small green book, open to page reading "hat / tight"
page spread from Neighborly, a tiny book

Neighborly (2020). Artist’s Book, Edition of 1. Materials: green tiny book (provided), poem, magazine clippings.

I was delighted to contribute my poem / tiny book “Neighborly” to Eileen Tabios’s tiny book collection. Eileen presents this book beautifully — with pictures and text of the poem — on her site; please click through for more.

My poem “Neighborly” is less than 20 lines long, but it seemed like the right aesthetic fit for this vivid green tiny book. Because the book has 80 very small pages, I knew that if I wanted to make a single poem into a book I’d have some choices to make: I decided to include 1-3 words on each page, and to use a blank page to indicate the pause of what would otherwise be a line break. And, I wanted to make plants more prominent. I realized that the words in my poem evoked but didn’t fully describe the action that the poem was about. There are “scissors” and “clippings” and a “sidewalk” in the poem, but no mention of plants or sage or the neighborhood. I briefly considered cutting some sage and other leaves from my yard, pressing and drying, and adding these to the book. But that’s not the kind of work I have patience for! Instead, I browsed my recently received issue of Martha Stewart Living for pictures of foliage and flowers. Martha Stewart didn’t offer any sage, but I did find an advertisement for peachy-orange Floribunda roses, and this color looked amazing with the neon-y green cover of my tiny book. I cut out rectangles of these roses, along with some succulents, and pasted them in my tiny book, punctuating the lines of my poem.

The effect of reading this completed tiny book “Neighborly” is, I hope, one that captures the movement of a garden through the combination of its language and images.

—from Genevieve Kaplan’s “Talking Poetics: a poem for my neighbor” (forthcoming from rob mcclennan’s “Talking Poetics” series, Ottawa Poetry Newsletter—link to be provided when available)