Chloe Zelkha describes her father’s death as a “sudden, heartbreaking shock.” Within months, she’d printed out a collection of poems she found in books or discovered through teachers and grieving groups, then spread them out on her kitchen table. There, the Berkeley-based Zelkha began painting onto the pages, cranking out one after another in succession, without drafting or revising. As she found more poems, she created more pages. The result was Grief Poems, a 26-page exercise in letting go.
Zelkha’s introduction to zines was Project NIA’s The Prison Industrial Complex Is… (2010–11), a straightforward explainer zine with minimal text and simple black-and-white illustrations. She sees zines are an inherently raw medium. “That permission that’s kind of baked into the form,” she said, “is liberating.”
Poems by everyone from Kobayashi Issa to W.S. Merwin are coated in Zelkha’s uninhibited brushstrokes. She compared her process with child’s play or dreaming: “If you watch a kid play on their own for long enough, you’ll see lots of fears, feelings, ideas eeking their way into their game, and then transforming in real time. Or when we dream, and different people, places, concerns visit us in weird ways.”