Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Next Poem in the Series About Fall 2005

September 21, 2005
Yesterday when I left work I was so tired I fully intended to take the bus

Never mind that I know
I will actually be less tired if I walk
somehow the truth of that fact never really sinks in
So I was planning my path to the bus stop
when I stepped outside and saw the sky
They were predicting thunderstorms
which seemed patently unlikely
until you saw that sky
then you believed it
Parts of it were filled with black rain clouds
parts dotted evenly with big clouds like puzzle pieces
their middles dark and their edges almost white with bright blue sky between
And the part of the sky at the end of street
(over the ocean where soon the sunset was going to happen)
was covered in dull gray clouds relieved by brilliant patches of gold
where the sun was burning holes in the cloud cover
That sky seemed rich with portent
Enough so to draw me back outside
I walked

When I got home I cooked while Bill worked
Lemon chicken with onions
Wild rice with pomegranates
My favorite part was dumping the pomegranate seeds
which were of the golden variety and therefore a delicate pale pink
into the pot of wild rice
which was essentially dark brown
The color combination
chocolate and blush
along with their contrasting textures
and their different ways of holding and releasing the light
was wonderful
I like the zipping around the kitchen as events reach their zenith
Such secret and personal enjoyments in the kitchen

Yesterday morning on Market Street there was a girl with a bike
sitting on the curb
her feet in the street
while two women attended her
She must have crashed
she had that vacant look
The older business woman was leaning over to talk to her
while the glamorous young woman in orange silk shirt and big cuff bracelet
stood with her hip thrust out talking on a cell phone
Somehow you knew those three women
had not know one another a minute ago

Then this morning the woman I see every day
sweeping the sidewalk
outside the scientology center and the submarine sandwich place
(I always wonder whether she’s a scientologist or a sandwich maker)
was wearing new
bright red rubber gloves
And there was a man outside the youth hostel lashing a couple surfboards
onto the roof of an old station wagon with a rope using seamanlike knots
He was not American surely

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

On the Permanence and Impermanence of Books

Without going on an absolute tear, I do just have to take a little bit of issue with this story in this morning's SF Chronicle. Working for a book publisher, married to a teacher, and child of a librarian and an English teacher, I am about as great a lover of books as you're going to find; I can also understand any number of reasons why a school, despite, or perhaps even because of, financial woes, might legitimately need to get rid of a whole lot of books. And even why they might not be able to donate them and would have to recycle them. It's ironic that, as a culture, we hold books up in this sacrosanct light, and yet when it comes to the most concrete way we express ourselves in the world we live in (ie, our consumer behavior) we buy, or don't buy, in such a way as to drive booksellers both large and small out of business almost weekly. Or, perhaps it's not ironic at all--perhaps we revere these objects specifically because we know we're driving them towards extinction. Like the current vogue for images of typewriters, rotary phones, or woodland creatures--we find charming and valuable what we on some level believe is ceasing to exist. Books, though, I have no doubt, are going to surprise us. The book will outlive us all, not because of newspaper tempests-in-teapots, not because of sentimental nostalgia, but because something so meaningful, joyful, and necessary defies destruction by its very nature.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Golden Veins

This passage, from Kate T. Williamson's book A Year in Japan is just so completely wonderful that I will let it speak for itself.

Monday, June 27, 2011

One Month Old

Not long after Mabel was born, her paternal grandmother--known to her as her Nooe--came out to visit and meet her and help out and cook loads of amazing Southern food when her son, Mabel's father, my nice husband, Bill, returned to work. Here they are napping together on the sofa, and Mabel is very very small. As her first birthday starts to glimmer on the horizon, I find I like to contemplate the tiny sleepy baby she once was. So clearly herself and yet so very different from the robust and inquisitive explorer of today.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Day to Day Life of Albert Hastings

