“Why Poetry?”, Why Not Poetry?

And that’s a wrap! Last night we concluded our semester of Small Press Publishing with the book launch of  Joe O’ Conner’s “Why Poetry?”. It’s amazing to think that when we started this class back in August, I had no idea what even small press publishing was and now as a class we launched a book. This was an incredibly humbling experience, from reading Joe O’ Conner’s poetry, to talking about it with him as a class, making all the book covers at Mesh Works, organizing and sewing them, putting on the event and attending it. 

All our hard work paid off when we saw Joe O’Conner almost speechless as he took the time to read his poetry out loud. He commented how he had been to many poetry readings in his life and found that they always read the poems too fast, but tonight he was going to take his time to read his OWN poetry slow. It truly felt as a full circle moment, especially since he attended Saint Vincent College and started writing poetry here and now he finally had his work published. 

The event was well attended with students from our class, friends and family of O’Conner and members of the Saint Vincent College community. The night opened with an introduction of the book from Professor Gil-Montero. Then, Danny Whirlow, spoke eloquently about Joe O’ Conner, his background and his dreams of writing. Joe was moved by all the kind words and began his reading of his poetry. He read each of his poems and followed each with a brief story or explanation of why he wrote that piece.  Following his reading and a Q and A, he signed all copies of his book of poetry and sold many books. It was nice to visit with one another and see our hard work pay off. 

© Elspeth Mizner 2019

One of my favorite moments of the night was when I was talking to Joe and congratulating him on his book and although, we only met once he remembered exactly who I was from our first meeting and he thanked me for my work with the press. It is always nice to be thanked for doing work, but when it’s by the author, that’s even more meaningful. We all had a part to play with this book and everyone did a wonderful job to bring it all together. 

This has been an incredible journey, from attending excursions, to making the book, and learning all about small presses. I am so lucky to have played a small part in publishing Joe’s first book of poetry. Simply knowing that we helped make a man’s dreams come true is simply inspiring. I have loved every moment of this class and I am thankful for the friends I have made and the guidance and support from Professor Gil-Montero. This was a perfect way to end my time at Saint Vincent College. 

Putting the Launch Together

As our class is coming to an end, we have all been split into groups to get ready for the book launch. I am on the event and promotions team. This was very exciting since it pertains directly to my major of communication. Our group had several tasks such as organizing photography and sound to cover the event, writing a press release, organizing the food, and choosing promotional materials such as posters and post cards to get out to spread the word about the event. 

My task was to contact marketing and communication and get photography and audio for the event. I first submitted a form online and then followed up with an email to make sure we could get it done. Then we had some dates and times changed, I followed up again to make sure this task was completed properly. Through this process as well as being a communication major, I have found it’s best to always follow up no matter what, this shows you are responsible, and you and your party are on the same page about the expectations and deadlines for your event or project. 

That was the first part of my task, then as a group we came together to choose what posters and post cards we wanted printed and displayed to get people to come to our event. There were many to choose from due to the fact a whole Layout and Design class designed many for us to choose from. Danny, our team leader, chose his top favorites and he wanted our input as well. I carefully looked at all the designs and chose my favorite. I first chose a poster because it has all the information, we are looking for to display to our audience (who, what, where when, why) and it was done in a tasteful manner. I found the lettering and design to be clear and easy to understand and it will get people’s attention. I thought the color scheme went with our theme for the event (the brown and blue remind me of the Leaves of Grass analogy that we have spoken of in this class. I thought the photo of our author is in a good position and it compliments the book cover. I think the biography about him and about Eulalia Books in appropriate and provides a clear message for what we are going for. 

Then after studying all the post cards, I chose one that matches the poster nicely with the color scheme of the light brown, black text and blue cover. I think the fact the poster and post card complement each other shows the continuity within them. I think the post card has all the information in a neat and detailed format. The simplicity makes it easier to read and understand. I think many people will hold on to it for future information about Eulalia Books. After the poster and post card is chosen then we will spread the word all about the book launch around campus, on social media, and through word of mouth. 

