We finally made it to the finish line! I’m so excited and honored to be a part of the process of creating Why Poetry? and I still can’t believe that it’s finally done. I know the book itself has been years in the making, but it was truly special just to be a part of the last few months of putting it together. As a class, we took a closer look into small presses; how they operate, what the goal of a small press is, and who is behind them. We took the liberty of trying to understand what exactly we were getting ourselves into and I think after everything we each took away some key moments or lessons from our time in making Joe’s book.
When I first read Joe’s book I went through the entire thing and wrote down questions that I had and highlighted parts that I liked and that I thought were my favorite. I, as well as the rest of my classmates, were examining Joe’s work just as Professor Gil-Montero wanted us to do. The truly surreal part was getting to meet Joe literally the day after I was first sucked into the “maelstrom” of his beautiful thoughts and ideas. I think the opportunity to speak with Joe had to be one of my favorite parts of the entire book-making process.
I remember asking Joe about a the maelstrom that he spoke of in his poem, “Nowhere Else” and I wanted to know if this storm he felt like he was trapped in was a good thing or a bad thing. I guess I really wanted to know if it was good for me to be stuck in my own personal maelstrom. Joe seemed ecstatic about this question and he even brought it up again during the reading. I can’t describe how honored it felt for a man with as much artistic talent and spirit to remember my question that I’d asked. I also appreciated that he wouldn’t say whether or not it was good or bad to be stuck within the storm, because that’s life, he said. As much as I wanted to know the answer in the beginning, I know that Joe wants us as young aspiring dreamers and creators to find out for ourselves and I couldn’t agree more now on the matter.
As we close the chapter on a very exciting and cherishing experience I’d like to personally thank Haylee at Meshwork Press for allowing me to get my hands dirty and learn more about the beautiful and imperfect process of creating art. I’d also like to thank Professor Gil-Montero for being such a wonderful beacon of light for me and all of her students; I will never grow tired of her endless stream of encouragement and wisdom, as it is solely helped me with my own writing. Another thank you to Joe O’ Connor for writing such amazing poetry and for letting us pick at your brain; your talents will never be easily forgotten. Finally, I need to thank the other students in this semester’s Small Press Publishing course. Your company was a blessing and each and I hope each and every one of you achieve your dreams, whether it’s right out of college or further down the road.
May you find your places within the maelstrom and enjoy the ride!
Last week, our class had the wonderful opportunity of meeting Garth Graeper, a writer and editor who worked for the small publishing company called Ugly Duck Press. The experience was quite entertaining and eye-opening for me, personally and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.
Each of the students, including myself, took turns asking Garth questions and he answered each with a respectful tone and a sense of humor that us English majors were drawn to right away. I remember one question that Clair had asked was quite heartwarming in regards to how does a writer balance work and a family. I feel like this is a question many of us wannabe writers have wondered, but never thought to ask and I thought it was nice of her to do so. Garth’s response provided a great sense of hope – yes, it would quite manageable for us to be able to write in our free time, go to work, and spend time with our future families. Garth was able to do the same and it seems to be working just fine for him. Aside from waking up really early in the morning – I detest a wake-up time before noon – to write for leisure I suppose Garth’s balancing act doesn’t sound too bad at all. All anyone wants is to have a job that provides for and gives us time for our kids.
When it came time for me to ask Garth my two questions – I’m *quite* the rebel – I found it almost too easy to determine his answers. First, I asked whether he considered himself a writer, an editor, or a combination of both. He said he considered himself a writer, to which I felt really pleased by this answer. If he had said he was more of an editor, then the answer to my next question might not have hit him to close to home; might not have felt as concrete in my own eyes. I wanted an acclaimed writer’s answer to the one thing all writers want to know: What’s some general advice that you have for aspiring writers? Garth said something along the lines of what I already knew, which is that writers don’t make very much money. If I let this stop me from becoming a writer, then I wouldn’t even be in that room talking to him, so it’s a good thing I’m really stubborn. The part that did break my heart was hearing Garth say that writers are able to do their day jobs and still continue to write on the side. I wish I could explain that this was not how I wanted my future to turn out. All I ever want to do is turn my writing on the side into a full-fledged career.
After ending the interview that day I wondered if this dream was still in the cards for me and I don’t think I was very sure at the time. When I ask myself this question right now as I type this I know my answer is clear: I can do anything I set my mind to and so can you!
*Garth, if you ever read this I want you to know that the title was meant to be a clever pun and not a knock on you in any way. Thank you for the interview 🙂
While I was attempting to look for magazine publications that stood out most to me, I came across IDK Magazine. I find that the title sums up exactly what a publication should be – limitless, non-conforming, and creative. This magazine is an online literary magazine, which happens to publish out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Founded in the year 2013, IDK Magazine only publishes twice a year with one issue released in the winter and one in the summer.
