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Solitaire (Solitary)

August 19, 2019

Writer and poet El’Ja (LeJuane) Bowens reflects on a photograph by Southbound artist McNair Evans. As part of our Call & Response series in conjunction with Southbound: Photographs of and about the New South, we’ve asked artists, writers, and poets to respond to a photograph of their choice in the form of short written pieces.

McNair Evans, Christmas Morning, 2009

McNair Evans, Christmas Morning, 2009. San Francisco-based Evans’s work draws parallels between the lives of individuals and universally shared experiences, and is recognized for a distinct and metaphoric use of light. The work included in Southbound is a meditation on the shuttering of his old family estate in North Carolina. ON VIEW AT THE GREGG MUSEUM OF ART & DESIGN AT NC STATE.

Solitaire (Solitary)


Funny how life works sometimes

You find yourself arranging all the cards life gives you to your advantage

Just to use them all up

It’s always been a game that only one can play

But in the end, how do you win a contest that leaves you to be alone

At this moment, cold air fills the room around you like depression fills a body

Karma creeps to your ear laughing as you stare at the table

Cards lay awaiting for you to arrange and discard them all like the dreams and people

That once was available, but are now absent

Then sits the irony…

The fact that the game reflects where you currently sit in this life

Alone, playing solitaire.


Listen as El'Ja (LeJuane) Bowens recites his poem:

El'Ja BowensLeJuane (El’Ja) Bowens is an award-winning spoken word poet and author. Born in Detroit, El’Ja joined the United States Army in 2000. During his six years of service, which included two deployments to Iraq, El’Ja began to commit his thoughts to paper. In 2005, at the urging of a friend, he posted several poems online. The positive feedback opened his eyes: poetry was his calling. In 2014, El’Ja was recognized as the first ever NC Poet to compete and win in three different Grand Slam Finals. He went on to win the 22nd Southern Fried Poetry Slam alongside the Bull City Slam Team, and in 2015 was nominated for Spoken Word Artist of the Year at the 5th Annual National Poetry Awards. He is the author of So Many Things to Say (2007) and Anywhere … But Here (2017), two books of poetry.

Southbound: Photographs of and about the New South is presented by the Power Plant Gallery in collaboration with Duke’s Forum for Scholars and Publics and the Gregg Museum of Art & Design at North Carolina State University. In this iteration, guest curator Randall Kenan, author and NC native, organizes the many framed photographs of the exhibition around the twin themes of Flux, on display at the Power Plant Gallery, and Home, on display at the Gregg Museum. The full program of events includes slow tours, film screenings, “Sit + Chat” sessions, and FSP@PPG panel discussions that engage with the issues in and around the works of art and explore the topics, places, and styles of Southbound. Southbound: Photographs of and about the New South was organized by the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art at the College of Charleston School of the Arts in Charleston, South Carolina, and curated by Mark Long and Mark Sloan. Visit the exhibit online at