Debtor's Prison

Debtor’s Prison
Lewis Warsh & Julie Harrison

Debtor’s Prison is a call and response exploration of text and image. It is a collaboration between novelist and poet Lewis Warsh, and video and visual artist, Julie Harrison. Together, they create a dialogue between Harrison’s eerie video stills and Warsh’s somber text.

Harrison’s images are taken from her performance and documentary tapes made in the 1970’s. The sepia toned stills show blurry images of faces and hands, hospital equipment, and religious icon paintings. The most arresting photographs are a series of a naked woman submerged in a bathtub and wrapped in a tangled mess of plastic tubing. The grainy images cover the pages on the right hand side, drawing the eye into a very intimate space with its subject; the wrinkles of the woman’s neck, the laughing mouth, the wet breast, her thigh on the edge of the park bench.

On the left pages of the book sits Warsh’s text. In the middle of each page is a line of poetry, below and indented to the right sit two italicized phrases separated by a backslash. Warsh’s text seems to be composed in response to Harrison’s images, though the correlation between the two is not always clear. In the first section of the book, (it is broken into 10 chapters, as designated in descending order by photographs of the numerals 10 through 1) Warsh writes:

 “Her thoughts are like a series of windows covered with dust”

                arable soil / mental picture

    This line describes just what Harrison’s images seem to be. Blurry and grainy, sometimes indecipherable, the pictures appear to be dust covered windows into someone’s mind. The reader takes on a voyeuristic role, as if seeing the world through someone else’s eyes, allowed to look into a secret or hidden place where one is not usually granted access to gaze.

    This book is a hermetic piece to be enjoyed for the act of reading. Granary Books is known for honoring the book as a unique and sacred object, each one carrying its own aura. Debtor’s Prison is a work to be enjoyed for the experience it offers; to let the words dissolve under one’s tongue and the images float beneath one’s lids.


-Claire Sammons 

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