Composition

It is a chilly December day and I am wondering where I might have misplaced October and November. But the last couple of months it’s been a good kind of blur to launch our book into the world. Loaners: The Making of a Street Library is in bookstores and we’re getting lovely feedback from people who have enjoyed it. You can order the book at Powell’s, Broadway, and Annie Bloom’s. I wrote an essay for Powell’s that turned into a bit of a love letter to our city of Portland. And we’ve also been able to be part of some really incredible events, which feels extra meaningful after the long slog of pandemic. A few have been recorded:

Portland Book Festival (in conversation with the writer Karen Russell) – audio recording with Literary Arts, (TBA)

Powell’s: my conversation with Omar El Akkad

Elliott Bay Books: Hodge + me in conversation with our publisher, Michael Heald, and writer Martha Grover

Hodge and I will be the featured readers at the Literary Arts One Page Wednesday event this Wednesday, December 8. We’ll read at 6:30 and then hear from writers who sign up to share their work in progress. Tune in here on zoom to see us.

Walking past piles of leaf mulch these past months (Hopkins’ wanwood leafmeal: I see you) I’ve been thinking a lot about composition. As in, how a thing is created and all the parts (and people) that often go into helping it come into the world. The artist Aaron Miller created the beautiful cover of our book and his process included reading it, listening to Hodge and I talk about significant places, and then riding his bike to the those spots in the city to sketch them, (see a shot of a few of his ideas, bottom left). The final cover is pretty much my favorite art piece of all time: it features the corner in China Town where Hodge slept, and the window of the abandoned Chinese food joint where he once upon a time taped up pictures of impressionist paintings he’d found in a free box on his meanderings. (Hodge did it to spruce the place up in case his holiness the Dalai Lama passed through China Town while he visited Portland – he didn’t). Aaron actually painted larger versions of paintings like “L’Absinthe” by Degas and “At the Moulin Rouge” by Toulouse-Lautrec, then shrunk them down to fit in the small squares on the cover. When I look at that cover, it feels like a reminder to keep an eye out for art everywhere. To let my eyes rest a beat longer on a person or thing that from a distance might look beleaguered. So often, up close it’s a work of art.

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