Spell/ing () Bound is a tripartite book, arguably harkening back to the Oulipo tradition,* by Cara Benson, Kai Fierle-Hedrick and Kathrin Schaeppi. I saw it at the Dusie Press reading in New York last month, shuddered at the $15 price tag, and decided that it was one of those objects I must have. The price is fair, even low considering what the labor and materials for this book must have cost, but I’m poor and miserly. But when rare book objects present themselves, one cannot haggle with one’s inner Scrooge. Thus I ended up with #49 of 135 copies of this beautiful book. You can buy other numbers at the ellectrique press website.
The amazing thing about Spell/ing () Bound is how fully conceived it is. There’s not a false step, but there are many surprises. I’m not sure how closely the collaborators worked together or what their parameters were when writing their three individual parts, or whether the magic came together in the editorial process, but it seems like each combination brings off a new meaning and metacommentary. The book performs its own poetics, as each combination comments on its formation. It’s delightful to thumb-dance through the pages, seeking out new tracks of meaning as the elements collide. Poetic collaborations are, in my opinion, very rarely successful. To pull off a collaboration with three people leaves me with feelings of awe, jouissance and respect.
* I say “arguably” for two reasons: first, that Oulipo seems a rather misogynist tradition and thus such a wonderous success of female collaborations would probably not have found sustenance enough in the dried-up womb of Oulipo to have been birthed there. Second, to claim such a heritage assumes a progress narrative that I don’t want to get into. Those arguments notwithstanding, the “large number of physical combinations of poetic fragments within the confines of a single bound book” cannot help but remind one of Raymond Queneau’s One Hundred Thousand Billion Sonnets.