Brevities, Julie Johnstone
Essence Press, 2017 £20.00
Words in their space
This is an art book and a beautiful one — elegantly pale, square format, endpapers of tracing paper, stitched with linen thread; hand-knotted. Just looking at it, holding it, makes me feel better, as though breathing pure mountain air. The world has become cleaner.
The subtitle — ‘selected texts 2005-2017’ — shows that every page is an entity, lifted out of time and placed here.
You can read each one separately, moving forward only when you feel ready to. Time is slowed down by the arrangement of essential words within white space —
pausing here to read this
reading this to pause here
This is simultaneously simplicity and a studied consideration of how words are changed by placing and their relationship to other words.
I want to turn the page but I can’t. I’m held on this page (the first page) trying to hold in balance whether I am pausing or reading and how long this moment of ‘here’ can last.
I’m also aware of how I’ve stepped outside ‘real’ time, that clatter of email, phone, radio. It’s a moment caught in its own space and with all the time in the world before anything else has to happen.
I am aware, too, of how clumsy this attempt at explanation sounds in my ears, how lumpy and cloddish my prose is. When I feel ready, I can turn over to find that there’s only one word on the next page —
and that is balanced by three words, at the same level, on the opposite page —
in your hands
So I spend time here, looking at these words, facing each other and bringing to mind a host of questions: about the words I write, hand-written, the time they take, their worth, the distance between those words and me, the ego of writing.
I’ve only read three pages but how long has this taken?
These texts are placed before the reader in such a way that they seems to alter time.
I know I can’t always live like this but I’m grateful they give me a retreat, a space in which to be restored.