According to Keith Houston, “the last thing the reader saw was the “colophon”, a single page at the back of the book named after the Greek word for “summit”, or “finishing touch.”*
Still quoting Houston: “The colophon was a place for the printer to record the details of the book’s manufacture–the name of its firm; its coat of arms, perhaps; and the place and date of its production.”
The attentive reader will notice that I got carried away. Under the influence of a Walter Hamady retrospective at The Center for Book Arts–plus a generous helping of the social and emotional conditions under which we are finding ourselves, I vented.
And I vented, and vented and vented, as if after all that was said and done, there was yet much steam gathered under the valve.
And yet–yet again, after so much has been said and done, there is something else I want to share: the very attentive reader might have noticed that I harbor a romantic hope in between those lines. That one of my impulses for splurging so bad comes from wanting to expose a certain hierarchy of labor in the making of works of art. That creating and crafting for me are one contiguous act, that honing these skills have made me an artist, and that by being an artist I am honing my skills.
And that one is no lesser than the other. And that I am grateful for it, and that I am grateful for you to have noticed it, too.
*source: a book called The Book, by Keith Houston. 2016, published by Norton.
This is the typical reaction when I talk to old friends about the new book:
What is the book about, they ask.
Immigration, I say.
SHE IS FINALLY GETTING POLITICAL, they say (rather, they shout.)
Variations of this are happening so often, but so often, that I am led to believe I should have grown out of poetic abstraction sooner. Thanks, Trump! We are growing stronger, more cohesive, more compassionate, more aware, and much more courageous, in a relatively short period of time. Cheers. Here is to Gratitude, for All The Negativity that is coming out of the closet: twice after the election (but not once before), people who act as if life owed them some sort of prestige threatened to use my immigration status as leverage in favor of their – their honor, I guess? Their starved sense of superiority? I can only guess. Walt Whitman comes to mind:
Were mankind murderous or jealous upon you my brother or my sister?
I am sorry for you… they are not murderous or jealous upon me;
All has been gentle with me… I keep no account with lamentation;
What have I to do with lamentation?
What have I to do with lamentation? True, my stomach turned a few weeks acidic around the inauguration, and after children were used as live ammunition I realized I shouldn’t read into my phone before I go to bed. And I surely feel ever less inclined to get out of town. But, other than that, it is getting to work. If political, then be it. If under the spotlight for being a) woman and b)born in an underdeveloped nation, then be it. In my way of making books by hand, stuff of life makes a fine content.
As such, this new book grows from the core outward, the core being an
essay – Citizen, my first-person narrative about the concussion of an
undocumented alien, which my editor-friend Maureen Cummins generously
shaped into publishing material for her resistance journal Tinker Street
last year. Gravitating around it there are photogravures, passages from
my journals, letters from Celine Lombardi and Sarah Nicholls, text
messages from roommate Jessica Russ and, of course, from my mother, and,
if all angels of institutional licensing allow: snippets of Rebecca
Solnit precious prose; a line from the diaries of Joseph Cornell; a poem
by Emily Dickinson, in which she offered her being for Brazil.
I asked no other thing, No other was denied.
Why, it is after all My Take on Immigration: political-poetic, or maybe poetic-political, depending on How You Read It.