19 January 2003


A couple of days ago I received a delightful package from the artist Phil Sultz, who lives in Dennysville, Maine these days, after spending a good part of his working life in St. Louis. I came to know Phil's work when I was first learning book making in a class taught by Walter Hamady at the University of Wisconsin, in Madison. Phil came to visit us, showed us his work, which included thin, seemingly organic pieces of paper, of natural shades, included in boxes with objects, natural and man-made, all seemingly making a handlable collection of materials about an idea. The books both included and confounded notions I had of narrative at the time. They were exquisite, without being fussy, even without necessarily being technically well-made. They were beyond that.

I am reminded of that in the work he sent, reminded that making a book can be any act one wants it to be. That while I may love the exquisitely produced works put out by Granary Books, I am constantly trying, in my own work, in some ways despite my training, to make books that are not the least bit about technical excellence or luxury. The books I care most to make in the future may not look like books at all, and they won't satisfy the world of book collectors that wants "fine books," with the emphasis on "fine." But they will be exercises of the imagination and intelligence, at work with verbal and other materials. That is all, at this point, that I can predict. A book like Chax's Chartings (poems by Lyn Hejinian & Ray DiPalma, with the poems printed on paper that is hand-torn and collaged into the book, added to pages that have only large letter and number forms printed on them in random patterns -- the author's signatures, too, are on bits of torn paper that is pasted into the book) begins to point the way, as it hints at tearings, away from the book as completed act, toward the dissolution of the book, toward the materials of the book transgressing the book in order to become materials of the world. That doesn't quite happen in that book, possibly because of the fairly elegant packaging of the whole) but it's clear that such a movement is suggested.