Best of ’07: How To Be Everywhere

December 12, 2008

Published in conjunction with the exhibition “How to be Everywhere” at Gallery Neptune, Bethesda, Maryland

My book of the year must go to Warren Craghead’s How to Be Everywhere.  I’m already on the record as an admirer of his work, but this is a masterpiece.  It is the only fluid, beautiful fusion of comics and poetry I have read, with drawings that echo the language, a true marriage of media.  Issued in an edition of just one hundred, I can only hope that more than one hundred people will read it.

The book adapts Apollinaire’s modernist verse into free comics pages.  Craghead abandons panels as Modernist poets abandoned meter, and his drawings echo Braque and Grosz.  I am struck by how naturally his drawing, previously in the service of suburban America, lends itself to the trenches of World War I.  And how beautifully his lettering transforms another’s poetry into his own.  The work recalls Apollinaire’s calligrams, only in line as well as word.

Most impressively, the book calls to mind the scholar’s fantasy that ended Dylan Horrocks’ Hicksville.  At the lighthouse down in New Zealand, there exist all the unknown masterpieces of comics, works by Gertrude Stein and Picasso, our medium’s lost history.  Imagine if these artists had put their hand to comics, Horrocks suggests.  Craghead has done one better, envisioning an entire poetic autobiography by Apollinaire.  He has made a work that would sit comfortably on that shelf in that mythic lighthouse, waiting to be discovered decades later.  In other words, right now.

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