ArtWords 2020: "Around Here" by Joey Gotchnik
A black wire hanging on a yellow wall

Around Here

“Time? What is time?
We don’t have that around here,” she says.
But how then, I thought, can I compare yourself to me?
No number to make us seem similar,
no skin wrinkle, hair color, or light
amid your eyes.
The balance of unbalanced strings
lapping against bright plywood, yellow coated
and a screw too short. I’ve never felt this old before.
I’ve never felt this young inside the box
when I walk with an uneven bolo tie perfectly taut.
“Nail me down, I bet you can’t,” she says.
You’ll have to get to know me better than that.”

At a meal of some sorts,
the eggshells stack. Never in the same way,
the same routine, impossible.
Strike—like lightning—
never twice in the same place.
Hammer and nail if I must. I know, this time
they’ll eventually turn to rust.

Screw the other side, this time—the balance
beautifully becomes what hangs on
and what turns to dust, dirt.
Then that girl. Fantastically swaying
in the midnight sun, completely undone
unattached from the time around here.


Mr. Gotchnik's poem responds to the mixed media piece pictured above: Rhonda Willers, Lift, 2018. Earthenware, terra sigillata, wire, nails, screw, OSB, acrylic, 37 1/8 × 24 × 4 5/8 in. Collection of the Weisman Art Museum

Read the other 2020 ArtWords winners >>

Read the full 2020 edition of The Tower, in which this year’s winners are published >>

Listen to the 2020 podcast and hear this year’s contributors to The Tower read their submissions >>

ArtWords is an annual writing competition in which students select a piece of art on display from the Weisman Art Museum's permanent collection, and create an original piece of prose or poetry in response to it.

This competition is open to undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Minnesota. Selected authors are awarded prizes, published online, and given the opportunity to present their work in the galleries of the museum. Undergraduate winning writers of ArtWords are published in The Tower.

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ArtWords is held in collaboration with the English Department's Creative Writing Program. A panel including Creative Writing faculty, Weisman Art Museum staff, and editors of The Tower select winning entries. Prizes include a gift certificate to the WAM Gift Shop, as well as two $75, two $50, and two $25 prizes.

Our guest judges: Sam Van Cook, the president, founder, and owner of Button Poetry; award-winning poet and essayist Douglas Kearney, professor in the University of Minnesota's Creative Writing Program; and Michael Curran, the Marketing and Communications Associate at Weisman Art Museum.

Our student judges: Claire Breitenbach, Designer, Fiction Editor, and Copyeditor of The Tower; Afton Kelly, Managing Editor and Chief Poetry Editor of The Tower; Miki Schumacher, Marketing Director and Art Editor of The Tower; and Kimberly Xayaroun, Publicist and Fiction Editor of The Tower.

Joey Gotchnik

About the Author

"Around Here"— Joey Gotchnik is a senior from Cloquet studying materials science and engineering. He enjoys songwriting and the outdoors, and the role that humor takes in everyday life. In the future, he hopes to find the proper balance between science and art--like the relative ratio of root beer to ice cream. In third place, Joey's writing is inspired by Rhonda Willers's mixed media work Lift (2018).