In 1980, eight years before the beloved, and now defunct-in-print Onion, was founded, Paul Fericano and Elio Ligi co-created Yossarian Universal News Service, a parody news site devoted to mussing Ronald Reagan’s carefully coifed politics, perpetrating literary hoaxes Charles Bukowski himself described as “ass boggling,” and refusing to recognize the emperor’s new clothes.
As if running end-patterns around political galumphers, windbags and wormtongues were not enough, Fericano also brought down Barabarella‘s ire by writing a satiric poem that touched a nerve in the California senate during the comparatively literate, pre-governator years. Fericano even took on the literati themselves, or those who purport to judge them, by inventing his own poetry prize, The Howitzer. In a twist of fate only Vonnegut himself could have penned, this award is currently listed among Fericano’s credits on the Poets & Writers website, the very venue he dreamed up the fake prize to hornswoggle.
In addition to Fericano’s tricksterish bent toward lampoon, he is also a poet with a deep appreciation for the work of other poets. Every year, hundreds of books, anthologies, journals, zines and blogs publish remarkable poetry that, because of the small marketing budgets of micropresses or narrow circulation, reach only a limited audience. Unwilling to see notable poems disappear so quickly from view, Fericano edits and publishes The Broadsider, an annual, limited collection of author-signed broadsides.
Volumes 1 and 2 of The Broadsider include some well-established names– Diane di Prima, Ted Kooser, Billy Collins, Robert Bly, and Wanda Coleman– along with emerging poets like Sara Larsen, Debbie Yee, Tom Stolmar, Angelica Jochim and leah angstman. Thematically, the work selected favors the meditative and pastoral. The following lines are representative:
“the sky’s summer lustre”
“the night wind hard in the open doorway of a boxcar”
“the orange half-light that comes between the evening and the day”
“that blue of certain hydrangeas”
“young men with light in their faces”
Though there are slightly toothier moments:
“Crone broth, swam broth, whatever doesn’t kill you”
“a sawed-off sinatra is a dangerous weapon at close range”
“you move the joystick in the direction of the spin”
“holy enor saxophone filling empty beercans with voodoo”
“crisp starches sagebrush narcs crawling campuses”
the poetry of melody forms the bulk of the collection, with few edgier or riskier offerings to pose a counter-note. Traditional free verse is also the rule in the 2009 and 2010 issues: maybe the 2011 volume will branch out to the thriving community of poets out there working in other modes.
The Broadsider is a unique offering: it rescues, distills, and redistributes. It is also a deeply personal gesture from both the editors and the poets involved. Unlike a mass-produced anthology (or the mass-produced thoughts Fericano elsewhere satirizes), it is an intimate, interactive collection created specifically for the pleasure of the reader.