The yard pitched down the hill
like an open mouth
lips of stonewall spat
yellow, red lavender,
trumpeting their quarrel
In the corner of the garage
an oily chain took refuge
from Box of Night by Jed Speare
Box of Night is a book of brief poems juxtaposed with Jed’s characteristically reticent photographs. It’s a concise work which grapples with malevolence, which it partially, tenuously, overcomes. The most powerful question it presents to me is, What about night, not as nocturnal but as “impenetrable density” (the book’s final words)? One of the poems is made of three prose statements separated by blankness – the only such instance of page design here. The first suggests, “You could parcel out your obsessions, give them rope short and taut” – a control approach ending in explosion and a fragmented self. The second suggests the opposite, that “your addictions” become “your daily routine”: this allows for personal work as an “exhumed ... demon.” The third refuses either, offers suppression by swallowing “all this,” with attendant implosion and paralysis. There is no conclusion, of course, but the fact that Box of Night and the other works exist tells me that the third alternative was not Jed’s preferred approach to his own nighttime, though it must have called. The three statements are paired with images: interior views of a stable? A dark room with bars and narrow compartments, but radiant rectangles indicate daylight. The rectangles have the qualities of beings themselves, mute as they are.
Perhaps one could enlarge oneself to match their envelopes, as Jed shrieked to match the Ayer truck’s being. This book opens with a yard, a hill, stone wall and flowers. The yard “pitched ... like an open mouth”; the wall “spat” flowers “trumpeting their quarrel.” There’s spite embedded in this (a flowered yard!), matched by the laconic “oily chain,” just as much at home and alienating. “Coon Tree Farm,” the site of the following poem, must immediately conjure “dangling bodies of color” (and yes, the place could have been better named), as does the doubled, mirrored tree photograph’s verticality. But just before the end of the book, the penultimate poem sets this challenge: “Will you forgive me / for giving you / joy and comfort / in a world of / madness and suffering?” – and two of the facing photographs look up through bare branches into an almost Maxfield Parrish blue. This is not a simple question. The fact that it is asked means that joy and comfort exist. The request for forgiveness means that they might be unforgiveable.
Adapted and extracted from Beings as Phenomena as Beings by David Miller
Jed Speare — Box of Night
Edition of 100.
28 pages, 17 x 17 cms, saddle stitched, satin white paper, colour images
Includes a free copy of the booklet Beings as Phenomena as Beings by David Miller, an essay on the artist books of Jed Speare.
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