"Before paperbacks and pocket books, before blogs, there were broadsides.
Every day, we walk past billboards for shops and car dealers, for churches and insurance, but our streets, our daily lives among each other, are missing something. They're missing thought. Dialogue. Opinion. Ideas.
Let's put words out there for people to snort at, sigh over, argue with, and read. Let's put up broadsides."
Ten years ago, Elizabeth Bradfield -- writer, naturalist, published poet, fellow MFA companion (back in the day) and good friend (to this day) -- told me she was starting a special online project: Broadsided Press.
A bit like a literary magazine -- but collaborative and reliant on community effort for distribution and printing -- Broadsided Press would take submissions from poets, ask a group of artists to "dibs" on new poetry each month and create artwork that arose from the poems that spoke to them directly. These Broadsides would be printed and hung by "vectors" all over the world, and it was a new format for an old idea, and it was super exciting, and it would include interviews and translations and opportunities for special response features to world events, plus years "in haiku," and did I want to be a part of this?
I did. But what I was really focused on around that time was wading through an icky-pukey first trimester, so I was distracted and didn't really understand how large this project could potentially become. My son's name is "Pelle," in part because of the time Liz patted my belly and asked, "How's Pelagic Meissner?" I might have barfed right after that, but "Pelle" stuck. When he was born, "Carl" was absolutely the wrong name. Ahhh, good friends.
The Butterfly Farm is the latest Broadside I've had the pleasure of being a part of. The poem was written by New York writer, Nicole Callihan and spoke to me as a mother, woman and observer; I knew I had the perfect piece of artwork to accompany Nicole's writing.
Broadsided Press is going strong after a decade of successful collaboration. I've moved in and out as an artist, once even getting an email (okay, maybe twice getting this email) that said "Nudge, nudge your artwork is due," and I looked at my kids and said, "You guys need to entertain yourselves while I help my friend Liz."
Sometimes the artwork already existed:
But most of the time the poetry has spoken to me as an illustrator, warranting something brand new.
The first glimmers of my current direction with textiles happened within these Broadsides -- small opportunities to diversify and explore new materials. Initially, I'd wanted to incorporate textile use into children's book art, but this hasn't come about yet. My work is dark, and somehow the textiles tapped into an even darker place. I know there are dark children's books, I'm drawn to them, but I've been told a number of times by art directors that my particular darkness is a little too ... scary.
Clicking on any of these images will take you to Broadsided Press, where you can print out and distribute these Broadsides in your own haunts -- coffee shops, street corners, buses, bars -- you, too, could be a vector. For those of us who don't get out much, they also look pretty good on design walls.
I'm grateful for the opportunity Broadsided has given me to crack knuckles and stretch arms a bit. It's in this diversification -- format, materials, collaborative effort -- where I've discovered new ways to extend my voice and apply it to current work. If you have the chance to diversify within your art form, it will serve you well. I recommend it.
I also recommend the following:
Elizabeth Bradfield is an award-winning poet, writer, naturalist and publisher. Check out her blog, The Haul Out, which considers seals and other items ashore, mostly on Cape Cod. If I could give her an award for being an awesome person, I'd do that too. Also, I wish she could accompany our family on all our Alaskan boat outings because she can identify everything flora and fauna, and she's not a picky eater.
"Bradfield's poems guide us alertly into this treacherous territory pocked with political pitfalls and theoretical quagmires. One hardly notices the perils that abound because Bradfield is such a deft naturalist, with a keen eye."
—Jon Christensen, reviewing Interpretive Work in The San Francisco Chronicle
For even more diversification, a year ago I published this. A bit beachy, a bit writerly, a bit of insight as to how all things have a way of fitting together to make a life whole.