Fusion of Art and Poetry Creates a New Botanical Vision

Fellow artists combine their talents
to celebrate botany both verbally and visually

Stephen Browning and Kalani Engles both studied at Stanford—Browning in the English Department, where he held a Wallace Stegner Fellowship in Creative Writing and studied with influential poet and teacher Yvor Winters; Engles in the Art Department, where she studied primarily with Nathan Oliveira, highly regarded as one of the most influential artists specializing in monotype prints.

The two artists did not know each other at the university, however. They met after they had both left the academic world and had become working artists with adjoining studios in Portola Valley, in the hills behind Stanford.

Stephen Browning, in addition to being a poet, is also a book designer and fine-art printer. Under his own publishing imprint, Twin Elephants Press, he has brought out some twenty books, written, printed, and bound by himself. The books, illustrated with his own woodcuts, linocuts, etchings, and collotypes, have been exhibited in several handmade book shows. Meanwhile, Browning’s poems have been published in some of America’s most prestigious literary journals.

Next door, Kalani Engles has worked as a painter in oils, a metal sculptor, and a monotype artist. (Monotypes are made by painting with etching ink on a zinc plate and then printing the image on paper by running the plate through an etching press. Only one copy is obtained for each image.) Her career success has been substantial, with dozens of group and solo exhibitions locally and far afield, from the San Francisco Peninsula to Paris. She is represented by galleries in New York, Los Angeles, and Burlingame, California; and her work is in many prestigious collections inclluding the U.S. Department of State and the Arkansas Arts Center.

It was inevitable that these two neighboring artists should combine their talents and collaborate on a book. “One day I walked into her studio,” recalls Stephen Browning, “and saw three wonderful prints she had recently finished, black and white monotypes about 18 by 33 inches in size, of flowers. I thought they were compositionally very strong, and intriguing in that they took a subject known chiefly for its colors and presented it in only black and white.”

Browning proposed that they create a book together: her monotypes paired with his poems. Over the following year, the pairs of prints and poems grew to a collection of thirty. Some poems were done in response to the prints, some prints in response to poems. Some surprises occurred along the way: one of the poem-print combinations deals with the recent discovery of some 60-million-year-old fossilized flower parts, and another derives from the rare blooming of a Titan arum in a nearby arboretum. Other plants in the book are more “garden variety,” but each is given an arresting presentation.

Hunger for Light is the result of compatible talent and cooperative work toward a common goal: a book that will bring delight.

Hunger for Light
Poems by Stephen Browning
Monotypes by Kalani Engles

ISBN 1-56474-461-2
72 pages, paperback, $20.00

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