The latest in the Shoreline Voices series and Gunpowder’s first exclusively online publication, Big Enough for Words: Poems and Vintage Photographs from California’s Central Coast, co-edited by David Starkey, George Yatchisin and Chryss Yost, features poems responding to images from the Santa Barbara Public Library’s Edson Smith Collection. Designed by Yost, the website allows visitors to select an image then see the text of the poem and hear the poet reading it. Yatchisin sums up the rationale for the anthology as follows:
Big Enough for Words challenges the notion that archives are only for attics or libraries. Writers from Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo counties dove deep, sifting, considering, looking. For as Susan Sontag wrote in 1977 in her brilliant On Photography monograph, “Photographs, which cannot themselves explain anything, are inexhaustible invitations to deduction, speculation, and fantasy.” She forgot to add poetry.
The project began as a collaboration between David Starkey and Jace Turner of the Santa Barbara Public Library. Funded by John C. Woodward, Turner supervised the digitization of the Edson Smith Photograph Collection, which, according to the SBPL, “contains over 3100 early images of Santa Barbara County dating from the 1870s-1950s, many of which were collected by Santa Barbara native, and long-time resident, Edson A. Smith (1877-1947). The photographs capture historic buildings, adobes, houses, views of State Street, cultural landmarks, local dignitaries, and many events including early Fiesta parades, the arrival of the first Southern Pacific train in Santa Barbara in 1887, and the Santa Barbara Earthquake on June 29, 1925.” When Starkey saw the collection, he suggested a reading by local poets, who would recite their poems with an enormous image of their chosen photograph projected behind them in the Library’s Faulkner Gallery. “14 Poet, 14 Photos: Poems Inspired by the Edson Smith Collection” took place on February 16, 2019.
Inspired by the original event, an additional 17 poets from Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties responded to an open call for poems, and Big Enough for Words was born. The online anthology allows readers to connect directly from the poems to high-resolution versions of the original photos that inspired them.
Featured poets in the online anthology include: Ronald A. Alexander • Gudrun Bortman • Laure-Anne Bosselaar • Steve Braff • M. L. Brown • Christopher Buckley • Susan Chiavelli • Fran Davis • Marsha de la O • Mary Freericks • Friday Gretchen • Linda Holland • Ibrahim Ibn Salma • Perie Longo • Delia Moon • Christine Penko • Briana Peterson • Peg Quinn • Diana Raab • Barbara Reed • Fernando Albert Salinas • David Starkey • Lani Steele • Patti Sullivan • Phil Taggart • Rick Thomas • Emma Trelles • Jace Turner • Paul Willis • George Yatchisin • Chryss Yost