Today's art book, The Day to Day Life of Albert Hastings by Kaylynn Deveney, is one of my absolutely all-time favorite books ever. Not just favorite art books, favorite books period. I've actually mentioned it briefly before, in my love song to small books. And transparency requires that I mention it's published by Princeton Architectural Press, sister company to my own employer (I seem to be mentioning PAP, as they are familiarly known, quite a bit lately. I guess because they are cool). Anyhow, this book. What can I say? It's just totally and completely amazing. Photographer Deveney has made pictures of the life of one particular elderly man in Wales. His life is utterly normal. The photos are utterly beautiful. But, as I said here about a quite different book--she has not elevated his life to the stuff of art, no. Rather, she has revealed the hidden-in-plain-sight secret magic and beauty of a normal old man living a normal old life. Pure genius. Normally, when I take the photos for these art book posts, I flip through the book, pausing here and there to shoot my favorite spreads. When I started taking pictures of this book, though, well of course I had to shoot the first spread, it was great, oh, and then the second spread is great too, let's shoot that one as well, and then, oop, better do this third one, too, it's awesome. I quickly realized I could easily wind up shooting every single page in the book. It's that good. So I just stopped at some arbitrary point. So here are the fist ten pages or so of this book--and, oh wait, did I mention Albert's own handwritten captions for the images? Did I mention, genius?! Ok, I'll shut up now. Enjoy:

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Another Poem about Fall 2005

September 20, 2005
Yesterday morning was cold but by midday it got warm

And as I left work at five o’clock
and started up the street
I was suddenly aware
that the left side of my face was cool and the right side warm
Same was true of my hands
my knees
It took me a moment to understand what was happening
The stone office building
(to my right as I walked)
though now in shadow
had been hit by the sun all afternoon
and was releasing the heat it had absorbed throughout the day
onto me

This morning there was a mix-up with Bill’s carpool
a phone call after he’d already left the house
and I had to grab my keys and jog up the block with moist hair
to tell him where he was waiting on the corner
Don’t worry they’re just going to be late
As I crossed the street heading up the hill
I looked down our street
(down the same eight blocks I walk each morning)
and saw
at the bottom of the hill
between the skyscrapers
a yellow box of sunlight
An open box
as delineated at the bottom by the slant of light coming over a rooftop
as it was on the sides by the tall buildings that frame the street
The light was like a cube
it had color and depth and heft
Though you knew its substance was made up of fog
the cube was a bright shining pale yellow
that didn’t look like fog at all
Rather it looked like a thing you could reach out and touch
that would have a texture somewhere between
cotton candy and consume soup

Later when I left the house again to go to work
the cube was still there
a little fuzzier around the edges and pale silver now rather than gold
Some of the wonder had gone out of it
but there was another interesting thing:
The fog in the box was falling down
straight down
like rain except more slowly
It made me think of those mystical stories where various things
(wisdom, grace, death, what-have-you)
fall out of the sky onto people
once I got down to the bottom of the hill
the fog was
falling on me
like grace, like water, like boxes of sunlight

image source is here

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Art Book Publishers' Logos

Just a small selection--I steered clear of university presses and museums as that just seemed like too big a bag of worms to open, and I also made the arbitrary rule for myself that I could not include any I'd already displayed here or here (even though many of those houses do indeed make art books as well as reading books). Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Daily Miracle

"One of the pleasant things those of us who write or paint do is to have the daily miracle. It does come."
--Gertrude Stein

I'm not sure I can accurately convey how profoundly significantly and accurate the above quotation seems to me. As you'll know if you've read any of the poems on this site, I'm a great believer in trying to tune in and capture/appreciate/marvel at the wondrous minutia of the quotidian day. But Stein is saying something even greater--not just that you should be on the lookout for the daily miracle (and perhaps, as I like to think, that miracle is something very basic and simple and normal from the day that suddenly elevates itself into something astonishing, or perhaps for her it was something else entirely--no way of knowing for sure, but in truth it hardly matters), but that "it does come." It does. Not it can, or it might, or even it will come. And when it comes, what it is? Is it dramatic? Is it earth shattering? No, it's pleasant. God, I love this so much.

So here are a couple of folks that, to my view, have done a very good job of capturing the Daily Miracle in online form--

I really am rather bereft that you can no longer access the online archive of A Year of Mornings (where two friends each took a photo each morning and created diptychs sight unseen--one of the major inspirations behind the project I do with my dad, Silas and Eppie). But you can see these lovely images in book form (full disclosure: the book was published by Princeton Architectural Press, sister company to my own employer).

