Like a ship’s log, Martin Machado’s An Ocean Between Us is big and important in many ways. Presented like a logbook, there is thoughtful deliberation on every page, paper edges as if ruffled from the churning sea. Machado attended college on the shores of the Pacific Ocean in Santa Barbara, as well as the San Francisco Art Institute, overlooking the Bay, in addition to handling deckhand duty on sailboats and commercial fishing vessels.

A member of the Sailor’s Union of the Pacific, he has shipped out on container ships, crisscrossing the world in long, slow journeys of muscle and meditation, most notably on a six-month stint from New York to San Francisco, as he says, “the long way.” The resulting book, mostly created at sea in his cabin, illustrates his musings on myth and history, modernity and the indigenous, in tiny brush strokes of ink and gouache that evoke archival etchings. Printed damp on River BFK paper from Monotype and hand-set Caslon type, the images are accompanied by his own poems and short stories that illuminate sights, sound and sentiment. The archival depth and quality of An Ocean Between Us, published by Oakland’s Prototype Press, bestows the weight and beauty that can only be contained in a book. —Gwynned Vitello

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