I am beyond excited to have the opportunity to work with my small press publishing class on a manuscript finalist submission that we will be turning into a personalized book. This is an amazing opportunity for the author of the manuscript and the student who get to design and publish this author’s work. In reading through Meg Matich’s manuscript, I felt a recurring theme surrounding the elements grab my attention. Some of the poems within Matich’s manuscript appeal to the properties of air and water, while others appeal to the earth and fire. Interestingly, I found a unique connection to the four basic elements that essentially make up everything on earth-within Matich’s single manuscript. Essentially, I decided to construct a mood board composed of various digital images, materials, and other design elements that collectively come together to symbolize our next project surrounding Meg Matich’s manuscript and its creation into a book.
I decided to incorporate a series of photographs that are related specifically to Saint Vincent College because this book project was made possible by a Saint Vincent sponsor who believed in publishing authors from the SVC community and wanted to continue this tradition for many years to come.
I also found this really fun and creative website that discusses how to write a poetry book.
Aaron Cohick, the founder of NewLights Press, was one of several artists Kyle Schlesinger interviewed in A Poetics of the Press. One of the most prominent characteristics that continue to draw me back to Cohick’s’ interview was how he portrays an open-minded and barrier-defining mindset towards his work.
CURB: A series of poems by Divya Victor that were designed and printed by Aaron Cohick which document the assaults and murders of Indian Americans and Indian Immigrants in public spaces in the United States.
Books on Books Collection: The New Manifesto of the NewLights Press (third iteration) 2017. This booklet features saddle stapling, risograph, letterpress/collagraph, and hand panting’s. [This photo is a part of Aaron Cohick’s collection titled Books on Books Collection and was acquired from NewLights Press in December 2020.]
The New Manifesto of the NewLights Press (third iteration) has multiple starting points. In fact, there are ten refinements on these starting points, and each iteration even has a diagram and footnotes which emphasize the academic nature of the starting points.
In further researching Aaron Cohick, I discovered that his personal aesthetics expand far beyond the average publisher and printer-his approach is simply authentic, primarily due to its inspiring design. One of the most fascinating components of Cohick’s work is his continuous reiteration of the idea that ‘the new is always an extension of the old and these media grow together and extend each other’ (Schlesinger 320). In addition, Cohick’s contention that the roles and trajectories of print and books in culture are changing, thus making it an exciting time to be involved in this world, is perhaps the most prominent factor that attracted me to his work. I find Cohick’s aesthetics to be an exceptionally unique agent to the evolving world of print and literature. His work is particularly inspirational due to his ‘real’ and ‘relatable’ responses to the ordinary learner about the relationship of the many working parts of modern-day publishing and printing. In A Poetics of the Press, Cohick concludes his interview by reflecting on how this is the time to be making work that is part of the living culture-subject to and dependent upon change for its vitality because print is only dead if we try to freeze it in time (Schlesinger 321). This analogy is something that I will carry with me for the rest of my career as a writer.
Aaron Cohick’s approach to publishing, in addition to the realm of the book’s form and content, truly defies traditional barriers. As founder of NewLights Press, he provides a space for independent printers and publishers to work at the intersection of artists’ books and encourages learners to experiment with text, images, and the making process. Cohick’s mission connects to the nature and transformation of the evolving world of print and literature by inspiring new and young writers to explore the relationships of the many different working parts of modern-day publishing and printing. I chose to experiment with different digital arts that ultimately connect art and form to the prospects of my creative writing response-which was fueled by inspiration from Aaron Cohick and his NewLights Press. I do not have much experience with the style or structure of digital art, but I thought it might be valuable to experiment with this new and creative process. There is an ongoing debate about whether or not digital art replaces traditional practices, but I do not see it that way. Instead, I believe traditional applications of the book’s form and content are more valuable than newer digital forms. Traditional styles connect the author with their work in ways that digital applications just cannot. However, it is necessary to recognize that while digital techniques and modes are becoming increasingly popular in publishing, this does not indicate an end to traditional practices. Cohick does an excellent job at recognizing this by stating that print is only dead if we try to freeze it in time.
Schlesinger, Kyle. A Poetics of the Press: Interviews with Poets, Printers & Publishers. Aaron Cohick NewLights Press, Cuneiform Press & Ugly Duckling Presse, 2021.
