Livres 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 books 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 artists 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), Ive 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.
Livres de poètes is a term coined by El幯a Rivera, after Livres dartistes, to describe the work of poets whose poetics include the materiality of making books.
Dale Going firstname.lastname@example.org . 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
Emily McVarish email@example.com
Jaime Robles firstname.lastname@example.org
Meredith Stricker email@example.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.