BRINGING BACK THE BROADSIDE

This past weekend I was part of the audience at the National League of American PEN Women’s scholarships presentation. Surrounding the fifty members and guests was art in every form from framed paintings to Fortune Magazine covers (framed) to bibelots ensconced in painted chests and curio cabinets. No poetry on the walls, though, and I thought of the Markham House, which holds several broadsides donated by Patricia Machmiller. They are carefully framed.

On my entry wall is a broadside by Littoral Press. Robert Pesich won their second annual broadside competition, printed by hand, and was awarded fifty for his collection.

An Evening Commute

At home, in my garden, I hear
the giant crushers of the cement factory
begin their nocturnal roar.

A crimson spider, smaller than a dewdrop,
casts her towline from a flaming rose
to my face, almost as good as a leaf.

I watch her cross the chasm.
She wanders in my hair.
Her shimmering line bellows

holding me briefly to the blossom.

The poem is decorated by a “flaming rose.” Such a beautiful poem and just the right length for a broadside. You might want to look up the competition. They are announcing the fourth annual Poetry Prize now. Go to New(s) and Noteworthy under the Littoral Press website. August 15th is the deadline.

I have several broadsides. It’s time I had them framed. One from Robert Bly. A friend did the background sketch, and Robert was not pleased. The sketch dominated the paper, and the poem was a little bit lost. As is the broadside. I wonder what became of it.

A signed broadside by Sherod Santos, “The Dairy Cows of Maria Cristina Cortes”, has seven stanzas and measures nearly a foot and a half by a foot. Leafy vines draped on a fence illustrates the title. More broadsides: Joseph Stroud’s “Spring in the Santa Cruz Mountains with Li Po” from the Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival; Gary Snyder’s signed “Spilling the Wind” with a touch of small blue half-circles that could be clouds, could be wind, or could be the geese mentioned in his poem; and postscript by Seamus Heaney, who spent time talking with me about Ireland and County Cork and Midleton on the Youghal Road, where my ancestors lived. I myself have two of Heaney’s broadsides.

My visit to Copper Canyon Press after Naomi Clark died was a pilgrimage to her memory. Not only did I receive broadsides from Sam Hamill: “The Poet’s Heart” by Richard Jones and “The Art of Literary Translation” by Obaka-san the Pilgrim. He also gave me his translation of “Narrow Road to the Interior” by Matsuo Basho. It sits on my bedside table to this day.

One of the rituals that has gone out of fashion was the use of broadsides when a new publication was introduced. I have broadsides by Jean Emerson (“The Silent Women Who Raised Their Children Alone”) and Robert Pesich (“A Few Questions”). Lola Haskins, who graduated from Stanford with my walking partner, read at Capitola Book Café. I read with her. She had a broadside to pass out entitled “The Shoes”. I had none.

A custom that should be revived?

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