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An Aviary of Small Birds / Karen McCarthy Woolf | 04-Dec-14

For our 2014 Poetry Library Open Day, Karen McCarthy Woolf wrote about the cover design of her new book.

An Aviary of Small Birds / Karen McCarthy Woolf
Manchester : Carcanet, 2014.

At Carcanet I was able to lead with ideas for the cover design, which was ideal as I work with photography and visual art as part of my poetry practice. An Aviary of Small Birds is a book of elegies for a baby son, so the title is figurative rather than literal; the bird a motif rather than a subject.

A friend recommended a young artist, Alice Shirley and I went to meet her in her studio. Alice has very diverse talents - she's just designed a series of scarves for the fashion house Hermés - so we thought long and hard about the style of artwork. I read several poems from the book aloud so she could hear its tone and emotional arc. 

I have always loved woodcuts and silhouette work, inspired in part I think from Jan Piekowski's cover art for Joan Aiken, whose books I loved as a child. Although I was tempted by an etching, I commissioned this paper cut-out. What I love is how she's achieved a depth of field within a very two-dimensional frame and how the birds, like the poems, are in many different stages of flight.

Karen McCarthy Woolf

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