Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Marino Translation

Rachael S.
(New Haven, CT)

Music and Poetry are two sisters--
Together, restorers of the afflicted,
For the turbid storms of wicked thoughts
By happy rhymes' power become serene.
The world has not seen arts more beautiful
Nor more healing for the unsound mind...

Giambattista Marino wrote these verses in the 17th century, but Rachael S. translated them into English a few years ago.  The poem, L’Adone, has some sympathies with the Songs About Books project – it proclaims the sisterhood of music and poetry.  And it resonates with the way Carolina leans into her other senses as she loses her sight in The Blind Contessa’s New Machine: the poem asks the reader to value hearing more than sight, despite the fact that the world usually thinks sight is more important than sound.  Rachael traded the original Italian version of the poem, her own translation, and her introduction to it, for her copy of Songs About Books.

Marvelous art in each of her beautiful works
(This one cannot deny) Nature shows;
But like a painter, who by ingenuity and study
Discovers more in little figures than in large,
In things very small she applies
Greatest diligence and greatest care.
Yet such artistry surpasses her way
With all other miracles she performs.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Paper Flowers

Morgan Levine
(Brooklyn, NY)
Morgan Levine makes all kinds of things with her hands: jewelry, ornaments, hats, paper flowers.  These hand-painted crepe blooms are spares from a group she made to wear in her hair. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Liturgical Bunny

Gwen M.
(Fort Worth, TX)
Gwen knits these bunnies without a pattern: she lets the needles and the yarn tell her where to go.  She was actually an inspiration for this trade project -- I met her at a conference where she had knit a bunny she was willing to trade for any other artist’s work. This bunny is a close cousin of the one I saw there, but with a special twist: an identity necklace that spells out “patience” and “kindness.” He's got a spooky, regal quality that I love.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Music Man

Sam Wedelich
(New York, NY)
Sam Wedelich's art draws you into a beautiful world, and just when your guard goes down, she serves you a dose of truth.  She's also one of my favorite living singers, so it was a special gift when she traded this painting of a man using his horn to hear his own heart for her copy of Songs About Books.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Double-Hearted Rose

(Brooklyn, NY)
Raddo and his beautiful wife run my favorite flower shop, Stem, which happens to be down the block from my house.  The flowers are different every week, but always beautiful and strange: thistles, poppies, juniper, freesia, anemones, dahlias, hyacinth, pine.  When I took them a copy of Songs About Books, he traded me for this beautiful double-hearted rose.

Friday, February 10, 2012


Abby, Luke, and Caleb  
(Chelsea, MI)

I love art by kids, and these are some fabulously talented kids.  Their mom traded these treasures for her copy of Songs About Books.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Silkscreen Butterfly Bag

Jody S.
(Morganville, NJ)

Jody, who I met at a library reading in New Jersey, silkscreened a butterfly like the one on the cover of The Blind Contessa’s New Machine on this bag.  It’s lined with beautiful fabric, and big enough to hold about two dozen books.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tea Bowl

Tim Mills
(Bangkok, Thailand)

A gorgeous tea bowl sent to me from Atlanta by an artist on leave from his work in Bangkok where, among other things, he leads a regional group for artists.  I’m still trying to figure out how he made the ceramic look like sea glass.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Marinara Sauce

Regina K.
Brooklyn, NY

I met Regina at my first reading for the paperback version of The Blind Contessa's New Machine, part of the wonderful Largehearted Lit series, which blends two of my favorite worlds: music and books.  I played a few songs from Songs About Books that night, and gave Regina a copy of the record.  A few days later, she showed up on my doorstep with homemade marinara sauce and a box of pasta.

Monday, February 6, 2012


Chris Dean
Ferndale, MI

 If you’ve run across a lenticular outside a gallery, it was probably at the bottom of a box of Cracker Jack: one of those “holograph” toys where the image changes as you turn the piece of plastic. Chris Dean has raised the nostalgic process to an art form, and sent me this gorgeous example in trade for his copy of Songs About Books.