What made you think of Broadsided for this poem?
Poet Alison Pelegrin: I’m lucky to have been Broadsided before and I submitted this poem for the same reason: I think a broadside is the perfect vehicle for a poem. It’s easily portable postable, printable–essentially free, which I love.
What inspires you in this poem? What drew you to it?
Artist Millian Pham Lien Giang: This poem captures the existential dread of my generation—of having to toil away at jobs that unnecessarily require years of experience and degrees in exchange for crappy wages. It also captures that angst of knowing you have so much potential, training, and ambition but those ideals are crushed by an oppressive system, which lead to a common desire to escape it through the simplicity of life as other beings, such as cats, squirrels, and even carrion eaters. On the surface, the toil for survival by these animals seems simpler, especially when you’re going through a rough patch. But even if you wish for a simple life, it’s not possible with the current systems in the United States. Just simply existing in everyday life requires money and proof that you are a contributing member of society through employment and bureaucratic hubris. There’s no such thing as a handout or roadkill in these systems, just lots of hoops to jump through.
Describe your dream “Vectorization”—where, in your wildest dreams, would you most like to see this broadside posted in the world?
Artist Millian Pham Lien Giang: It will be a dream come true because I will make this to be available for my solo show at Strata Gallery in Santa Fe, NM in April 2022. As part of the show, I plan to print this broadside and other ones I’ve completed with Broadsided Press for gallery visitors to take with them. The broadsides will be displayed nearby respective art that I made for each. The exhibition will showcase my other text-based embroidery, a floor installation, and these broadsides.
Poet Alison Pelegrin: It’s Mardi Gras season in south Louisiana and as you may know, carnival Krewes get very creative with their throws. I would be ecstatic if my broadside–any broadside, really–were folded up and tossed from a float during carnival.
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 Alison Pelegrin: I thought a spiderweb might factor in, and also a bit of gore. I love the beadwork and the house in the middle of the web, and the grid effect of the background of the image. However my favorite detail of Millian’s piece is the word refuge/refuse woven into the web. I love that so much–both the word and also the fact that needlearts make up an element of this artwork.
Did anything shift for you or come into new light as you began working on your visual response?
Artist Millian Pham Lien Giang: For this mixed media embroidery, REFUSE REFUGE, I wanted to portray that sense of working toward the American Dream but not being able to achieve it. I used motifs of home, eye, web, and a pointy object morphed into a path. For a hot minute when I first read the poem, I had a visceral response as I misinterpreted “the hummingbird’s polite sipping of the iris” as sipping an eye’s iris instead of a flower, but that stood out so strongly along with all other details in the poem that I decided to run with that chain of imagery.
Have you ever written work that has been inspired by visual art?
Poet Alison Pelegrin: My poem “Our Lady of the Flood” was inspired by Joe Raedel’s photograph of a couple walking beside a boat that holds a Virgin Mary statue after flooding in Louisiana. In poems I write about bad art more than anything–motivational saying sunset posters, and in my new book the poem “Walking on Water” is about a guardian angel/children crossing bridge painting that I hate.
If this Broadsided collaboration were a specific historic moment, what would it be?
Artist Millian Pham Lien Giang: The moment of now. We are in it with the so-called labor shortage, long-drawn discussions of minimum wage, lack of affordable housing, and rising cost of living across much of the United States. Our collective and individual mental health is tested through the pandemic and challenged further with collective and individual losses.
Poet Alison Pelegrin: The house/refuge in the center of Millian’s piece is something I see differently after nearly two years of staying home. I think that the collaboration has a strong connection to the current moment as restrictions are being lifted and we begin to step tentatively out into the world.
Do you have a favorite, generative prompt to inspire bold, amazing work?
Artist Millian Pham Lien Giang: Start small and expand. The simplest and smallest steps add up to a larger and different whole through the gestalt of collective action.
Poet Alison Pelegrin: I love to combine origami, forced randomness, and timed bursts of writing in my prompts. I recently used WOMBO AI-generated art as writing prompts for my students and they loved it.
Read any good books lately?
Artist Millian Pham Lien Giang: Between reading academic texts for my research, I’m having a great time reading feminist sci-fi with my friends. We’re currently reading the first book of Martha Well’s Murderbot series. We’ve also read works by Nalo Hopkinson, Octavia Butler, N.K. Jemisin, Ursula K. Le Guin, Akwaeke Emezi, and Suzanne Clarke. I highly recommend these authors for light reading.
Poet Alison Pelegrin: frank:sonnets by Diane Seuss, Another Lost Year by Victoria Chang (limited edition chapbook from Albion Books), What It Is by Lynda Barry, Shit Cassandra Saw by Gwen E. Kirby, Voyage of the Sable Venus by Robin Coste Lewis, To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara (in-progress), Sheila Heti’s recent serial publication in the New York Times (it’s alphabetized lines from decades of her journal).
Seen any good art lately?
Artist Millian Pham Lien Giang: My employer, Auburn University, just put up a show of faculty works across many of the art departments in the college. Our reception has been delayed but I can’t wait to see the great works of my colleagues. Usually it’s hard to see colleagues’ works because we work so closely to each other every day and are busy with teaching, but all of us are constantly producing content and works that sometimes doesn’t get seen until these special exhibitions. For those interested, the show is currently at the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Art and runs till July 31st, 2022.
Poet Alison Pelegrin: The Walter Anderson Museum is not far from my house and I have been a few times in the last several months. I love his notebook pages, doodles, art, and made things. The next time I visit I’m going to bring a broadside to see if they will let me post it somewhere.
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).
Poet Alison Pelegrin: I am so grateful to Broadsided for supporting my work and for building such a great resource over the years! I have used Broadsided to talk about gun violence in the classroom, to inspire a broadside gallery for my poetry students, and this year my students will be handing our Broadsided broadsides on Poem in Your Pocket Day.