Friday, August 07, 2020

friction | image & text in the summer house


A while back, I was charged with the task of designing a cover for Naomi Washer's very awesome Phantoms for the press, and what evolved was not just one image, but several related in a short series of digital collages. Once I had the images, I felt like they needed a written component to accompany them.  So what started as the act of translating text to image in the form of designing the, then became translating that back into my own writing. While the poems in the series weren't necessarily related to the original writing that inspired the cover, there was a similar feel and texture to them that hinged on the visual manifestations.  The entire project was titled the summer house, which, like the longer manuscript FEED it is a part of, deals with mothering from a variety of perspectives, in this case, the changeling child and the isolation of the motherhood in the summer house, or maybe the isolation of motherhood in general. 

"Who can be a good mother amidst all this hum, the summer house thick with hives. 

The lives you've given up to get there."

What evolved was a tight little bit of a ghost story of the best kind.  While I have on occasion wrote the text portion of things after the images were finished (and vice versa), more often lately they tend to evolve in tandem.  In this case, the images were done and sat for a minute before I began translating things back into text, and therefore, I had some time to think about the story I wanted to tell and how to tell it. It is also kind of short for my usual length on series, mostly since the collages themselves are smaller in number. While I've often had book designs wind up being the impetus for longer series (radio ocularia sprung from the design for Lisa Cole's tinder // heart), and in some cases incorporated (my design for Kathy Goodkin's Sleep Paralysis was incorporated into taurus, the design for MK Brake's The Taxidermist's Girl was pulled into /SLASH/, which was then the model for another variation on my cover of SEX & VIOLENCE.)  And of course, I've oft used my own images in cover designs after the fact I am notorious for using ghost landscapes ate at least 5 of them.)

In some ways, it's simply killing two birds with one stone, but in many ways, one feeds the other, the design and the writing.  Because so much of the imagery in the collages is victorian, the text of course has this feel, though it's actually set in the present. They form bookends of sort in FEED with plump, which is similarly filled with bees and the supernatural, in that case witches (particularly the one that kidnaps Hansel & Gretel), but which are also mentioned more generally in the summer house. As a whole, the longer book is about mothers and the body, but also about the creep of the natural and the supernatural into the kitchen and the cradle, and this plays a big role here with the unruly baby made out of bees. 

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