Sunday, 22 October 2006

Women's books (&c)

Two weeks ago was the excellent Cambridge Experimental Women's Poetry festival, a project of, of which I attended two days. I reported to the ukpoetry list, and Elizabeth Treadwell kindly requested to post it on her blog, so please see her Secret Mint.
These are the books I came away with.

Emily Critchley, When I Say I Believe Women ... (Bad Press), 2006)
23 pp. A5 stapled. Cover art incl. col. ill. by Marianne Morris. Strong paratextual articulation of the page, with foot- and side notes, and columnar layouts. These features of the scholarly page (dating from before print), together with the caption title leading straight into the text, and some retained deletions, drive an exposition, the book has things to argue and work out with an intellectual passion.
Susana Gardner, To Stand to Sea (Tangent Press, 2006)
[3], xxxiv pp. 14 x 14 cm. stapled. Grey card cover with discreet glitters; title printed in gold, cover art by Elise Tomlinson. A small gorgeous book, numbered ed. of 100, but robust to be handled. Short sections of text looking variously like verse or prose or either, some Procrustean play with text width, no titles but grand Roman numerals like the Commandments on a church wall; i.e. a definitely visual approach to each piece (though a couple of recto-verso run-ons have not been avoided). As Thomas A. Clark has (I think) written, 'to learn to look at the sea is to learn to look', and part of Gardner's thematic here seems to be the experience in human relationship between what can be seen (or in some of her other words, gazed at, deciphered, spied) and the immense and sensate sea (which also 'sounds', in her emphasis on saying, telling, naming).
Carol Mirakove, Mediated (Factory School, 2006) (Heretical Texts series).
91 pp. 23 x 16.5 cm., perfect-bound paperback, shiny full-colour cover (design by the author).
This book shows you can transpose a good deal of the direct buzz of authorial typography into the materalities available to conventional trade book-making. Flicking through makes you want to read it, with its use of bold, oversize titles, varying type styles and densities, dispositions and ventilation of text (in a nice readable size); lots of numbers, abbreviations, punctuation, lists; and a section which by dint of overprinting a half-tone screen, pretty successfully reproduces a manuscript of mixed print and holograph. Well done the publisher. The work spits feathers, and they remain aloft.
Marianne Morris, A New Book From Barque Press, Which They Will Probably Not Print (Barque, 2006).
38 pp. A5 stapled. Col. cover image from a Jeff Wall photograph (contents page shows some poems reference Wall).
Great value this book: loads of words; some long lines run way too close to the edge (a good way). There are a few stanzaic arrangements, some use of indents and extra space within lines, but predominantly this poetry is typographically quite plain, just brilliant free verse lines, often of drastically differing lengths, that perform great readings for anyone willing to take them as such into voice. The copiousness is authentic.
Kaia Sand, Heart on a Tripod. [16] pp. 22 x 10 cm. stapled. Col. cover image by Jessica Berg Swanson.
Lotto. [32] pp. Roughly 10 x 10 cm. single stapled. Gold card cover (unique) and wax seal.
Both: numbered eds., of 100 and 33 respectively (Dusie, 2006.
Dusie chapbooks are as I understand it about enabling the author to make exactly the book they want, and in some cases they themselves manufacture it once its design has been realised by the publisher. Heart is a pleasingly tall thin book of widely spaced short lines, concerning (I think, at least in part) pace and rhythm and adaptation to physical limits in sport and life. Lotto, every copy of which has a different cover, also functions literally as a lottery ticket, with individual prizes (e.g. in my copy, a 10% discount on any other Dusie title). It also resembles a wallet (pocket-book), and I think concerns not only the small-scale state-endorsed gambling of popular lotteries but the relationship between finance and all the other probabilities that determine one's chances of a long, happy, healthy and prosperous life.