Saturday, June 20, 2009

Kiki Smith ~ Collaboration with Emily Dickinson and Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge

Ray Bradbury once wrote in Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You of the value of reading poetry – it expands how we think and how we see the world. I've taken his advice to read at least one poem a day to heart and have read at least one poem a day since 1982. So this morning I decided to search around for poetry related to Kiki Smith, the artist of the week here at Fifty Two Pieces. Out there on the internet you'll find she has collaborated on at least three books of poetry.

The first, Sampler, is a singularly beautiful and unique publication of Emily Dickinson's poetry published by Arion Press in San Francisco. Sampler is a selection of two hundred poems by Emily Dickinson each paired with a print by Kiki Smith. To prepare for this project, Smith made images of samplers that had been the means young women traditionally used to show their domestic skills . She combed the collections of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to find examples of this work. Arion Press describes Smith's process to create her prints for letterpress.

The artist Kiki Smith has made prints for every page of the poetry, as well as the half-title page and a portrait of Emily Dickinson on the frontispiece, 206 images in all. These are original prints. Kiki Smith has made the matrix for each image. She scratched lines in the emulsion of photographic negatives with an etching needle and other sharp-pointed tools, thus allowing light to pass through them in the making of photopolymer plates for letterpress printing.

And here is a description of the book, a work of art in itself.
The type and polymer plates were printed by letterpress in black ink for the type and red-brown ink for the plates. The paper was made by hand at the Twinrocker mill. The sheets are hand-sewn with linen thread over linen tapes. The binding has a red-brown goatskin spine, with title stamped in gold, the boards covered with tan cloth, the front cover embroidered with red thread for title and author and artist names. The book is presented in a slipcase.

Goodness, my senses are overwhelmed by the elegance of this work. To read more about the collaborative process used to make Sampler visit Arion Press here.

The other two examples of Kiki Smith's collaborative work with poets are two books published with the poet Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge. Berssenbrugge has a Portland connection. She holds a B. A, from Reed College where she graduated in 1969 after first attending Barnard College in New York.

Endrocinology was published in 1997

and Concordance in 2006.

To round out this post and to add more poetry to your life here is a video of Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge presenting poetry at lunchtime ...

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