A Poetics of the Press, edited by Kyle Schlesinger, explores how the book poses a unique relationship to language as a visual and material form of art. Schlesinger conducts a series of interviews with several poets, publishers, and printers, centering around a series of questions about the art of the book and what their personal approach to publishing involves. The interview with Aaron Cohick about his NewLights Press was my favorite interview conducted in A Poetics of the Press.
Aaron Cohick grew up in Pennsylvania and studied the art of the book in Maryland before moving West to continue his studies in Arizona and California. Initially, Cohick printed greeting cards for a living in San Francisco and spent his free time printing his work under the NewLights Press imprint. However, he soon founded NewLights Press while also becoming the Printer of The Press at Colorado College. He teaches students about the art of the book and how to make books while also continuing to work on new projects for NewLights Press in his letterpress studio in his home. He also keeps a detailed record of his journey in letterpress printing by recording his progress in journals where he reflects on philosophy, typography design, process, and aesthetic experience. In addition, Cohick explains how the book A Secret Location on the Lower East Side by Steve Clay and Rodney Phillips guides him in his work with letterpress. He states that this book provides a sense of history and community through time, enabling him to feel the flow of this relationship with even the simplest activities like folding sheets of paper (Schlesinger 317).
Interestingly Schlesinger emphasizes how much of Cohick’s work is labor-intensive by design and requires discipline and routine, in addition, to constantly evolving. Cohick explains how his books negotiate with the competing demands of physical material and literary content by revealing his struggle with reiterating postmodernist dogma. He believes that there is something in early works of literature that can we critically and productively elaborate as a means of resistance against the model of corporate-spectacular art that is dominant today (Schlesinger 316).
One of the most captivating ideas that Cohick brings to light in his interview is the idea that the new is always an extension of the old and these medias grow together and extend each other (Schlesinger 320). In addition, I find it intriguing that Cohick claims that the roles and trajectories of print and books in culture are changing which makes it an exciting time to be involved in this world.
I learned a lot of new ideas from the editor’s remarks about the role of letterpress in small press publishing, but the thing that most stuck out to me was his discussion with Cohick about how digital distribution models are changing the power structures of publishing, which ultimately makes it easier for small presses to reach a larger audience. In addition, I also think it’s important to note that Schlesinger and Cohick both point out that we now have access to technology to design and print right in our homes. Moreover, they conclude that print is not dead, and in fact, we are just beginning to see it clearly for the first time and now asking questions about its structures (Schlesinger 320).
In conclusion, the interview ended on the notion that this is the time to be making work that is part of living culture, subject to and dependent upon change for its vitality, and print is only dead if we try to freeze it in time (Schlesinger 321). I find this idea to be profoundly inspiring and enlightening to my work in writing and literature.
This past week I had the opportunity to visit an artist-run print shop in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, where Haylee Ebersole and Kyrie Bushaw use their letterpress and screen-printing skills to create a creative and comfortable learning experience. Visiting this print shop was one of the most memorable and exciting opportunities I have had in my time at college. Having the opportunity to explore the different elements that a print shop has to offer is truly a remarkable experience.
In experiencing letterpress for the first time, I truly acknowledged its unique process of typesetting and its poetic insight. The first thing that came to mind when I got to experience the letterpress for the first time was its authentic form. Before even seeing the letterpress put to work, I was captivated by its ability to draw the rooms’ attention to its exquisitely assembled instrument. Something about the letterpress inspires an authentic and genuine relationship that insinuates a vulnerable experience that connects the machine and the artist.
The process of typesetting is a lot more comprehensive and time-consuming than I previously thought. However, having the opportunity to handle type and explore its diverse forms and shapes was one of the most unique components of the Meshwork Studio.
In reading A Poetics of the Press, I discovered that a number of small poetry presses continue to hold onto the art of letterpress because of its unique relationship to language as a visual and material form of art (Schlesinger viii). In A Poetics of the Press, editor Kyle Schlesinger conducts a series of interviews with poets, publishers, and printers about the art of the book and their personal approaches to publishing (Schlesinger viii). I find it quite fascinating how Schlesinger investigates and discovers why contemporary poetry looks the way it does. Again, Schlesinger draws attention to the significance of the relationship between the form and content of the book.
