Unlike a lot of the other students, I kept seeing very specific physical images rather than the deeper mental feelings that the words produced. For example, for E, I kept seeing rocky beaches on a windy, gray day, or for F I could only picture an elk or reindeer staring back at someone in the middle of a starry, snow-filled night. I tried to collect some of the images that I saw/ felt whilst reading through the manuscript.
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.
Blackout poetry is a writing form that I’ve done many times before on numerous occasions, something that I’ve grown used to doing over and over again. To me, it’s always the same old idea every single time: find a piece of writing, like a song, an old book, or a script of some kind, and then strike out lines in order to create a new poem. Although it can sometimes be a bit difficult to pick out the piece to blackout, I’ve grown familiar with the process; despite the fact that you can make a new poem with every new piece of writing to be found, I’ve begun to find it rather boring. Creating blackout poetry no longer feels like a challenge, and I miss the drive to push myself and try to make something completely new (It all starts to feel the same after some time).
Luckily, I had the opportunity to craft blackout poetry in a totally new way: printing.
As soon as I was given the assignment, I figured this would be the same old process with a few extra steps for flair, but I had no idea how difficult creating the piece would truly be.
To begin, I chose a song that I’d been listening to for the past few weeks, and a song that had a lot of interesting lyrics, to create the poetry, blacking out whatever words I didn’t want. I did as we were tasked, printing out my poem, scanning it, adding a few details for fun, and then scanning the paper once more. When I had what I believed to be the “finished product”, I brought my paper to the studio and readied myself to create another simple, yet colorful, piece of poetry.
For some reason, I hadn’t prepared myself for how sticky and intricate the process would be.
I had to be extremely delicate when working with the page, and I had to have just the right amount of corn syrup to water to ensure the ink stuck to the paper correctly, and to not have too much or else it would all fall apart. If even one part of the process went awry, my print wouldn’t turn out right.
I’m not one to find great interest in history, whether that includes learning about the subject in class or seeing an old building from years before. I’ve never really known why I don’t find an interest in it, but the thought of seeing really old items never appealed to me; I’ve always found antiques of any kind to be boring, and I find myself more interested in the clock than I do the artifact in front of me. For some reason I can’t explain, I didn’t feel this way in regard to the letterpress.
A few days ago, I had the opportunity to visit Meshwork Press in Wilkinsburg, PA, a small independent letterpress business that creates greeting cards and postcards, with the Small Press Publishing class. Although the building itself was rather small, with the machines and letterpresses present in the room, the area somehow felt bigger than it truly was.
Once we were told about each of the letterpresses, how they worked, and the different vocabulary and processes required to create a print, we were split into pairs and set off to make our own creations. Now, I’ve made hands-on artwork before, and one of the perks of Saint Vincent is that there’s so many opportunities to try something totally new, but I’ve never done something quite like letterpress before.
Although the prints can sometimes look incredibly simple to make, and the process may appear to be easy, there’s so much work and thought that goes into the craft that I never cared to think of before. If you’re working with letters or specific images, you really have to think about how you want them placed, for you’ve got to ensure that they’re both backwards and in reverse so that the page will read correctly once you print them. You also have to consider the types of furniture you have to press them together, for while you may have a beautiful idea with a bunch of images and letters scattered about, having it all stick together can be a rather difficult task with the number of little spaces placed between them; granted, this doesn’t mean you can’t make a print such as the one mentioned, but a lot more thought and time may have to go into the process than before.
Working with a letterpress is one of those activities that I for whatever reason could never have pictured myself ever getting the chance to do, mostly because it’s an activity I didn’t realize still existed, but now that I’ve done it once, I can’t wait to make even more!
If you want to learn more about Meshwork Press or visit it yourself, click here!
A lot of letterpresses have shifted into a more automated system, one that removes the dedicated worker from the process, one that’s much quicker and easier to produce works with. The issue is that you lose that personal aspect when you begin to become more industrial or more online; you don’t get to see every little chip or nick in the paper, every little splotch of misplaced ink, every tiny mistake that tells the audience that the art was created by a human being. You also begin to slowly lose that physical piece that comes with using a letterpress. When using the machinery to craft your artwork, you have to grab each of the letters, put them together, shift them, rearrange them, really think about where they have to go. You have to press them firmly together to ensure they won’t fall apart before rolling ink onto the machine, and then you have to slip the paper in and push the ink onto the page; the same design, same font and page, could be created in about half the time with only a few buttons in today’s world, no letterpress needed.
