While frantically pawing through the shelves of my local Chindigo in search of a last minute gift, I hit a shelf of books about making books. Though I rarely suffer attacks of greed while shopping for others, these books inspired in me such a ravenous, consumeristic desire that it took my Mum 15 minutes to convince me not to blow half a paycheque on the stack of book books I was clutching to my chest with a lust reminiscent of the lust with which Gollum clutches the one ring. Of course, there is a better way: the public library. The public library is a treasure-trove of books on making books which I highly recommend you check out… unless you’re in Calgary, in which case, back off—they’re all mine… my own… my precious…
These books are great for many reasons. If you are a literary fanatic of any leaning, there is a strong chance you are of the group genetically predisposed to love books in all their tactile, musty glory. The prospect of being able to design and craft one of the objects you love so much is pretty exciting in itself. If you’ve been picturing your ideal notebook in your head for years, yet have never found such an object in reality, you can simply make it yourself.
What really excites me about these books, however, is the creative possibilities that they open up for writers. The vast majority of writing is confined to two major forms: online publishing, such as a website or blog, and the standard left-bound book or magazine. While both of these forms of presentation are extremely functional, they can rarely be considered an extension of the writing that they hold. While many poets spend a great deal of time and effort considering alignment and white space, we rarely have the opportunity to extend similar consideration to the structure of the object in which the poems will be presented. On a micropublishing scale, however, this becomes possible—if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and grab a glue-gun.
Flipping greedily through the stack of book books pilled on and around my desk, it’s impossible to resist the poetic possibilities that the suggested book formats provide. The dos-à-dos book could be used to frame one scene or to tell one story from two opposing perspectives:
while the accordion book to follow a single, unbroken stream of consciousness:
The more skilled you become at making these books, the more sculptural your creations can become. Slowly, the typical book can vanish completely in favour of an architectural manifestation of the writing that the book holds. Ultimately, the book could become the poem itself.
This sculptural potential is extremely exciting—if you’ve ever felt stuck putting pen to page, why not reframe the page? These handmade books reveal a whole new world of possibilities that the traditional book is simply not designed to hold.
Helen Hajnoczky recently completed her BA Honours in English and creative writing from the University of Calgary, where her research focused on feminist avant-garde poetics. Her work has appeared in Nod, fillingStation, Rampike, and Matrix magazines, as well as in a variety of chapbooks. She is the current poetry editor of fillingStation magazine. Her first book of poetry, Poets and Killers: A Life in Advertising, is forthcoming from Snare Books.
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