Online Exhibitions

Selections from the Permanent Collection is an exhibition series highlighting holdings from the Poetry Center’s L.R. Benes Rare Book Room, including contemporary fine press work and artist books as well as important works from the 20th century and earlier. In winter 2012, the Center inaugurated Selections from the Permanent Collection with a look at oversized works.

Unusually sized books, whether very small or very large, visually signal the reader to take special notice. The “Big Books” displayed here claim the reader’s attention not by their size alone, but also by their exceptional design.

To make a big book is a costly undertaking. It is a sign of faith on the part of all those involved in its production that the work within, and the physical artifact itself, are worth extra time, effort, and expense. In the case of these stunning Big Books, that faith is well placed.

This exhibit, curated by Wendy Burk and Sarah Kortemeier, was originally presented in the Jeremy Ingalls Gallery of the University of Arizona Poetry Center from December 12, 2012 to January 30, 2013.

Revista XhismeArte
Image of Revista XhismeArte, no. 7 (1981)
Interior image of Revista XhismeArte, no. 7 (1981). LISA, LISA by Judy Miranda

Revista XhismeArte no. 7. Los Angeles: Los Angeles Latino Writers Association/ Concilio de Arte Popular, 1981. 43 x 28 cm.

Cover image by Barbara Canasco, and interior image LISA, LISA by Judy Miranda. 

The handsome oversized journal Revista XhismeArte (also called ChismeArte) was published by the Los Angeles Latino Writers Association, a pioneering group directed by poet Luis J. Rodriguez. Famed Chicana novelist Helena María Viramontes served as a coordinator for the Association and as the literary editor of XhismeArte. The boldly designed Issue no. 7, called the "Woman’s Issue," is especially noteworthy, with Viramontes emphasizing the political dimension of work by established and emerging voices.

Image of Edges.
Interior image by Alex Katz.

Robert Creeley and Alex Katz. Edges. New York: Peter Blum Editions, 1997. 31 x 25 cm.

"For a number of years I had been talking to Alex Katz about the idea of publishing a limited edition book. It was to include a series of prints and a piece of writing – poetry if possible. Then in spring of 1995, after much reflection and contemplation – paralleling his mode of making paintings – Katz worked very quickly. Together with the printer Doris Simmelink he produced thirteen black line etchings of extraordinary economy and beauty. Their subject, as often in his nature scenes: the Maine landscape.

A choice of who was to be the writer was made without hesitation and Robert Creeley, upon seeing the proofs, accepted at once. He ordered the sequence of images and decided that the book would contain a single poem made up of four line stanzas, each to accompany an etching."

                                         —From the foreword by Peter Blum

Image of Photographs
Interior image of Photographs

Allen Ginsberg. Photographs. Altadena, CA: Twelvetrees Press, 1990. 36 x 29 cm.

Allen Ginsberg’s black-and-white photographs depict 20th-century legends of art and literature, from Louise Nevelson to Jack Kerouac, in moments of intimacy and hilarity. Each image is accompanied by a descriptive passage in Ginsberg’s distinctive script. The photographs, which were also featured at a 2010 exhibition at the National Gallery of Art, demand the oversized setting provided by this edition.

The Tango
Image of The Tango
Interior image of The Tango

Leslie Scalapino and Marina Adams. The Tango. New York: Granary Books, 2001. 33 x 25 cm.

The Tango pairs a long poem by experimental writer Leslie Scalapino with images of works on paper and fabric by artist Marina Adams. In this collaboration, Scalapino also took an active role as an artist, contributing the numerous photographs of monks in debate at the Sera Monastery in Tibet.

Scalapino wrote of Adams’s works on fabric that they are "as serial tapestry akin to Buddhist tankas as if alongside that tradition, a conceptual extension of these that is 'original.'" Three devotional series—written, painted, and photographed—thus weave beautifully through The Tango.

In Memory of My Feelings: A Selection of Poems
Image of In Memory of My Feelings: A Selection of Poems
Excerpt from In Memory of My Feelings: A Selection of Poems

Frank O’Hara. In Memory of My Feelings: A Selection of Poems by Frank O’Hara. Ed. Bill Berkson. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1967. 31 x 23 cm.

At the time of Frank O’Hara’s death in 1966, he was Assistant Curator of Painting and Sculpture Exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art. The following year, O’Hara’s museum colleagues organized a remarkable tribute to the poet about whom MOMA Director René d’Harnoncourt wrote, "it is hard to exaggerate what he gave us.… I know that many of us, because of Frank’s presence, learned to see better, to communicate their experiences in clearer forms." In Memory of My Feelings presents thirty O’Hara poems in unbound folio sheets with art by Motherwell, Rauschenberg, Lichtenstein, the de Koonings, Brainard, Frankenthaler, and many others.

Facsimile of the William Morris "Kelmscott Chaucer"
Image of the Facsimile of the William Morris Kelmscott Chaucer
Interior image of the Facsimile of the William Morris Kelmscott Chaucer

Facsimile of the William Morris "Kelmscott Chaucer." Cleveland/New York: World Publishing Company, 1958. 33 x 23 cm.

Designer, artist, writer, and publisher William Morris (1834–1896) founded the English private-press movement and became the guiding light of the Arts and Crafts movement. Inspired by the philosophy of John Ruskin, Morris rejected 19th-century British industrialism. He gravitated toward medieval art and architecture for its emphasis on harmony with nature and individual craft. In this and in all aspects of his work, he was deeply inspired by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and its leader, Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Upon founding the Kelmscott Press in 1890, Morris embodied his motto "If I Can" (i.e., "If I can, I will") by learning every aspect of the printer’s craft, although he employed professional printers for the daily work of the press. Always hands-on, he designed his own distinctive typefaces and created the elaborate woodcut initials and decorations that typify Kelmscott books. The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer is Morris’s masterpiece, carried out with his lifelong friend, the artist Edward Burne-Jones. Even in facsimile it is easy to see why the Kelmscott Chaucer is often called one of the most beautiful books ever made.

Was Here
Image of Was Here
Interior image of Was Here

Emily McVarish. Was Here. New York: Granary Books, 2001 (San Francisco: E. McVarish). 34 x 28 cm.

"Was Here takes Photography and the Book as distinct metaphors for History, playing them off one another to provoke and unwind their respective implications.… With obvious compositional and material attention to the medium (letterpress) in which both texts and photographs—labels and vignettes, captions and scenes, statements and evidence—are presented, Was Here seeks signs of the historical truths that link reproducibility and transcendence."

                                         —Emily McVarish

This dazzling work by McVarish, one of the premier book artists in the United States today, is a recent addition to the Poetry Center’s library collection. We were able to add Was Here to our holdings in connection with an exhibition of artist books curated by Johanna Drucker for the Center’s May 2012 Poetry Off the Page Symposium.

Arizona Board of Regents