For the past year or so, I’ve been busy with family things, and neglected a lot of my art&poetry-focussed things (i.e. my business). But, I’ve recently made another schedule, one with a (hopefully) doable plan for publishing a couple of extremely patient poets; for making and showing my artworks; and for putting together a poetry manuscript of my own. The family things more serious and personal than I’d like to mention in this blog.

The two poets I mention have very likely been grumbling about their book not getting done, and I certainly wouldn’t blame them if they were. In fact, I’d encourage them to complain, at least a little. The recent and future books by Egress Studio Press are handmade, limited editions that contain artwork, and so they take more time to publish than usual, and require stretches of time dedicated to them alone. I describe them as poetry art-books, and I’m going public now by saying I think they’ll be ready by June. I will be hard at work on them until then.

I’m making some progress on the artwork for the cover of both, and the interior of one. That’s mainly what I want to show in this posting. One will have a few original linoleum block prints in the hard cover, and copies of them in the soft cover version. The other will have a monotype reprint on the cover. And those are the main focus of my thoughts right now.


This is what I’m working on for the cover of one of the books. These are monoprints, and I’ll be making several more before I’m through. Those two on the upper right are just me goofing around with color and paper and texture and the et ceteras that come from the draft form of art. I see I have a ways to go before I have the final version.


These are sketches for the second book. I’m trying out layouts for linoleum block prints. Each of these has possibilities, but the final will look different from these. The book will have five or six of them, including the cover.

You’ve probably already seen The Moon’s Answer by Lana Ayers. The pen and ink illustrations took quite a while to complete. But the final layout and assembly of the books still required a lot more time before project completion. Currently, all the soft covers are finished and have been in the hands of readers since the summer of 2016. The six casebound books were finished in November 2016. And I am looking forward to finishing the final three accordion books later this year.


Hard copies of The Moon’s Answer. On the lower left are the six casebound books with handmade paper on the cover and endpapers. Top and right is the accordion book, with all the interior and exterior papers using two colors of handmade paper.


In this close up of the front cover, you can see the crosshatching that is a part of every illustration in the book, and is on the hand-dyed lavender paper. The moon is cut out of the lavender paper and pasted onto a yellow paper to create the two-color presentation, as it is throughout the accordion books. 


All of the books are signed and numbered by the author and illustrator on the page opposite the colophon. (Sorry for the out-of-focus photo. I’m in a rush.)


The previously mentioned schedule requires that I keep this blog updated with what’s happening at Egress Studio.  All I have to do is follow this schedule a minimum of 75% of the time, and I’ll stay on course. Wish me luck. So far, so good. I’ll post about the manuscript I’m putting together later on, as well as other posts about the poets and artists around the Northwest.


Space Hawk

Where the sphere of actuality
and the sphere of possibility turn
against each other, a winged creature

is flying through the Earth.
Broad rhythmic strokes
propel it through densities of stone

inward to the molten core.
Then, like a red-tailed hawk riding
a sudden thermal, it is buoyed outward,

erupting from the surface
into space, where it disappears
in a shimmer of exhilaration.


“Cosmic Bird” by Leo Osborne

This poem, which inspired a sculpture, is from my book Snail River—published in 1995 by the Quarterly Review of Literature Award Series, Princeton University. Leo Osborne created his sculpture in response to the poem, and it will be up for auction (together with a copy of the book with Leo’s drawing on the page with the poem), at the Museum of Northwest Art in La Conner, Washington. The event is scheduled for Saturday, June 16th—doors open and silent auction begins at 5 pm; live auction begins at 7:15 pm.

Osborne is a Guemes Island artist, and his sculpture reminds me that I wrote a poem inspired by a Philip McCracken painting––Phil is another long-time Guemes artist who, well before Leo arrived on Guemes, was well-known for his sculpture. Back when I first lived on the Island, it was in a rental house about three doors south of Phil and Anne McCracken’s house and art studio. That was the mid-eighties. One evening when I walked up the road to visit the McCrackens, I was enjoying the sound of frogs singing. I noticed that the frogs got louder as I approached the house. When I mentioned that phenomenon to Phil and Anne, they pointed to a small pond near the front door, and insisted that all frogs were quite welcome. Later Phil loaned me that painting titled “Frog Voices”—which, in a somewhat abstract manner, depicted the rising music of the frogs.

Frog Voices by Philip McCracken

I spent a number of evenings meditating on the painting. Then I wrote a poem which I titled “Frog Voices” in honor of the artwork it was interpreting. The McCrackens liked the poem very much, and Phil said he wanted me to keep his painting as a gift. The “Frog Voices” poem was soon to be published in my volume First Credo, 1986, which was the first of two books that were published in the Quarterly Review of Literature Contemporary Poetry Series.

Here is the poem:

Frog Voices

The swamp is silent.

Dawn’s slow voltage
reaches wild currant, and each twig,
each slim living rheostat
feeds light to the blossoms.

Then one by one open the gold
and green-flecked eyes of the frogs.

Over the distant Bering Sea,
over resting bowhead whales
and sea birds at roost,
a missile punctures the brilliance
of morning sky.

Shivering ponds of swamp water
harbor a grim reflection
as the projectile descends its chilling arc.

Suddenly the frogs begin.
Their voices rise,
feathery trebles, croaks and trills
all weaving a shield
of sound.

When the missile explodes
the blinding egg of fire is enclosed
by singing, then is repelled
into cold space
beyond the range
of song.

––For Philip McCracken

Poems by James Bertolino