When I think about the printing press, I picture a room filled with beautiful pieces of machinery that literally documented history and wrote it into books. I found the film Pressing On: The Letterpress Film to be quite an inspiring account of the history of the letterpress and how it has impacted American history and literature. Perhaps most interesting about this film was how it demonstrated that the modern world was born on a printing press, but it is now in danger of being lost. In addition, I found it fascinating how the film explored why letterpress has survived in the digital age.
There are so many different directions one could go in exploring the significance of the letterpress, but what most stood out to me is how artists and printers involved in letterpress describe how letterpress feels to them. Earl Gee a designer, partner, and creative director of Gee + Chung Design says, “These amazing tools and techniques, which have survived for centuries, connect art and craft, designer and printer, and paper and impression. Letterpress has the extraordinary ability to make a lasting impression by enabling people to appreciate the artist’s craft in both a visual and tactile manner (Gee).”
The most intriguing characteristic of the printing press is type. I am completely fascinated by the process in which text can be transferred from movable type to paper or other platforms by ink. In learning about the printing press, I have gained a whole new appreciation for this system-both for its contributions to literature and its creative publication and evolution to the world.
I found it inspiring how many of the people interviewed in The Letterpress Film emphasized that printing presses are meant to be used, not just looked at in museums. In addition, they argued that the best way to preserve them is by actively using them, and I could not agree more with this statement. I believe that preserving heritage items such as printing presses are essential because they are a fundamental piece of our history that should not be forgotten or disregarded just because we have new advancements in technology.
What makes an object a book–well as established by Borsuk, the essence of a book is defined as something beyond the object itself. Most simply, my book takes on a rectangular shape that is bound by a course yellow string that wraps around the off-white fabric cover on each of its sides. When titled from side to side, the reader encounters a definitively rough material that clings to the spine of each bend fastened between the outside hardcovers. When titled another way, the reader can see that the pages contained within this piece are prominent and three-dimensional. Upon opening this book, the reader is welcomed by a diverse array of colors and materials that signify an antique appearance. However, further examination allows the reader to recognize that this object is an accordion book. Borsuk provides a detailed account of the origins of the accordion book, which began in China during the eighth century, and describes how paper’s strength and malleability at the time led to the development of sutra-folded books (p. 36). This technique was then applied to scrolls which were folded back and forth in even widths to create an accordion.
In composing this object–which takes on the form of a book, I found that the purpose of my piece is quite far-reaching. Most simply, this book functions as a representation of the journey of life and my desire to travel the world. I like to think of this piece as unfinished and one of many volumes to come–because the journey of life never has a final destination, and I have so much left to explore. I find in inspiring how Borsuk states that books are fundamentally interactive reading devices who meanings are far from being fixed and arise at the moment of access (Borsuk 147).
I chose the materials for my accordion book carefully as I wanted my book to illustrate a vintage theme. In composing my accordion book, I used scrapbooking materials and pieces of traveling remnants from some of my most favorite travel adventures. I wanted my book to embody a sense of comfort and familiarity. My book represents a kind of calming and creative conformity that surrounds my life and encompasses my personality.
I imagine the reader of my book to be open-minded, creative, and someone who can envision beyond the words stated on a page. The ideal reader of my book is someone who can interpret the language and style of my piece in a non-conforming way. My book reminds me of a pop-up book much like the one’s Borsuk describes in chapter 3 of The Book. Borsuk says that we see the book’s depth most readily in pop-up books, which unfold to fill each opening with material that pulls itself up off the page (Borsuk 149). My accordion book incorporates many three-dimensional characteristics that are intended to expand ‘off the page’. Moreover, I want my piece to be interpreted in many different ways and explored in many different respects. There is no singular key to understanding my composed accordion book; instead, it is meant to be an exploration of my life that is not “finished” and is intended to be calming and enjoyable.
Borsuk, Amaranth. The Book. Cambridge, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 2018.
