The Family

This essay of mine  originally appeared at the Broad Street Review. It’s about public art and personal loss. (With thanks to Inga Saffron and Timothy Duffield.)

“The Family,” by Timothy Duffield. (Photo by Christopher William Purdom /

The Family

I walked past 1835 Market Street one afternoon and saw the sculpture was gone.

It had been there since I moved to Philadelphia from Chicago in 2008, a tall bronze sculpture about a dozen feet high depicting the naked forms of a woman and man, arms stretched upward, holding aloft a young girl and boy.

I’d felt mildly shocked by their nudity, but I liked seeing them doing something wild and joyous together, and felt proud of the artist and the building’s owners for presenting those bare elbows, bellies, knees, and rear ends among the corporate towers. Their nakedness was brave, flaunting the capacity of the natural, daring body. Two adults working hard, literally lifting up the next generation, vulnerable to anything and everything under the sun.

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Call for donations of experimental writing

Monday afternoon I tweeted this:

Many thanks to the folks who responded! I am humbled and grateful to everyone who got in touch or liked this idea enough to spread the word. 

I told some people via DM that I’d share more details via email, but I needed to start my blog in 2014 anyway so this seems like a great way to launch it. So here are the details:

  • The donated text will be part of an artwork appearing in the IMPOSSIBLE BOOKS exhibit, which opens Feb. 7 at the Philadelphia Sculpture Gym and will be on display through the end of the month. I am working with an artist (not naming names yet since I don’t think PSG has made it public). We are one of five writer-artist teams chosen to be in the show.
  • Word count and deadline. All donated text should be no more than 100 words, even 25 words would be great. Please send text you’d like to donate by Sunday, January 19, to mattjakubowski at hotmail dot com.
  • All donated text that’s chosen for the project will be hand-typed on a paper roll that will appear in the installation. At this point, so as not to give away what I am working on, I must be a bit vague. Suffice it to say that the typed text will be visible to the public at the gallery in a limited form. The installation involves various elements; the paper roll is just one.
  • All donated text will be used on the paper roll as part of the exhibit only and will not be shared or published in any other form. The typed text will include some of my own writing, which I will attempt to blend with donated text to produce a cohesive work.
  • All participants acknowledge, again, that they are donating their text. This is purely for fun and not for profit. The installation I’m creating will not be for sale — I’m not making money. For me, this is for the joy of having a chance to collaborate with an artist, and with you, fellow writers who’d like to donate some text.
  • All contributors whose work is chosen to become part of the final artwork will be thanked by name in materials available to the public the night of the opening reception. I’d love to say I will use everyone’s text, but there is a chance I simply won’t have time to make it work. Thanks for your understanding if by chance I can’t use your text.
  • I will also be posting photos of the installation (which I think I’m allowed to do? this is my first art exhibit), so everyone who isn’t in Philly will of course get to see what they were a part of.


Some people have asked about what to send. The subject matter is completely open, but the installation is part of an “impossible books” exhibit. So surreal, experimental, philosophical, sci-fi works are fine, but so is realist poetry, monologues, or poetry posing as a diary entry. I would like to gather donations that are both broad and specific. I ask merely for the text to be evocative–interpreted in whatever way you choose. The reason for the lack of specificity is that all text will be worked into a “word-continuum” typed on to the paper roll. I will not rewrite what you send, but it will be blended into larger paragraphs and so forth. Since I’m working with an older typewriter (and time is limited!) I can’t accommodate special line breaks or characters. So please keep any text you’d like to send short and relatively simple in terms of formatting.

Thanks again for your responses thus far. I really appreciate it and look forward to “working together” in this way. Having your contributions in hand and then working to type them onto paper to create this continuous piece will be a great challenge and very rewarding.