Kate O’Neill at Dreaming Dog Books


I was excited to learn that poet and book artist Kate O’Neill has started a press!
She kindly spoke to Miriam’s Well about this new project.

MW: Poetry and letter press printing are a natural pair. How did yo get started?

Poetry and letter press printing do go hand in hand. I have always loved illuminated manuscripts, wood block prints, letter forms, poetry. I studied Art History as an undergrad and worked in Boston as a graphic designer in the 1980’s. I was always looking for ways to combine process and content. So, I worked for a lot of political causes and non-profits. Now, after several decades as an educator, counselor and administrator, I am returning to my first loves of art and writing. Books in all forms synthesize these elements. There’s something so compelling to me about being part of a lineage of creators. Letterpress is a rare art form these days, and I relish being part of keeping the traditions, presses and passions alive.

MW: But starting a press has a lot of heavy lifting! What inspired you? How is the process going?

Since I understand well the time involved and the commitment to starting a press, I am very focused on printing only poetry broadsides and poetry chapbooks. I envision that this will continue to evolve as I gain skill and a body of work. I have a 1909 Chandler and Price platen press which is treadle operated, (so, I don’t need a gym membership LOL!) And, with two other artists, I am just setting up a Vandercook Universal 1 cylinder press. Both of these live in a 400sf garage space that I have converted into a working press studio. The “Emulsifying Fires” chapbook is Dreaming Dog Books’ first publication. Not only did I need to get the press and studio set up, but also the website, ordering capacity, etc. I am still working the kinks out for sure. I have been the binder as well, sewing each chapbook with cotton twill ribbon and waxed linen thread. I love the process and it’s truly gratifying to see them, finally, out in the world.

MW: What was the process of writing the poems–were the photographs direct inspiration, focal points, or?

When I drove into Taos for the first time in 1991 I was struck by seeing the Ranchos Church. I had seen Ansel’s photo of it, I had seen O’Keeffe’s painting of it, but to see it in person was truly amazing. So, I’d say that Ansel’s photos are a jumping off point for the poems. And yet, having lived in NM since 1993, many of these photos are of places that I have been in person. So, in addition to Ansel’s perspectives, I have my own experience of Chimayo, Taos Pueblo, Aspen trees, weather over Cimarron. The landscape of New Mexico is harsh and beautiful, stark and desperate. And yet, there is a softness to the curves, the earth, the flow. I am fascinated by the interplay of light and shadow. The overlays of nature, culture(s), spirit, eros, creative process, space and time, all combine to evoke the vast “suchness’ of New Mexico. The poems were started in 2015, mostly written at the Vermont Studio Center in 2018, after encouragement from Robert Hass at the Community of Writers earlier that summer. This felt like a body of work that needed to be collected, formed and realized as a whole, thus the chapbook.

MW:  I notice the use of the couplets throughout (except for Chimayo poems written in 1-line stanzas.) How did you choose this form?

I chose the form because I was enthralled by the dance of light and dark. I also felt like the NM landscape was weaving through both Ansel’s images and my words. I felt like it was beyond an ekphrastic poetic expression to an embodied dance of energies. “. . . the folie a deux between bebop and duende.”

It also reads as if the book is one long poem–like walking through a gallery. Yes, it is as if a scroll through space and time. As David Hockney wrote, “How we depict space determines how we behave in it.”

MW: Future projects? What is next?

I plan to take the next few months to get up to speed on the two presses. Eventually want to create more chapbooks and broadsides. I imagine continuing to weave words and images through book and paper forms in intriguing and inspiring ways.

Saint Francis Church, Ranchos de Taos, 1929

It is not large really, but it appears immense. It seems
as if a soft extrusion, an outcropping of the earth below.

You know precisely the square yard of earth
on which to place your wooden-legged tripod

and Korona view camera—finest mahogany, nickel-plated
adjustments, red-leather bellows, tessar-type lenses.

You challenge the laid-down interpretations as you imprint
the beehive buttresses onto orthochromatic glass plates.

