by Jen Bervin
In The Desert, poet and visual artist Jen Bervin continues in the tradition of poetic composition by erasure—by sewing. Taking John Van Dyke's prose celebration of American wilderness The Desert (1901) as a point of departure, Bervin has sewn, row by row, across 130 pages of Van Dyke's prose, creating a poem that forms its own elemental landscape and shares Van Dyke's poetic attention to visual phenomena. Thinking of the artist James Turrell, for whom the poem was first composed for a reading at Roden Crater, she writes: "The great get on with the least possible and suggest everything by light."
Evoking Bervin's earlier work with the sonnets of William Shakespeare from which she culled her own minimal Nets, Bervin here uses atmospheric fields of pale blue zigzag stitching to construct a poem “narrated by the air”—“so clear that one can see the breaks.” Ultimately, Bervin's poem is a reality that is sought, as many have wandered in deserts, in more abstracted landscapes—in the sharp physical, textual relief of sewing on Van Dyke's page, and in contemplation of deeper inward change, hallucinatory and bewildering.
Each quietly monumental book has been machine-sewn "readily as glaciers" with over five thousand yards of pale blue thread. The result is this beautiful artist's book, composed in France and Ireland, digitally printed by Jan Drojarski in Brooklyn on handmade Twinrocker abaca paper, machine-sewn by the artist and a team of assistants in Seattle, and bound in hand-punched abaca covers by Susan Mills in New York. The edition comprises 40 copies each numbered and signed by the artist.