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“Once Was”

Posted on • Words by • Art by

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Collaborators’ Q&A

What made you think of Broadsided for this poem?
Poet Adina Schoem: Early babyhood is this strange, ephemeral state of being, sometimes bewildering to behold. In some ways, a posted broadside is equally temporary, with potentially magical effects. So there’s some good symmetry.

What inspires you in this poem? What drew you to it?
Artist Åse Margrethe Hansen: Everything about the poem inspired me; the sun beating through the blinds, the shimmering child, the seriousness of it all, in the midst of light. It spoke to me, and I immediately felt that this drawing just could be “right” for it.

Describe your dream “Vectorization”—where, in your wildest dreams, would you most like to see this broadside posted in the world?
Artist Åse Margrethe Hansen: In Grytviken (South Georgia), amongst the penguins and seals of Antarctica! On the church door!!
Poet Adina Schoem: Anywhere near some bison in Yellowstone National Park. Holiday Inn Express breakfast buffet. Ice skating rink. A lactation consultant waiting room.

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 Adina Schoem: Åse got right to the heart of the matter, I think, by not creating something overtly whimsical or baby-centric. I didn’t expect this, but I like it. This poem is ultimately dealing not with the baby itself but with its caretaker’s various personal and existential reckonings. There is a striking two-partedness in the artwork that reflects really deftly some of the poem’s angst—who we are vs. who we might have been. Also, the colors are glorious and a little otherworldly, a little wistful, which is just right.

Did anything shift for you or come into new light once you saw the poem and art together on the page?
Artist Åse Margrethe Hansen: Yes!!  The art work is “bleak” and perhaps a bit chilly, but has a shimmering light around the edges. I see it more clearly now.

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 Adina Schoem: Heights Arts gallery in Cleveland Heights, Ohio puts on an amazing series called Ekphrastasy, where poets are invited to choose newly installed pieces to write about. Later, the poets come together with the visual artists to talk about their work in a public conversation/reading. It’s a creative dream world. I think any time I’ve gotten the chance to engage with a different form of art and its makers, I’ve been challenged and motivated (guilted?) by the endless talent all around to try more inventive, authentic work myself.

If this broadside were a type of weather, what would it be?
Poet Adina Schoem: There are weird, heavy clouds around, but a breeze is blowing. There are chimes.
Artist Åse Margrethe Hansen: Quiet. Winter. Frosty.

Read any good books lately?
Poet Adina Schoem: Gilead by Marilyn Robinson felt a lot like poetry. Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado. Love Dream with Television by Hannah Ensor. Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott. Over in the Meadow by Olive A. Wadsworth and Ezra Jack Keats, whether you’ve got babies around or not.
Artist Åse Margrethe Hansen: Have just started reading Olga Tokarczuk’s Flights—promising!

Seen any good art lately?
Poet Adina Schoem: University of Michigan Museum of Art’s Inuit prints.
Artist Åse Margrethe Hansen: Very little art lately, except my own. Three exhibitions this fall—busy!

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 Adina Schoem: It’s been a wonderful surprise to discover Åse’s beautiful body of artwork. I also loved the moment of getting to see the finished broadside myself—it was a bit like the surprise, interest, and delight that I imagine I might feel encountering someone else’s piece unexpectedly out in the world. Thank you, Broadsided, for this brilliant project.
Artist Åse Margrethe Hansen: Adina: I love your poem, and would truly like to read more of yours!!

Note:  This broadside and interview are included in the anthology, Broadsided Press: Fifteen Years of Poetic/Artistic Collaboration, 2005-2020 (Provincetown Arts Press, 2022).

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