Sunday, May 4, 2014

Week 18: Labyrinth Poems

   Labyrinth is a word of Minoan origin, derived from the Lydian word labrys meaning double-edged axe. In modern-day English, a labyrinth is generally synonymous with a maze, but there is a distinction between the two in that maze refers to a complex branching puzzle with choices of path and direction; while a labyrinth has only a single, non-branching path which leads to the center and back. Labyrinths have been found all over the world and date back over 4000 years. Pliny the Elder’s (23AD-79AD) Natural History mentions four labrynths: the Cretan labyrinth at Knossos, an Egyptian labyrinth, a Lemnian labyrinth, and an Italian labyrinth. The symbolism of the labyrinth is wide and complicated, however, some of the oldest cultures have related labyrinths to royalty or to the beginning of creation.

   The most common labyrinth story is the Greek myth of Daedalus who built a labyrinth for King Minos of Crete at Knossos to house his half-bull half-man creature the Minotaur. When Daedalus fell in love with the king's daughter, Ariadne, King Minos put Daedalus in the labyrinth with the deadly Minotaur. The myth ends when Daedalus finds his way safely out of the labyrinth with a skein of thread given him by Ariadne.

   Since the Middle Ages, labyrinths have been associated with the Christian church.. resurrection, salvation, and enlightenment. The labyrinth in the medieval cathedral of Chartres in France is one of the most famous historical labyrinths still in its original form.
labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral, France
   This week's book-of-the-week is based on the labyrinth using Plato's idea of becoming lost in a variety of choices, where logic is in a delicate balance. If this post seems a bit rambling and confusing, that's because this writer became enamored with the MANY threads of information about labyrinths... and well... more than once... if not lost... well, off course... Inside a labyrinth it's impossible to see what's ahead.
pastepaper cover with a volvelle labyrinth
   Labyrinth Poems is a casebound book with silk bookcloth spine and pastepaper on the coverboards. It is also an interactive book. Spin the labyrinth volvelle on the front cover and pick out the words through the cut-outs to make a poem... Then, write the poem on one of the blank pages inside the book. The volvelle is based on the one-arm style of labyrinth, one of the simplest labyrinth forms. There are three rings that circle the center space. The outer ring of the labyrinth has words that are the articles A and The or pronouns. The middle ring has nouns or verbs, and the inner ring has verbs. 

standard one-arm labyrinth
words hidden behind the labyrinth walls, come in view through the cut-out windows as the wheel turns
The title on the cover and title page were printed with 12-point Roman typeface on the Pearl letterpress. Each page has a hand-carved linoleum block print with a labyrinth motif. The poems were written as they were generated with a Sharpie fine point pen.

title page
first poem... from words revealed on the volvelle
Plato used the labyrinth to describe the labyrinthine line of a logical argument in  his Euthydemus (384BCE)... 

"Then it seemed like falling into a labyrinth: we thought we were at the finish, but our way bent round and we found ourselves as it were back at the beginning, and just as far from that which we were seeking at first." 

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