I enjoyed this part of the process as well as help iron out all the details of the event. It was great to work together as a team as well as see all the different parts that go into pulling a book launch together. I can’t wait for December 4 to see all our hard work pay off as “Why Poetry?” is released!

Excursion: Making the Book Covers

The second half of our semester is underway. I can’t believe how fast this semester and class is going. While the first half of the class focused on small press publishing companies and how they operate, the second half of the semester is all about us creating our own book as a class. Last week we had the pleasure of meeting with Joe O’Conner, he is an alum of SVC, but he is on his way to becoming a published poet. Our class along with Eulalia Books will be publishing O’Conner’s book, Why Poetry?. It was enlightening to hear from him last class about his hopes for his book and what inspired him to write Why Poetry?. It was so cool to be a part of this process and see all the different things that goes into publishing a book of poetry.

This past week, we returned to MeshWorks to work on the covers of Why Poetry?. The cover art was done by O’Conner’s friend. It was beautiful to see all of us working together for a common goal of getting 300 covers made, or at least trying to. We were first taught how to silkscreen the covers. It was great to see how the colors were made and the proper way to do it. 

Our first few covers that were made. © Elspeth Mizner 2019

Then we were broken up into groups. My group included Danny and Micaela. We had a great system going with Danny printing and Micaela and I proofing them and laying it out to dry. We got over 50 covers printed. It took a while at first to get the hang of it and to make sure the covers were straight, and the ink was evenly distributed across the cover. As we were working, I loved seeing how every cover was different with the colors. Every station had different shades of blue to print the covers. I love how everyone brought their own unique designs and experience to the project. 

The finished product © Elspeth Mizner 2019

This was the first time I worked with silk screening and printing book covers. Although, it took a while to get the hang of it, it was truly rewarding to see them all get printed. The common theme I have seen while learning about the small press business is that it’s a community effort. Everyone is working together towards a common goal of getting a book published. I have loved all the trips we have taken as a class and I look forward to our book launch within the next few weeks. 

Editor Q&A Excursion

On October 16, 2019, we had the pleasure of a Skype Q&A with editor and writer, Garth Graeper. He is an editor and author who has worked at both at a small press publishing house, Ugly Duckling and one of the Big Six publishing houses, Penguin Books. In addition to his editorial skills, he is also a writer and enjoys writing poetry. He started out by volunteering with Ugly Duckling and from there he got an apprenticeship which eventually led to a job with the small press. He emphasized through his Q&A that volunteering is the easiest way to get involved and get your foot in the door since small presses are always looking for volunteers. Ugly Duckling is a non-profit publishing company that aims to publish 24 books a year, they work with poetry, books, and literary translations.

When preparing for this Q&A, I looked into Garth and Ugly Duckling. One of the things I found was the Kickstarter that was used to get funding for the small press. The Kickstarter was personal, showing photos of the process of the making of the books as well as messages directly from Ugly Duckling, thanking the donors for their support. I liked how personal and intimate the publisher was with their buyers, this is something you wouldn’t see with the Big Six publishers. You can find the Kickstarter from 2010 here.

A screen grab of the Ugly Duckling website to showcase the type of relationship they build among their readers. ©2019

Since Garth worked with both big and smaller publishers, I asked how the day to day work of an editor varies for both big and small publishers. He said that when working for Penguin, he worked mostly in the eBook division, and while he was working there, he rarely interacted with the authors or editors. This is due to the fact there are hundreds of people working there and everyone has a very specific job and task. However, at Ugly Duckling, there are only seven to 10 people working there and they all work together often doing similar jobs. I found this to be very interesting. He said one of the biggest differences between small and big publishers are the people involved. For example, in order to get something published with a Big Six publisher, you need an agent. However, with a small press, they rarely work with agents, instead they prefer to work one on one with the authors or poets themselves. I love the idea of working directly with the author and they having a say in how their book or poetry will be published.

