by Jacob Snizik
Last Wednesday was the culmination of our group’s work of bringing Joe O’Connor’s poetry pamphlet Why Poetry?, not only to life, but to a very willing and receptive audience that bought the books up at our launch on campus.
The opportunity and the work we did in this class was unlike anything I’ve done and probably will ever do. From the beginning I found the whole process intriguing and although hesitant at first, I quickly wanted to jump right into it. As a writer, the whole business, labor, and artform of publishing was always something I looked at as being down the road, something that was someone else’s job to do and that I would be only nominally involved in. What this class revealed to me is that reality is quite the opposite, if you know where to look.
We had our first meeting with Joe and were given the lay of the land of his work and what he wanted to do with it, we were told to read it and take notes about what we thought and to ask him about it. Not only was this a rare, delightful circumstance, to speak with an author about his raw unpublished work, it was also practical. He informed us of what he had in mind for the appearance of the book, we all tossed ideas back and forth and by the end of the night, had been assigned groups that would be tasked with a specific step in crafting the book.
My team and I worked on the interior, picking the font, the layout, the margins, the hue of black used in the ink, very minute things that would be remedial if not for their importance. if we were off by such much as an eighth of an inch, it would ruin the geometry and symmetry of the pages.
After this was done, and everything was in print and we had hand pressed the covers at our partner studio in Wilkinsburg, our entire group spent three hours pain painstakingly assembling the finished books; the hand work was precise, delicate and full of care. We considered with each crease and stitch, not only the work we had done up to that point, but Joe’s work, the pouring out of his poetic soul present on every page.
We were present when the book was launched, credits, compliments and introductions filled the air and then, everything slowed when Joe took the podium and we were all able to sit back, relax, and enjoy with read through of the book. He read it slowly, taking care to wring every drop of passion and fiber from the words. It was beautiful, and when that had concluded, they sold like crazy.
I have my own signed copy and I will treasure it.