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 Nicelle Davis: The images in the folio create a juxtaposition between the natural world and what is man-made and offer a glimmer of hope where they intersect. I love the ending lines of “When I Wasn’t Vanishing,” which read, “the image of my living for a while.” Each of the poems in this folio seems to center on that notion—the gift of being planted in the natural world—of the brevity of our lives amongst all this beauty. Just sampling lines from all the poems, I can see how what connects us also erases in a “tidal flare,” a “tidal rhythm of biology,” and “all the tender, all the brutal—a river.” We are all blanketed in darkness and light—”harvesting echoes” and making art in homage to the world we are part of.
Artist Michele L’Heureux: For me, there’s a tension of trying to fit in that weaves through many of the poems—a perspective of being outside, other, different. I love all the references to nature throughout the works—animals, plants, rivers, wind—juxtaposed with a plastic toy horse.
What inspired you to bring your poem to Broadsided?
Poet Nicelle Davis: Broadsided is a dream come true—I love how it gives art and poetry a life of its own—how it allows it to travel the world freely. Broadsided has created some of the most meaningful relationships in my life. I love how art unites people. I feel like my art family found its home in Broadsided.
What drew you to create a visual response to this poem, in particular?
Artist Michele L’Heuruex: I had been creating work in my studio that incorporated cut paper leaf shapes, and when I read the poem, I looked up the Monstera plant and was reminded of the gorgeous and provocative shape of its leaves. I immediately began drawing and cutting them. I didn’t realize that some variegations are rare and highly sought-after, and I love how this fact is the underpinning for sinister and unsavory activity.
How did this poem come to be?
Poet Nicelle Davis: During quarantine, the price of house plants skyrocketed. I found it interesting how “life” became the new status symbol for many. I started researching the plant trade and found many similarities to human trafficking.
Beyond the “crimes” of the plant world was the social media frenzy that developed around house plants, there were so many Plant Influencers, plant channels, plant books. This need to own nature was a response to what seemed like “the end of the world.” All of this interested me. I even created a mock YouTube channel about “plants” that challenge our ideas of beauty and value: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7BLa6x9oittfg-Ljmau45Q
By the end of my research, I owned over 200 house plants. I asked poets to send me their questions about my new obsession, and that’s where the poem came from—obsession.
How did this image come to be?
Artist Michele L’Heureux: I drew the leaves in graphite on heavy tracing paper, using internet images as a reference, then painted the paper with gesso, and when it dried, drew into the leaves again before cutting them out. I glued them to black paper on which I drew the contours of other leaves in white. I drew the red tear shapes last to represent the ominous rainfall alluded to in the poem’s title.
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 Nicelle Davis: Based on my own obsession, I would guess Michele loves the shape of plants. I find plants to be sexy—maybe Michele does too.
Poet to Artist: How do you feel about plants? Do you think they are sexy?
Artist Michelle L’Heuruex: Plants are 100% sexy! Everything about them is sensuous: their curves, their smells, the feel of their petals and leaves in your hand, the sounds they make in the breeze or when rain falls on them, their breath. I am definitely turned on by plants!
Artist to Poet: What was the impetus for this poem? My mind went to a sensational pandemic news story, and I’m so curious where the idea germinated.
Poet Nicelle Davis: There is a podcast called Plant Crimes: https://www.plantcrimes.com/. This isn’t the only source of my obsession, but I find it interesting.
Have you ever written work that has been inspired by visual art?
Poet Nicelle Davis: Yes. I don’t think I ever write without some sort of visual as inspiration. To this day, my relationship with Cheryl Gross (an artist I met because of Broadsided in 2010) influences the bulk of what I write.
Describe your dream “Vectorization”—where, in your wildest dreams, would you most like to see this broadside posted in the world?
Poet Nicelle Davis: The dream is to be found—it doesn’t matter where or when. To be found is the miracle I’m working towards.
Artist Michele L’Heureux: I would like to see it posted in the window of the largest Monstera dealer’s plant store, wherever that may be.
If this Broadsided collaboration were a type of weather, what would it be?
Artist Michele L’Heureux: It’s dusk and the sky is dark grey and menacing with lightning off in the distance.
Poet Nicelle Davis: I agree with Michele, it is dusk—that time where the whole world is held by the same light and it’s hard to tell what is far from what is close.
Do you have a favorite, generative prompt for artists or writers you’d like to share?
Poet Nicelle Davis: I like for people to start with collage and write as if doing a translation of their collaged re-visions of the world.
Artist Michele L’Heureux: I like the idea of placing disparate things/words/experiences together to see what weird or unexpected ideas the combination might generate—such as ballet & rotting fruit or elephants & chewing gum.
Read any good books lately?
Poet Nicelle Davis: Oh boy, big question—there are always so many good books. I just had a new book (The Language of Fractions) come out with Mood Tide Press. Many of my favorite LA poets also had books come out from the same press. I love this feeling of print-family. I would recommend: Now You Are a Missing Person by Susan Hayden, Maze Mouth by Brian Sonia-Wallace, and Another Way of Loving Death by Jeremy Ra.
Artist Michele L’Heureux: I am rereading Pema Chödrön’s The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times, a book I go back to again and again. I’m also finishing up Good Faith by Jane Smiley, which had a slow ramp-up for me but has become more compelling as I read.
Seen any good art lately?
Poet Nicelle Davis: Yes! Sommer Roman, Laurie Shapiro, Jenn Shifflet—just to name a few. Please go look at their work; it is magic and will make you love life a little more.
Artist Michele L’Heureux: Aghavan Khosravi’s exhibition, Black Rain, at the Rose Art Museum is very provocative and juicy. I was not familiar with her work but was so drawn in by the color, imagery, storytelling, and inventive use of materials.
Poet Nicelle Davis: I was a little slow with my responses, and so had the privilege of seeing Michele’s responses before writing my own. First, I’m so grateful for Michele and the amount of time and attention given to the poem. Also, I love how we gain understanding from visuals, we gain questions from language. I’m forever grateful for Broadsided for merging the two.
Artist Michele L’Heureux: This was one of a few poems for which I’ve created artwork where I’m still not 100% sure of what’s going on in the poem even after I’ve spent so much time with it and responded to it visually. There’s so much packed into this short work, and I remained curious and confused and enthralled all at once.