That’s the difference though, for where the individual today could craft hundreds of the same print using only a simple machine and a computer, the one with the letterpress creates a few dozen, but there’s personal connection to each and every print that that letterpress crafts. Where the modern person has no attachment to the hundreds, possibly thousands, of prints they create, for they can easily make and pass out more if need be, every print that the letterpress makes at the hand of an individual will hold some sort of meaning to that individual.
Although I’ve never made prints using a letterpress, I have made linoleum/ linocut prints before utilizing a similar process. The idea of cutting out your art piece by piece, be it with a piece of linoleum or with lettered blocks, rolling over it with ink, and pressing it down on the paper is nearly identical. It’s an art form much like letter press that is also very slowly dying out (at least to my knowledge), and while it’s a little more common to see than letterpress, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s necessary to try and spark an interest for the craft in other people.
It’s not exactly the same, I know, but the weight is still there; nothing will ever beat the feeling of holding a piece of your work and being able to know that you no one else but you created it, that someone can enjoy a piece of your art and you’re the only one who can make it the way you do.
A little over a week ago, on September 27th, 2021, an online poetry reading of Another Life, a book of poetry written by Daniel Lipara and translated by Robin Myers, was held over Zoom. To be honest, at first, I took the reading as another simple way to draw in extra credit for my class, a tiny measure to get a few points and quickly get out, but after sitting there for even just ten minutes, I quickly realized there was so much more to the reading than I had previously thought. I never truly understood how much work went into creating a book of this stature, small press or otherwise, until I went to the reading (of course, we’ve made a handful of books in our class, but nothing quite like Another Life).
The entire meeting was hosted by both Dr. Gil Montero, one of the editors for Eulalia Books, the small press that helped to produce Another Life, and Anna from White Whale Bookstore, a small indie bookstore located in Pittsburgh, PA that is also selling Another Life. Both of them quickly said their piece, explained who they were, and how they came to help in the creation of Another Life, and then they swiftly passed the torch to both Lipara and Myers. Lipara told the story of how he came to writing Another Life, how he was inspired to write it after the death of his mother, to share a piece of his personal family life with the world through his poetry. Myers, then, shared how she came to translating the poetry, how she had to be careful when translating so as to not lose the meaning behind Lipara’s words, to keep the principles that the poetry was written upon. They each took turns reading the poetry, first in Spanish, then in English, before turning back to the audience to answer any questions and receive any comments the audience yearned to share; to say that the audience reception was anything but positive would be a lie.
Hearing how long it took to make a book of this caliber, how much time went into carefully picking each word of the poem, the precision at which the translation was made, is inspiring in a way. The entire reading was beautiful, and just seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces made attending so worth it. After now making books myself, small as they are, I know what it’s like to be able to hold something you helped to make, to watch your creation slowly come to life, to flip through the pages and be able to say “I did that”; I can only imagine the amount of joy both Daniel and Robin felt as they were able to hold their book for the first time.
My object, my accordion book, is considered a book due to the matter that it contains, and rather, what it appears to lack. Although the object is without a title, it does contain both a front and a back cover, and though the book doesn’t follow the natural codex of today, it does work to pass along the information it possesses. The ‘book’, in this case, is more of a distributor of knowledge than a simple story book, a collection of visuals and data that allow the reader to leave with a better understanding of the subject at hand. Similar to the accordion books that were “produced in many scripts and languages, … [where the information was] copied and memorized as a form of devotion by scribes across Asia,” my accordion book follows a similar idea, where the body matter would be of utmost importance (Borsuk 36-38). The content, then, in the object is key, for without the content the book would be without a purpose. To best pass along the information, based on the format, it “both [requires and rewards] sounding aloud” the text inside; with the accordion formatting, it’s much easier to share the information with others by reading it aloud than reflecting on the content as a whole (Borsuk 54). Though the accordion book isn’t a format that I would normally consider when speaking on the matter of a ‘book’, I have no doubt that the accordion book I created counts as such.
