What made you think of Broadsided for this poem?
Poet Jennifer Barber: I’ve always loved broadsides of poems, in general. I sent “Daughter” to Broadsided because of its visual elements: the description of my daughter’s pre-alphabetic writing and the image I have of her as a toddler just before she learned how to walk—how she stood, taking in her surroundings, and what she was wearing.
What inspires you in this poem? What drew you to it?
Artist Michele L’Heureux: I have been a maker of marks my entire life, and I love the image of a child’s notebook filled with marks. I am also thinking so much about the passage of time and my own aging. While I don’t have children of my own, I was very drawn to the parent figure and memories of her/his small child now grown.
Where, in your wildest dreams, would you most like to see this broadside posted in the world?
Artist Michele L’Heureux: Anywhere parents may congregate: day care centers, PTA meetings, women’s centers.
Poet Jennifer Barber: Since “Daughter” mentions the Sumerian and Akkadian languages, I would love the broadside to somehow be transported back in time to ancient Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq). Several of my recent poems are based on reading stories and myths from Mesopotamia, and I’m fascinated by the continuity of literature from various parts of the world over thousands of years.
What did you think an artist would pick up on from your poem? Did the visual artist refract any element of the poem that made you see the poem differently?
Poet Jennifer Barber: I wasn’t able to guess what aspect of the poem might appeal to the artist. Michele’s use of line, shape, and color to evoke the marks on the page referenced in the poem illuminated for me the border between writing and visual art—how writing is a form of drawing, and vice versa.
Did anything shift for you or come into new light once you saw the poem and art together on the page?
Artist Michele L’Heureux: As I expected, seeing the poem and the art together put me right in the shoes of the parent, wondering how so much time has passed, looking back with fondness on notebooks filled with drawings, wishing I could turn back the clock a little as much as I admire who my child has become.
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 Jennifer Barber: From time to time I write poems based on paintings. I’m working on one now that describes visiting the Uffizi in Florence last January—the mind-dividing experience of seeing paintings of the Virgin and child side by side with scenes of the crucifixion.
If this broadside were a type of weather, what would it be?
Artist Michele L’Heureux: A dreamy, brooding kind of day, warm and foggy just after a summer rain.
Poet Jennifer Barber: It would be the aftermath of a rainstorm, with twigs and leaves scattered on the sidewalk and street.
Read any good books lately?
Artist Michele L’Heureux: I am making my way through the 700+-page Ninth Street Women, by Mary Gabriel, about five pioneering women who changed the art world as abstract painters in the early 20th century. It’s exhilarating!
Poet Jennifer Barber: I’m reading Louise Erdrich’s novel The Night Watchman. I find her characters—especially Pixie Paranteau and Thomas Wazhashk—riveting.
Seen any good art lately?
Artist Michele L’Heureux: Most of my art viewing has been online these days, but I ventured out once, by appointment, to my local art museum and was caught pleasantly off-guard by the work of artist Tommy Simpson, of whom I had never heard. It was whimsical and skillful and a lovely surprise.
Poet Jennifer Barber: This past year, during the pandemic, I’ve been missing terribly regular visits to Boston museums. But my husband and I have been sorting through his parents’ paintings—both were artists. In one painting, which we recently had framed, a green-tinged, rain-filled sky dwarves a border of dark green trees and a white house and barn. I can’t stop looking at it. I can’t tell if the rain is already falling or just about to fall.
Anything else? (Here, we invite the collaborators to invent a question, add a comment, or otherwise speak to what the questions so far have not tapped about their Broadsided experience).
Artist Michele L’Heureux: I’m curious whether this poem stems from Jennifer’s personal experience, and, if so, what emotions she felt when writing it, as I feel like the poem conveys nostalgia, longing, and admiration, but also some sadness.
Poet Jennifer Barber: I really enjoy both seeing and participating in collaborations between artists and writers—broadsides, artists’ books, writing projects based around exhibitions. I thank Broadsided for this opportunity to collaborate. Michele has understood exactly the mood I was in when I wrote the poem and the feeling I hoped to convey.