Managing Editor, Douglas J. Luman on Creating Cover Art for DIG
One of the most difficult parts of turning a manuscript into a book is the visual nature of the final product: the cover. We certainly don't want to merely represent a story or poem, but to encapsulate what the whole of the manuscript is doing in the visual equivalent of a thirty-second pitch; essentially, how do we tell the reader what this book is about without telling them exactly what it's about? With DIG, one of my first goals was to create something that tapped into the material presence of a book—the page texture, the way that the physical construction mirrors the content—creating a conceptual argument for reading a physical book, a proposition as essential as DIG author, Bryan Borland's assertion that "the world needs another love poem / like it needs blood in the throat."
Working with Jonathan Kent Adams, the cover artist for DIG, we've been able to create something that transforms some of the more subtle themes in the text into a featured part of the experience of reading the book. Conversations with Bryan early in the editing process led us in the direction of imagining as abstract a landscape as possible, one in which definitions and forms become abstract as well—a concept that Jonathan's work engages with. While the editorial staff was deeply into the layers in the book's text, we picked up on the distinct visceral nature of the text, and Jonathan decided to foreground it.
The reader might work through the process of the book in a way that is similar to the tactile and visual nature of the cover that Jonathan has developed.
“After reading some of the manuscript for DIG, I realized how much my process as an artist related to the content of the poetry. I am constantly wanting my viewer to go within. To dig. To search. To rethink. To struggle. To reinvent. The content reminded me of peeling through all of the layers of the self. Digging to the heart. I used anatomy and figurative drawing, because I wanted the imagery to be about the human experience and not necessarily any specific objects. I also wanted something that was not very direct to the viewer. I wanted the image to seem as if you needed to search or pull back a layer. I believe the best art allows the viewer or reader to search. DIG made me search. I hope the cover is a reflection of that," Jonathan explained.
The reader might work through the process of the book in a way that is similar to the tactile and visual nature of the cover that Jonathan has developed. Essentially, the top-most layer engages with its nature as the 'skin' of the book, allowing the reader to delve further through physical layers until reaching the text itself—the most abstract part—the poems. Now that I write it, "delve" seems to be a perfect companion to the notion of digging, a willingness to fall headlong into what has been dug up. With the cut-out cover and the multi-layer physical depth of the book, the conceptual argument of the manuscript seems all that much clearer, that there's an essential kernel buried beneath the surface—even if you have to dig a little while to find it.