An Adventure Judged by Its Cover

I was that person who was only aware of screen printing as “that thing you do when you want to put an image on a t-shirt” before November 6th. I knew some of my favorite heavy metal t-shirts had been screen printed into existence, but back then I was unaware of its greater depth as an art form, and of its future significant in my junior year of college.

While the fall semester of 2019 enters the home stretch, the notion that we’re making a real bool, a chapbook to be more precise, still feels incredibly surreal. However, our final class trip down to Meshwork Press in Wilkinsburg to screen print the covers of Joe O’Connor’s Why Poetry? brought the swirling fantasy one step closer to a concrete reality. The ever-brilliant and hard-working Haylee Ebersole had four workstations primed and ready to print, but first, took a moment to explain the nuances of the screen printing. She demonstrated techniques like flooding the screen (coating the print area with ink before pressure is applied for the final print), as well as the best way to spread the colorful inks to get a fading effect on the cover.

The completed covers. © Elspeth Mizner

The cover in question was designed by Micaela Kreuzwieser and her team, featuring a photo by Joe’s Saint Vincent roommate, Jim Kozak. A simplistic shot of trees and the moon (or the sun?), we were directed by MGM to use color in way that riffed off of a comment Joe made regarding Walt Whitman’s poetry collection, Leaves of Grass. My station-team, which consisted of myself, Elspeth Mizner, and Micaela, mixed sea-foam green and a light blue, and while our covers may not win the prize for best fade, I’m quite fond of the icy teal that anoint our covers. I immediately claimed the most physical task, manning (perhaps “hogging” would be more apt) the squeegee, firmly pressing the ink into the blank templates that would become our covers. Once my team and I found our rhythm, we churned out cover after cover.

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, it feels appropriate to acknowledge the important people in this journey. So, thank you, Haylee, for your skill as an artist and as a teacher. Thank you, MGM, for willing this course into existence, and for providing exuberant mentorship. Thank you, my classmates, for your curiosity and nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic. And finally, thank you, Joe, for your lifelong commitment to poetry.

Flooding the screen before the next print. © Elspeth Mizner

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