some books, some gifts



A couple of weeks ago I participated in a bookmaking workshop that was led by my friend Miho, a graphic designer who is currently working for a company that specializes in designing sake labels. Technically, this was actually a bookbinding workshop since the guts of the books came to us pre-digested, as it were, but we did get to choose the cover cloth, construct the covers, and then add some wonderful frills such as delicate, lacy bookmarks. The workshop was held at Keitto, which not only offers homey but design-worthy household goods and clothing, but also soups of just about every variety you can think of (only three varieties on tap per day, however).

Speaking of books, I recently received a copy of Silent Whistle-Blowers — Goro Takano’s latest book of poetry — in the mail. I haven’t finished reading it yet but it’s full of impressive intensities, such as this quatrain taken from “Quatrains (Part 4),” part of a longer sequence:

You may be truly lucky whenever all the dead
you’ve long loved and missed but now forgot
stand on a rainbow you cannot see over your head
and see you not yet sinful enough to be with them

And what’s that funny, colorful bag of birds doing there on the floor, congregating near the hibiscus flowers? It’s a gift from my friend Anne — not a book, but the most wonderful portion of sweet, spiced pecans, each of them evincing an elegant delicacy that’s just almost enough to convince you that it’s okay to die right now, because it’s just not going to get any better than this.

books and birds

I also received a tiny handmade book in the mail this year from my stepmother, the collage and fiber artist, Cecily Axt. The book, measuring just about two inches square from edge to edge of its brightly colored cover,  is made from a couple of sheets of cleverly folded paper and contains the following handwritten message inside, each line extending across two pages:

To Trane / A New Year’s / wish for you 2016 / peace patience / happy times / enjoy life / life is precious / life is not easy / life doesn’t last / so have a blast!

I’ve decided to do my best to follow this advice in 2016 by writing more, reading more, visiting more galleries, taking more photographs, and listening to more music — starting with a Joanna Newsom concert in Osaka that was astonishingly lovely.  As one friend who went to see the Tokyo edition put it, “everyone was just rapt, completely rapt.” Newsom’s voice and harp playing are always beautiful, powerful, and apt to suddenly slink around in the most unexpectedly ethereal and muscular ways, but unlike last time I saw her play in Japan, when she toured as part of a trio, this time the expanded accompaniment of four additional musicians allowed for musical arrangements that were lush, intelligently vivid, and always delicately or thunderously present. So, special grateful thanks to the musical interplay of  Ryan Francesconi on guitar, tambura, banjo, kaval and flute; Mirabai Peart on violin, viola, vocals and keyboards; Veronique Serret on violin, flute, and kalimba; and Pete Newsom on drums and keyboards. Divers.


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