Al-Mutanabbi
Street Broadsides
  Al-Mutanabbi Street Coalition project
––one of only ten in the world––

For Jamal Jamaa

 

Artist's Statement

This project came at a time when I needed an excuse to get back to letterpress. Taking time to raise children and help run our winery business has limited my time, but I found the scale of this project perfect to get me back where I wanted to be. My dismay at the politics of a country I want to be proud of helped to nudge me further when I read Kathy Walkup’s email inviting letterpress printers to participate in The Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here project. It is a small thing to print this broadside—not heroic, but safe; yet it makes me feel as if I am doing more than my usual mewing about the fact that we are at war.

I wanted the broadside to have a primitive sort of feel to it, since Saadi Yousef’s poem conveys one of the basic fears of mankind, the sense that no matter how buoyant you may feel, something is waiting to steal away that which is beautiful in life. Even though this poem was written in 1993, it is still a perfect metaphor for the Al-Mutanabbi Street bombing.

The Othello type has weight to it, and conveys a sense that the letters are marching across the page, inexorable. Each time I read the poem, an image of flowers (beautiful budding poetry) being crushed by a faceless monster came to my mind. I tried to find an image of flowers that would be native to Iraq, so I chose the Fox’s Grape (also known as Assyrian Frit, a kind of tulip). I hope these flowers do, in fact, grow there.