When making my book, for some reason, I treated the creation of the object more like an art project rather than designing a new book; for that reason, my book doesn’t feel as ‘clean’ as it could’ve been. The materials used only aid in this sensation, since I used colored pencils, charcoal paper, book board, and felt as my main source of supplies. The interesting point, however, is that the materials I used easily reflect both the world that I’m experiencing and the materials that I have at my disposal; since I have an affinity for art, and I’m a studio art minor, naturally, I’m more inclined to turn a simple book-making project into one that’s a little more imaginative. There’s a plethora of art supplies in my dorm room, from sketchbooks, to markers, to colored pencils, and more, meaning that creating a book in this way was only a matter of time. Even in regard to the ideas that I came up with when designing my book were more art-inclined than others; my mind immediately looked at all of the ways in which I could craft the most aesthetically pleasing piece of art that would draw the appearance of a book, one that would pass along information of my choice while also using my creative abilities. Had art not been a part of my life, the accordion book that I crafted would have looked significantly different, and I have no doubt that the project would have employed totally different aspects of my life than the ones I chose to focus on.
Initially, the imagined reader or audience I perceived when creating my accordion book was myself, as I was under the assumption that I would be the only one to care about what my book would contain; after finishing my creation, I learned that my initial presumptions were false. My actual audience includes anyone with a wish to discover more about horses in general, or those people who yearn to learn information on the individual horses in the Equestrian Club and riding program. For example, anyone interested in joining the program just has to quickly flip through my accordion book to grasp basic material on each of the horses, along with what they look like and an exaggerated view of their personalities. In that sense, the accordion book I made can be treated more as an informational and visual pamphlet for the program, rather than a book you’d pick up off the shelf of a Barnes and Noble.
The language used in the book is simple and to the point, and there are few words in the book as only the few words placed in the content are necessary. In having such few words, however, and in keeping the language basic, grasping the information is much easier, for the individual can easily find what they’re looking for with a simple flicking of the pages. The text is also what connects the information to the images displayed on the page, for without them present, the audience would have no idea which horse was being discussed, what the purpose of the book was, or why the pictures were necessary in the first place. The text is what glues the book together (besides the actual bits of glue, of course), for without any text, the book would simply be another collection of pictures and drawings, and no information would be gained besides the idea of what a horse looks like.
Borsuk, Amaranth. The Book. The MIT Press, 2018.
Although I knew going into this class that it would require an art lab and include both English and the arts in some way, for some reason, I’m still surprised by how creative the class could truly be. I don’t know why, but when I was told we would be making books, my brain pictured paper-back and hard bound novels, the standard book that you’d see on a shelf in a Barnes and Nobles; I never imagined that I’d have the opportunity to create a book that both feels like a book while looking like nothing I’ve ever seen before. The accordion book project we’ve been working on for the last few weeks fits this idea, since the project appeared to be more of a piece of artwork that I helped to design rather than something someone would pick up to read (of course, you can read the book I created, but not in the same way I’d previously thought).
The book as a whole turned out much better than I thought it would, but it’s not without its flaws. It’s a small thing, which is all right, as the content is fitting for its size; any bigger and I don’t think I’d know what else to put in it. Inside, alongside a picture of each of the horses is their height, name, breed, age, and a drawing used to hopefully capture a bit of their personality.
Though I liked how the sketches turned out, after coloring them, I felt that a few of them were a bit difficult to distinguish, namely the darker colored ones. I believed it happened in part because of the paper and the color pencils I was using. I used charcoal paper, not really thinking much of it, but the paper isn’t really meant for colored pencils, especially the ones I used; it doesn’t help either that I pressed down hard with a lot of the darker colors to get the color to show, pressing more pigment onto the page and making more of a blob. Next time, I’ll just have to be more careful.
Some of the pages could’ve looked better if I’d done a little pre-planning beforehand, like what I did with Odie’s page, but besides the few mistakes here and there, I am happy with the overall product. It’s not perfect, but that’s all right, since I already know how to fix it next time.
