Wednesday, March 18, 2015


 I talk a lot.

Sometimes it would be better if I didn't utter so many words.  Or maybe no words.

When I write, I also use many words. Writing group members and friends who edit my work are always suggesting that I not be so repetitive--- that I use fewer words.

In order to control and combat that wordy urge in writing, I naturally gravitate toward short forms--- haiku, haibun, tanka and the like. (See my earlier posts related to short forms: Haiku Meditations and Conversations in Poetry.)

As an illustrator, I would probably be that artist with too many lines, too much color, and many unnecessary details.

I recently discovered two delightful new books that have perfected the minimalist approach-- in both words and images.

 Work: An Occupational ABC  by Kellen Hatanaka  challenges us to revisit our classic conceptions and connotations of jobs, who can do them, and how they are to be done. Women are engaged in jobs we stereotypically portray as male-centered.  Elderly folks are included, as well, as young folks.  And the illustrations offer people of a variety of colors, and even include, on the xenologist  pages, a four-legged person from another world.

Each  page (and some two-page spreads)  include a large capital letter and one word identifying an occupation. Simple.  Yet as we ponder the array of jobs-- some we have heard of and others that  may be unfamiliar-- we begin to notice connections and  embedded stories. We begin to see hidden visual jokes and surprises. Complexity.

The cover shows the illustration from the grocer page, but to be fully enjoyed, this illustration cannot be separated from the forest ranger page preceding it, and the  horticulturist page following it.

I collect ABC books, and this is that, but so much more.  Children and adults alike will delight each time they discover a new  twist and turn in Hatanaka's creative offering.

To view images from this book and read Maria Popova's related article, Rethinking Our Atlas of Possibilities: An Alphabet Book of Imaginative, Uncommon, and Stereotype-Defying Occupations, click here.

 Before After by Anne-Margo Ramstein and Matthias  Aregui enchants our eyes and our minds.This wordless book will provide hours of contemplation and fun for everyone who opens these pages.
What comes before? What comes after?  We all know the koan about the chicken or the egg-- in this book  the egg comes first...or does it?

Again, children and adults will delight in discovering  connections, humor, reappearance of previous items and ideas, literary allusions, political statements and more--- all with no words.  Much discussion, laughter, and after-thinking will be generated around reasons an item is before or after.

Click here to see sample images from Before After.

Both of these books, discovered within days of each other, immediately reminded me of the artistic and intriguing visual conundrums offered by Blexbolex. With only one or two  words  to  label each image, he also creates connections-- some obvious and some obscure.   His books,People and Seasons, will make perfect companions for Work: An Occupational ABC  and  Before After.

Click here to see images from People.
Click here to see images from Seasons.
When the words are few
the images can grab you
and say it all.

Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

Examine the images in the above books. Note and write about some of the connections, patterns, humor, literary allusions, political or societal statements.  

Reflect on times when images, rather than words, delivered strong messages for you.

Write an essay or poem about that event or situation or moment.

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