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“1987”

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Collaborators’ Q&A

What inspired you to bring your work to Broadsided?
Poet Stacy Boe Miller: I love broadsides. I think of poems themselves as a kind of artifact. Mine are usually at least partially based on something real from my life, but those experiences become a whole other thing when they live in a poem, and they can belong to other as well. I think a broadside takes that even further. Paired with art, especially in this case art not chosen by the poet, the poem becomes something different all together. I have admired Broadsided for a long time and enjoy seeing not only the broadsides but also the photos of poets and their work out in the world! I love seeing poetry out in the world. I had some small poems that I realized might be a good fit, and so I was inspired to send them in.

What drew you to create a visual response to this poem, in particular?
Artist Zehra Khan:
Stacy’s poem revels in the power and complex history of some found and now lost bones. I love treasures, talismans, and magical objects with hidden histories and meanings.

How did this poem come to be?
Poet Stacy Boe Miller: As a child I found these small bird bones under a tree while out with a friend and her dad. I was mesmerized by them. I kept them in one of my mom’s quilting squares in a box under my bed for years (along with some old coins, sand dollars, stickers—the kinds of things a kid would collect as treasure). I can’t explain it, but I really loved these tiny bones. They have made their way into so many poems of mine.

How did this image come to be?
Artist Zehra Khan: I collected some of my treasures into a broken basket: a dried orange peel, golden scraps from paper sculptures, a friendship bracelet (I can’t remember who made it), rocks and shells from who knows where/when, and a photograph from the first roll of 35mm film I shot as a kid. I was on vacation with my family in Pakistan, and all the images were blurry, eyes closed, or of random landscapes. The last pic on the roll had a chemical mishap during development. After I arranged my treasures on a tie-dyed bandana my friend made, I realized the photograph was probably taken in 1987. Or maybe 1988.

What did you think an artist would pick up on from your poem? Does the artist’s response make you see the poem differently?
Poet Stacy Boe Miller: I realize in this final draft it’s not obvious that these bones belonged to birds, so while I always picture a bird, in my head I think I expected a bird to show up in the art! This is what I mean in my first answer about a poem becoming an artifact—something separate from the origin story. What I love about the art of this broadside is it captures that spirit of collection perfectly. I believe the speaker of this poem would have kept all these treasures beside those small bones.

Did anything shift for you or come into new light as you began working on your visual response?
Artist Zehra Khan: I became aware of how much I have forgotten. (But I don’t need to know everything.) 

What question would you like to ask your collaborator?
Poet to Artist: I would love to know anything about the process for an artist creating their response to a poem. I’m so interested in what inspired the specific things in the basket. I’m especially in love with the gold things and the friendship bracelet. Are these items from the artist’s life? Do they have histories and stories?
Artist Zehra Khan: I collect silver and gold chocolate wrappers because they are too pretty to throw away. I’m in a real magpie stage, I want all things shiny. Then I try to use it in my art.

Artist to Poet: What was the last non-utilitarian object you collected?
Poet Stacy Boe Miller: I love this question because there are certain things that feel very important to collect, though I don’t “use” them. The latest non-utilitarian object I collected was a feather I found on a walk during the work day–something I often collect. This one was from a magpie. I keep most of them, but I also give them away; I love to tuck them in the ribbon tied around a gift. 

When you consider the full folio of work from this issue (see the “related broadsides” links on the left), what questions, observations, or connections arise for you?  
Poet Stacy Boe Miller: I love the way the images begin to stack in the folio and the repetition happening in so many of the poems stacks. It becomes a cairn of all the things the speakers are carrying and at the same time feels like a litany or a prayer.

Describe your ideal “Vectorization”—where, in your wildest dreams, would you most like to see this broadside posted in the world?
Poet Stacy Boe Miller: I would love someone to be hiking on a trail somewhere and see this posted on a tree!
Artist Zehra Khan: Places where people have to wait and are bored. Dentist waiting room? Bus stations?

If this Broadsided collaboration were a type of weather, what would it be?
Poet Stacy Boe Miller: Sunny and cool, early fall or spring. The kind of day where you feel cold at first but once you’re moving the crispness feels good. And there’s frost until the sun comes out.
Artist Zehra Khan:
A hot and humid day that makes you wonder how your ice melted so quickly. 

Do you have a favorite, generative prompt for artists or writers you’d like to share?
Poet Stacy Boe Miller: I always think of the poem “Reverse Suicide” from the book Black Aperture by Matt Rasmussen. How can a story change if you reverse the order? I’ve done this with students and the images are incredible—bodies rising up feet first out of pools to standing, alcohol being spit back into red solo cups, bodies untangling into shyness…
Artist Zehra Khan:
“Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”  ― Kurt Vonnegut 

Read any good books lately?
Poet Stacy Boe Miller: Recently, I’ve read three great novels, Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, Blackout by Justin Torres, and Wild and Distant Seas by Tara Roberts.
Artist Zehra Khan:
Rage to Survive: The Etta James Story by Etta James and David Ritz. 

Seen any good art lately?
Poet Stacy Boe Miller: The poet Marcus Jackson had a show of his photography at a local studio where I live, and it’s beautiful and moving!
Artist Zehra Khan: Petah Coyne’s haunting melty chandeliers.

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