Paper Dolls & Books

Greetings! You've maybe heard of Taylor Swift as Books--the pairing of book covers and photos of Taylor Swift--or perhaps you've heard of Poetry + Fungus--the pairing of poetry books and photos of various fungi? If you are scratching your head about why someone would take the time to do such a thing, scratch away, or join the fun! What makes Paper Dolls & Books a little different is that I am selecting books to read then creating dolls to go with them. The doll is a response to writing that moves me. It is a triangulation of the book's cover, content, and my own imagination. Why? Because someone smarter than me once said that "the best response to a poem is a poem." In this case, the best response to a book is a paper doll. Click on each image below to enlarge. 

Fire, birds, windows opening and closing, the long shadows of men who left. Loneliness and self-reliance and the red thread that remains of a scarf. Fathers and how they disappoint, how they resurrect and leave us but never leave us, our palms empty and waiting for them to notice.  Though a study of grief, at no turn does Nathan McClain's debut collection, Scale, sacrifice image or music for narrative. Rather Scale invites us to look at the delicate branch about to snap under the weight of the mockingbird, knowing its blues song is about us, too. With the devotion of a storm chaser, Scale relentlessly pursues the burn cycle of destruction and repair but not without consolation: "[W]ho can stop/ the wind from ripping shingles off the roof, stop/ the rain from coming in, from pinging/ the deep bottoms of pots which keep you awake?/ You do what you can. You build a bird house/ (one thing in the shape of holding another)/ from leftover wood; you leave seed/ and listen for days, as nothing/ but a small hope fills it." This is one of my favorite books of all time--it reads the way a good meal satisfies, leaving one nourished but wanting the experience over and over again. 


Fourway Books published Scale in 2017. The cover art is titled "House on Fire" by Famous When Dead. You'll want to read Scale as soon as possible so that you can be ready for this second book, Previously Owned, is due out later this year. 

Kristin Bock's Glass Bikini will forever occupy a chamber of my squirmy heart for many reasons, one being that  I was an early reader for the manuscript and helped to craft the book's description. I know this book on an intimate level, and yet every time I read it (six times now!) I find a new, wriggling part of the monster, a sparkling ruby in the chaos, a reason to pick up my ray gun and join the fray. Tupelo Press published this bold, lyrical romp in 2022 and readers are going nuts for it. The cover and text design is by Ann Aspell and the cover photo credit belongs to ESA/ Hubble & NASA. From the book's description crafted by myself and other poets: "Part creation myth, part prophecy...[t]hese often darkly humorous poems guide readers into dreamscapes and underworlds that are ominously contemporary....Glass Bikini is both mirror and warning, asking us to see our own strange and terrifying shapes, the monsters we have helped create, and the ones we have become." For the Bunny Woman Doll, where does Glass Bikini end and my imagination begin? You'll have to pick up a copy of the book to find out. View way more photos of Bunny Woman on my IG page. Stop motion of Bunny Woman coming soon! 

My second featured book of 2022 is Foxlogic, Fireweed by Jennifer K. Sweeney, which won The Backwaters Prize in Poetry from the University of Nebraska Press. The cover art was created by Ian Middelton and the original piece is titled "A Marc of Foxes" paying homage to Franz Marc. If I were to make a list titled “Five Poetry Books All Visual Artists Should Read,” Foxlogic would be one of them. Re-reading this collection, I kept a growing list of images I wanted to wear on my skin, or at least carry with me in my pockets: “ants hauling emeralds” of spilled sugar, a clutch of black widows living inside a child’s drum, “a sea of marionettes…hollow limbs rooted to strings,” “crows on a pomegranate tree,” beer cans stashed inside branches, a mother snow leopard—“her stillness and wild falling…a compass.” In order to really appreciate the choices I made for the Fox Spirit Doll (the patches, the deer leaping behind branches, the blue jay swooping in, the hourglass and pitcher constellations) you’ll have to gift yourself a copy of Foxlogic, Fireweed. Want to see more photos of this doll? Follow me on Instagram @lihenleyart. 

My first feature of 2022 is Instructions for an Animal Body (Moon Tide Press) by Kelly Gray. The cover artist is Douglas Pierre Baulos. This is a book so rich with imagery that it got me out of my poetry slump. I had a physical reaction to this book; it made me sprout corvid wings and long claws and slick fur. I grew fox ears that could hear the ocean lapping at the nape of the forest, boots crunching leaves, fire licking the hills. 


Set in a small, forested, unincorporated town in California where the speaker is daily faced with the birth and death of animals along with the uncertainty of the pandemic and wildfires, this book is dark, richly textured, and grippingly alive. 

From Kelly Gray's "Introduction: Keeping Apparitions:" 

"The vulture sits above my house, black wings spread, drying herself off against the wet night. In her vomit we find finely cracked vertebrae and delicate femurs. Down the hill are old men with crumbling cabins and dry crab nets. The river shoots creaks in every direction, usnea drips green from trees, everything is pulled in and spit out by the forest. The ocean is 9 miles and seven fences posts away."