A new outlook, you say, as you float your massive subject in space.
You construct the structure with light, obscure the edges between

sensed and seen. You always use red and yellow filters in the
high-altitude of the Southwest. And yet, on this occasion, some

gentle angel whispers ‘no filter’ and you obey. Some intuitive
thrust makes this picture possible as you open the aperture.

c Kate O’Neill after a photo by Ansel Adams

Shell Grotto

Recently, in a residency with Biophilium, I heard artist Katie Potapoff talk about a visit to Shell Grotto in Margate, England. Basically a tourist attraction of mysterious origin, I might call it visionary or outsider art. Most likely it was built as an ornamental architectural folly in the 18th or 19th century. Yet apparently it evokes a strong sense of the mystical and the ancient.
To me, this doesn’t mean it is a Druidic or Celtic ceremonial site. Far more contemporary sites, sometimes just the work of one obsessed person, can have the power of a henge or a cathedral.

I’m reminded of the work of Ra Paulette who carves luminous rooms in chalk caves. I had the opportunity to see the ones near Ojo Caliente, New Mexico years ago. At the time, a resort owned them. For a reasonable fee, you could get the key, take a short walk and enter the space carved out of cliffs. There were windows and mirrors in an abode out of Lord of the Rings. The children I was with took it in stride–of course there was a magical house inside a hoodoo formation of earth.


All the photos here are from Wikipedia, and although better than nothing, can hardly do justice to the mystic experience of being inside both the earth and a waking dream.

Source Pool by Karen Miranda Abel


Source Pool (Riverine) is an elemental contemplation of our transitory interrelationships with water. This site-specific installation was realized within the Rouge River watershed in the historic village of Unionville. Animals — humans and wildlife — have always lived in close proximity to water for essential refuge, sustenance, navigation and healing. Reflecting on the notion of water as culture, creek water from a tributary of the Rouge River flowing beside the gallery was hand-collected to fill a matrix of over 2,600 salvaged pieces of glassware, forming an ethereal anthropological aquatic garden. At the end of the exhibition, the remaining unevaporated water was returned to its source. The gathered water was only temporarily diverted off-course for this terrestrial interlude; an interior visitation before continuing its path downstream.



Thanks to Alexis Williams for introducing this to me.

Stuff.1 by Devon Miller-Duggan


There are memes on social media and articles in all sorts of publications telling us (Boomers) that the subsequent generations DO NOT want our stuff. Not our heirlooms, not our elegant china, not our furniture. None of it. This may be a phase. Humans have phases. But it does make it oddly hard to de-stuff your stuff if you have a need to do that. In our house, we’re prepping for a bunch of major renovations to make the house functional for two families so that our daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter can comfortably stay and, hopefully, see us through aging-in-place. The house is big. The yard is BIG. We like each other a lot and have been living together for 5+ years. It’s a classic story—they moved in planning on it being temporary, and it turned permanent. Works for us. But the house does need some changes for 5 big personalities to negotiate American-standard communal living, so we’re wading into a bazillion months of construction. This necessitates lots of packing-away. Which involves LOTS of why-are-we-keeping-this work. I am, so far, enjoying it. It feels like order-making in the midst of a mildly dis-ordered life in the midst of a massively dis-ordered world.  

One of the things I find myself most attached to are fabrics. It’s so bad that I asked my daughters last year to stage what amounted to an intervention in advance of a yard sale. I unloaded about ½ my stash in the face of ruthless questions about whether I was EVER going to make anything out of X yardage. Not much of it sold at the yard sale, but a bit more than half went to a woman in our neighborhood who makes all her children’s clothes (also homeschools them and grows lots of veg in her front yard. The person who took the fabric was a friend of hers who mentioned this, so I cajoled her into taking practically everything kid-able in the piles. The rest went to the thrift store, where it will, hopefully, find other sewists who want it. There was a lot of wool in there. Who wears wool any longer? I don’t, especially the sorts of skirts and jumpers I used to wear a lot. We don’t have much winter in DE.  

Just this morning, I went to put on a dress that is too big, feels frumpy, and has seen me through a lot of summers (I tend to keep clothes I like a long time). The thing is, I LOVE the print. Love it. I could take the dress in, and may, or I could cut it up (the fabric is in great shape) and make a dress for a granddaughter. What I won’t do is put it in the thrift store box because the fabric is a perfect print and makes me happy every time I look at it.  