And Jill Wignall makes postcard drawings of her Daily Miracles over at Today I Saw. Love these. Just love them. She used to make one every day and mail it--sometimes to a friend, sometimes to a stranger--and then she stopped for a while. But I'm happy to note she's back at it recently.

Image source for Gertrude Stein photo is here.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Warm Hat

Summer has arrived in San Francisco, which means that about sixty percent of the time it is foggy and a bit cold. As you can see in today's Polaroid, many residents do not mind this--indeed, we quite enjoy the gray summer weather--we just put on our Sherpa hats and grin and say "which way to Mount Everest, baby?"

Friday, June 17, 2011

Atlas of Remote Islands

Some might argue that today's art book, Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Never Set Food On and Never Will is not an art book at all, but rather a very beautifully designed, illustrated, nonfiction book about islands. But to me this distinction is a quibble, and a futile one at that--as futile as the argument about art versus craft, or the teapot-tempest about art museums mounting shows about fashion designers. Author, illustrator, and designer Judith Schalansky has surely made a work of art here (I was about to type something about her having "elevated" this book to the level of art--but the implied hierarchy there, with art standing on the shoulders of illustration and design, not to mention writing, bothered me, so I revised). Check it out and see for yourself:

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Another Installment in the Series of Poems about Fall 2005

September 19, 2005

Saturday morning was the farmer’s market
bought fruit to make little pot pies for Vanessa’s dessert party
Three different kinds of heirloom apples from the apple stand
tiny hard green ones from england
the golden delicious the french use for tart tatin
and dear pink-red ones called jonathan
Also some green and some red plums
And a few of the first pomegranates of the season and more dahlias
which I put in a jug on the dining table
so I can sit and watch them like waves on the shore

That afternoon we baked the pies in the small pink ramekins
Bill made pastry dough
I chopped up all the apples and plums
The pastry lids were sprinkled with sugar
and slashed on top three times with a knife
The filling ran down the sides as they baked
We watched bad movies in bed while the dough was chilling
and the pies baking

In the middle of the movie
prompted by nothing
Bill started crying
really cried for the first time since the school year began
I held him

On Sunday there was all the housework
And a somewhat heavy going brunch with friends at Dottie’s
(where I saw a girl in a lavender wig drinking out of a lavender water glass)
Sometimes it takes more will
to make sunny breakfast table chitchat
than it does to do the laundry and the dishes
sweep the house
clean the bathroom
go to the grocery store and balance the checkbook
No one can claim to like cleaning the bathroom
(especially if you have old porcelain
that soaks up dirt and never really gives it back)
But in the end
the sparkling white and deep mellow silver
smile and wink at you
I do like to go to the grocery store though
pretending to be an adult
with my flour and my carrots and my grapenuts and my bottle of wine
Sometimes I think I’m playing house

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


[Shameless self-promotion alert! This post originally appeared in a slightly different form on the Chronicle Books Blog. Normally I don't cross-pollinate work and the Cabinet quite so closely, but in this instance I couldn't resist.]

So, I just have to tell you how over-the-moon I am about the fact that the first few titles in a line I've been working on with legendary color authority PANTONE came out last week! First, there's this Box of 100 Postcards.

Every card is a different brilliant PANTONE color.

And the postcard box is also being published in Spanish, French, and German. I love seeing them all lined up together like this!

Next up we have two journals—one featuring PANTONE’s 2011 Color of the Year, Honeysuckle (PANTONE 18-2120), and one with a multichip design. Both, as you can see, are completely awesome.

How much do the people in my office love Honeysuckle? So much that my coworker and baker extraordinaire Patti Quill made this PANTONE cake to celebrate the kick-off our spring publishing season!

Least you be in any doubt about my work's collective devotion to all things PANTONE, how about some shots from around the office—like this recent meeting of our Art + Design group where we were all using the mugs our friends at PANTONE so kindly sent us?

