"I think of them as propaganda for poets"

Tomorrow night at Core Gallery from 6 to 9 pm, Expedition Press founder Myrna Keliher will debut On Edge, a month-long show of her series of Broken Broadsides prints.

Over the phone, Keliher explains the project: you take the concept of a broadside (which she describes as "a poster of a poem") and focus it, centering the work on "a few lines broken out and then reframed in a different context." Keliher asks a poet for new work, and then she works in collaboration with the poet, selecting lines and emphasizing words through size and arrangement in "a graphic interpretation of my reading."

These Broken Broadsides aren't intended to be elite collectibles. Keliher wants them to be mass market, affordable, and accessible - "stick it on the fridge," she laughs. "It's all open edition. They're not meant to be very special." Why is that important to her? "I think of them as propaganda for poets," she says, "like breadcrumbs to hopefully get people down a trail of discovery and start reading."

The list of poets who'll be represented at On Edge is impressive: Cedar Sigo, Natalie Diaz, Jane Wong, Shin Yu Pai, Amber Flame, Erin Malone, Elaina Ellis, Leanne Dunic, Tom Gilroy, Lena Khalaf Tuffaha, and Holly Wren Spaulding. Keliher's role in the Broken Broadsides process is an interesting one: she's at once an editor and a graphic designer.

Since she recontextualizes the work, emphasizing different words through graphic design, Keliher is at once supporting the writer and collaborating with them. She says she's still struggling to come to terms with the way the Broken Broadsides changes the poems through their interpretation. "I just got feedback from an author yesterday, saying, 'you just helped me see the poem in a totally different way - in a new way.'"

Keliher still thinks of the process as an active kind of reading. "The lines that I select are, really simply, just the lines that I can't forget - the lines I'd get stuck in my head." From the selection process, she has to then find a way to make those lines work on their own. "I think a lot about stripping away context and I think about surface area and access to lines and entry points in" to the work.

"When I started the project, it felt very radical," Keliher says. "In the literary world and as an editor, it's not something you ever are allowed to do, especially in poetry: you don't change the line break, or make words bigger, or omit lines in between." But even though the poets' response to the Broken Broadsides program has been overwhelmingly positive, "it's still very uncomfortable every time I send one [to a poet for the first time] because it's a major act of trust that they're giving me."

Keliher will be at the opening at Core tomorrow night from 6 to 9, and some of the poets will be in attendance, too. On April 25th at 7 pm at Core, many of the poets whose work was featured in the show will read the complete poems that Keliher excerpted from in an event that should make clear how much collaboration goes into each Broken Broadside.