This summer I’ve been interested in books that mix poetry, prose, and visual art. Kate Greenstreet’s Young Tambling (Ahsahta Press, 2013) incorporates all three in a beautiful book that claims to not be autobiography, but about biography. With humor and poetic grace, Greenstreet explores small yet poignant memories about becoming a woman, poet, and artist, and poses questions about the purpose of making art and poetry. “Art as we knew it (he said) was just designed to get us through our twenties. After that, you are on your own.”
The Book of Ruth (Siglio Press, 2011) by Robert Seydel is another mixed media book, composed of poems, letters, and collages by a fictional persona (inspired by the author’s real aunt) named Ruth Greisman. Ruth is a banker and Sunday painter who lives in Brooklyn with her brother Sol, and corresponds with artists Joseph Cornell and Marcel Duchamp. Siglio Press also published Bough Down by Karen Green (which was on my last summer’s reading list) and they have a great collection of books that mix art and literature.
I am halfway through The Correspondence Artist (Two Dollar Radio, 2011) by Barbara Miller, a novel in which the narrator uses made up characters to tell the story of her love affair with a famous artist. The novel includes email correspondence with the lover and some photography.
And of course, I have to mention the comics I have been reading (since they were mixing art and literature long before these contemporary, experimental books). Black Hole (Pantheon, 2005) by Charles Burns and Ghost World (Fantagraphics, 1998) by Daniel Clowes have both reminded me of the horrors of being a teenager in America.
Lastly, I have to mention Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. Just a stunning book about art and loss.