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“Highlights”

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Collaborators’ Q&A

What inspired you to bring your work to Broadsided?
Poet Lexi Pelle: I sent “Highlights” to Broadsided because it felt like such a visual piece. Although it is a narrative poem there is a lot of ambiguity. I wanted the objects in the poem to tell the story, not the actions of the people in it. This poem felt like I was responding ekphrastically to an image only I could feel/sense (I am not an artist) so the opportunity to let an artist create that image thrilled me. 

What drew you to create a visual response to this poem, in particular?
Artist Douglas Culhane:
I found the reference to children’s image recognition games compelling. The poem elicited the memories, and pleasures, of those activities.

How did this poem come to be?
Poet Lexi Pelle: I wrote this poem in line at the bank. I was bored and remember thinking “I wish adults were given activity books to help them pass the time.” That led me to thinking about those “Spot The Difference” images in Highlights magazine and that felt like a metaphor for sadness. The act of looking for what’s missing felt really poignant and a little disturbing. I am normally not a fast writer, but this poem came to me almost fully-formed. 

How did this image come to be?
Artist Douglas Culhane: Though trying to find images that are iconic and innocent. 

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 Lexi Pelle: I thought the artist would pick up on the “thingitude” as Tony Hoagland would say. I was very pleased that Douglas chose to paint some objects that aren’t actually in the poem. I loved that the image shows a birdhouse, but not a bird. Is the birdhouse representative of the house of the people in the poem? Is the tiny hole of its entrance symbolizing sadness or discomfort? The airplane feels like it could represent both distance and departure. The snake is chilling, but the knife, painted in such a lovely pinkish red is almost disturbing. The objects seem to float on the page, almost like toys in a bath. The space between each object and the fact that they don’t overlap is really striking. I love that the image makes me ask questions and that it almost feels like a visual representation of a question and the way it crib-mobiles truths in the mind. My poem feels more open-ended and alive after seeing this image.

Did anything shift for you or come into new light as you began working on your visual response?
Artist Douglas Culhane: I tinkered with color and light and dark in attempting to arrive at an image that would work with the text.

Poet to Artist: How did you decide on which objects/images to put in this piece, which of them felt like the most “essential” to your intention?
Artist Douglas Culhane:
That was tricky. The plane was there from the beginning, and the shoe. I wanted images that were essential and archetypal, so easily recognizable. I wanted to convey a sense of innocence and delight, but nothing sentimental (hence the snake). They also seemed like things that might have been in one of these Highlights games.

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 Lexi Pelle: These poems all have a relationship to imagery. They each use imagery, objects, and the act of looking to signify both a deep knowing and unknowing. From dissected cow eyes to words painted over, these poems respect mystery. I’d love to know if the poets made any unexpected connections to their work after seeing the art made for it.

Describe your ideal “Vectorization”—where, in your wildest dreams, would you most like to see this broadside posted in the world?
Poet Lexi Pelle: I’d love to see this poem in a waiting room in a city I’ve never heard of before.

If this Broadsided collaboration were a type of weather, what would it be?
Poet Lexi Pelle: That one beautifully hot day in March that makes it seem as if winter is over. 
Artist Douglas Culhane:
Mixed rain and sun, warm and cool. A spring day when the world begins to shift.

Do you have a favorite, generative prompt for artists or writers you’d like to share?
Poet Lexi Pelle: Start writing a narrative poem, halfway through ask a question.
Artist Douglas Culhane:
Stare at a blank page, run your hands across the surface to get a good sense of its texture and size. Then close your eyes when you are ready, open them and immediately begin making marks (parts of words or images).

Read any good books lately?
Poet Lexi Pelle: I recently reread Just Living by Susan Browne. It’s fantastic. I also really enjoyed Mayakovsky’s Revolver by Matthew Dickman and Laura Kasischke’s Where Now: New and Selected Poems
Artist Douglas Culhane:
Puppet by Kenneth Gross, Creature by Michael Dumanis, Berlin Childhood around 1900 by Walter Benjamin.

Seen any good art lately?
Poet Lexi Pelle: Yes! Noah Saterstrom’s La-Z Boy, 1983 is fantastic. I also have Cindy Sherman’s book on my writing desk at all times because her photographs never cease to inspire me.
Artist Douglas Culhane:
The Gerhardt Richter show in Berlin. All of the art at the amazing Zentrum Paul Klee

Anything else?
Poet Lexi Pelle: I am so grateful to Douglas for creating such an incredible piece of art and to Broadsided for enabling this collaboration.

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