An Invitation: Savor the Rising Words Poetry Broadside Exhibit

When I was a little girl, my mother remembered me carrying around little notebooks for my “pomes” and pictures, filling them with words and pencil drawings. Most have now gone missing. During college, I kept occasional journals filled with sketches and poems of longing and love, much of it unrequited. Most of these, embarrassingly, survive.  Then for decades, almost no poems or images found their way to paper as life and career took me in other directions. But I think they were only lying dormant, because when I needed them, they came back.
First after losing my father, when poetry helped me sort through the emotional storm and save the good memories. Then after losing a friend to cancer, when recounting our last time together in a poem brought comfort. Then after losing my mother, when the ground shifted and tiny poems helped keep me moored. Whenever grief came to my door, it brought poetry.
But slowly poems tagged along at other times as well, however clumsily. Little wisps of paper collected on my desk attempting to describe the beauty of leaves caught in ice, the tracks of a bear in winter, why woodpeckers seem so much hungrier at the bird feeder than chickadees. I’ve never studied poetry seriously, and know little about it from a literary perspective except what I’ve gleaned recently from 49 Writers workshops and sessions at the Kachemak Bay Writers Conference. So I have much to learn about craft, and volumes to read. I try to stand by the fire each morning and speak a few poems out loud, three times each. Many I don’t understand, but when one resonates – when I think I “get it” – it feels like a long deep breath.   
It was Christmas time several years ago when I was about to write our traditional letter to family and friends. It had been a good year – a great year in fact – and the letter I wrote gushed accordingly. Only after finalizing it and feeling a warm glow of pride in everything we had done did I realize that I’d written
one of those Christmas letters. The kind that subtly looks down its nose at all who receive it, asking “how could your year/family/children/achievements possibly be as wonderful as mine?” I sunk a bit, realizing this. All my life, we had joked about the families who sent us those letters, the ones to which we could never measure up. I put my letter aside. Maybe I could try writing a poem instead. Something that could share a joy of the season, something more like a gift. So I wrote a poem about walking around our neighborhood in new-fallen snow, and took a snowy photo to go with it. A new tradition was born, and I haven’t written a Christmas letter since.
Which is perhaps why I felt the thrill of possibilities when I attended the workshop on poetry broadsides at the 2013 Kachemak Bay Writer’s Conference. The presenter, an artist-poet, displayed a collection of poems printed deeply into beautiful, thick papers on a letterpress. Each was accompanied by an image, often in color and embossed also into the paper. The effect was subtle and lovely. A group of us gathered afterwards to page through the collection as if studying a medieval illuminated manuscript, whispering admiration as each new work of art was revealed.
To honor the power of poems and images together, 49 Writers and Great Harvest Bread Co. Anchorage are co-sponsoring Savor the Rising Words: A Poetry Broadside Invitational, an exhibit to commemorate National Poetry Month in April. The exhibit is open to anyone who is a member of 49 Writers or has ever taken a 49 Writers class. Any two-dimensional format will be accepted – whether photography, painting, printmaking, drawing, etc. You don’t have to use a letterpress! Submissions are due March 20, and you can click here for details and an entry form. You have nearly three weeks left to let the creativity flow and share your work, and I hope you will do so. Because poetry is a gift, any time of year.


Barbara Hood is a retired attorney, member of 49 Writers, and co-owner of Great Harvest Bread Co. in Anchorage.


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