depiction
of vertical bars speeds envelopes
through industrious machinery.
This morning on the bathroom tile: dried
red droplets, probably not hair dye,
question mark? More like interrobang.

Heather’s Inspiration: I spent a long time looking at Dervish Majorette by Juliette Goodwin and writing down the myriad images I saw there. When I had a list of 15 or so, I carried it around with me and thought about how those things could fit together, and on the third day of mulling, I wrote the poem.

Heather Moss, who has never stopped being obsessed with adolescence, is a 2013 graduate of the MFA program in Creative Writing & Publishing Arts at the University of Baltimore. She’s saving up to be put into an Eternal Reef so that she may spend the afterlife amongst the sharks and other cartilaginous fishes, and anybody else who wants to hang around.

Contributor 9: Juliette Goodwin, February 29, 2020

Dervish Majorette


Title: Dervish Majorette

Juliette’s Inspiration: Color was the first thing that established itself in this piece, inspired by The Pele Allowance by Edward Doyle-Gillespie. The crystal clear description of a deity, the reader’s lover, with a face painted in “oily black-and-red.” This instantly assembled in my head and on paper as an atomic explosion cloud. Clouds like these are all I can conjure up lately in my artwork, so Edward’s words paired well with what was already on my mind. Big, expensive explosions.

Juliette Goodwin is a human who spends her days watching the always-changing sky and earth, documenting this earthly experience mostly in paintings and photographs. See more of her work at

Contributor 8: Edward Doyle-Gillespie, February 14, 2020

The Pele Allowance

You had a lover who ate fire.
She painted her face
in oily black-and-red,
and wore a second-skin
that made her look like the pyre of
a rioter’s rage each time she moved.
She would go the corner of this or that street
when the midday men broke free,
and she would twirl herself
with her head canted back.
She would catch glimpses and slices
of the red-brick canyon
in her fractured vision,
and the men would become statues for her.
She would take torches into her mouth
and they would fall in love with her.
She would spit her napalm over their heads,
and they would follow
the wake of her ashes,
taking crisply-folded bills from
tailored pockets.
Your lover would spin herself
in a cloak of dreadlocks,
fling fragments of fire into the air
like a dervish majorette,
and the men would search fruitlessly
for the plastic bucket
or the worn top hat
in which they could
lay their tributes.

Edward’s Inspiration: The first thing I did was look at the first images to pop up and take hold of my first impressions. I decided to honor the first words to pop into my head. I got “UPSIDE DOWN” and” INVERTED” and “SPINNING.” I felt myself in motion in stone context that hinted at a bit of danger. My brain took away bricks and buildings to go along with that. I put the images away. I jotted down some notes, went back, and saw what looked like spangles or flecks of fire contrasting themselves against the edifices.  I pretty much eschewed anything resembling rational cognition or author intent.

Edward Doyle-Gillespie is a detective in the Baltimore City Police Department. He holds a degree in History from George Washington University, and an MLA from Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of three books  – Masala Tea and Oranges, On the Later Addition of Sancho Panza , and Socorro Prophesy.

Contributor 7: Marlayna Demond, February 1, 2020


Title: Illusions

Marlayna’s Inspiration: Each time I read Anthony’s piece, I found another layer of it that felt simultaneously personal and specific, yet relatable. I’ve been in love with the textures of salt stains, and how they can almost create the illusion of a barren landscape, so that line initially jumped out at me. I’m also at a point where there are all these paths (or branches) I could see life taking. With my own inability to make (what feel like) major life choices, and looking not just at Anthony’s piece but also Gina’s and all the works in between, I kept mulling over “this or that” and “safe vs experience.” I set out wanting to convey this sense of uncertainty – not knowing what I want next or if I have to make any changes at all. Just to add one more layer of uncertainty, when I went into Baltimore to take some photos for this piece, one of the first buildings on our walk happened to literally scream “ILLUSIONS” at me.

Marlayna Demond is a photographer who is constantly trying to find better work-life balance and make more time for non-work photography and other fun things. Marlayna works full time photographing at UMBC, and in addition also photographs weddings, events, and editorial and portrait work. She also co-runs BaM Co-Create, a business that promotes local makers and produces markets where guests can explore their creativity and shop locally.

Contributor 6: Anthony Moll, January 17, 2020


Nothing shimmers in the city
winter, and December reveals
the abandoned homes of birds

I’m feeling dysphoric
in a peacoat on an abbreviated
parking lot dusted with salt

trying to imagine a Casa Susanna
a colony of hidden wigs in the chilled
Catskills among eastern hemlock

I hesitate to imagine the woods
as safety— though they are
abandoned or empty

of expectation, and queer bodies
hold a history of exposed knees
in state parks and hideaways

The wilds should be a sort
of home, but I can’t imagine
a dress hem higher than my heavy

thighs outdoors, and the forest
floor reminds me that it’s not

always about you. I guess

Queen Mab’s arrival shouldn’t
surprise me, but I’ve never known
the first name of the wilderness.

