Christine Deavel is a poet, a poetry bookseller and a consummate book recommender. Her versatile gift list offers suggestions for the artists, poets, toddlers and would-be surrealists on your list. Deavel’s debut collection of poetry, Woodnote, was the winner of the 2011 Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Prize. We interviewed her about the book here. When we asked about her favorite NW store, Deavel said she’s “inordinately fond ” of Open Books: A Poem Emporium, which she co-owns with her husband, the poet J.W. Marshall. She says she’s also a happy shopper at Elliott Bay Book Company. Here’s her list.
Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland. A gift, this book sat on my shelf for years, unread. I was skeptical that it had anything to tell me, figuring it would be “self-helpy.” Then one day of many days in which I was not only not writing but confused about what writing meant to me, I took it down and read it swiftly and gratefully. A quietly graceful and clear book, it offers realistic yet encouraging words about what it means to make artmaking a part of your life. Though written by two visual artists, it would speak to those who practice any sort of art. It can be a powerful gift for a would-be poet/painter/potter (mature high-school student and above) or for an artist questioning the place of her art in her day and in the world.
A Book of Surrealist Games compiled by Alastair Brotchie and edited by Mel Gooding. The perfect stocking stuffer for those who like the quirky, playful and inventive, from goth teenagers to iconoclastic grandmas. A little book (it’s a mere 4 1/2 inches by 6 1/2 inches), it is nonetheless filled with surrealism, for these are games that were created and played by the now famous Surrealists—Andre Breton, Tristan Tzara, Rene Magritte, Max Ernst, and others—from the 1920s onward. They are meant to pull participants out of their conventions and lead them into unusual creations (a welcome response to certain stultifying holiday gatherings, perhaps). This wee volume also serves as a fine and unusual history book.
The Mary Ruefle Gift Pack. OK, I’ve invented this—the MRGP doesn’t come in its own embossed box with lovely rope handle for carrying. Rather it’s what I would gather up in my usual comics-page wrapping paper to give to a smart, adventuresome adult reader of poetry and prose. Included would be three of the amazing Mary Ruefle’s books: her Selected Poems, which received the 2011 William Carlos Williams Award and is a rich gathering of her beautiful and strange lyric poetry; The Most of It, a collection of her equally deliciously odd and wonderfully crafted prose pieces; and A Little White Shadow, a stunning small volume that is the result of Ruefle’s whiting out pages from a little known 19th century book, leaving a few words on each page and thereby making a haunting, vivid new book. All three of these show a bright, contemplative, original writer at work, and one who is deeply humane. They should delight, disconcert and touch their recipient.
The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker. Who knew a discussion of the merits and faults of iambic pentameter could be such a pleasure? Of course, this funny, touching novel is much, much more than that. The bumbling yet often perceptive Paul Chowder seems incapable of writing the introduction to the anthology of poetry that he has edited. As his world crumbles around him, he contemplates what good poetry is, how much poetry matters, and who has—and is—writing it. An extremely entertaining and surprisingly insightful book that would resonate most with readers who have some familiarity with the world of poetry.
Emily Dickinson’s Herbarium: A Facsimile Edition. A special gift for a special someone (because it’s not cheap). This is a gorgeous, slip-cased book that is in essence a full-size replica of the book that held the young Emily Dickinson’s collection of pressed plants. It has been beautifully reproduced, right down to her handwritten labels for the specimens. For an Emily Dickinson devotee, it’s enough to make one swoon, though a lover of botanical books would find it a treasure as well. Also included are several informative essays and a plant catalog. To open it and turn its pages is a transporting experience.
The Sheep of Nancy Shaw and Margot Apple. These books for toddlers will have you giggling and reading aloud even if there’s no toddler near, so be warned. Among my favorites are the inaugural Sheep in a Jeep and the later Sheep in a Shop, with crisp rhyming words by Ms. Shaw and charming drawings by Ms. Apple. Not your average, docile flock, these sheep are always heading out on little adventures (or rather, misadventures). Here they decide to go for a ride—”Sheep in a jeep on a hill that’s steep”—and to the country store to buy a birthday gift—”Sheep decide to buy a beach ball. Sheep prefer an out-of-reach ball.” One way or another, all is resolved in the end—”Jeep for sale — cheap.”