The beauty of artists books’ arises from the ability of the author to connect with their audience. Therefore, when we examine artists’ books, we can better understand how contemporary digital books relate to their original historical forms. In Amaranth Borsuk’s book, The Book, I believe Borsuk intends to point to the purpose of artists books’ as being a kind of medium for artistic expression and inspiration. Borsuk says that these books remind us that books are truly interactive reading devices whose meanings arise at the moment of access and are far from fixed (Borsuk 147). After reading through Borsuk’s book, I applied the observations she made about artists books’ to the pieces of art I came across on the Women’s Studio Workshop site and found a mesmerizing piece titled Transparency Reflection Light Space: A Response.
This piece was simply captivating and beautifully constructed. While this piece is intriguing for many reasons, the most fascinating thing about it is was the way it was constructed based on the absence of vowels in the artists’ answers in the catalog publication. This piece was created as a response to a 1971 exhibition catalog interview with the artist, Larry Bell. However, before the catalog was published, Larry Bell removed all the vowels from his answers. I remember reading about consonant-vowel combinations in chapter two of Borsuk’s book, and I found it quite fascinating how she discussed them as linear A and linear B. Moreover, I find it interesting how the Egyptians and Greeks relied on consonant-vowel combinations, which meant alphabets then required larger character sets to express that vocabulary. Specifically, scholars established upward of ninety sets in the Minoan script, which they called Linear A (Borsuk 23). In another set, scholars established seventy-five in its fourteenth-century Cretan successor, which was called Linear B (Borsuk 23).
I find it interesting how Borsuk points to how consonant vowels signified a movement from orality to literacy, which played a central role in the development of writing to produce literature to readers; however, this piece of art adopts a kind of pre-literature tendency that ends up creating an amazingly complex response.
The artist Leah Mackin produced a unique codex pamphlet that is saddle stitched with had covers and printed using letterpress and laser printing. Leah Mackin read Bell’s obscure responses as inherently gendered in the context of the masculine art historical legacy of Minimalism (Mackin 2017). This artist describes Bell’s words as unpronounceable noises, which I found very interesting as I could almost hear what she is describing in my head. However, the most inspiring thing I learned when reading about this piece was how her response to the work represents the remaining vowels, which served as a kind of harmonic vocalization since vowels give shape and rounded-out sound to the English language (Mackin 2017).
Borsuk, Amaranth. The Book. Cambridge, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 2018.
In reading more of Amaranth Borsuk’s The Book, I connected some of the ideas she discussed regarding the composition of the accordion book with those posed in my studio arts lab and designed a few unique ideas for creating my own accordion book. Borsuk provides a detailed account of the origins of the accordion book, which began in China during the eighth century, and describes how paper’s strength and malleability at the time led to the development of sutra-folded books (p. 36). This technique was then applied to scrolls which were folded back and forth in even widths to create an accordion.
The instructor for my studio arts lab presented a demo that explored the different ways in which form and content can uniquely coincide and make a beautiful piece of artwork in the form of an accordion book. The composition of an accordion book is a compelling piece of art that enables the artist to design a truly unique piece of work that closely connects to the form and content of the book. In doing further research into the significance of the accordion book, I found a new respect for how this form contributed to the evolution and creation of what we now consider to be the book. One of the most intriguing features I discovered about the accordion book is that it can be constructed out of virtually anything, which provides an endless realm of creative opportunity for the artist. The most captivating accordion project I came across was a completely handcrafted fabric accordion book that was inscribed with beautiful stitching and creative embellishments.
Upon completing some diverse research into the composition and formulation of an accordion book–I found my options were quite limitless. However, after considering many different options, I was able to construct a unique design for my accordion book that highlights my personality–adventure. I decided to create an accordion book that flows with a sense of adventure. I want to design an accordion book that features many different stories that are all connected by all the bends in between them, which bring the piece together, much like the adventure of life. The picture below inspired me to pursue a travel-themed accordion project.
Borsuk, Amaranth. The Book. Cambridge, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 2018.
In reading Chapter 1 of Amaranth Borsuk’s book titled The Book As Object, I found that the section titled “Scrolls and the Advent of Paper” stuck out to me most. Specifically, I found it interesting how Borsuk discusses how the earliest forms of the book were developed by the Chinese, who used an abundant plant fiber of bamboo and named jiance. Borsuk draws attention to how this form then provided an excellent model for the idea of grain and how it encompassed the direction in which a sheet of paper’s fibers lay (Borsuk 25). In addition, many traditional Chinese writing styles, such as the assortment of writing from top to bottom with a column of single characters of text continuing to the left, come from the book’s materiality, which developed from the origins of jiance (Borsuk 26). Ultimately, I find Borsuk’s response to the evolution of the form and content of the book intriguing.
