Beautiful Books: Bent Back Tongue

November 8, 2022

Both designer Tania Willard and Secwépemc poet Garry Gottfriedson take a moment to discuss the inspiration and meaning behind Gottfriedson’s cover for his latest collection Bent Back Tongue (Caitlin Press).

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To celebrate the launch of Garry Gottfriedson’s latest collection, Bent Back Tongue, we sat down with both Gottfriedson and cover designer Tania Willard to discuss the inspiration and meaning behind the book’s powerful cover art.

 

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Garry Gottfriedson and Tania Willard share their thoughts on the inspiration behind the cover:

TW: I am always so excited to be invited to offer artwork for Secwépemc poet Gary Gottfriedson’s work. For this cover, I was inspired by this amazing scene I once saw while driving. Several coyotes were jumping into the air to drive-off Ravens that were all congregated around what I guess was a carcass in the field. The way the coyotes were springing up to drive off the ravens was so acrobatic. This kind of ecological congregation was also beautiful to me. The coyotes were sort of arching backward and I thought, this pose might work for the book cover.

GG: Tania has done a great job on the cover design! The arched-back coyote represents our legendary trickster, Koyoti. I think she plays on this trickster to represent the double meanings within many of my poems.

Garry Gottfriedson and Tania Willard share their thoughts on how the book’s title Bent Back Tongue, was represented on its cover:

TW: The directional arrow in the design emphasizes the coyote’s arched-back pose. It also becomes a kind of tongue reaching backward in order to play off the book’s title, Bent Back Tongue.

I often use a relief cut kind of style and I liked the way this all came together with the backward sweep of the coyote in this pose and the drama of the arrow that is indicating movement and feeling.

GG: The title Bent Back Tongue implies choking on one's own silliness or words that can never be taken back but are hard to swallow at the same time. For me, the book cover really represents this idea through the image of Koyoti swallowing his trickster words.

Garry Gottfriedson and Tania Willard discuss the cultural relevance of the cover design:

TW: As a Secwépemc (and settler) background artist I think it is pretty exciting to highlight our creativity.

GG: Koyoti is prevalent in our culture as a teacher, and poetry can be a teacher of many things we experience as well.

TW: I hope in my art I can help to celebrate all that Garry Gottfriedson is offering in his new, latest book of poetry.

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Thank you to Garry Gottfriedson and Tania Willard for taking the time to speak with us about the cover for  Bent Back Tongue, alongside with Caitlin Press. 

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