Well over a year ago I was invited to partake in a book arts project by the Al-Mutanabbi Street Coalition.
Al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad was a community of book sellers, cafes, stationery and tea shops. On March 5, 2007, a car bomb exploded killing thirty people and injuring more than one hundred.
The Al-Mutanabbi Street Coalition project was a call to create three books that "reflected both the strength and fragility of books, as well as the endurance of the ideas within them." It was a project that would both honor and reflect upon Al-Mutanabbi Street, the attack on the printed word and the worldwide literary community.
I was eager and excited to participate in such a project. However, the more I thought about it, the more anxious I grew. What would I say? What kind of book would I make? A multitude of ideas swarmed through my head. None of them were ever "good enough" for a project like this. Self doubt. Worry. All of those ugly emotions reared their head.
The due date drew closer and I still wasn't sure what I would make.
Then my Dad died unexpectedly and my world collapsed.
I forgot about the project, focusing on my family and my Dad and trying to make sense of all of it.
Beau Beausoleil, the founder of the project (as well as a poet and bookseller himself) wrote asking what was going on. I was embarrassed and explained the situation. He kindly extended my deadline.
More worry. More doubt. Then one night, I threw my other ideas aside and thought about creating a book without pages, something along the lines of a triptych book. I spent the weekend collaging three panels whose pieces were made up of torn book pages, handwritten notes, and hand imagery. I worked outside of my comfort zone and pushed myself to try to reflect what books and reading really meant to me. The project that you see above is what I came up with. I even included some of my Dad's handwriting to honor him (he also loved to read.)
You can read more about Al-Mutanabbi Street and the Project here.
There are various sized exhibitions of the books touring the world. More on that here.
There is an indiegogo project called Building a Literary Bridge that will help raise money to:
- Ship these artists’ books to destinations in the United States, Europe and the Middle East to hold simultaneous exhibitions from 2013 through 2014.
- Send 260 Artists’ Books and 130 Letterpress Broadsides to the National Library of Baghdad to be part of their permanent collection.
More on the Indiegogo project and how you can contribute here.
Beau has recently edited a book called Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here: Poets and Writers Respond to the March 5th, 2007, Bombing of Baghdad's "Street of the Booksellers".
Thank you to Beau and to all of the project contributors for including me as a part of this project. It's meant a lot to me.
Al-Mutanabbi Street starts here.