No Library Card Required

The poetry class at SFCC recently visited the amazing show of book arts on campus. Responses from Paula Miller and Lorenzo Atencio below.

Lost at an Exhibit of Accordion Spines by Paula Miller

It was a lovely home with ghosts in the attic, frogs in the basement – the logs and pods – and in the very middle, the accordion spines of my books, wherein all the consonants are underground and weather palms wave their branches like drunken gods.

Here and there, the flitter and flutter in the Bosque – hummingbirds, pecking penguins, and the sculptured necks of cranes beaking the accordion spines to allow a billow of long folds which hide the Alphabetica Synthetica. These notes dangled like a musical scale of all my eliding senses, pressing wildflowers into its pages, their tiny petals releasing the tastes of red and sienna, the blue of bruises.

So many skins – pig, goat and sheep – made up the palimpset of the Coptic scripture with its very own music. How many times had bran and milk washed their surfaces and recycled their pleas for love and wisdom. How the pentimentos both hid and revealed their earlier repented messages! The fans of star corals lit up the room with cool breezes sweeping away the damp from the froggy basement.

On the main floor where propriety, love and good manners should reign I found Artemis, the huntress, bathing naked with poor Acteon already transformed into a stag but still gazing at her adoringly. If I tug on the accordion spine I release the fragrant pages of valerian and teasel, the greens of pulses and laurel; and along the alchemical spindle, icons spin with mummies and lidded Buddhas make music with their talas.

Over in the corner, darting among the bushes Merwin becomes Merlin hunting the bloomworm and pigeon to place in a pop-up guide to the trees, all the while waving his wand to pull down stars, tassels for his pointy hat.

At night when all is still I listen to the sleepers, dreamers and screamers; from the attic they are voicing the guttural songs of their neuroses and psychoses – their notations carefully written in the weave of an appetite for frog sounds in the 52 pages of the Elements of Botany.

At night when I dream I call up memory within the accordion notes and create a shrine to writing – the Illuminated Book of Hours, the Kells – wherein are minds on fire in its matrix and the not so subtle warning: “Don’t be so wealthy you can’t open your window at night.”

In the blue hour of the morning, when the birds are just preening before song, I look for hidden messages in the haiku accordion – a few short phrases to transport me beyond daily concerns for the mortgage and permit the embossment of contemplations on the accordion’s range of wind powered notes. At daybreak, I cringe at the terrorist values of frogs in the basement, of snakes weaving their charms from the attic out the windows, and then in again seeking a hurried retreat into the chthonic depths under the basement floor. In the news the Iraqis answer the question -what does war give to the people anyway except liberation in the form of democracy, whiskey and sex?

I set to work and take a few of these chords from the accordion’s folds to make a colophon for the back of its spine, embossing it with the marks of a stag beetle and hoping the day will go smoothly toward the evening. I love this house with its ghosts in the attic and frogs in the basement – this small life sized place of logs and pods, of myths and magic and shelves for my accordion spines.

Book Art by Lorenzo Atencio

A transporter like Mr. Spock’s

To take the imagination anywhere

In time, in space, in spirit,

We know a book is a vessel for our creativity.

Its pages hold the images and words of art.

But have you seen the book itself be the work of art?

Its pages and cover cut into pieces then reassembled into different images?

Like a bible that has been neatly cut and bound to cascade from birds’ beaks.

Book Art is like a poem, creating messages from images.

A poem takes a sentence, cuts it up and re-crafts the words

To capture our subjective reality.

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About Miriam Sagan

I'm blogging about poetry, land art, haiku, women artists, road trips, and Baba Yaga at Miriam's Well ( The well is ALWAYS looking to publish poetry on our themes, sudden fiction, and guest bloggers and musers.

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