Haiga: Volumes 1, 2 and 3
In winter of 2008 I rented a place in Montauk, the village at the tip of Long Island. The last thing on my mind was haiku. But while walking the beaches poems in verses of 3/5/3 or 5/7/5 rolled in on waves, appeared written on seaweed, were dictated by gulls.
And later, looking for background information, I found that there is a form of art, haiga, specifically containing haiku. Wanting to create my haiga strictly defined as the lines of the poems are I set a discipline: each print designed with a base paper, two etching plates - an interpretative drawing and a text plate, the first cut irregularly - and two forms in chine collé: fine papers melded with the base paper. Preparing a folder to show I collaged the cover with bits of early proofs and the chine collé that came from them. And as the edition of books developed collaged covers, each unique, stayed an element.
They are collected in three limited editions of 7 for each volume, containing 15 hand-pulled prints, the poems letterpress on facing pages. The first of each is in the archives of the Harry Ransom Center for the Humanities.
Arrested Ephemera: Haiga
A collection of all three artist's books in a size convenient for library shelves and very beautifully produced at an affordable cost.
HQ Quarterly, a publication in Great Britain: “…forty-five haiku embedded — organically merged within — a collection of brightly-coloured, and dynamically expressed, etchings and collages. The printing — on thick pearl-white paper — is sumptuous. This book radiates quality in all its aspects”
Frogpond, the publication of The Haiku Society of America: “The artistry is impeccable, alive on the page, multidimensional, with fine attention to every imaginable detail.”
Stephen Addiss, PhD, author of several books on haiga: “When I think of haiga books in English, this is really far beyond most of them, in terms of production and quality and even in Japan where there are some beautiful haiga books, this stands up very well.”
Roberta Waddell, Retired Curator of Prints at the New York Public Library: “Your book arrived yesterday — and what a glorious publication it is! I marvel at how intensely you are aware of the world — the everyday — around you. You see and focus on the magic and beauty of simple moments and sights, and capture them in spare words and glowing, quietly uplifting images. Double-page after double-page, I read, study, and then experience a feeling of intense recognition — though I could no more conjure up that feeling in words and images, as you have done, than I could fly. But you do soar, and take me with you.”
The Book of Arachne
In Ovid's version, Arachne (a shepherd's daughter) began to weave at an early age and became a master of the art. But she boasted that her skill was greater than Athena's, angering the Goddess. Arrogant, she challenged Athena to a competition, the loser promising never to touch a spindle or loom again. When her work, showing ways in which the Gods had misled and abused mortals, was seen to be indeed the finer of the two, it enraged Athena and she ripped the tapestry to shreds. In despair, Arachne hanged herself. Athena relented and said, “Live on then, and yet hang and the same conditions are declared for your descendants generation to generation.” And so Arachne (Greek for spider) weave without tools to this day.
In that vague library of things read over decades, I remembered mentions of ‘occasional poetry’. They were occasional in schedule and/or often for occasions. Looking for a form more related to this group of images and the conversations I had with them as I worked, I found in Edwin Hirsch's A Poet's Glossary the perfect historic reference: ‘Frasca,’ an Italian word meaning ‘a little twig’ or ‘a trifle.’ Though it has a history centuries old, the impulse remains. I have had fun with these and hope they amuse you as well.
The books, published by the artist, are available in very limited numbers due to the private nature of the project.
During my husband's long illness I seldom got to my studio or press but I could write in hospital, at his bedside. And after his death I used my art — both forms: visual and poetry — to express and to ameliorate my grief. Invited to show again at the Instituto Peruano Norteamericano in 2009 I began to work (with much assistance to my uneducated Spanish) on translations of the poems which were posted with the etchings they related to. Readings were organized in several cities in Peru.
Peruvian poet Doris Moromisato attended the readings in Lima and, at a gathering the last day of my visit, asked if I would publish a bi-lingual book of my poems. To which I answered with a resounding “yes.”
In 2002 the first Ticket Stubs was published as 1st prize in the Medicinal Purposes Chapbook Contest. It was a slimmer volume and, in accordance with the rules, had only work not previously published. Drawings from my travel sketchbooks going back to the 1960's were used as illustration.
These many years later the copies are depleted and I have been given permission to republish, adding work that has appeared in other venues, new poems and additional artwork.
Created as the catalog in collage form for a solo exhibit, this 83 page 8.5 x 11” book is richly illustrated in full color and is more a bio and study of the art, from sketches and notes to finished poems, prints, collages and constructions.
The very atypical “catalog,” which includes information on the history and impetus of the various works - from sketches and notes to finished pieces - is available.
Irena Gobernik, Director of Dalet, describes the Gallery’s concept for the exhibit: “Moving from one work to another we realize the unity of the aesthetic. And realize we want to show Ellen Peckham’s art not as separate, perfectly performed works nor as a series united by technique or period of creation but as the record of the life of an amazing, adventurous and multi-talented person who has shrugged off being limited in expectations, styles or media.”
A CD of my poems, set to music by Gerald Busby, is included.