Or these folks, who’ve decorated their workspaces with press sheets from the making of the postcard box?

I especially love that in this picture you can catch a glimpse of the cover proof for our big PANTONE book (coming out in the Fall) sitting on my Managing Editor’s desk waiting to be proofread.

If you want a little PANTONE instant gratification right now, there are six most excellent shades of PANTONE desktop wallpapers available for download here. (via How About Orange).

And for an even greater panoply of PANTONE wonderfulness (including the ever popular PANTONE cookies), go to this wiki devoted to all things PANTONE.

And last, when this post originally appeared on the Chronicle blog, a reader sent in the above photo of design school graduates. So cute!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Polka Dot Needlepoint Pillow

Check out the amazing pillow dear friend Vanessa made for Mabel! Do you see its awesomeness? 

That's right, the entire thing is needlepoint! Now I don't know much about needlepoint, but I do know that in that medium circles are not easy to make. And there's like a gazillion circles here.

Not to mention, each polka dot is made using a different kind of stitch. It's a sampler! I'm beyond in love with it. And Mabel is too.

Monday, June 13, 2011

At the Farmers' Market

One of our favorite things to do with Mabel is to go to the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market on a Saturday morning. We've been doing other things the past few Saturdays though, and haven't had a chance to go for a little while--so I'm missing it a bit and thought I'd bring out this Polaroid from the last time we went. One thing this picture shows off quite well is Mabel's love of mixing patterns (in this case sailboat hat, flowered shirt, and polka dot onesie). The only downside is that she looks a little frowny--though in fact she was enjoying herself quite well watching the pigeons. She dearly loves to watch pigeons, so it is most likely a look of serious concentration we see on this baby face, in fact.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Robert Motherwell: Open

Today's art book is Robert Motherwell: Open. Spending some time with this volume made me realize a couple of things. One, I love classic Abstract Expressionism. It's not something I give much thought to, most of the time--my work keeps me mostly focused on Contemporary rather than Modern art. But it's there. Just sitting quietly in the background, waiting for it's chance to come forward--a book, a museum visit--a deep affection for these sorts of paintings. And the examples in this book are just wonderful. Really beautiful stuff. The second thing this book made me realize, though, is that I have a pretty major complaint about a certain ilk of serious art monograph. Namely: too many words and not enough pictures. When the essays in an art book are taking up as many, if not more, pages than the images--well, to me that seems like a problem. I feel a little bit about it the way I do about short stories. I really just cannot read short stories. I want to grab the author by the lapels and shake him and say "Where's the rest? More, More! Give me my damn novel!" This is the same thing, only in reverse--I want fewer words, not more. What I want more of is paintings. Now, granted, a book like this, that's about a particular series, is limited by the number of pictures the artist made in that series. But then the solution should be: fewer pages in the book. Otherwise you end up feeling the same way you do when you're walking down the street and you see a baby carriage coming, only to discover as you pass by that the baby is hidden from the world by a screen of blankets and you don't get to see her: ripped off. Of course, in the end, the wonderfulness of these pictures more than makes up for my gripes about the book. Take a look:

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The 14th Poem in the Series about Fall 2005

September 16, 2005
Dissatisfaction with yesterday’s weeping makes it hard to write today

I had what was to all appearances
a nice spoiling girly evening
Gave myself a facial
watched You’ve Got Mail
ate ice cream
Thought I was having
a pretty good time
until Bill came home and I found myself suddenly dissolve in a torrent of tears
The kind that are supposed to feel cathartic
but really just leave you feeling sort of ill

So how can I chat about the strange new green clay mask
that makes your face all stiff and cold
and your skin oh-so-very soft afterwards
when there is this sturm-und-drang hanging over?

But how can I opine about being a big soggy mess
when I’ve set myself the task of recording tangible things in the outside world
and not the endless rotations
of the hamster wheel inside my mind?

The tears are real enough I suppose
And the vagaries of life that lead to them
also pretty concrete in their way
Even the pull of the moon
or more accurately the pull
of the twenty-one little white pills and the seven fake pink ones
is a material reality
Just not the one I’ve been looking for

image source is here.