In my opinion, brainstorming is one of the hardest parts of any creative process, especially when you’re given an incredibly open-ended prompt. Usually, I’ll struggle in any regard when it comes to brainstorming, for I’ll either have way too many ideas or none at all; rarely will I ever find that happy middle ground. In the case of our newest project, the accordion book, my creative process has been no different.
Thankfully, I had an issue with the former of the two problems, as I quickly became overwhelmed with ideas. As I flipped through examples, thought about my interests and passions, and considered what would look best in the format presented to us, I just continued to add idea after idea into my little list. I eventually managed to weed down my ideas to a small handful, but not without a lot of trial an error.
So, what were the ideas that I whittled down to?
One of the first ideas that I came up with, and one that I thought would look really cool when finished, was an animation based accordion book. I’m currently learning how to animate in a separate class this semester, and we recently made flipbook animations earlier in the semester; I figured I could either reuse or create a flipbook and turn it into an accordion book. Each page could have a single notecard or piece of the animation, that way when you pull it out you can easily put it together. In a similar manner, I eventually considered making a comic book with each page as a panel, but that was much later in the week.
Since I’m in one of the horsemanship classes, I decided I could make a book with each of the horses from the barn involved. Each page would carry brief bits of information for each one and little pictures alongside them; it would be something I could share with both small press and the horsemanship class should I choose to create it. I would be able to fit each page to the horse and their personalities, hopefully capturing them to the best of my ability.
Another popular idea I had was reusing old coloring book pages and cutting them to fit on the inside of each page. I could choose whether to follow each of the designs or create my own for each page, and I could essentially make my own “coloring book” out of others. When finished, it would be almost abstract in design with a flurry of colors to coincide with it.
So, what was the winner?
Although the horse accordion would be a little more complicated than the others, it’s more personal than the rest. When completed, it would have more meaning to me, and it’s a piece that I can look back on and reminisce about both the club itself and how I’ve grown in the sport. I’ll be able to make little designs for each of the horses, ones that will hopefully capture their individual personalities, and I can flip through it when I wish to see them again.
I’m looking forward to seeing how it’ll turn out!
When I learned that we’d actually be making books in class, I quickly became intimidated by the course. Even one of the simplest ways of bookbinding appeared to be one of the most difficult concepts in the world, and naturally, I grew nervous at my performance in the class. Thankfully, the feeling didn’t last.
Creating a book using the Japanese stab book binding technique became the first assignment in the course, one that threw me for a loop initially. On the first day of learning about the concept, I grew weary. I didn’t understand how to loop the thread this way and that to bind it all together, how to make pretty patterns, how to tighten the string in just the right manner; I could barely thread the waxy string through the eye of a needle, and now I was expected to bind books and craft designs together? After the first day, to say many clouds of discouragement and nerves loomed over head would’ve been an understatement.
I refused to give up though. I googled different patterns, ones that were simple and manageable to craft, watched YouTube tutorials and time-lapses, and learned what I could before I’d be expected to try my hand at stab binding once more.
(If you need some good sources yourself, I found some good ones here!
Both are incredible tutorials that aided me a lot in in making my book, and they’re really easy to follow!)
The day came, and I successfully made my first book. Granted, I did spend most of my time attempting to thread the string through the needle, as it kept fraying and refused to go through the eye, but that’s to be expected when I’ve barely sewed.
Of course, the project wasn’t without its goofs. A lot of my time at the end was spent attempting to untie my final knot, for I’d tied it in a way that left the binding too loose. I also had to go back and repeat a step or two in the beginning, for I hadn’t quite figured out the process just yet. I kept poking myself with the needle over and over too, since I wasn’t sure where it would pop out when binding, but If I can survive cutting my hand on glass over and over in a different class, I’ll live if I happen to poke myself with a needle once or twice; you do what you must for the arts, after all.
Now, is the book I made anything amazing? Not really, but it’s a book, and it’s mine; I successfully made something I never had before, and that’s what counts. It’s something I can call my own and be proud of at the end of the day, and that’s all that really matters to me. I can work on honing my craft or improving when it comes to the next project.