In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.
The new project here at Phoenicia is Annunciation, an illustrated book of poems by a diverse group of contemporary women. The project began in my mind after I did this relief print, back in December of 2014. About 15 poets who I've invited will be contributing poems; I'll be designing the book and producing a set of relief-print illustrations to go with the texts.
This week I finally got going on the new prints, and thought you might like to see the first one in process. This is "Gabriel's Lily." It started out with the pencil drawing, above, to which I added a hand grasping the stem.
The translation from pencil drawing to a block print is worked out in pen and ink; I usually end up with a pile of drawings and worked-over photocopies. Once the idea is fairly set, I reverse the drawing and transfer it to the linoleum, and ink it to minimize mistakes in cutting.
Starting to carve. I use the drawing as a guide, but the vigor and expressive energy in a print comes through the cutting itself: I have to trust myself to add that intangible element through my hands, and a certain amount of freedom and letting-go. This is something I hope I'm getting better at as I gain experience in the medium.
This is the back side of a print as it starts to emerge. I'm using a new ink, Akua, that cleans up with soap and water and doesn't have any odor, so I had to do a lot of experimenting to find the right consistency and thickness on several different Japanese papers. It's pretty different from my usual oil-based ink, but I came to like it.
The block went through several revisions too, until it arrived at this state. That's the scariest part: I wanted to simplify parts of the design, but knew if I went too far, I'd wreck it. Here's my table with the rolled-out ink and baren, the block, and a finished print. What you don't see is me saying "whew!"
A bunch of prints hung up to dry.
And the artist's proof. The book will be coming out in late fall, 2015, and I'll be sharing more of the process as it comes together. It's possible that this particular print won't even make the final cut; what was important was to get started. I'm thrilled about the poems I've received so far, and inspired by them: so many different interpretations and responses to this story, by excellent poets of different faiths and backgrounds. All the texts will be submitted by July 1, and then it's up to me to finish the work of making it all into a book.
It also makes me so happy to see how the collaborative publishing efforts that began with the Ecotone Wiki and carried on into the online literary magazine qarrtsiluni, co-managed for years by Dave Bonta and me, continue to spawn new projects and new relationships. Dave has just started a really cool new project that I'll tell you about in another post, and most of the poets who are working on Annunciation are people I met through qarrtsiluni or other online venues. I sometimes forget to stop and trace the lineage of those relationships back, since all this has happened over just one decade, but it strikes me as a sort of rapid evolutionary process, where creativity and human relationships have partnered with advances in technology and communication, changing all of our lives and probably our brains as well.
We were in central New York for the past few days, visiting my father, staying at the lake where I grew up. Early on the last morning, a deer walked slowly across the grass near the house, on her way to the water's edge, stopping to graze now and then, lifting her head to sniff and listen. We hardly ever see deer so close to the house, so I was surprised and grateful. I had been feeling sad to be leaving, and this beautiful animal felt like a sign to me that all was well, all would be well.
A little while later I went out to see if she was still there. The deer had disappeared, like the apparition she seemed to be, but the morning light was extraordinary as the mist blew across the water.
Someone had already had their breakfast:
And thousands of miniature worlds hung suspended in the dew.
The day before we had driven to Cooperstown with my father and his friend, through the green hills...
...and fields where the corn was just emerging.
We saw a lot of wildlife. Flocks of geese in the fields, and on the water with many goslings. Delicate wild bunnies. Herons and hawks. Skunks and woodchucks. Lots of deer. Wild turkeys. And even a gloriously blue bluebird.
And here's Dad and me at our destination: that most American and summer-celebratory of institutions, the Baseball Hall of Fame, with a couple of pretty good hitters behind us.
It's hard to believe, but even though I've been in Cooperstown countless times - I practically lived there one winter long ago - I'd never been to the BHoF before. We had fun. And were sorry to just miss meeting up with Phoenicia author and good friend Marly Youmans, who lives nearby. Next time!