Spelling Out Words.

Oct 15, 2018

On picking up my copy of Jessica Hische’s new (children’s) book: “Tomorrow I’ll Be Brave”.

Scribbling terrible goth poetry in the back of exercise books when I should have been paying attention to making friends and whatever lessons the colour-coded books were meant for (Chemistry seems to have inspired the most); getting to my first room in halls at university and pinning up what I believed to be the best of the poetry as some statement of character along with “random” though probably carefully selected words scattered like fridge magnet poetry on a wall before I even heard of fridge magnet poetry; spending countless hours reading the great nonsense work by my lifelong hero Edward Lear, with his made-up words of places, things, foods, creatures and even adjectives that seem to make perfect sense in context, even when they don’t; accumulating a bookshelf of dictionaries and guides to words since I was a teenager: standard ones, rhyming ones, even a “descriptionary”, one of my favourites, that groups words by meaning rather than alphabet; studying philosophy and focusing on language, then studying linguistics and philosophy, diving deep into syntax, semantics and abstract logical formulae only to not do that PhD after all and become a journalist, and then years later a programmer where new words, as variables and constants could be coined for any concept, object or action…

Discovering typography through my work as a web developer; studying it at a short course in Central St Martins where my lack of any design skills or experience meant I probably got the most out of it (I’m still pretty bad); loving an exercise where we were asked to set out single words, I chose “Hope”, “Freckles” and others where I could separate the letters to form one-word poetry (the h from hope gazing at the rest, f r e c k l e s dashed up and down), I never even showed the tutor though I did loads of them as I don’t think it was what she was after; my current (for more than a year) favourite piece of clothing: the blue Feist jumper with Pleasure written in glorious pink script across it; seeing great artists like Jenny Holzer make words and poetry become even more powerful than the words themselves when spelled out on a page, wall or projection; “spelled out”, maybe the double meaning isn’t double after all.

Seeing lettering artist Jessica Hische present at a conference in 2013 where she introduced us to “procrastiworking”, a fabulous concept, and coined word but with more conventional meaning than those by Edward Lear, obviously lettered perfectly when she put it on a page; seeing her work in films, on posters, books and adding another hero to my list; wishing her Twitter feed were lettered out and not dropped in the default font, that feed that unlike many others often made me want to shout “YES!” while others prompted a sigh, not even a “no”; seeing she was writing a children’s book and remembering my favourites, the words of Where The Wild Things Are and my favourite line in all of literature “That Very Night in Max’s Room a Forest Grew” and how you don’t need the great art when you have a sentence like that, but what if the sentence really were the art?, taking words already filled with meaning and exploding them onto a page, adjectives with an extra element; like the picture-languages I talked about with a Chinese typographer for hours and hours at the Ampersand typography conference this year, wanting to know everything and stay in that pub until I did; words already tell stories but why not let their letters reveal them with more courage than polite black on white?

Maybe I was having a bad day, maybe I was already a bit over-emotional and over-burdened by unaesthetic things, or perhaps it’d do it on any day. It probably would.

The day Jessica Hische posted a little teaser video of her book I genuinely almost cried seeing it. So I pre-ordered it and now it’s here, loaded with adjectives not afraid to reveal themselves. And sweet poetry, heart and message. I’ve read it already (these things go quickly even if you take your time), but will no doubt go back to it for decades. It’s “fun” and “nice”. And “pretty”. Its characters are rabbits.

It’s meant for young kids

but the world tells me I’m an adult and I can tell you quite clearly that it’s a BEAUTIFUL thing.

Tagged with: art-tribute poetry