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What We’re Reading: Broadsides, Part 1

2012 March 15

What We're Reading
(“Hide” by Opal McCarthy. Printed by Rory Sparks at Em Space Book Arts Center on Rives BFK. 11 x 15. Limited edition of 40.)

I’ve been on a letterpress binge lately. Blame it on the wonderful excesses of AWP, and all the letterpress books, magazines, and other goodies I discovered there.

Add to that list all the BEAUTIFUL broadsides I happened upon. After seeing so many intriguing broadsides, I became even more interested in reading these broadsides as their own stand-alone piece of literature, and thought to myself, hey, that would make a great WWR series. And so, What We’re Reading: Broadsides was born.

Broadside, Part 1 features this gorgeous letterpress broadside of “Hide,” a poem by Opal McCarthy, which was published originally in the online journal Midway Journal (with whom we were lucky enough to share our AWP book fair table). The poem has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

Since I’ve had the opportunity to meet the delightful poetess, I got the chance to ask her a few questions about the piece. She let me in on the fact that the first line comes from the novel We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, which I did not catch, as I have not read the novel. (Have any of you? If so, I’m interested to hear what you think of the use of this line as a launching point.)

After reading that book, “I was thinking about girls and secrets and fences, about being a girl, about the spaces we create inside, what are we keeping out or in?” says Opal. This poem unearths those spaces where children hide their secrets.

What I love most about this poem is that every line makes me feel as though I’m taking a quiet, secret, juicy bite out of those peaches the mother in the poem was peeling. The language here is sweet and sticky, uncovering all the hidden moments of children. I also appreciate how each word is absolutely essential to the poem. It’s a tantalizingly sweet thing, this language; we only get these few lines, so we best savor it. The formatting is refreshing, as well, and fits naturally with the tone of the poem, moving our eyes across the page into these quiet moments of hiding.

Some of my favorite lines: “rock shawled in green” and “slid the closet door / licked the husk sweet.”

Finally, the letterpress work itself is beautiful. The imagery on the broadside is minimalist, but adds depth (not unlike the language it is paired with). Having seen this beauty up close, I was able to appreciate the skill of the printer, Rory Sparks. All in all, this is a beautiful piece of art, combining auditory, visual, and tactile senses both in the print itself, and the words on the page.

Do you have a broadside in mind that you just can’t shake? Share it with us! Or, is there a poet or writer who does not have a broadside, which you find to be an absolute crime?


*Folks interested in purchasing this beauty should email Meryl DePasquale at

**Interested writers: Midway is currently hosting what sounds like an irresistible contest, themed Monstrosities of the Midway (any genre welcome). Need some more encouragement? How about $1,000 prize for the winner? Yep, that’s what I thought.


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