Exercises to Free the Tongue
By Molly Tenenbaum (poems and text) and Ellen Ziegler (everything else) Seattle, Washington: Ellen Ziegler Studio, 2014. Deluxe edition of 20. Trade edition open..
Deluxe edition: 5.75 x 14 x 2" clamshell box containing 20 (5 x 13") double-sided cards and 1 (5 x 13") two-page hinged section. Box: cloth covered; 3.5 x 10.75" image inset on lid; cloth lift for pages; paper lined. Printed with Myriad Pro and Century Schoolbook typefaces. Printing and binding by Paper Hammer. Signed by poet and artist. Numbered.
Trade edition: 5 x 13"; 42 pages, one fold out page. Spiral bound.
"Exercises to Free the Tongue" is a collaboration of poet Molly Tenenbaum and artist Ellen Ziegler. Images and ephemera from Tenenbaum’s grandparents, who were ventriloquists on the vaudeville circuit in the early 1900s. The poems play with ventriloquial metaphors of voice and breath.
Molly Tenenbaum, Beloit Poetry Journal Poet's Forum: "When I was nine or ten, I took ventriloquist lessons from my grandfather …. He’d made his living on the vaudeville circuit from about 1913 to 1924, with breaks for the army and for getting married to Grandmother Minnie and teaching her the trade, after which they toured together. My first lesson was all about breathing from my diaphragm, which I couldn’t find. I never got over that first frustration, took only one or two more lessons, and never practiced. I wasn’t ready to explore ventriloquism again until I became a poet, and even then I had no idea how to approach it.
" … Along the way of working on these poems, and many other ventriloquism poems, I’ve tried to get at some of the mystery of making other voices from one’s own breath. And I’ve been reminded that ventriloquism is a human craft with a long history, that it comes from the human body, all its parts practicing and working together, and is a creation of individual genius and the broader culture."
Molly Tenenbaum is a poet and musician based in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of three collections of poetry and her work has appeared in many journals including Black Warrior Review, Nimrod, Southeast Review, and Poetry Northwest.