midterm omnispection

So, i was talking to Martha last night, and she said something i can definitely attest to. It was something along the lines of: the first mockup we did doesn’t really count. The first mockup is really the first book we actually make.
I certainly have a runt of the litter; it took me like a book and a page to figure out the right “sewing” technique. I had planned, if time permitted, to resew the first one, but i decided against it. I like that there’s a visible process/progress with my books. I mean, it was a short process, but it’s there. I feel like that speaks to/with/at my enjoyment of sketches and paintings whose construction lines are still visible. These projects just don’t happen. And often times what does happen i feel needs to be earned, and i think my firstly constructed book does something for that (it reminds me where i started at).

Alrighty, now for the prompts.
My concept for the books didn’t really change during the process of making them (and all that entails). Though, i am glad i ditched the weird window things in favor of the hill line with windmills. That one shift made everything feel tighter, like removing a cool but essentially unrelated line in a poem.
I tried to pick colors that evoked the sense of coolness/freshness i get when reading Lee, especially Have You Prayed. I also didn’t want a whole lot of accoutrements where construction and content were concerned. The book needed plenty of space and minimalism.
So, since wind is the pervasive idea/image (for lack of a better word), i decided to stick with just the windmills. They also give a sense of concreteness to a poem that, despite being dotted with very specific physical images, is incredibly contemplative and kind of ethereal. I also really like that windmills act as a kind of physical stand in for the wind itself. I like the idea that since wind doesn’t really have a discernible image itself, we have to relate to it by means of some other image: leaves, clouds, rippling grasslands, windmills. The wind has physical manifestations. Keen.

My binding works towards the space and minimalism as well. Stab binding feels so austere to me. It’s simple, and there’s just enough of it. I think that idea/tendency worked itself unconsciously into my page sewing. On the front of the page, two horizontal lines of thread (one towards the head and one towards the tail); on the back, a thin square, which could be a frame, or could be the window i felt was implied in the poem that i really wanted to be in my book somewhere.
Coincidences/happy accidents like that make me kind of suspicious; how much of my creative process was actually informed/guided by that connection regardless of the fact that i didn’t realize it until i typed that little paragraph? I get the sense that my consciousness is not really privy to significant number of things i do. Or, in other words, i do a great deal of whatever it is i do for thinking and creating “behind the scenes”.

As far as challenging, i have never really sewed before. And, while i don’t think i really sewed this time around, it was a challenge 1) thinking about how exactly to affix the content onto the individual pages (which previously stated went through a short, but necessary, process) and 2) actually sewing the content and pages together. Though, i got into a rhythm after the third book or so; i could knock one out in about an hour and a half (or like two episodes of Castle…which i watched pretty much exclusively during the layout and construction of these books).
Honestly, the most difficult part was getting the goddamn thread into the eyelet of the needle. WHY DO THEY MAKE THOSE THINGS SO SMALL?!
-ahem- Anyway, i really enjoyed sewing. Or “sewing”. Or whatever. I felt like i had more control than when i glue. And, if i needed to change the position of the content (which i did a few times), i could just unstitch what i had stitched and poke new holes in the page (which, again, i did a few times). It felt like i had complete control over how to put the content into my book. Or, complete confidence, like when you’re walking on a log bridge while it’s still over one of the river banks.
But, as a result, my books LOOK really cool. I brought my construction stuff to AWP last week (since i wouldn’t have any time to make them between returning and class), made a few in the hotel room, and even (and this is the point) displayed one on the UB MFA table at the bookfair. I got a lot of compliments on it, too. I didn’t feel ashamed to have it sitting next to Insecta and that really awesome long red poetry collection and your book, Meredith. I felt like it fit with them. Probably as the self-conscious younger brother, but still.

I think i have a pretty good handle of both the matchbook and stab binding. Part of me would make the book smaller if i had to make it again (because i really love small things), but i think more parts of me would leave the size alone. I think the size is a good fit for the poem: there’s just enough space for everything.
Making these, i think i’m going to go the handmade route for my manuscript. At AWP, i bought some amazing handmade chapbooks. They’re pamphlet bound, which is a pretty easy binding, but they look so ridiculously cool. I realized that you can really do a lot with fairly simple techniques, partly through looking at those books, and partly through making mine.
Now all i have to do is learn how to letterpress…..

  1. Koko Zauditu-Selassie said:

    I appreciate your perceptive response. Yours had such a Zen quality.

    • mychaelzulauf said:

      Why thank you, Koko.
      Zen makes a whole lot of sense to me, especially where aesthetics are concerned.

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