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Designing the Cover of Sasha Pimentel’s Poetry Collection “For Want of Water”

By Louis Roe

For Want of Water
All image credits: Louis Roe

Poetry collections are a bit of a fantasy cover project for me. They’re an opportunity to think in a different visual language from Beacon’s usual nonfiction catalogue, inviting a relationship between image and text built on reflection and, hopefully, subtlety. Sasha Pimentel’s poems in her forthcoming collection For Want of Water carry this poise on their own particularly well: they reveal only as much as you’re ready to see, but they also ignite a desire to pursue and peel.

Covers for For Want of Water_1So how do you translate this into a cover? Safe to say, my earlier attempts totally missed the mark. I got really hung up on the bird imagery that populates the first several poems in the collection. Putting an image from the book on the front cover won’t necessarily draw a reader’s attention, though, and these got scrapped early on. Back to the drawing board!

Bird imagery for For Want of Water
Hand imagery for For Want of Water
Lettering for For Want of Water

This was one of the first covers I started working on from our Fall 2017 list, so I had a lot of time to mull on it. In this case, mulling meant rereading the manuscript, seeking out images that resonated with me in a personal way. I was particularly drawn to the reoccurrence of dripping—of paint, days, and eyelids, but also as a characteristic of the author’s writing style.

Cover for For Want of Water

However, I found myself returning to the title poem again and again. There’s so much to it; surely it held some secret that should be explored on the cover? It opens with the line “an ant will drown himself, his body submerging,” and in my efforts to submerge myself further in the poem, I ended up spending a whole lunch break watching videos of ants drowning. (Did you know that groups of fire ants actually can’t be drowned? They form a living raft with their bodies—an adaptation for surviving floods.) One way or another, this inspired the final cover design, along with the rather brilliant shape of the verses in title poem. By the end, the cover and the poem seemed to be speaking in the same language—one of pursuit and peeling, which starts with looking beneath the cover.


About the Author 

Louis Roe has been an assistant designer at Beacon Press since 2015, after graduating from Emerson College’s Writing, Literature, and Publishing program and a brief stint in content marketing. Though he has momentarily been permitted to infiltrate this blog, he typically prefers to communicate in the medium of post-it note doodles.