Book review

Dawn/Water Text by Bill Manhire, Images by Andrew Drummond
Published by Hawk Press

Reviewed by TONY GREEN

This book is very interesting as a collaboration between the printmaker (Andrew Drummond), the poet (Bill Manhire) & the typographer-printer-publisher-poet (Alan Loney) who got it together. It consists of eleven sheets of paper, printed on both sides, making up a book of two gatherings (6 & 5); fine prints are on the left of the opening and pages of poem on the right. The binding looks very handsome in grey-green boards with grey spine and a broad band of grey cloth. Throughout, there is great care for detail of placing and type. But that's not all. All the detail is finely focussed on a single theme: DAWN/WATER.

On the left-hand (image) pages Drummond has made a colour print of light on water. The colour changes slightly. It starts off almost imperceptible, gets brighter and brighter orange, then fades again. He has made a wide margin with a line that goes almost to the top of the page. In that, a fly, or a drawing of a fly, or a shadow of a fly, seems to be on, or in front of, the page. It flits from position to position up then down the pages, gets one leg over the margin on the last page but one, and then appears on the right hand page at the very end.

On the right page there is letterpress, reading, at the top, 'dawn/ water poem' and beneath a line at the bottom 'D WN/WATER POEM'. The 1st letter a of the upper text drops down the pages vertically then moves to the right.. Then the line breaks and the a seems to have dropped through. It settles through in the lower part of the letterpress which now reads 'D WN/WATERaPOEM'.

Drummond and Manhire work on different territories, side by side; with the fold of the sheet of paper as a line of demarcation, at a stroke, Drummond's fly-image crosses over. The bare characters of the typographic text and the bare image-pieces are signals for a reader to begin making up a story to account for the changes of identity that occur as he/she turns a page. The scene as it was, changes to the new scene: but not like a movie, like a series of slides, with a moment of darkness between them, or equally, like letters on a page with the gaps between them that one reads across so easily, it seems.

Without letters would you take the colour of Drummond's print as dawnlight on water? Without the illusionary space of Drummond's image (co-existent actually on the same sheet of paper) of water stretching up, or out & away, a hidden sun coming from out there towards you, and a lively active fly, you would have no sense of the dawn as space place or activity. Or conceive of the a as a vowel falling down the sky into the water, wind blown near the horizon, settling with the current in the water.

Image and letterpress come together in the printer's hands. In this case he needs the sharpest eyes for type and sharp ears for its effect. To mesh the two, image and type, he must have the sharpest eyes for the spatial and dynamic character of images, as also of pages turning in a book. Alan Loney has it taped.

This book opens up new territory. An interesting question is how such a beautiful book comes out in a limited edition of 200, price $35. And why this is a small price to pay. . .