Of Paper, Lines, and Machines
A couple of days ago, I stopped by a local bookstore called Deep Vellum Books. I’d heard of it and been curious about it but had never made the time to visit. I’m so glad I finally did. The very first book I laid my eyes on, sitting right there in the window like a fresh apple strudel, was Witness, written by Robert Rient and translated from Polish by a friend of mine named Frank Garrett (who sometimes spills his guts out here). I could have simply picked up that one book and gone about my way, but, you know, books. And so I set out to explore this little space in one of Dallas’ most artistic neighborhoods. The woman who helped me out (I’m terrible with names) was very kind and asked about my interests. When I told her I was curious about the combination of art and text, she led me to a set of shelves with books of photography and essays, graphic art and poems. She placed a few of them into my hands and left me to enjoy them, but as I flipped through their pages something different caught my eye. On a lower shelf, I saw a little hand-bound chapbook and, picking it up, I discovered the treasures tucked inside. Poems, photographs, and lines. Glorious, magnificent, heavenly lines, some on heavy vellum, others on clear plastic, all machine-stitched over photographs in grays, combining reality with magic, adult and child, right and left, hard and soft.
When I made my way to the checkout counter, the woman told me that the author of the book, Lisa Huffaker, was the creator of this… thing. She pointed to an upright, strange and colorful contraption and told me it had once been a trading card machine but now was used for zines. Zines? Yeah, zines. Tiny, handmade artist’s books, a quarter apiece. Twelve different zines, the woman said, by twelve different artists, each focused on a different color. Such a brilliant idea! And even though I felt a bit guilty for doing so (because it seemed like such a steal), I purchased one of each. I had to see them all!
As soon as I got home, I used a bit of StickyOut and a nail file to open up the envelopes as gently as I could, and once they were all open I took them all to bed with me. Then, using a pair of tweezers, I coaxed each little book out of its skin, one by one, and savored them all. The three pictured below were my favorites.
The one on the left was the third one I opened and the first one I fell in love with. It is a work of art, man, with beautiful words and petals and feathers and women and musical notes. Even before reading the name I knew it had been made by Lisa Huffaker herself.
brown whose blind fingers
search in vain for braille
on the creamy magnolia, sepia
who thumbs the petals’ edges
like pages, and ages every book
The zine at the top, by Rebecca Landsdowne-Collins, was unexpected in every way, with layers of paper and words that made me stop in my tracks and reconsider my perception of the color pink:
Remember, all color is loss of
innocence, it is the brutal
dismantling of white.
Pink has emerged from this
Pink deserves your respect.
The Green one on the right is by A. Kendra Greene and I loved the clever way she folded up a whole entire essay into one little book, complete with its own paint chip cover and a wax crayon drawing on the back:
That first green buds high: a pinpoint canopy, a kind of star map, before even the ground cover can catch up, as if green were gathered from the air and not the soil, a hue both potential and kinetic–so intense–so willful and declamatory a green, a green I never knew existed–could exist–until I saw it unfold against a lattice of bare branch sky.
Sometimes you come across little things that make you happy to be alive.