Poetry magazine recently exchanged e-mails with January cover artist Genevieve Simms, about her work. She says,

Illustration from its beginnings has always been tied to a text. I find with my personal work I am often interested in finding ways to use illustration in place of text entirely. For example, I may have forgotten the words to a song that my grandmother used to sing to me, but I can still try to tell it in pictures since I can remember the gist of it. The attached images are some pieces where I look for new ways to relate words.

Per request, she kindly wrote a little text about each image (meant to replace text).


This image is part of a series from a free-form narrative project done with a friend and fellow illustrator Byron Eggenschwiler. The idea here was that one person would do a drawing, show the other person, then over the next week the other person would do a drawing in response to the first, and so on.

Though this one does have some words on it, the idea is that it becomes its own little story unto itself. What is so interesting to me about this particular way of working collaboratively, is that each person ends up with drawings that are unmistakably their own, yet there is still a loosely woven narrative tying both sets together. The story is also something that remains mysterious to the two makers, a process I would maybe compare to using a Ouija board. The resulting imagery serves as a strange and otherworldly window of communication.



This set of drawings makes an effort to map out a folk song in Russian that my grandmother would sing to me when I was a small child. My understanding of Russian is pretty weak, and my grandmother has passed on. The song is still a favorite, even though the words, sounds, and exact meanings are lost on me. What I do have left is an overall impression of the song, which I try to slowly map out through drawing. I use the word “map” because I feel like I am taking a central point, or origin, in the form of a single image or scene that I think I remember as true to the song, and then try to retrace my steps around that using memory as a guide.



IBS Magazine (International Beauty Saloon Magazine) is an ongoing experimental book project. Each issue attempts to link a wide range of exploratory images and writing loosely based around a central theme. These two images were created for the issue themed on the word “space.” The images work as an exercise in word/image relationships. I remember from a young age having strong visual imagery associated with certain words, and attempt to articulate some of that here.

Originally Published: January 19th, 2011