The presenting of poetry in beautifully laid-out flat prints — often accompanied with artwork or produced using the letterpress process — is a time-honored tradition. The broadside emphasizes the way that a poem navigates visual space and draws out the reader’s sensual experience of a poem beyond the metaphorical or imagined and into the realm of physical touch, color, line, and shape. The production of broadsides also provides opportunities for collaborative conversation between poets and the people who deal intimately with the physical production and setting of their work: book artists/printers, painters and illustrators. In recent years (especially with the advent of internet technology), the broadside also has taken on new importance as a means by which to make poetry more familiar, more affordable, and more culturally accessible to the public. The Poetry Foundation’s free downloadable “refrigerator” broadsides and the Broadsided project — which publishes printable electronic broadsides and encourages their free distribution in public places — are two examples of projects that seek to expand the scope of the dialogues taking place around poetry while still maintaining a value for stunning visual presentation. I’m particularly drawn to the idea of both kinds of broadsides — those which, by their small-scale production (often by hand), ensure that the poems printed on them will continue to be treasured as objects of quality and great cultural importance, and those which, by their widespread availability, ensure that poetry can continue to grow outside of itself, to evoke new conversations in unusual places so that the consumption of beautiful art need not be reserved for those with money.
Here is a short roundup of some broadsides I found that feature Asian American poetry:
Has your poetry ever been made into a broadside? Do you create broadsides? We’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment to tell us about your experiences.