He offered a lot of great insight for people looking to get into writing and publishing, he stressed the importance of reading things you enjoy and things that are new to you as well. He also said it is helpful to have a writing background if you are planning on going into publishing. Lastly, he said anyone can create a book and get it published, no matter how big or small. As long as we have an idea and creativity and an idea, that’s all that matters. He was very encouraging and informative when it comes to being an editor and writer and I thoroughly enjoyed the time spent with him through his Q&A. 

Taking a Closer Look at The Little Review

When selecting a journal to take a closer look at, I chose The Little Review Volume 4, Number 1. I chose this one for many reasons.  First, it was published in the middle of when The Little Review was booming and in great demand. Second, it marked the time when Ezra Pound accepted the post of Foreign Editor which lead to a shift in what was covered. I thought given the context and things going on in the world and with the journal, this would be a fascinating edition to cover. When it comes to the interface of books, every book is different to draw in their reader’s. I wanted to see what made this journal special and unique to draw in readers.  According to Amaranth Borsuk, “a good interface, according to human-centered design principles, is like Warde’s crystal goblet: a transparent vessel through which we access the information we want” (198).

© The Little Review 2019

The first thing I noticed when I was looking through the journal was the lack of color. There was only the color blue on the cover along with the color of the paper. I thought this was interesting and gave the journal a more professional look to it. It looked refined and orderly. I also noted that the text throughout the entire journal was all the same font and color. It looks like it could be Times New Roman, or a similar, standard font. This also goes along with the idea that this journal is professional and wants to be geared to a larger audience. There is a subtitle under the journal’s time which says, “literature, drama, music” this gives readers a clue of what to expect with this journal and also as a way to draw in newer audiences who may be interested in this subject material. There is also a table of contents on the cover which highlights the different articles and artwork as well as who wrote or produced them. This is expected for any sort of publication. 

When reading through the journal, I noticed some other key features that stood out, many of the poems or pieces from together on the same pages. Each piece doesn’t have their own separate page, but instead when one ends, another begins. I also noticed that there are advertisements found through the journal too. For example, on page 28, there is an advertisement for The Little Review Book Shop and what things they are selling there. There was also some artwork towards the back of the journal and overall, it was a small journal with only 30 pages. Most journals today are much larger. 

It was fascinating to take the time to analyze this journal and read it slowly, reading not only the pieces but also paying attention to the other details that make up the journal, from the font, colors, and format. I think people don’t always pay attention to all the details that goes into a journal, editors make every decision that go into putting a journal together. After this analysis, I have a much deeper appreciation for every decision that is made when it comes to making a journal. 

Work Cited

Borsuk, Amaranth. The Book.MIT Publishers 2018

Ezra Pound and The Little Review

For my term paper, I decided to take a deeper look into the Modernist Journal- The Little Review and focuses on Ezra Pound’s writing that is found throughout this publication. 

The Little Review was a literary magazine founded by Margaret Anderson in March 1914. Although it was started by Anderson, Jane Heap and Ezra Pound were also instrumental in making it the transatlantic literary magazine that is still remembered today. It was around for fifteen years and during that time it was one of the chief periodicals in the English-speaking world. Its final publication was issued in May 1929. It was known for publishing experimental writing and publicizing international art. It is also known for the vast topics it covered and the different schools it pooled from to have writer’s get their work published, 23 schools of art and nineteen countries were represented in The Little Review. The countries of America, Great Britain, Ireland, and France had the most representation. A more detailed background and biography can be found here, courtesy of a joint project of Brown University and The University of Tulsa. 

