Sunt Lacrimae Rerum
Paper and acrylic box. 3″x3″x3″. Edition of 13 (2013).
3” x 3” x 3”
Paper and acrylic box
Created for “An Inventory of Al-Mutanabbi Street” in homage to and in mourning for the street of booksellers, this book takes its title from Aeneas’s words of sorrow uttered before a Carthaginian mural depicting the Trojan War. Tragedy must be brought home to us, but how can we relay the depths of loss—a very idea predicated on absence? This reliquary is part lachrymatory: it contains a book whose text of tears is designed to tear away at itself each time the book is displayed. Pleated into an accordion, it plays the elegy for its own effacement as, gradually, the cut-out letters catch on one another, pulling themselves up and off the page until they may fall away entirely. Not only is the book’s texture designed to transform, its text does as well: page by page, one letter of the phrase changes at each turn. Although “these are the tears of things,” over time we might enter a space “where all the tears embraced.”
Between Page and Screen
An augmented reality chapbook.
Hand-bound and letterpress-printed in an edition of 12 by the author (2010).
Trade edition issued by Siglio Press (April 2012).
This “digital pop-up book,” programmed by Brad Bouse, integrates the artist’s book and e-poetry traditions to examine the conventions by which we know an object as a book. The pages of the book contain no text, only square markers that, when displayed before the reader’s webcam, activate a series of animations mapped to the surface of the page. Because the animations move with the book, they appear to inhabit “real” three-dimensional space. However, the resulting poems do not exist on either page or screen, but rather in an augmented reality where the user sees herself holding, and interacting with, the text.
You can download a sample marker and see a video at www.betweenpageandscreen.com.
Between Page and Screen has been exhibited widely, most recently at the Currents New Media Festival in Santa Fe, NM. A full exhibition history and list of upcoming events can be found at the website.
A collaboration with Kate Durbin, Ian Hatcher, and Zach Kleyn (Forthcoming).
The recipient of an Expanded Artists’ Books Grant from the Center for Book and Paper Arts at Columbia College Chicago, Abra is an exploration and celebration of the potentials of the book in the 21st century. A five-pronged collaboration between two poets, one visual artist, one iOS artist-developer, and a potentially infinite number of readers, the project has two main manifestations: an artist’s book and an interactive iPad app edition.
Abra plays with the notion of the “illuminated” manuscript in both its physical form and on the digital screen. In the artist’s book, with poems co-written by Amaranth Borsuk and Kate Durbin, and with morphing images by Zach Kleyn on facing pages, text and image grow and mutate as the reader turns the pages (like a flipbook), blurring the boundary between text and illumination, marginalia and body. The poems themselves are in flux, coalescing and dispersing from one page to the next in an ecstatic helix of language. They continually conjoin and separate, switching roles as one poem appears in the margins and interstices of the next, taking turns “illuminating” one another. The texts of the poems play with the mutation of language, both by forming new words from the old and conjoining phrases, and also through references to fecundity as it manifests in the natural world, the body, human history, popular culture, decorative arts, and ornate architecture, revealing the mutating evolution and continuous overlap of all these spheres as a direct connection to the constantly-changing technology of the book.
The artist’s book version of Abra, which will be constructed in collaboration with the Center for Book and Paper Arts, will revel in its materiality, treating the book as a hallowed and valued object of showy excess by referencing gem-adorned medieval books in its design. Yet the interior will reference the ephemeral quality of the text itself, using translucent pages to allow the reader to see the poems recombining as pages are layered one atop the next. Thus the digital life of the book will make itself manifest even in this physical form: there is a linear path through this book, yet no authoritative reading.
The digital iPad version of Abra, developed by intermedia artist Ian Hatcher, will extend and revel in this ephemerality, putting special emphasis on interactivity to highlight the role of the reader. The conjoining and de-coupling activity of the poems will be animated in the app, allowing the texts to spring to life. Yet, with a swipe of his or her finger, the reader will be able to join in the collaboration and create new works from the old. Swirling the helix of language, each reader can mutate the text further, creating new juxtapositions and surprising turns of phrase. Their new texts, shareable in the app and online, will also provide scores for potential future performances of the work. In this way, text and concept are interlinked: Abra functions much like the magic word of its origin–abracabra–as an unpredictable living text.
Selections from Abra can be found online in Joyland Poetry, SPECS, Delirious Hem (click author photo for audio) and Action Yes. Additional poems are in Black Warrior Review issue 27.1, The Degeneration Issue.
Translations and Transversions of Twenty-One Minus One Programmed Poems. In Collaboration with Gabriela Jauregui.
In 1979, Paul Braffort, a founding member of the OuLiPo, published Mes hypertropes: Vingt-et-un moins un poèmes à programme as an homage to the other writers who were members of the Workshop for Potential Literature at the time.
The sequence of twenty interlinked “programmed poems” operates according to Zeckendorf’s theorem that any number can be expressed as the sum of two or more Fibonacci numbers. Part of the content in each poem is thus “programmed” by the poems containing those Fibonacci numbers that can be added to make it (for instance, the 20th poem contains phrases that appeared in 13, 5, and 2, which together add up to 20). Despite this heady constraint, the poems are filled with the joie de vivre, word play, and bawdy wit that characterize Braffort’s writing and music (he is also a well-known cabaret singer and has released several albums of French songs).
With Braffort’s approval, we have taken a twofold approach to this work, providing direct English translations alongside collaborative poems of our own—”transversions” that intersect with, re-create, and occasionally subvert, his constraint-based polyglot poems.
Poems from this manuscript have appeared or are forthcoming in The Drunken Boat, Aufgabe, Drunken Boat, New American Writing and Lana Turner: A Journal of Poetry and Opinion. The manuscript (101 pages with translators’ notes) is available and includes unpublished collages and drawings by Braffort to accompany the poems.
Al-Mutanabbi Street Broadside Project; “Outside Santa Fe”
Letterpress-printed in an edition of 50 with hand-stitching by Amy Bouse (2009).
The Mutanabbi Street Broadside Project was started by San Francisco poet and letterpress printer Beau Beausoleil in response to the tragic bombing of that street, named for 10th-century poet Al-Mutanabbi, in 2007. A hub of artistic and intellectual activity in Baghdad, Al-Mutanabbi street is home to booksellers and cafes—a true literary community. The bomb killed 30 people and wounded at least 100 more, at the same time damaging countless works of literature and targeting an area known for the exchange of ideas.
In collaboration with visual artist Amy Bouse and California Poet Laureate Carol Muske-Dukes, I contributed a broadside for Muske-Dukes’s poem “Outside Santa Fe.” You can view the Jaffe Center’s archive of the work, including artists’ statements, here. It was letterpress-printed in an edition of 50 on Somerset paper using photopolymer plates on a Vandercook Proof Press at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles.
Amy Bouse, a painter and fiber artist based in LA, provided vibrant stitchings on the surface of each broadside that reference the art of bookbinding and the way it binds together languages, and, by extension, peoples. Each stitching has a life of its own–-suggesting in some cases a disobedient streak, a flash of lightning illuminating the storm, or an explosion, to name just a few possibilities. Because they are hand-made, each broadside is different, and thus bears the markings of an individual hand and mind at work on the page.
For young women with questions
Pastel, ink, and mixed media. Hand-bound in an edition of 1 (2005).
This altered book project, inspired by Tom Phillips’ Humument and with a mind toward Raymond Williams’ keywords, traces terms and patterns in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Anthony Trollope’s The Duke’s Children. These sources yield three tales surrounding young women’s self-discovery.