Ovid on Climate Change
I met the poet Eliza Griswold in 2009 while we were both fellows at the American Academy in Rome. Early on in our time there, we visited the tomb of the baker Eurysacis, a strikingly modern structure built about 30 BCE just outside the Porta Maggiore. It was a beautiful autumn morning—Annie Schlechter was taking pictures of the tomb, the archaeologist Suzanna McFadden was reading about it from the Blue Guide. While I ogled the tomb’s late Republican inscription, Eliza took out her notebook and wrote a poem about Eurysacis. Shortly afterward I designed a typeface based on the inscription.
The following year we all moved back to New York, and for years afterward Eliza and I had a semi-annual conversation about a book that we would someday make together. Her original poem was thrown out, we both pursued other books. Then a couple of years ago, Eliza completed a sizable poetry manuscript, Ovid on Climate Change. I had begun working with Ed Rayher at Swamp Press to make a metal version of my Baker typeface, and the time seemed right to actually make our book. Eliza wrote a new poem about Eurysacis, I found a large cache of Adrian Frutiger’s Meridien typeface for the text, and we set to work choosing a selection of the poems for a small edition.
In thinking of a visual component for the book, it was important to me that I not illustrate the poems. In general, I am timid about appending imagery to living peoples’ words, but these poems in particular cover a diverse array of physical and emotional landscapes—one poem calls out for one kind of imagery, another wants something else entirely. Nevertheless, it was important for me to alter the page in some way, to visually link the poems without interfering with them. The solution I came up with was a modulating ground of sprayed acrylic paint running through the book, a kind of desert landscape from which the poems rise.