Friday, April 16, 2010

Project Books


You'll have to excuse my tendency to jump from project to project at the moment. Jack tells me that it's a perfectly normal post-thesis condition. I'm surrounded by half-finished sewing and model projects, essay and story jottings, exhibition plans and incomplete Pania Press editions. Never mind - I figure that if I chip away at them all, eventually I'll manage to finish something.
One of our 2010 book projects is a collaborative translation exercise between Jack, Emma Smith and myself. Jack is busily translating selected poems by Paul Celan as well as letters he wrote to his wife. Emma has produced an exquisite portfolio of drawings inspired by Celan's poetry and I'm attempting to translate Emma's drawings back into words.
Yesterday I decided to make a Celan project journal to record the process. As Jack completes each poem for the book, I'll be pasting them into the journal with collage elements, so that at the end we'll have a nice archival record of how the book took shape.
The idea for the project book was inspired by Anne Carson's latest publication Nox, which is a facsimile of a hand made book she put together ten years ago after learning that her estranged brother Michael had died.


It is an amazing object, constructed as a loose leaf concertina book that comes packaged in a beautiful box, which functions as a kind of memory box - a repository for Carson's fragmentary recorded history of her brother's life and death. The etymology of particular words have been roughly pasted into the book alongside torn pieces of letters, grainy family snapshots, anecdotes about Michael, drawings, and heavily scored words and phrases such as 'WHO WERE YOU' that leave an imprint on the following pages.


In anyone else's hands a book like this might seem a bit naff, but Anne Carson's supreme gift as a writer is her ability to find just the right vehicle of expression. In this case, a sister's sense of loss, anger, regret and incomprehension is inscribed on every page and in every entry of this heartbreaking epitaph for Michael.

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