Dale GoingLivres de Poètes: Six poets talk about the books they make

by Dale Going




The artisan production of handmade books has its limitations and its allures for the poet. Compared to the potential for readership via the web or a trade book, audience is minimal. These books are made as unique objects or small editions, often regarded and valued as art objects over text, displayed in exhibition cases where typically they are opened to a single spread illustrating the graphic qualities of the book at the expense of what is, for the poet, a book’s primary activity: it is meant to be read. The diminished scale of readership is perhaps not too great a regret for the poet, whose realistic expectations in the realm of audience are not so large to begin with as those of artists in some other media. And since reading is a solo sport, the quality of the experience for the audience is in no way diminished by the size of the edition.

In fact, the quality of the reading experience can be hugely enhanced by the visual, textural articulation of the handmade book itself, by its materiality. In an artist’s book, the elements that make up a book – the papers, structure, typography, illustrations, binding, etc. – are a part of the poetics. The reading possibilities are multiplied.

The San Francisco Bay Area is a center of experimental practice for both poetry and book arts. In co-curating, with Jaime Robles, an exhibition in June 2000 at the Berkeley Arts Center called Livres de poètes (femme), I’ve had the pleasure of reading, handling, looking at – experiencing – about a hundred such handmade books by poet/book artists whose work balances on the textual/visual cusp. I talked with six artists whose work covers a range of methods, techniques, and intentions. I wanted to know why they had come to be so attracted by the materiality of books and how they worked with the interplay of text and image, the two – dimensionality of the page and the three-dimensionality of the book object, the various kinds of composition and construction involved in making poems and making books.

Interviews with:
Lisa Kokin | Emily McVarish | Denise Newman | Eléna Rivera | Jaime Robles | Meredith Stricker



Livres de poètes is a term coined by El幯a Rivera, after Livres d’artistes, to describe the work of poets whose poetics include the materiality of making books.


Dale Going dalegoing@aol.com . Her work can be found online at http://sanfrancisco.citysearch.com/E/F/SFOCA/0000/12/66/ and at http://www.kelseyst.com/view.htm

Lisa Kokin  lkokin@aol.com, is represented by Catharine Clark Gallery, http://www.cclarkgallery.com

Emily McVarish 105617.2755@compuserve.com

Denise Newman denisenewman@juno.com .  Her work can be found online at and at  http://www.apogeepress.com/HumanForest.html

El幯a Rivera erivera1@idtnet. Her work can be found online at http://www.kelseyst.com/unknown.htm

Jaime Robles  jrobles@best.com

Meredith Stricker  wavestudio@redshift.com

The Book Arts Web http://www.philobiblon.com . Book arts list, gallery, great links to organizations, centers, education, supplies, publications, book artists and press pages.


BIO Dale Going is a poet and book artist living in Mill Valley, California. As the proprietor of Em Press, she prints letterpress editions of poetry by innovative women writers. Her first play, Out of the Q, a collaged comedy about the book, recently premiered at the Berkeley Arts Center.


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