After doing some further research, I found that a lot of attention is directed towards Cai Lun and his contributions to the form and content of papermaking in 105 CE. Specifically, one source stated, “In the book, The 100 – a Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History by Michael H. Hart, Cai Lun is ranked as the seventh most influential person in history due to his invention or discovery of papermaking (Alft 2018).” In addition, I discovered several contemporary artists who work with the jiance papermaking form. Specifically, Japanese bamboo artist Nagakura Ken’ichi explains how his passion for beachcombing and fossicking in nature, combined with an appreciation for the work of twentieth-century modern sculptors, has resulted in his composition of natural amorphic shapes that suggest human forms (Crothers 2018). Nagakura is known for creating pieces that express natural amorphic shapes that suggest human forms. For example, in 2014, he produced a ‘beautifully balanced work Women,’ which displayed one long piece of bamboo split into many fine strips excluding the last few centimeters, which was then interlaced to create one finished form. He completed his piece by rubbing a mixture of lacquer and powdered clay into the weave to give it an organic finish that gave it a natural appearance rather than a manufactured object (Crothers 2018). In conclusion, it is incredible to see how the early forms of the book were influenced by materials such as bamboo, which continues to be implemented by contemporary artists today.
I find it fascinating how a single word has the power to transcend beyond any single definition while also withholding to be defined by any one particular meaning. For example, when we hear the word silence, we each interpret the meaning and expression of the word differently. Thus, the work silence has the unique ability to transform any single definition and impact our impression and response to its application. In Jorge Luis Borge’s writing “On the Cult of Books,” Borges directs readers toward exploring how silent reading enables readers to connect with themselves on a deeper and more personal internal level while pursuing intellectual thought.
After reading some of the passages in “On the Cult of Books,” both silently and aloud, I found that reading them silently-although more impersonal, provided a unique ability for contemplation and superior intellectual thought. Reading a text silently allows the reader to consider and reflect upon their perceptions and points of discussion. While silent reading appeals to a more personal learning pursuit, reading a text aloud introduces an entirely different set of relationships and experiences for the reader to explore. The most profound difference I found when reading the text silently verses aloud was how reading the text aloud made me feel. Specifically, it made me feel as if the reading was more ‘real’ in a sense because it seemed to take on a personality of its own that expanded beyond the confined pages. Collectively, reading the text aloud appears to give the reader more confidence which aided in their ability to understand and interpret the text beyond an internal interpretation.
Borges points to the ancients’ view and their belief that the written word was nothing more than a substitute for spoken word, which consequently is what made the strange art of silent reading so strange to them. Furthermore, more evidently, Borges points out that it was customary to read aloud during this time because there were no punctuation marks, or a division of words, and there was a scarcity of manuscripts. While during the ancient and early ages, silent reading was, in the strictest sense-looked down upon, a significant emphasis was also placed on the understanding that ‘what is written remains.’
It is improbable to suggest that we could accurately and precisely assign certain books or content-specific labels that determine whether a text should be read aloud or silently because every reader interprets and reads texts differently. Therefore, how a text is to be read should be left up to the readers’ own transgressions. We can uncover support for the idea that it is improbable to assume an assigned reading status for reading a text by examining Augustine’s responses in Borge’s work “On the Cult of Books.” Specifically, Augustine points to the idea that Ambrose does not restrict access to anyone coming in while he is engaged with his silent reading. Augustine then says, “For who would dare to burden him in such intent concentration?” In fact, in his Confessions, Augustine writes about how he was still troubled by that extraordinary sight of a man in a room, with a book, reading without saying the words. Finally, Augustine summarizes the discussion of silent reading by bringing attention to the beauty it brings to life, which points to the intellectual growth a reader attains from stimulated challenges posed by internal reflection and reading.
Borges, Jorge Luis. “On the Cult of Books.” Selected Non-Fictions. Translated by Eliot Weinberger, Penguin, 2000, 358-363.
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