The Dogs of Havana

Cade Collum

Julio César Peña Peralta

Miller: "On a number of trips to Havana, Cuba I had been photographing the feral dogs that cluster under tables at night, or wander looking for food during the day. These creatures broke my heart... They were mostly underfed and treated as pests. One time at the Taller Experimental de Grafíca I spoke with Julio and asked him if he would ever use dogs as subjects of his skeleton imagery. He said Yes! Subsequently I brought him some of my favorite photos and he went to work on the linocuts. When I eventually picked them up I was astounded by their sad beauty. 

Back in Alabama I asked poet Cade Collum, who was born and bred in Slap Out, Alabama, to meet me for coffee. I laid out proofs of the linocuts without telling him the backstory, and asked what he thought of them. He loved them. I asked if he would work up some poems around the images, and he did. And they are something else. What I didn't expect was that he and I would sit down and figure out which poem work with what dog, and then that Cade would agree to my shaping the poems to best work with their opposing linocuts.

I printed this book while on a sabbatical at the Penland School of Craft in North Carolina. I printed the black linocuts first, and then printed a translucent color block over each linocut, so that the dogs popped out and they were seated on a color block. The morning that I worked up a nuclear green and tested it out over one of the dogs I was so shocked that it was so perfect and powerful that I have to step away from the press, go to the coffee shop, and drink some coffee before coming back to finish the press run."