What book?

Flags unfurling their pages

What book waits for me?

One of the best experiences I ever had with book making was a weekend in the late 1980s in Santa Fe, New Mexico, led by Hedi Kyle, who at the time was book conservator at the Franklin Mint in Philadelphia. I had begun Chax Press a few years earlier, and had co-directed Black Mesa Press before that, but my training up to that point had been by Walter Hamady, or collaboratively with others initially trained by him, or just by trying this act, or that. Thankfully no one really told me I could “not” do certain things, so I didn’t have a lot of fear about what to try. But Hedi gave me more tools. Four entirely different styles of Asian book making, as well as a box to hold sample books in. And, most importantly for one of my favorite Chax Press books ever, a book she called a “flag book,” and whose structure depends on a spine piece folded into many thin panels, the “content” (in truth, the whole of the book, i.e. shape, color, texture, binding style, words, visuals, etc., make up the content) then carefully pasted onto those panels. In our model, the pages of the book were in three levels, top, center, and bottom of the book, and in alternating directions.

In the adaptation of this book form for Individuals (the book pictured at the top of this post), the Chax book based on it, the “pages” were all going the same direction, so that one might turn the panels of the spine as one might page through a fairly standard book, but one would notice the individuality of the poem panels, and of the unprinted black strips that separated them. In this way, each poem was like its source, an individual poem by Kit Robinson or Lyn Hejinian, in conversation with each other, the entire series of poems a more or less complete conversation. Thus the writing of the book, with some help by the great book binder Hedi Kyle, generated the form of the book, which is also a conversation with the poems in the book. Content is form is content.