I wanted to write about a publication that seemed very innovative and fresh, which can already be assumed just by looking at the editing staff on their webpage. The editors are a group of diverse individuals, varying in gender identities, race, and age. I think this alone shows that the magazine will reach a wide-range of people, because more will be able to relate to a platform with varying voices behind it.
After reading a few short stories among various issues, I found the common theme between all of these pieces is how very real and, I want to say, direct. They’re real, because these are real people writing these short stories; no characters, no grand schemes – just genuine people telling their truths. I liked “Rally Kid” by Tess Wilson, because the details that were given made me feel like I was actually there with author. I could see the BMW, feel the stickiness and the denim in the sun, feel the bugs between my own teeth. I like fiction more than the next gal, but sensory details, I find, are what makes a story jump off the screen, whether it’s fiction or not. This specific piece does that for me.
I’m I looking forward to hopefully doing a whole paper based off what I see and read in IDK Magazine!
Ulises Carrión in “The New Art of Making Books” questions the reader, “What is more meaningful: the book or the text it contains?” I think in many circumstances both the book and the text are equally important. There may even be times when the aesthetic of the book overrules the text that is inside, although this is clearly a matter of one’s own opinion. I believe that in most cases the text should always be more meaningful than the book itself. What if the book contains enticing imagery and words that do not need to be Shakespearean-esque? This proves the point that Carrión was trying to make within his work: there is no right answer.
My book is definitely a visual book more than anything else. I made it whenever I was in middle school and I continued to add little pieces to it as I got older. The lack of space was reason enough for me to decide that it was finished. I identify this as a book, because despite the inclusion of words and graphics the total sum is a representation of me and who I was when I was younger – who am I kidding, it still represents who I am today. Aside from that, I think that all books are supposed to represent the creator, whether it does so through personal references or just in the way sentences are phrased. If an author rewrites another author’s book, then it simply won’t be the same book written twice. There will inevitably be differences along the way. Representation of the author is an important factor that makes a book become a book.
My choice of materials for this book was not planned beforehand. I simply started with different magazine clippings of people and phrases that I like and one or two corny phrases that I happened to handwrite myself. This is a reflection of Amaranth Borsuk’s musings in “The Book as Idea” where she says it’s okay for a book to have pages that are “torn or carefully cut” and my object happens to be a mix of precise and choppy clippings. It became apparent to me over the years that despite adding on to this object I never removed anything from it. To create something without making edits or changes is a daring feat, I must say.
These materials reflect how easy it was for me to access celebrity culture when I was younger and it even makes me think about how much easier it is to access celebrity culture now in 2019 with the internet. Making an object from the internet wouldn’t have been as fun, nor would it have been as concrete or creative as this piece turned out to be. The world I lived in when I was a preteen definitely revolved around famous people and what they were doing, who they were dating, etc. Referring back to how the world has changed from then to 2019 I think the world I live in now is still very obsessed with what celebrities are up to, so much so that their own lives seem unimportant and dull in comparison.
I would say that my object would attract someone is very desiring of pop culture just like I am. Although, I did put this object together before I knew I’d be using it for a future assignment I think that it speaks to an audience of people who not only who grew up around the time when things like the Jonas Brothers and Twilight were very “in”, but it also speaks to people who have a love for nostalgic things, whether it’s something I included in my object or something that they thought of from their childhood when viewing my object. I’d have to say that my imagined reader with this piece was and always will be myself. At the end of the day I know that I didn’t create this to get noticed or become “popular” as the young kids would probably say nowadays – I made this object as a reflection of myself and to express who I am and what I love and no one can take that away from me.
I was interested by the fact that Carnegie Library had so many different zines to choose from and I think if I had been given access to them at my former high school library then my knowledge of literature would have been more properly expanded upon early on. It’s amazing how literature can have many different layers and it’s quite exciting getting to peel back these layers as you get older or even as you meet new people who introduce you to new types of literature. Our publishing course was my main introduction to the subject of zines, although I swear I’ve heard the term at least once or twice before recently coming into this course. The zine was something I’d heard of as an online ordeal and I had never seen real close-up examples of zines until now. I’m happy to hear that literature isn’t 100% online and it’s easy to see that zines are a smaller part of the reason why that is.