So I’ve been thinking about what categories of stuff I am most attached to. I am surprised to say that it’s a smallish list: a few of the things my grandfather gave me, some books, lots of art, a few pieces of jewelry, and fabrics I love, most of them one shade or another of green, photos. So why is my house so blasted full of stuff I don’t really want (my mother’s Lenox, my Madame Alexander dolls…), but that is too good to thrift, and too hard to sell? I have thought it was acquisitiveness—one of the Great Sins and a convenient thing to beat myself up about. But I think it’s got more to do with accretion and connection—stuff that I loved in the past, or just landed here because someone else close unloaded it and I automatically kept it because of that connection. So if you’d like my mother’s almost unused set of Lenox “Autumn” china, let me know. I’ll be happy to ship it off to you. As soon as I find it.

5 Things by Angie K Walker

1. As I am getting older, I feel less and less like I want to wash my hair.
2. I’ve never driven. I don’t really like cars that much.
3. My sound track is the acoustics you get in some places with lots of old buildings and people walking around (relaxed/quietly chatting). Well, I was in a place like that yesterday. It was a place called Piece Hall, Halifax. In the centre is a massive space where wool used to be traded. Now there are 3 or 4 tiers all around the square, and they all contain little interesting shops.
4. Walking is the thing that sort everything out, so i do that a lot.
5. I buy the tiny apples that supermarkets intend for children’s lunch boxes. I cut them into thin slices. They are a fruit I eat because they are said to be good for you, but I don’t really like them that much anymore, so i eat the littlest ones. They are OK in salads or baked in a crumble or pie.

Miriam’s Well invites all its readers to write and share 5 Things. Send to msagan1035@aol.com

Untitled by Donald Judd. Poem by Miriam Sagan

I went to the show at the Albuquerque Museum of prints done at the Tamarind Institute. I took home a postcard of this Donald Judd.

It really caught my interest. I took it to a writing retreat in Pagosa Springs and propped it over my desk. I wrote a short section for each image–often several a day. It seemed like each poem/section worked individually, but did they make a whole?

Thanks to the Pine Cone Review for publishing all of it! https://thepineconereview.com/miriam-sagan-untitled-after-donal-judd-set-of-20-woodcuts-issue-4/

Here is the opening:

after Donald Judd
set of 20 woodcuts

West Texas is
big. When my father
stroked out
we drove east to Amarillo
but going no closer nor
further away
than we usually were
from his ravaged brain.

Drove east to an ancient
flint mine, a bar-b-que place
twice the size of our city block,
a large gin and tonic.

Some things are so large
there is no way around them.

Water Walk

At the end of the first week of the “Submerged” residency with Biophilium (formerly Art Loves Science/Ayatana) on zoom, Isabel and I took a water walk in my neighborhood.

Walking the acequia trail. We got curious–what was that drilling? A quick note to Isabel’s husband Tim, who is an excavator. Turns out, the City is drilling underground wells to make sure there is no water contamination.

Bridge over the dry acequia–it runs on Mondays.

Here is the Baca Street Well. It is back up–most of the neighborhood’s water comes from the reservoirs in the mountains.

On the trail, by the transformer.

A rivulet of fountain water ran by our table at Cafecito–midway point on our circular walk.

Two Poems by Kate Merlin

Some refreshment on a hot day from Santa Fe writer Kate Merlin.

All oceans are one ocean,
turquoise, the grey green of the Atlantic
The shimmer and depths, so many names and
places where it rushes to land
the defining skin
forming shapes and features. I wake up
and look in the mirror. This face, this smile
this life. Oh for a lover, to sweep me out of myself
for a minute, or an hour, into the sea
that cascades to the source.


The Royals

The queen is jubilant at her jubilee
70 years on the throne
To be born a queen
Sounds so grand
I was born feeling like a queen
The spangled sunlight as I lay in my buggy
My mother’s smiles
Now at 75
So many memories
But that one remains
The queen couldn’t do better.