What I’m Reading Now… by Mary Hickman

Right now I’m working on a dissertation about poetry and the artist’s book so I’m reading a lot of scholarly books for that. I’ve been particularly enjoying Anna Sigrídur Anar’s The Book as Instrument: Stéphane Mallarmé, the Artist’s Book, and the Transformation of Print Culture (U of Chicago P, 2011). She provides a rich cultural history of book production in Mallarmé’s time and situates his innovations within this history. I’m interested in Mallarmé’s vision of an ideal book, as well as his alternative publishing formats and venues, and Anar does a wonderful job of methodically weaving together the historical context with Mallarmé’s exploration of the book as a flexible, democratic medium.

Alongside Anur’s book, I’m reading Azure: Poems and Selections from the “Livre” (Wesleyan UP, 2015)—a new translation by Blake Bronson-Bartlett and Robert Fernandez that includes poems from Poésies (1899), Un coup de dés (A Cast of Dice), and the “Livre” (the “Book”—his notes toward an ideal book, described by the translators as “a sort of spectacular book-theater-church-economy-society” [xvi].) The translations are gorgeous, wild, and have successfully revived Mallarmé’s verse for me, not to mention that the previously untranslated sections of “Livre” are really useful in my dissertation.

I also just interlibrary loaned the catalogue for the retrospective of Johanna Drucker’s work at Columbia College Chicago in 2012. Druckworks 1972-2012: 40 years of books and projects is a treasure trove! There are fantastic full-color prints of her artist’s books accompanied by her own writing and essays on her work by great poets, book artists, and scholars like Kyle Schlesinger and Jerome McGann.

Earlier this year I read Helen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk, her memoir about training a hawk after her father’s death. I picked this book up because I am such a fan of her poetry. I’m excited that Atlantic Monthly Press is reissuing a book of her poems, Schaler’s Fish, in February. The poems are dense, textured, precise, and I have recommended the book to just about everyone I know over the years.

And then the most recent book of poems that I’m reading (I got it in the mail two days ago) is Children of the Bad Hour by Purdey Lord Kreiden (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2014). Wow, this book is full of amazing images and what I’m thinking of as feasting language, “shimmering like a red machine in a mouthful of digital roses” (11).

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