A broadside is a large sheet of paper, printed on one side, historically for advertisements, proclamations, or political diatribes. A later iteration was to combine the text of a poem with an image.
Broadsides are delightful in the way that they resemble storybook pages for grown-ups. The reunion of image and text that you can frame, or, for the more upstairs-garret look, tack to a wall. The collaborative aspect appeals, too. What happens when you get a visual artist and poet together?
Broadsided has a great collection of these, provided digitally for easy reproduction. For folks who like printmaking and book arts, you can also find booksellers like this who sell limited editions of broadsides, if you'd prefer something a little more on the rare side.
I have been fortunate to work with a few artists on some broadsides. The first was for the poem "The Gift." The talented David Calton provided the woodcut of a bee for the image.
“Mystery Bee Disappearance Sweeping U.S.”
I didn’t kill the bees, if that helps.
You would have taken them, too.
His breath sounded like wet fabric ripped in two
While he searched for his EpiPen.
That happened too often.
When spring came I watched him watch
The nonchalance of patio-sitters.
Before a waiter ever asked he’d say, ‘Inside, please.”
The research on beekeepers’ associations,
The night raids, the elastic hidden
In cuffs and sleeves.
Yes, it was worth all the time and trouble.
The smell of smoke and honey,
That tacky wax on my skin.
Ridiculous amounts of netting.
I can’t tell you much more except
Somewhere a warehouse thrums with bees.
The air inside shakes with a million tiny breezes.
If you enter the building, you will lose your shoes,
Socks, and a layer of skin to the sticky floor.
You will hear protracted thunder,
The sound of frustrated industry.
But from a distance the noise
Becomes an eternal Om.
Once this is all settled
I will prepare a picnic for him,
And we’ll sit just close enough
To hear the monotone concert.
There I will give him a jar of amber honey
To match his eyes, to kiss off his mouth.
More recently, I collaborated with Richie DeBiase of New Haven, CT. After considering several poems, we picked "Not" to use as a jumping off point for his wonderful illustration style. The kind and talented folks at Double Dutch Press (I highly recommend them for excellence in their craft and great customer service) in Athens screenprinted four copies of the poem. I wanted Richie to have multiples for "do-overs" if necessary. He sent them all back, beautifully illustrated, all with entirely different tones and feel! Richie's treatment of the poem is a great example of how differently a poem can be interpreted visually.
Hopefully, the future will bring more chances to work with artists to combine text and image in interesting ways. Any artists and graphic designers reading this that see any poems you'd like to work with, let me know!