Thursday, December 10, 2009

Those fabulous book parties

Speaking of which, except for my wardrobe, I have been part of some terrifically sophisticated Manhattanish book and arts celebrations. Consider me your book party avatar and be sure to imagine me in something quite stylish, and while you are at it, make me 3 shoe sizes smaller.

At the legendary midtown club:
First was the launch of Gardner McFall's poetry book Russian Tortoise (disclaimer, I designed the cover) as well as an opera she wrote (I remember the theme of flying) at the Century Association. Into this legendary club I showed up hauling a 2 by 3 foot mounted poster in a huge, now wet, black plastic bag. Gardner's husband had me create, on the sly, the poster with her cover altered to read "The Tortoise Has Landed" and I added the parachute from a Russian soyuz to show the tortoise is not crash landing. This party was upstairs in a well proportioned dove gray room room lined with interesting artworks owned by the club. An open bar and frequent tidbits made me happy. Opera singers with classy voices sang a short selection from Gardner's opera as the composer played the piano. I quickly discovered half the room was lawyers and the other half poets. This led to me writing a poem about the singular way we are alike, as both poets and lawyers know the crucial importance of a single word. I enjoyed talking to poets I know as well as some lawyers that were, no surprise, well read and lovely to chat with. Melinda Thomsen and Martin Mitchell sat at a table with me and my husband and the caterers soon realized we were voracious and always swooped by.

At the NOHO Bowery Poetry Club:
My next party was the annual Brevitas reading at the Bowery Poetry Club. As the title suggests, the Brevitas poets, all two dozen or so of them, only write short poems. However with a music interlude of half an hour, the guest poet Harvey Shapiro!, two open readings (disclaimer, I was in the first open reading) and some Brevitas readers that felt the need for explanations that sometimes took longer than the poems, the event that started with me fresh at 1:30 ended with me rather droopy by 5:30. The Bowery Poetry Club is so unlike the Century Association that I feel Dante would have to feature them in two different books. Here the colors were black and the textures scuffed. I was especially there for my friend, the talented Flash Rosenberg, who not only read her poems but drew the bright and witty cartoon cover for the anthology of Brevitas poems that the $7.00 cover charge entitled one to. (Disclaimer, I helped her place and trim the artwork for the cover.) Because I read in the open mic, and am a pal of Flash, I got invited to an after party in Bob Holman's art and book inspired penthouse. The floor was painted with poetry, even the hallways. What a brilliant thing to do. Poetry books filled the walls of this airy lovely space. Did I mention Bob runs The Bowery Poetry Club? Well then, he does. Since I was utterly charmed by most of the work I had heard that night I was hopeful the group would consider me when they need to reinfuse their membership. There were tidbits to eat, including chocolates, and wine and lovely conversations. I even bonded a bit with a large plump gingery cat that lived there.

At a fabulous artsy residence in the Village:
Our friend, and my collaborator, the talented Carly Sachs, had one of her delectable food poems included in The Poet's Cookbook: Recipes from Tuscany, an anthology of food poems in both English and Italian edited by Grace Cavalieri and translated by Sabine Pascarelli. To celebrate the publication of the book, both poets and recipes from the book were enjoyed in a brownstone that is inhabited by a painter with helpful children (selling books) and walls replete with tongue-in-cheek collections of art. A wall of dog hunting paintings, a wall of delightful whimsical drawings! But honestly, I was far too distracted by the FOOD! Oh my god, Tuscan cooking, prepared by Alison of Alison's Restaurants, via the Village, a marvel. Olive dips, mozzarella so fresh it practically moooed, and pignoli cookies. The reading was sponsored by The Bordighera Press and the Vermont Studio Center Writing Program so there was a mix of poets, patrons, painters, and program directors.

Again in the Village, another lovely home:
And finally, a party in celebration of the publication of Patricia Carlin's new book of poetry, Quantum Jitters from Marsh Hawk Press. This home spoke of taste, spaciousness, and comfort. In fact, it was the home of the former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey, now the President of The New School, and his wife Sarah Paley who hosted this lovely event. As I was looking for the address, I noticed a man outside busily listening to a cell phone and asked him if I'd found the place with the book event. He kindly nodded me in and later I realized this was Mr. Kerrey. Inside I found many of my fellow members of Marsh Hawk Press, all looking spiffy, and soon other dear friends arrived. Jeanne Marie Beaumont (poet) and Bob Mendelsohn (video), Lynne Saville (photography), Philip Fried (poet/publisher) and more. I met a fascinating woman who studies game theory. I was suddenly struck by the thought that once, back the the 1970s, my mother taught at the New School. Had she too been to any events at the president's house? And here I was eating bitty bits and sipping excellent wine and also celebrating the life of poetry. Raise a glass again!

While the lawyers dressed impeccably at the club reading, the poets just as expected in the Bowery, the most interesting outfits winked in and out of view around the trays and platters in the Village affairs.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Remembering and Designing Madeleine L'Engle

I just created my first design published on Lulu, A Circle of Friends: Remembering Madeleine L'Engle. There is an expensive all color interior first edition and the far more affordable grayscale, (black and white) interior.

The remembering part I did as well, I have an essay in the book. I took a writing class from Madeleine in the early 90s at the Episcopalian convent on 113th Street. Despite the palpable hero worship surrounding her, she had a very directed, concise, encouraging, and witty/tart presence. The book is full of wonderful examples of her advice on writing and warm personal memories from close friends. I wasn't part of the inner circle, not being nearly as interested in the Christian aspects of her writing as in the narratives and characters she sent through familiar and imagined worlds.

Designing the book happened sort of by accident, the editor Katherine Kirkpatrick needed help with some things and before you know it, I'd sunk into the project and did it all. Lulu was rather difficult to navigate. You simply cannot speak to a human. I discovered a cover could not be one point too narrow! Not one point or the whole thing was off. Argh! But once I got that it was an utter perfectionist and could not comprehend human imperfection (which may in its own way be an explanation of why the infinite and finite seem to have so much trouble communicating) the job uploaded and declared itself published. In the old days, when I worked inhouse at publishing companies, after a book was published we generally met and hoisted a paper cup with an undistinguished vintage and made noises about effort and talent and thanked everyone. So let me raise a cup to all the people who wrote, edited, designed, and coaxed this book into existence. Especially Katherine Kirkpatrick who always believed it was a book that needed to happen.

Illustration: Say Ahhhhhhhhh for Alimentum

The Winter/Holiday Issue of Alimentum: The Literature of Food is in my hands and looks grand. All my spot art printed just dandy! The ink line (scanned) and pencil smudge (via photoshop) turned into a real live journal and I am walking around the apartment with that aren't I something glow. My spouse reminds me I need to vet a job proposal and think about what I want for dinner. As if such things could interrupt my cloud, my cloudia of euphoria. It is also fine to discover this issue is sold out wherever I go. The cover, which I didn't draw but did design--picking very cherry pie colors for the issue--looks yummy.

Also I did the small deconstruction of the slice of pie on the back, turning the cover's whole pie slice into a single cherry in 4 steps that hopefully won't annoy the artist Marilyn Murphy. When the next delivery of the magazines arrives at my local independent bookseller (Book Culture) I will buy them as holiday gifts. Because as nice as some of my small illustrations are, the real charm is the content, Alimentum is simply a good read. See, the dancing fruitcakes are happy!