Authors Thinking Outside The Book
Poets & Writers Magazine|January - February 2019
Authors Thinking Outside The Book

Charles Theonia’s latest book looks nothing like a book. Instead it is a collection of twenty-one tiny glass bottles, each one with a poem inside.

Adrienne Raphel

When Theonia, a transgender writer who goes by the pronouns they and them, was beginning hormone replacement therapy, they rubbed a saw-palmetto tincture into their scalp to prevent hair loss; while they sat motionless under the dripping extract, they wrote poems about hormones, community, and existential questions of identity. Saw Palmettos, published by Container in 2018, is a series of tincture vials arranged on a wooden stand, each clear bottle holding a poem printed on thin vellum. White oak timbers were milled, joined, cut to size, smoothed, and polished by hand by to create the stand. Twenty-one shallow wells were drilled into the wood, and each vial is etched with the number of the poem enclosed. Jenni B. Baker and Douglas Luman, the founders of Container, did all the work by hand.

Baker and Luman founded Container, a small press dedicated to creating books that “aren’t, in a quotidian sense, books at all” in February 2017. In addition to Theonia’s bottles, the press’s catalog includes work composed of origami gemstones, Rolodexes, lunch boxes, a doctored Operation game board, and View-Masters with custom reels. When readers insert a reel into the View-Master, instead of seeing a panorama postcard of Saint Louis or Niagara Falls, they find a ghost of a woman floating above a sentence or a poem fragment snared in a collage.

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January - February 2019