This week’s Digital Broadside, which features Janine Joseph’s “Narrative” from LR Issue 4, was designed by Bethany Hana Fong, an SF-Bay-Area-based artist and designer whose black and white portraits of her grandfather appeared in Issue 2. We love the way that the quirky, collage-like nature of Bethany’s design echoes the fractured whimsy of the narrative tellings in Janine’s poem. We also like the effect that designing each version (printable and wallpaper) in a different orientation had on the possibilities for reading the poem itself. While the print version preserves the original (vertical) arrangement of stanzas, the wallpaper version floats them side-by-side into a matrix-like grid, so that the stanzas can be read in juxtaposition, as well as linearly. Both versions of Bethany’s beautiful design can be downloaded over at our “Digital Broadsides” page.
We hope that you’ve enjoyed our Digital Broadside series this April. And as National Poetry Month draws to a close, we hope you’ll consider telling us about what you did with the broadsides that you downloaded. Did you hang a copy somewhere unusual? Did your new wallpaper or cubicle decoration lead to any interesting conversations? Did having a poem on your desktop or physical wall inspire you in your own writing life in some way? We’d love to hear your stories— leave us a comment, post a note on our Facebook Wall, or Tweet us to share!
Janine Joseph is a Ph.D. student in literature and creative writing at the University of Houston. Her poems have appeared in Third Coast, Spoon River Poetry Review, and Calabash, among other journals. A Kundiman fellow, she is a recent recipient of a Brazos Bookstore/Academy of American Poets prize and a Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans. She holds degrees from UC Riverside and the Creative Writing Program at NYU where she taught with the Starworks Foundation and Community~Word Project. She currently teaches with Writers in the Schools and serves as a poetry editor for Gulf Coast. Born in the Philippines, she was once a child actress.
In our Process Profiles series, young contemporary Asian American poets discuss their craft, focusing on their process for a single poem from inception to publication. Here, Janine discusses her poem “Postcard,” which originally appeared in the Fall/Winter 2008 themed issue (“Making Tracks: Escape or Journey”) of Nimrod International Journal.
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I first started thinking about “Postcard” when an old friend came to visit for a weekend in May of 2006. While waiting for our chicken kabob sandwiches at Mr. Falafel, I told Lucy, who had studied poetry with me in college, that I couldn’t get the image of a “soup kitchen—but not a soup kitchen” out of my head. I was fresh out of my first year in the MFA program at NYU and, with a stainless steel cup in my hand, I talked about Tupperware and a childhood memory. Lucy, being Lucy, listened and then told me what I had was a poem. What kind of a poem, I didn’t know. After lunch, we took the subway into the city and walked.
After an evening of writing in September, I brought “Soup Kitchen” into workshop. On the page, the poem was a perfectly square thing that could be cut, glued, and made to fit on a postcard. It included mysterious and humiliating phrases like “jalousie of life” in the last line. (Also, it used the color mauve.) What on earth did I mean by writing “jalousie of life”? I’m not even going to pretend I knew. What was clear by the end of my fifteen minutes of sitting silently during discussion was that the poem, according to my notes, was one part “lovely” and one part “this could go.” In class, I drew a line dividing one movement from the other.
Waking up to bright sun and brisk, springy weather every morning was just one of the many small points of brilliance that characterized AWP for Mia and me this year. Having just come off winter (we both live in places that are not known for their sunshine during the first few months of the year), it was a treat to look outside our hotel room in the morning and see sun, blue skies, and mountains in the distance. Denver was beautiful. Even the snow that had been forecast for Wednesday held off for us. But not even the gorgeous weather or the lure of spring fever proved powerful enough to distract us from the activity going on inside the harshly-lit interior of the Convention Center this weekend. When I say that it was a wonderful AWP, I really mean it. After last year’s conference in Chicago (I met Nick Flynn! I heard Sun Yung Shin read! Lan Samantha Chang complimented my sweater! Poetry played in the elevators all day!) I was prepared for this year to be pretty darn awesome. But my experience this year totally blew me away. Part of it was the fantastic panels and readings that I attended. Part of it was the excitement of walking around the bookfair and getting to talk about LR and hand out our bookmarks and mini-books. Part of it was the great hotel, great food, and Mia’s great company (I’ll admit that we took at least one night off towards the end of the conference just to spend some catching up and discussing each other’s poems over styrofoam cups of Ramen). But a large part of what made the experience so great was the amazing generosity of the people that we met there, and the passion with which we heard them speak of their work and their involvement with communities of other writers.
Over the course of the four days, Mia and I went to panels and readings galore and spent lots of time in the bookfair. In this two-part series, we’ll be reflecting on just a few of our favorite events. For my post, I’ll be focusing on one off-site reading and three panels/readings that I particularly enjoyed. For more about our experience, look through our Flickr gallery of photos from the weekend, and check back here at the blog for Mia’s followup later this week.
Follow the jump below to read my reflections on the Kundiman/Cave Canem Joint Reading on Wednesday, Thursday’s Kundiman Panel, Friday’s From the Fishouse reading, and Saturday’s Split This Rock’s panel.