Sign Language: A Painter’s Notebook
This collection claims to be “homage to the lost art of urban outdoor sign painting,” but while Paul’s time spent painting signs in New York features prominently in many of the poems and some of the pictures, that was not the message that came across to me. It seemed more of an exploration of city life—loud and raucous words, images, movement—everything, I suppose that could be best seen and experienced from above. Often there was a feeling of longing for the simpler, slower mid-west life left behind.
I guess I was mildly disappointed not to see more content explicitly about the sign painting aspect, but perhaps I just read it in the way that I could relate to it. I, too, have experienced both the bustle of big-city life and the quiet of a small town. Some spoke to specific experiences, like the woodburning kit in “Hot.” Probably my favorite part about this collection is the assortment of photos and drawings. Even when they did not directly relate to the poems nearby, they still illuminated the text and gave deeper meaning. Rarely have I seen a collection of poetry that created such a cohesive end product.
Three Rooms Press
John S. Paul, Photographer