Unlike a lot of the more recent letterpresses that have come to print in the modern day, Burning Deck Press, and more specifically the Waldrops, chose to focus more on the traditional style of printing. Rather than make an attempt to produce mostly in the art genre, always breaking down barriers and trying new art forms with each piece that they craft, the Waldrops focused mostly on translation, picking and choosing which poets they wished to translate and print. Of course, they didn’t take just any poem or poet lying around searching to have their work printed; with a careful precision and particular taste, the Waldrops meticulously sifted through hundreds of texts written by numerous poets, and it’s with a delicate hand that they picked who they printed. According to Kyle Schlesinger, the Waldrops “[prefered] to produce the poetry [they found] interesting rather than siding with a particular camp” or type of poetry; instead of sticking to only one genre of poetry and it’s style, they simply went around and produced the writing that they liked (16). Given that they’re more interested in “presenting texts” compared to playing around with the printing process and the page itself, their “typography [tended] to be classical”, their work seeming more and more like a “typical” book unlike a lot of other modern presses (Schlesinger 19). A good example of this can be found in A Test of Solitude, a book of poetry originally written by Emmanuel Hocquard and then translated by Rosmarie Waldrop. The poetry was simplistic in its form, with stanzas on Emmanuel’s life and time in Norway while remaining in solitude, and to follow such writing, the Waldrops chose to keep a simplistic style, putting the focus onto the words and the story they told instead of the art they could have potentially created.
Although I remained uncertain of how my work would turn out, I attempted to create a piece of poetry directly influenced by the books produced by Burning Deck Press. In order to write my piece, I first read through one of the books that Burning Deck published, A Test of Solitude, in order to see what parts I should focus on. After discovering that the poetry all revolved around the poet’s time left by himself in a cabin in Norway, I decided to follow a similar path; I took my time sitting by myself in the library and tried to turn the simple scene into a piece of poetry. The poem itself isn’t that long, a small stanza and nothing more, but given the aesthetic Burning Deck looked for, I believe I managed to capture the press’s essence. The poetry in the book uses small amounts of punctuation throughout, and the editor/ poet was incredibly diligent in the words that sat on each line; given how particular the press was with their choices, I did my best to do the same.
Burning Deck Press was an incredibly interesting press that designed many books and translated many works, and without their specific tastes, there were numerous works that could have been published. Though they’re rather typical and simple in regard to their design, they crafted a large number of amazing texts to give to the world. It’s sad to know that the press recently closed in 2017, but with a long time to produce lots and lots of texts, their influence won’t be forgotten quickly.
Becker, Eric M. B. “Experimental Poetry Press Closes Shop: An Interview with Burning Deck’s Rosmarie Waldrop.” Words Without Borders, https://www.wordswithoutborders.org/dispatches/article/experimental-poetry-press-closes-shop-an-interview-with-burning-deck.
Schlesinger, Kyle, et al. A Poetics of the Press: Interviews with Poets, Printers, & Publishers. Cuneiform Press, 2021.