The Sweat Broadsides at Miami Book Fair: "Like a Mini-Concert, but With Poem-Songs"

Michael Hettich and Laura Tan's 2012 collaboration.
Michael Hettich and Laura Tan's 2012 collaboration.

The Sweat Broadside project has been going strong since "a sweltering evening in 2009, a group of visual artists and writers met at Sweat Records in Miami to share their work and talk about ways they might work together." Showing the tangibility of modern poetics, writers and visual artists have been creating one-of-a-kind pieces in collaboration and this year's group includes Emma Trelles, Nick Vagnoni, Michael Hettich, John Dufresne, C.M. Clark, Annik Adey-Babinski, Liz Atlan, Sara Stites, Lynne Barrett, Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bella, Jessica Machado, Yaddyra Peralta, Catherine Prescott, Jen Karetnick and Cathleen Chambless.

This group is an accurate representation of the state of letters in South Florida. Award-winning poets Trelles and Barrett, along with Vagnoni, Peralta and Machado, have been products of Florida International University's superb creative writing department. Dufresne has enjoyed success as a novelist and Hettich has become known as one of Miami's hardest working poets with numerous collections and chapbooks under his belt. For this year's celebration of completing the broadside project, the poets will be reading from their work and giving away some print media at The Swamp, part of Miami Book Fair International.

See also: The Ten Best Things to Do at Miami Book Fair International

Yaddyra Peralta and Beatriz Monteavaro's 2012 collaboration.
Yaddyra Peralta and Beatriz Monteavaro's 2012 collaboration.

Broadsides are, according to Trelles, "an especially intimate and visual artifact. The best poems possess this personal quality, where you're sharing some kind of conversation with the poet and it feels as if you're both sitting at a table, or perhaps are on the phone, and it's late and there's only one or two small lamps glowing in a quiet room. Broadsheets offer this same type of one-on-one with a reader, only now there's also this tangible visual component added to the mix. The artist's illustration can widen the poem's meaning, or even spin it into a whole new realm. A broadside is art responding to art -- that's a dialogue I'm interested in joining."

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Trelles, a not-so-recent transplant to California, was number 20 on Cultist's 2011 "100 Creatives" listing and aside from writing, was a member of South Florida's music community with the short-lived, but well-received indie rock trio Secret P.E. Club. Noting the bond between herself and music along with the creation of art at a record store, she notes "This reading is a smart way to sample a lot of different poets in a short amount of time and also get a feel for some of the literary and visual talents in this town. I'm thinking of it as a great comp record -- one that brings together your favorite tracks but also folds in some yet-to-be discovered gems. I guess that also makes the Sweat Broadsides event like a mini-concert, but with poem-songs and some really cool album art."

Though she wasn't available locally for her collaboration, the easy nature of this project and its ability to build camaraderie across the disciplines is one of the better signs of Miami's thriving arts and literary communities. Further boosted by range of experience on both sides of the table is also indicative of the type of support and grassroots mentality that can be forgotten amid the schmaltz and glitz of this town. And that it has all come together in the haven of Miami's premier independent record store -- well, that's just the cherry on top, isn't it?

Florida Atlantic University maintains a digital archive of select past works from the Sweat Broadside project and you can access it here.

The Sweat Broadside Project II: Readings and Limited Edition Broadside Giveaway - Contributors to the second edition of the Sweat Broadside Collaboration read from their work. Hosted by poet/educator Michael Hettich at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, November 22, at The Swamp, 300 NE Second Ave., Miami, (Southeast corner of NE Third Street and Second Avenue). Call 305-237-3258 or visit miamibookfair.com.

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