© The Little Review

There was a variety of international literature that came from this literary magazine. The Little Review also took on the idea based on imagism and was an anarchist publication. The most notable achievement was the series of 23 installments by James Joyce’s Ulysses

The Little Review first began publishing in Chicago, before moving to San Francisco for a year, then travelling across the country to New York City in 1917, and then moving to Paris in 1922. It started small but then gained publicity and was well known in many countries.

Notable writers who had pieces published in The Little Review include Djuna Barnes, T. S. Eliot, Wyndham Lewis, Mina Loy, Francis Picabia, Dorothy Richardson, May Sinclair, Gertrude Stein, W. C. Williams, and W. B. Yeats. Many got their start from The Little Review

When I was looking through the different volumes and issues of The Little Review, I came across Number 1 of Volume VI that was published in May 1919. I read “Avis” which was written by Ezra Pound. I first noted that the whole journal looks fairly uniform, there are some pictures or artwork between the different poems or short stories, but this looks as if it was mass produced. It looks well organized and clean and easy for any reader to follow. In “Avis”, Pound includes different countries and their affairs including America, England and France, this is consistent with the type of content that this literary magazine produced. He also talks about other writers of the time such as T.S. Elliot and Robert Frost, this makes this piece more relatable. “Avis” is only two pages so it is short enough that people could read it in one sitting and could enjoy the short piece. People could pick up any edition and read it in one sitting or in multiple sittings depending on how much time they had. Each edition would feature many poems by different authors or short stories as well as artwork and a letter from the editor. There was something for everyone in The Little Review.

I am excited to be doing more research into The Little Review

Optional Excursion: Book Launch

Last week I had a wonderful time attending the book launch of Echo in the Park, one of the first few books that has been published by Eulalia Books. “Eulalia Books is an independent publisher of literary translations with a particular interest in contemporary poetry and hybrid-genre works” (Eulaliabooks.com). It is affiliated with Saint Vincent College and allows students to work alongside the publisher to see how books are translated, published and distributed. After learning all about Small Press Publishers this fall, I was interested to see how it all comes together at  this event. 

© Eulalia Books 2019

I had never been to a book launch before and I was excited to see what this experience would be like. To begin, it was a very intimate and relaxed gathering, held in one of the smaller rooms of the Fred Rogers Center.  I felt like I was catching up with old friends and sharing storeis instead of attending a book launch, I loved the warm and inviting feeling. 

After getting some refreshments and hearing some introductions, the event began with a reading from Echo of the Park by the translator, Jeannie Marie Pitas. It was beautiful to hear her first read the poetry in Spanish and then the English translation. After a short reading, she answered questions from the moderator, Professor Gil-Montero, the brilliant mind behind Eulalia books and a professor at Saint Vincent College, as well as audience questions. Following the Q&A, she read a longer excerpt from her book and then finished off the night with a book sale. 

For me, the most interesting part was hearing how closely the translator works with the publisher and the other people involved with the creation of the book when comes times for publishing. Pitas shared how she often would talk to the writer themselves when translating and the difference when translating a work by someone who is alive or deceased. Another point I thought was interesting was how she worked so closely with Professor Gil-Montero on translating certain words, even if the meanings were not the same, the sounds were and that was important for the rhythm of the poem. I also found the team aspect of small press publishing to be relatable to this class. Whether it was through the movie, trip to Meshworks or the Zine collection, the idea of community kept coming up and tonight that same sentiment was echoed yet again. Everyone in the small press community comes together and leans on each other when they are working on publishing a book.  I thoroughly enjoyed the book launch and I loved seeing a small press publisher in action especially after everything we learned this year so far. It truly is a team effort and I am looking forward to seeing what our team can pull off as the semester carries on. 

