Love in the Time of War, by Yusef Komunyakaa, 2013

10.5 x 7.5 inches; 38 silk pages; variable edition of 70 [2013]

Yusef Komunyakaa began writing these poems when the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003. In his 25-poem sonnet sequence Komunyakaa begs ancient, lyrical questions that contemplate the struggle of love in a time of war. (Some poems previously appeared in The New Yorker and The Nation.) 

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Printed letterpress with silver ink in Adobe Jenson onto individually painted, hand-dyed silk fabric, sewn into a modified paper-case binding. Torn and cut glassine inserts are embedded within foredge-folded sheets to provide rattle & an additional visual layer. Thin aluminum covers are photochemically etched with a pattern derived from camouflage fabric. The supple silk sheets enclosed within metal plates of armor create an integrated articulation of vulnerability and strength. Book structure co-designed with Daniel E. Kelm.

Yusef Komunyakaa is a Pulitzer Prize winning poet and the author of twenty books of poetry. He received a bronze star for his service as a journalist in the Vietnam War and is a professor and senior distinguished poet in the graduate Creative Writing Program at New York University.



Watch the transition from raw silk to the individually dyed and painted sheets that become pages of the book, and view Love in the Time of War in its entirety here: "Silk as a printer's canvas: generating pages for Love in the Time of War

In translating Yusef Komunyakaa's manuscript into a limited edition artist's book, I knew there had to be a lot of sweat involved, but I thought it would be in the form of numerous press runs; so much ink coverage it would smell for years. Yet after a press trial on a sheet of silk fabric (discovered in a flat file drawer at a local art supply store), and strong encouragement from my apprentice Brittany DeNigris, my approach began to pivot on the expressive qualitites of that material. The studio became a makeshift chemistry lab, and after many disappointing trials, we learned just how to coax our peat-based walnut pigments into the fibers of silk, and to prepare each richly darkened sheet for the luminescent silver ink of the poems.

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Many stages of dyeing, flattening, and trimming before printing the silver ink of the poems onto damp silk. After printing: more flattening, folding, trimming before creating tab edges for the sewing structure. (The tab folds aren't seen in the finished book). And then: making the shapes of colored paper that appear underneath the surface and sewing them within the foredge-folded pages. Those papers alternate between Moriki and colored glassine printed here at the studio. Each book in the edition of 70 is carefully collated, looking at the flow of each unique folio, due to the variations in staining and colored paper shapes and their placement. Those collated sets are packed for travel to Daniel Kelm's studio in Easthampton, MA. Each time I pack, I'm startled by the lightweight package -- for such heavy content.

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Video: "Silk as a printer's canvas: generating pages for Love in the Time of War

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