We are thrilled to bring you this exclusive first look at the cover of Shira Erlichman’s debut full-length collection, Odes to Lithium, forthcoming from Alice James Books on September 17.
We’re also excited to share that Odes to Lithium will be our September Rumpus Poetry Book Club selection! So, you can receive this book before its release date and participate in an exclusive online conversation with Shira! Along with our other subscription programs, the Poetry Book Club helps to keep The Rumpus alive—so you can celebrate National Poetry Month and Odes to Lithium, connect with your favorite poets each month, and support The Rumpus with just one click. Head to our store and become a member today!
Below, Shira discusses how and why she designed her collection’s cover art, and gives us an exclusive sneak preview of the cover itself!
Shira Erlichman on creating the cover art for Odes to Lithium (Alice James Books, September 17, 2019):
So many covers for books about mental illness are (literally) dark, featuring weeping statues or black skies or streaked with some form of terror. When I was first discharged from a mental hospital in 2006, I stayed the fuck away from these books. I’ve always wanted Odes to Lithium to be a soft companion for the mentally ill, who are burdened in every way: physically, emotionally, spiritually. I hoped my cover could be inviting: gentle, peaceful, colorful, lovely to the eye. It was all about coming full circle: what book would twenty-two-year-old Shira have wanted to have been handed, fresh from hell?
As soon as Odes to Lithium was picked up by Alice James Books, friends and family told me, “Your art should be on the cover.” Even though I’d shared my visual art with the public before, I fought this suggestion. I had my heart set on some work by “real” visual artists. Most of all, I wanted one particular artist’s dynamic illustration of a brain. Immediately, the good universe shut these doors; the artists said no, or their images were already taken. Friends and family kept urging, “Make something.” But it’s often a secret voice that finds––and finally moves––us.
One night, lying in bed, an image flashed before my eyes: my peace stones. I’ve been drawing and painting what I dub “peace stones” for years now––gentle swirls of ink and watercolor, named for their calming effect on me while I create them, as well as for their shape, a beloved one, a stone. Behind my closed eyes, in that ethereal moment before sleep, the stones came together in the shape of a brain. That’s it, I thought.
The next morning, I sat at my computer. I wasn’t thinking, exactly, more like following my dream-image. I collaged and remixed old peace stones together into a new composition: a mind. It took less than twenty minutes for “Peace Mind” to come together. For the final design, four gorgeous options were sent to me by Alice James’s book designer. I opted for the one with handwriting because its naturalness and ease most delighted me. While also exposing the intricacies of stigma, sorrow, and yes, often terror, Odes to Lithium will always prioritize delight.
This cover is my reminder to trust the many tentacles of one’s creativity, to honor the jeweled landscape of the mind, and to invite others deeper into their own minds with gentleness.
Featured photograph of Shira Erlichman © Hieu Minh Nguyen.