Published in 2009, $3,500

Waterlines marks the second collaboration of the Oxingale Press & Double Elephant Press. Two illustrated musical works are joined thematically by their aquatic journeys through which human agony finds solace in the redemptive power of music. Composer Luna Pearl Woolf collaborated with poet Eleanor Wilner to create the pieces Orpheus on Sappho’s Shore & Apres Moi le Deluge. In the former piece, the mythological, bodiless icon of music lands on the shore of the great lyric poet, seeking relief from his journey on a sea of the time-forgotten. Sappho obliges, setting Orpheus afire, but she gets to keep his lyre.

In the latter piece the all-too-real suffering caused by hurricane Katrina is given voice by an angry chorus of the forsaken who question why Noah has forgotten them. The biblical Noah represents then-current leadership of the country, drunk on its own power & asleep at the wheel. A compact disc of the music accompanies the book. 

Kuch uses woodcuts to find resonance in the moribund, aquatic journeys. For Orpheus on Sappho’s Shore, Japanese woodcuts with their water-based ink & awash in red, chalk & Aegean-blue hues lend counterpoint to Orpheus’ morbid predicament of decapitation. Kuch depicts Orpheus not in the typical mode, floating on his lyre, but instead, morphing into his lyre: In one image his head is trapped inside a human skull with a fish body that swims with a tail-fin lyre; in another, his head emerges from the shell of a sea turtle which takes the form of a human heart whose arteries branch up to form a lyre. As Wilner used fragments of Sappho’s writings in her poem, fragments of Wilner’s poem are carved into the blocks that illustrate them. The musical score for Orpheus & Sappho’s voices is printed letterpress from polymer plates of a manuscript (music by Woolf, lyrics by Eleanor, & staves by Kuch). The score is visible through the translucent page of the preceding print providing an undulating texture beneath the woodcut’s surface.

Taking inspiration from Titian’s twelve-block print of the Submersion of Pharaoh’s Army in the Red Sea, Kuch illustrates Apres Moi le Deluge with a twelve-block print of a single drowned man. Cypress wood with its distinct grain is utilized to simulate a water pattern in the prints. In the book each block’s print is revealed sequentially so that the figure is viewed in fragments as a metaphor for a fractured humanity. A separate fold-out compilation of the complete image of the drown man comes with the book. Each of the poem’s six stanzas is printed letterpress from a polymer plate of the poet’s manuscript with woodcut of a hand, a thigh, foot, &c. visible through the translucent page. Alternating with the six stanzas are six small wood engravings of Noah’s ark morphing into a raven. A dramatic contrast is displayed of the miniature ‘great’ ark against the monumental figure of drowned humanity.