Hey, Eleventh Muse--thanks for the Pushcart nomination! If you haven't seen the poem, "Unflown," it is not too late to buy an issue.
On Sunday I went to the Pyramid Midatlantic Book Arts festival--pages of all shapes, colors, fabrics, dimensions. A book that came bookmarked with its own brown wool hairball, 3 feet in diameter. A book that was illustrated using the dried and compressed offal of an animal, wrapped in the skin. A $360 book that was manufactured using 360 one-dollar bills.
It didn't take long to realize that these books are primarily marketed as works of art, not texts; most 8-16 page books were at least $35, and full-length collections (or broadsides) cost anywhere between $100 and $500. Some extremely limited edition pieces were in the stratosphere of $1500 or more. People literally wore white gloves to examine the merchandise.
As a lover of collecting, I was tempted. As a reader...not so much. The texts were mostly generic philosophical or witty obervations. Some craftspeople used the books as a form of vanity press. Poetry is a natural match for the book art format because of its brevity, but for the most part only the usual suspects were featured: widely-circulated work by Dickinson, Frost, Gertrude Stein. Seems a shame that the best contemporary designers and the best contemporary poets aren't collaborating a little more.
A couple of welcome exceptions: The pictorial Webster's Dictionary by Quercus Press is a brilliant idea. I'd have been shocked if the Center for Book Arts HADN'T been there (poets, you have until DECEMBER 1 to submit for their contest). Representatives of the Ruthless Grip poetry crew were on hand--recently evicted by the Washington Printmaker Gallery in Dupont, their readings have moved to Pyramid Midatlantic's headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland). There were also compelling broadsides of poetry by Sara Langworthy and Brian Cohen (whose unbound "Bird Book" took home a juried prize).
Goal for next year: a table shared by Big Game Books and Foursquare. Show 'em how it's done, ladies.