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“Bereavement Dinner”

Posted on • Words by • Art by

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Collaborators’ Q&A

What did you think an artist would pick up on from your poem?
Poet Emma Sovich: I hoped that the artist would surprise me, and she certainly did. I suppose the obvious things (for me) to pick up from the poem would’ve been the sailfish, jewelry, blue, even the elephant (I so hoped not the elephant, even though, uh, Roll Tide).

What inspires you in this poem?
Artist Kara Searcy: The strength portrayed by the grandmother at the end of the poem delighted me. I wasn’t expecting it to be there in a poem that began with greif.

Did the visual artist refract any element of the poem that made you see the poem differently?
Poet Emma Sovich: This may sound strange, but I never really thought of this as a domestic or nostalgic poem until it got paired with this art. I think the art grounds the poem in an undercurrent of emotion the poem itself has difficulty expressing or allowing itself to acknowledge.

When you began this piece, was it color, shape, or some other aspect that you followed? Did that change?
Artist Kara Searcy: When I started working on photographs for this piece I kept thinking about how I have access to fish skeletons, live fish, etc., because I have family members that are biologists. Even though my photographs of those things were definitely interesting, they stuck too close the poem, and I wondered what it might look like to have a photograph that didn’t seem to directly relate to the poem, but could if the reader/viewer gave it some thought. I was thinking about the author’s perspective verses a reader’s perspective, and that’s when I decided on photographing a child in a pile of pennies. I think the mood the photograph creates plays nicely off the mood the poem creates.

What surprised you about this collaborative piece?
Poet Emma Sovich: The child or doll startled me. One of my grandmothers has an extensive doll collection, and the pennies evoke a number of childhood memories for me, so it felt rather apt and personal in a surprising way.
Artist Kara Searcy: I was surprised by how the photograph seemed to take on a kind of hopefulness which was contrasted by the melancholy mood the poem initially starts out with.

Have you ever written work that has been inspired by visual art? What was that experience like for you? Why were you inspired to do so?
Poet Emma Sovich: Yes, often and obsessively. Sometimes it’s to pull myself away from an inclination toward the overly personal. Sometimes it’s because some image or figure from a visual work occupies a space in my brain and creates a new life for itself.

If you had to represent the Broadsided of “Bereavement Dinner” with one word, what would it be?
Poet Emma Sovich: Calming
Artist Kara Searcy: Light

Read any good books lately?
Poet Emma Sovich: Well, I’m in the middle of production for my first issue of Black Warrior Review as editor, so I’ve mostly been reading all the excellent work we’ve curated for that. Also, I’ve been rereading Lily Hoang’s The Evolutionary Revolution which is one of the books that changed how I felt about fiction and poetry (and life in general).
Artist Kara Searcy

Seen any good art lately?
Poet Emma Sovich: This falls into the category of good books, too (and the collaboration category): Build Your Own Presidentby Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr of Idiots’ Books has fun and mix-and-matchable art (, and their book From the Inside Out (which is older, but I reread recently) has haunting, evocative art that magnifies the emotional impact of the story.

Anything else?
Poet Emma Sovich: I’ve loved Broadsided since I discovered it 2007 or 2008, and I’m thrilled and honored to be part of it. I worked for a time making letterpress broadsides to commemorate visiting writers for my alma mater, and so the broadside as a medium is important to me. This is such a fascinating and fun way of keeping broadsides alive and kicking—and promoting collaboration and user-participation. So, a huge thank you to the editors! Oh, and thanks Kara Jean Searcy!

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