Making pairs is an art form in its own right and takes at least a basic understanding of more than one form of creative media. One must look critically at the themes that are present with both pieces and assess the way that the works approach those themes to match them effectively. In Catharsis, we generally try to pair an art or photography piece with a written work (prose or poetry), which works out great until we have more pieces that we received/want in the book in one genre than any other.
When I start pairing, I tend to read the written works first, looking for themes and finding the general tone of the piece. I then start to quickly go through the art and photography, making note of the pieces that stand out to me and have a similar tone. At this point I put the pieces next to each other and reread the prose/poetry, to see if the two works give new meaning to each other in light of their pairing. There are times when one of the pieces is stronger than the other, and that is the one I tend to focus on. For longer written pieces, at times it was challenging to have them fit on the same set of pages, so we tend to either a) not pair them and let the piece speak for itself or b) including the art/photography piece in the pages before or after it and including an excerpt to tie them together.
There are times when it’s ok to be literal. If a poem is talking about enjoying nature, I think that it is okay to have a photo of a forest or a painted landscape next to it. Some things just fit together because of their subjects and not every single piece needs to be hyper analyzed. There are pieces that I had to pair very literally simply because I wanted them in the book but could find a piece that fit right or wasn’t used already. It’s ok to have simple pairings, as long as there are well thought out ones there as well to balance it out.
When you pair effectively, you forge a unique and nuanced experience for your reader, elevating both of the pieces beyond what is present by their lonesome.