A Poet Learns The Proper Way To Floss

by Lucy Gellman, Editor, The Arts Paper (Arts Council of Greater New Haven)

Jen Payne remembers the first one that she saw. And the one after that. And after that. Tiny, single-use dental flossers, discarded in parking lots, and beaches, and wooded hikes around her hometown of Branford. Each cast off in nature with no explanation, and no owner.

She started photographing them as a series, more flossers catching her eye every few days. At first, she didn’t know what the series would become: A friend joked that one flosser photo looked like a book idea; another met with her to talk about them in the context of an exhibition.

Now, the flossers — and four years of writing that they accompany — are fodder for Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, a book of poetry and photographs out this fall from Three Chairs Publishing. What began as a project distinctly about nature and the environment has transformed into something larger, what Payne pinpoints as a sort of environmental meditation on our place in the universe.

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