Anthony’s Inspiration: I watched and responded to Jim’s animation the week I left Baltimore for a writing retreat in the woods of West Virginia, and it had me thinking about the history of Queer folks in the wilderness—cruising, trysts in cabins, queer communes, etc. When those ideas were paired with Jim’s robed figure revealing a muscular femme, I found myself contemplating perspectives on gender, the goddess, and concealing oneself.

Anthony Moll is a queer poet, essayist and educator. Their work has appeared in Hobart, Little Patuxent Review, Assaracus, jubilat and more. Anthony holds an MFA in creative writing & publishing arts and is completing a PhD in English. Their debut memoir, Out of Step, won a 2019 Lambda Literary Award and the 2017 Non/Fiction Prize. It is now available from The Ohio State University Press.

Contributor 5: Jim Doran, January 3, 2020


Title: Shimmer

Jim’s Inspiration:  I was inspired by Shirley’s Goddess imagery. With animation, I usually begin with audio, and harps are pretty shimmery to me. Once I had to sounds assembled, I did a stream-of-consciousness drawing animation to accompany it. I used a black light to highlight the Goddess.

Jim Doran is a cut paper artist and animator that likes to begin with sound files and music to inspire his animated stories. He also loves working on library websites.

Contributor 4: Shirley J. Brewer, December 13, 2019

All the Fine Golden Threads

Born a sequin, baptized in glitter,
I blossomed in childhood light.
Tender arms wrapped me in filigree.
Grace gave me wings, assured flight.

I wear my changes like an ornament.
Gauzy yellow. Beads of sun in rows.
How to measure the luminous
wires of the heart? Even pain glows.

My favorite color is Gem.
I am Shimmering Goddess Energy.

Title:  All the Fine Golden Threads

Shirley’s Inspiration:  I was awed by Melissa Cormier’s title – Changing and Changed – as well as her beautiful art. (One of the favorite poems I’ve written is called “Making Change.”) Her image of the gold sequins feels so in sync with who I am. My poem evolved from the sequins. What surprised me was my choice to rhyme. Although I usually write in free verse, I always listen to the Muse! “I am Shimmering Goddess Energy” is – and has been – my personal self-definition.

Baltimore poet, Shirley J. Brewer, lives in Charles Village near the Baltimore Museum of Art. She credits the BMA with nurturing her growth as a writer, as well as her kaleidoscopic sense of style. And the gift shop is everything!

Contributor 3: Melissa Penley Cormier, November 29, 2019

Changing & Changed

Title: Changing & Changed

Melissa’s Inspiration:  Much like the original parlour game (exquisite corpse), I tried to collect and build an image that played off of Meredith’s video and prose and while keeping in mind Gina’s painting to create a dreamy addition as if attempting to finish someone’s sentence, but not knowing exactly where the story is going.

Melissa Penley Cormier enjoys looking and listening to things and inviting others to also look and listen closely. An artist originally from Appalachia, she now can most often be found in or near Baltimore, Maryland.

Contributor 2: Meredith Purvis, November 16, 2019

Campfires and Canyons

“You’re doing it wrong, dissecting the bird, trying to find the song.” ~John Craigie, Dissect the Bird

Sometimes I feel like we are small, eclipsed by a world of incredible scale. Our edges blur, atoms and impulses pinging into and across one another. Our hearts and lungs and feet are full of birds. They sing our souls. My heart is elastic. It contracts to fill a campfire spark and expands to fill canyons. We are shaped by elements, within and without; changing and changed. We are enormity. Carbon. Hydrogen. Knit together like feathers on a wing. We soar.

a travelogue prose poem written on a journey from baltimore to missouri, las vegas, the grand canyon, bryce canyon, zion national park. and back again.

Campfires and Canyons

Meredith’s Inspiration:  Gina’s painting / America’s spaces both man-made and natural / National Parks, especially Zion, Bryce, and the Grand Canyon / The way you blend into nature when you sit around a campfire.

I created this poem while wandering westward. It’s a travelogue but also a mini exquisite corpse of its own — each day I wrote a new line in as much isolation as I could, although still innately aware of what had come before. I challenged myself to not only take inspiration from the incredible painting Gina created, which is full of the stuff of life and the whisper of bird wings, but also the scenery I was passing through, which included my parent’s farm in rural Missouri, Caesers Palace in Las Vegas, and the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Zion National Parks.

Meredith Purvis is a writer, a book artist, and a traveler. Her heart and her writing are happiest when they’re exploring.

Contributor 1: Gina Pierleoni, November 1, 2019

Title:  Navigating Tendrils

Gina’s Inspiration:  The stuff of life: hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon, beauty  /  The words we say to ourselves and others  /  Birds nesting, fledging, holding on, letting go

Gina Pierleoni is a Baltimore based artist using portraiture to spark conversations about empathy and our common humanity.  Portrait painting demands curiosity, stillness and deep observation. Pierleoni’s mixed media portraits push past label and judgments, attempting to “de-separate” us.  These are real people, alive, changing, genuine and vulnerable.

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