Only When the River Moves

By Jim Koss
Seattle, Washington: The Farmhouse Press, 2002. One-of-a-Kind.

12.25 x 10 x 2.5"; 16 pages. Sewn accordion structure. Printed on Arches Cover with each page matted in 4-ply museum board. Seven images, cut paper (shibugami) with silk (shabari) backing. Text letterpress printed in Goudy and Bembo. Bound in Japanese bookcloth sewn with silk thread.

Only When the River Moves combines elegant paper cutting with short, simple lines (verses?) of description and commentary. The paper cuttings and the text alternate panels, each panel with a sharply cut mat that frames and focuses attention, either on the intricate paper cutting with its silk backing providing depth and texture that the eye can feel and on the simple but allusive words. The mat frames are all the same size, all positioned in the same place on the panel. If the book is opened like a codex, two panels at a time forming a spread, the left page holds the paper cutting, the right holds the verse. But each spread is a vastly different experience. Same and not same, the coincidence of opposites occurs throughout. The rich brown of the shibugami paper (kozo laminated with persimmon tannin) contrasts with the expanse of white mat surround. The weight of the color is belied by delicacy of the paper cutting. The delicate letters of the verses contrast with the solidity of what is written. A river moves yet seems to stay still. And, as the last verse says: "Restless truth / accompanies you / though I see / then as now." This melding of opposites has an Eastern flavor. Indeed, the earliest paper cuttings are from 6th century China. But this book is simply rich art: motion stilled, life poised and presented, quietly and with reverence.