by Deborah Poe
In late 2015, I wrote a prose poem, “Beryllium.” For the Bellingham Review special section, I decided to translate the poem into a handmade one-edition, sewing all 61 words of the poem onto 3”x 2” pieces of fabric. I wanted the handmade book to have the tactility of Louise Bourgeois’ Ode à l’oubli.
My grandmother gifted me with quite a bit of fabric a couple of years earlier, and I was eager to use it—along with swatches of fabric given to me by friend and writer Claire Hero. I chose the same silk thread with cotton finish that I have been working with in sewing my rakusu while studying the precepts of Soto Zen Buddhism.
After sewing the pages for the one-edition, I signed up for a class with book artist Maureen Cummins to create a printed letterpress book. This book was also printed on my grandmother’s fabric—a sheer material that in my mind created a similar page to the translucent vellum I have used in so much of my handmade books in paper. The letterpress book is titled Wing.
I photographed and filmed the process of making Beryllium, so that I could make a video poem to accompany the handmade and letterpress editions. I wanted my transmedia piece to possess not only the tactile and visual components of the handmade and letterpress books, but also the aurality and movement that film offers.
As visiting writer, last Winter Term 2016, I taught multimedia poetry at Seattle University. The hands in the video belong to the students of this class who were instrumental in finishing this “low-fi” video.
DEBORAH POE is the author of the poetry collections the last will be stone, too (Stockport Flats), Elements (Stockport Flats), and Our Parenthetical Ontology (CustomWords), as well as a novella in verse, Hélène (Furniture Press). Her writing has appeared in journals like Denver Quarterly, Court Green, Colorado Review, Yellow Field, Touch the Donkey, and Jacket2. Her visual works—including video poems and handmade book objects—have been exhibited at Pace University (New York City), Casper College (Wyoming), Center for Book Arts (New York City), University of Arizona Poetry Center (Tucson), University of Pennsylvania Kelly Writers House at Brodsky Gallery (Philadelphia), and ONN/OF “a light festival” (Seattle), as well as online with Elective Affinities, Peep/Show, Trickhouse, and The Volta. Associate professor of English at Pace University, Pleasantville, Deborah directs the creative writing program and founded and curates the annual Handmade/Homemade Exhibit. She has also taught at Western Washington University, Binghamton University, SUNY, the Port Townsend Writer’s Workshop in Washington, Richard Hugo House, and Casa Libre en La Solana in Tucson. Deborah served as Distinguished Visiting Writer for Seattle University during Winter Term 2016.