Becoming more acquainted with the subject of zines and their overall look and purpose, or lack thereof was a very liberating experience for me as a reader and as a writer. I love how unorthodox and zany they all seem to be. None of the zines I looked through at Carnegie Library were completely “normal”, given the sense that a regular shmegular book or work produced by the Big Six is what we consider to be normal nowadays. The zine could not be farther from a Big Six book and that, to me, is highly refreshing. The zines I looked at were all very small, which means for easier transport and sharing. Not everyone can take an entire book series with them on the subway, unless they download it to their smart devices, which wouldn’t be fun at all. I imagine a zine to be something of a small “Bible” you can take with you anywhere and show to anyone. Hopefully comparing a bible to a zine is not seen as offensive – perhaps what I mean to say is that the Bible was created with “the truth” of God and all these holy figures in mind and was meant to be shared through word-of-mouth and by physically passing it along to other people. I believe that zines are similar in that they, too, were written with the author’s personal truth in mind and can be passed around between people.
My favorite zine out of all the ones I looked at was a tall and slender zine called NiceyHateyand I’m 100% convinced that some higher power allowed me to find this particular zine so that I could be inspired to make my own in the future. NiceyHatey is a brilliant zine that looks like a pamphlet with contents that are nowhere similar to what a conventional pamphlet entails – unless pamphlets were created with the purpose of complaining about nuisances and speaking your mind without the concern of others. The I-don’t-give-a-damn attitude that perforated my very careful and kind demeanor caught my attention the minute I first read the piece called HUGS. This was the moment I knew I wasn’t in my comfort zone anymore and I was okay with that. Having the ability to use a zine as a means to share your thoughts about anything and everything you want is not only freeing for the author(s), but it can be equally freeing for the reader as well. If you ever want to share your opinions with a group of people, but you’re trepidatious about people in the Twitter-sphere coming at you with harsh criticisms: make a zine. Your truth might just find the right people within a smaller community when they really need it the most.
Our publishing class took a trip to Meshwork press so that we could learn more about letter pressing and get our feet wet in terms of trying to create letter press art on our own. I went into this experiment feeling pretty excited and eager to try something that I’d never done before. I write in my spare time and the only two forms of making word art that I had prior experience with -up until our trip to Meshwork press- was writing and typing. I now know that letter pressing is one of many other forms of writing and the reason that the art of letterpress still exists today, is because many people long to make words come to life and turn them into a physical thing, rather than typing them into a Word document and printing them out and being done with that process. Letter pressing is a tedious process with physical pieces of wood and letters and once that process is done it feels as though time was better spent making those words into something real and tangible.
Ironically, the piece that I created with the letterpress that the lovely Haylee Ebersole let us use in her studio doesn’t have any words on it! I think if I were to put words on my letterpress piece it would have taken more time than we had while visiting. I would’ve written a grand sonnet given more time! Despite the lack of words, I ended up creating a piece that was very special to me, simply because I had made it myself with my own two hands. I’m not very artistic when it comes to using paints or having to draw any sort of subjects, but taking a hold of that flywheel on the letter press and literally spinning my own piece of art into life made me feel like an artist. For the first time I wasn’t creating with a pen or a pencil, but with real pieces of metal lettering and that felt very authentic to me.
The letterpress itself reminded me of a spinning wheel and I remember telling Haylee that I felt like Rumpelstiltskin spinning straw into gold. I believe that letter pressing on would best be described in this way, because letter press art is the result of taking simple and ordinary metal stamps and letters and turning them into art, in the way that straw can be spun into gold – at least that was what happened in the fairytale.
The documentary Pressing On: The Letterpress Film reflects on the seemingly dying art of letter pressing and the letter press itself. Various people, both young and old express their love and passion for pressing and share the amount of letter presses they’ve either come to collect since the beginning of their letter pressing journeys to describing their love for the letter press and what it provides for them on an emotional and physical level. These people with a passion for letter pressing also share the most important piece of information about letter pressing that is mostly lost among major companies and businesses today – letter pressing is not just a hobby, it is a true form of art.
What I’ve learned from watching this film is that art is the main concept that is associated with letter pressing. They may appear to be dying among major publishing firms nowadays, but that does not make pressing a dying art at all. Presses are very much alive in how they move and operate, almost like a dance being performed on a stage. Every little scrap of lettering and metal parts that go into letter pressing is purposeful and meticulous and important. Letter pieces that are dropped are not typically replaced, because their dents and fractures are usually beloved by consumers who witness or purchase pieces coming from letter presses.
I found this particularly fascinating, because if a piece of machinery is somehow broken within a big established printing company the parts are most likely going to be fixed as soon as possible. Those who work with old-fashioned printing presses understand that perfection isn’t the main focus for what they’re doing; it’s trying to create art that requires physical action and a great deal of heart and dedication. There are no easy ways to create great art from a letter press. There are no buttons are fancy beep noises that alert you when the final piece is ready to transferred elsewhere. A human hand is needed every step of the way in order to establish pieces that fancy machinery can’t do better. The letter press may be dead to large companies, but it most certainly is not a dying art form.