The recipient of an NEA-funded, Expanded Artists’ Books Grant from the Center for Book and Paper Arts at Columbia College Chicago, and winner of the international Turn on Literature Prize for electronic literature, ABRA: A Living Text is an exploration and celebration of the potentials of the book in the 21st century.

Durbin collaborated with Amaranth Borsuk to create the project, which merges physical and digital media, integrating a hand-made artists’ book with an iPad app that can be read separately or together, with the iPad inserted into the back of the book.

Conceived by Borsuk and Durbin, and developed along with Ian Hatcher, the iOS version of ABRA is a magical poetry instrument/spellbook. In this free iPad and iPhone app, touch words and watch them shift under your fingers. Cast spells to mutate the text and set it in motion. Write your own words and see them become part of ABRA’s vocabulary. Read, write, and experiment to discover her secrets and make her poems your own.

Like the iOS version of ABRA, the physical artists’ book is also interactive. It invites readers to touch and interact with the text through blind letterpress impressions that evoke cuneiform printing, gold initials and wide margins that evoke manuscript illumination, thermochromic ink that disappears with the heat of your hands or breath, and laser-cut openings that reveal the book as an interface with both depth and surface.

In the third and final version of ABRA, a trade edition from 1913 Press, ABRA animates across the page, poems and drawings growing and mutating as the reader flips through. Hearkening back to our earliest modes of cinema, it creates a different reading experience where text and image merge.

Praise for ABRA:

"A cell calls to itself, splits: a caul is knit. In the intimacy of the not-self-same is birthed a third thing: a second sight. Just so in the clairvoyant, collaborative between-spaces (media) of Abra’s triple play. A ‘rococo glow’, a ‘sparkle spasm’, a transcriptase strip-tease at once cellular and galactic. Can protein have a fantasy life? Does cancer wish to conquer?  Is thought just the comfort food our brain cells grant us while pursuing their own ends? The precise articulation of ABRA reflects the considerable skill of its human compositors, yet hints at acute, occluded dramas unfolding just beyond human scales."
–Joyelle McSweeney

"Are you serious not knowing Poetry Goddesses?  Prinking their raiments line after amazing line!  The United States doesn’t need another feckless Poet Laureate stinking up the libraries of the world!  No!  The world NEEDS to see the real poets of the United States!  The goddess poets!  I worship there because I have sense!  “song spun with lard and whiting in posy blanket” that’s what we’re talking about!  Let ABRA blow the doors open, it’s time to staple it to the wall with Borsuk & Durbin!  Open the book and let it all be done!"
–CA Conrad


ABRA the app can be downloaded for free in the app store.

ABRA the trade paperback can be purchased from 1913 Press.

Press for ABRA:

Interview with Durbin in The Creator's Project

Review Tarpaulin Sky

Review Weird Sister

Review The Literary Platform

Interview with Borsuk in City Arts Online

Review Poetry Foundation