The Neri Collaboration

In 2004 a representative of the Manuel Neri*1 Foundation called to ask me if I would be interested in contributing to the making of a one-of-a-kind book that would include Manuel's original drawings combined with a poem by Pablo Neruda*2. The one book ultimately led to a project that lasted five years and resulted in the creation of 16 books, a series of seven books with the poetry of Pablo Neruda, and nine books with Federico García Lorca*3 poems. In April of 2012, Stanford University hosted an exhibition of seven of the books along with some of the preparatory sketches.

Cafe Cantante titleIt's True titleLoves title
Morning TitleNude titleStones title
The Sea titleTruth title

*Title pages

Duende B and CSoledad B and C -thumb-250x167

*Cover and box

Neri boxesStanford instalation

*Boxes lined up

Aside from being given the drawings and the selection of poetry, the other organizational and design decisions for creating the book were left to me. These initial tasks included the paper, determining the size and format of the book, and the page layouts. I also worked at this early stage with the binder to understand the structure of the binding and the number of sheets that we could assume for each section.

The challenging and creative part involved writing the poem in calligraphy on the pages facing Manuel's drawings. His drawings were clearly the most important visual element of the two page spreads. The calligraphy needed to visually act in a supporting role. At the same time the text, usually a short line from the poetry, was required to have both a visual and signified relationship to the images.

MorningnudeThe sea

*Spread pages with drawings

I tried to "read" Manuel's drawings by translating the colors and the character of his lines into verbally expressive terms, and then I would attempt to match these to the sense or atmosphere of the poetry. Occasionally somewhat understandable links between the two were possible, but in most instances, and particularly with the Lorca poetry, everything remained shrouded in mystery. In the beginning I struggled with this, but in time I began to see it as an advantage. I felt freer to focus on working visually, taking my clues from the drawings, their character, color, line, and particularly the shape of the figures and the spaces they occupied. I began to see the calligraphy as ultimately serving some functions. As a visual element, its function was to heighten the prominence of the drawing. And while obvious associations between word and image were not always apparent, the calligraphy in a curious way became the connector between the two.

Making associations or finding meaning between the two falls to the viewer. What may seem to be a mysterious connection to one person may be obvious to another. My goal was to somehow achieve a marriage between the words and image that allowed the two, poetry and figure, to speak, if you will, with one voice.

The Neri project renewed my interest in making books.

The sea detail 1The sea detail 2The sea detail 3
Stone detail 1Stone detail 2Stone detail 3
Melancolia sketchCounting detail


*1 Manuel Neri (1930 - ) American sculptor
*2 Pablo Neruda (1904 - 1973) Chilean poet
*3 Federico García Lorca (1898 - 1936) divish poet


Gesso 1Gesso 2Gesso 3
Gesso 4Gesso detail 1Gesso detail 2Gesso detail 3

*Gesso sample book

J.Goldyne 3J.Goldyne 2J.Goldyne 1

*With Joseph Goldyne

Dante 1Dante 2Dante sketch1Dante sketch2
Dante sketch3Dante vellum traial1

*Canto V Dante's inferno

Elucidation coverElucidation small 1
Elucidation small titleElucidation small 2


Working with Poet

A recent project involved a collaboration with eleven poets. David Annwn(refer to Part 1) was an important part of this project's evolution. In 2011 we taught a class together at Sunderland University in the UK. Our work involved making responses to music. David wrote poems and I turned expressive marks into letterforms. It was an inspiring experience that led us to embark on a new collaboration. After a few months of working together, we concluded that the participation of other poets might be a good way to push forward. David gave me the names of six from England, one from the Philippines, one from Singapore. I invited the three poets from the US.

I began the project by creating a series of abstract calligraphic sheets. I refer to them as "music sheets" as they were made in response to music. I aimed for a diverse range of images by working with different tools, different mark making sequences and a variety of musical selections.

Music sheet 1Music sheet 2ResponseSketch 1

*Music sheets,First response, sketch

I sent a package of materials to each poet that included a number of the music sheets, samples of my work, and a letter asking if they would be willing to contribute a poem to the project. I requested that they choose one of the music images and align it with a poem that they had already written or if they could, to write a new poem.

Kabbala 1Kabbala detailKabbala sketch
Kabbala small coverKabbala small 1
Kabbala small 2

*Kabbala Blues



Human Cosmos

*Human Cosmos

White persimon coverWhite persimonWhite persimon Process

*White Persimmon

Diva 3Diva 2Diva

*Diva Fall Jive: Mr. Verb visits the Tayu

Puzzle titlePuzzle 1Puzzle open

*Puzzle in the Mirror

Out of the air

*Out of the Air

All of the poets responded and five have written new poems, while the others chose from previous works. I used the poem/image combinations as a source of inspiration for the design of new expressive letterforms and page compositions. This process led to the eventual creation of one-of-a-kind books for each of the poems. These books and the sketch materials that I produced are now my foundation for the making of one final book that will be an expressive interpretation of all the poems.

After so many years of making visual translations of poetry, working closely with the poets themselves, has added new dimensions and an enthusiasm that I had not previously experienced

Question3Question2Quesion cover


John Cage titleJohn Cage1

*On Reading John Cage

Alphabet1Alphabet2Alphabet detail

*Alphabets and Names Make Games

St. Raphael1jpgSt. Raphael cover

*St. Raphael

The body and the spirit

*The body and the spirit

The word cover and boxThe word gole on vellum

*The Word

In silence of bells

*In Silence of Bells

Seismograph jitter 1Seismograph jitter 2

*Seismogaph Jitter

Ariel 2Ariel 1


justice titleJustice


Fallen Reality 1Fallen Reallity title

*Fallen Realities

More begining 1More Begining 2

*More Beginning

In silence 1In silence 2

*In Silence

It is not_coverit is not 1

*It is not

The night

*The Night

Having taught calligraphy for more than 35 years, I now teach as little as possible. Instead, I work peacefully in my San Francisco studio, enjoying creation of books in collaboration with poets from different part of the world.

Private and with Calligraphers

2Donald1Suzanne holy island3Milleniam center

*From left to right 1, 2, 3

4Kathrina and Jean5Gio and Luca6Brody

*From left to right 4, 5, 6

9Syakyo in Sanzen-inn8Berlin study7Carlo berlin

*From left to right 7, 8, 9

10Sketch in NZ

*1 With Suzanne Moore in Lindisfarne Island, UK
*2 With Donald Jackson in Wales, UK
*3 At Millennium Centre in Cardiff, UK
*4 With Katharina Pieper and Jean Larcher at Documenta in Kassel, Germany
*5 With Giovannni De Faccio and Luca Barcellona in Abano, Italy
*6 With Brody Neuenschwander in Venice, Italy
*7 At Akademie Der Künste with Carl Rohrs in Berlin, Germany
*8 A group session at Akademie Der Künste in Berlin, Germany
*9 Doing Syakyo at San-zen-inn in Kyoto, Japan
*10 Sketching in New Zealand
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