The Amichai Windows: Progress Update

With New Year’s and the January blizzard behind us, it’s a quiet time of year. Which is just what I need to dig in again and start making more progress on producing The Amichai Windows.

Each poem will be made as a triptych that contains an inner and an outer sheet of paper that will function like a frame. Recently, I spent a week or so experimenting on how to attach the internal sheets (which will contain the poems) and the external sheets of handmade paper. I thought that I had two options: to glue or to sew. But, happily, discovered a third way to do it that I think is going to work the best.

First, I experimented with a number of different glues to see how they take to the papers. Let’s see . . .Matte Medium, Matte Super Heavy Gel, and Rhoplex 580. Of them all, Rhoplex worked best. It is a museum grade adhesive that affixed the papers to each other with little to no curling. But it’s hard to clean up and foul smelling — both downers. I might end up using it in various ways but I still want to experiment with wheat paste; it might be the easiest and best, most archival of them all.

Aside from the qualities of the various glues, though, I discovered that I don’t want to fully glue down entire sheets to each other. It completely flattens down and deadens the beauty and flexibility of the papers. Besides which, the papers need to be able to swing like they’re on a hinge — and that means that they need to move a bit. So, gluing is out except for small collaged images.

Next I tried sewing. I love to sew but I am limited in this book because of the triptych structure. I tried a number of different stitches, some of which came through on the front and some that didn’t. But it mostly just detracted from the overall design and the poems themselves. I also tried a simple pamphlet stitch in the hinge of the papers. This worked the best and was the least conspicuous, especially with natural linen thread.

Ultimately, though, I don’t think it’s going to be necessary. Because I thought of a third way to do it: photo corners. That’s what I love about experimenting!

At some point, it just came to me. I bought a range of photo corners and they seem to work quite well. Either clear or ivory seem best and least conspicuous. Most importantly, they allow the play that’s necessary in the papers being “attached” to each other yet able to slide a bit back and forth.

The only downside is that prefabricated photo corners might either be: 1., too small or 2., not have a strong, archival adhesive. But I can use whatever adhesive I want and I might just end up making my own photo corners — they’re not difficult to do — if it seems warranted. We’ll see down the road what size photo corners I might want to use.

I also love the implicit associations between photos and poems — how they are similar and not. Both deal with images but in different ways; a snapshot in time but more than that, too. Visual, textual images . . . which remain in our memories. I also like the way in which the photo corners reflect the actual concern of a number of poems in The Amichai Windows, including The Jews and I Know A Man.

Here are the opening lines of the magnificent poem, The Jews, with my own translation:

The Jews

The Jews are like photographs displayed in a shop window,
all of them together at different heights, living and dead
brides and grooms, bar mitzvah boys with babies.
And there are restored pictures from old, yellowed photographs.
And sometimes people come and break the window
and burn the pictures. And then they start
to take photos again and develop again
and display them anew, aching and smiling . . .


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