Creative Response: Meet My “Book”

For my “book”, I wanted to think outside of the box and do something unique yet symbolic. I also wanted to take what I have learned through this class as well as my other Creative Writing classes and bring it to the project. During my first Creative Writing class, I learned about poetry and wrote it for the first official time. I had learned about poetry but was never good at writing it. It wasn’t until I got a deeper understanding of poetry that I discovered how unique and different every piece of poetry is. I wrote two poems during my Intro to Creative Writing class that had a lot of meaning to me and where I was at that point in my life. I was proud of the message they portrayed as well as the fact I had written them with so much joy. When I read about this assignment, I knew I wanted to include something from my first class with Creative Writing. Therefore, I decided to use the poetry I wrote for my first class in my “book”. It had meaning since I was using something from the first class, I took for my minor for the last class I am taking for my minor. It came full circle just like I came full circle during my time at Saint Vincent College. 

I got the idea for my materials based on my experience with the zines. I love how all of them were so unique and different and no two were alike. I think it really reflected how every story is unique just like how every person is unique as well. I had art supplies in my room and I knew I could do something with those. As a child, I often made “books” in school. Typically, these books were comprised of pieces of loose leaf stapled together with construction paper as the cover with a story inside. It was nothing elaborate, but simple and childlike. Since the theme of this assignment for me was based on coming full circle, I decided to assemble my “book” like how I would assemble it like I used to as a child. I chose a red sheet of construction paper for my cover since it is my favorite color, cut the paper to a unique rectangle so just the poem was on the page and stapled it on the sides like I used to when I made books as a child. It was a unique and personal touch for myself. According to Borsuk, author of The Book, “It is, essentially, an interface through which we encounter ideas” (197). It doesn’t matter how the book is made but rather the content that matters. 

© Elspeth Mizner 2019 The Cover of my Book

My imagined reader is someone who is trying to get back some of their childhood and they would appreciate the simple book and the sentiment involved. Both articles of poetry that I chose are deal with the theme of reflecting of past decisions and looking to the future. The reader could be male or female, but they ultimately, care more about the poetry over the presentation.  They are looking to find a deeper sense of the poetry and within themselves. This poetry could be read aloud or silently. According to Borsuk, author of The Book,“literature was primarily a social activity with audiences gathering for performances of epic poetry and drama” (55). I would hope they reader would read and present in a way they felt most connected to the poetry.

The language is fairly simple and forward, the reader may have to read between the lines at certain points, but both poems are up to the reader about how they want to interpret and what they take away from it. I think that’s the best part of poetry, the reader can interpret what they want from the work and apply it to their own life. Overall, I enjoyed this assisgnment and the reflection that went into it and I was pleased with the final outcome. 

Work Cited

Borsuk, Amaranth. The Book.MIT Publishers 2018

All About Zines

Traveling to the Carnegie Library to see the zine collection was a unique experience and I was introduced to a new way to share one’s creativity with the world.  Zines were first started by Thomas Paine when he distributed his ideas in pamphlets,and zines are still around today. Zines are almost like a tangible and handmade form of social media. Someone sharing their thoughts, ideas, or stories with the world in a unique way tailored to them. Creating a zine can be as simple by using paper and a marker or more complex by using a letter press, photo copier, or art. According to Amaranth Borsuk, author of The Book, “the book is an idea we have of a bounded text, issued into the world through the power of publication, and able to take any number of physical forms…” (Borsuk 197). Zines are an example of books taking any number of physical forms.

After touring the library and seeing the zine collection, I noticed a level of freedom that was found within the zines. They were often imperfect, unique and very personal. The topics ranged from ducks, to diaries, things people hate, and things people love. No two zines were alike. There are no real constraints within the zine collection. The shapes and sizes of the zines are all different. The materials used to create the zines also vary. There are truly no two alike. The fringe space that zines are created in is so open that anyone can create something. However, zines are not that popular. For example, before taking this class I had never heard of zines before. Zines are almost like a best kept secret, they are big in small groups and are often shared within a community of people. It’s all about who’s in the know and are told through conversation. 

© 2019 Elspeth Mizner from the Zines at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Oakland

Zines are very different compared to the traditional and commercial form of publication. Zines are not mass produced. They all vary with how they are distributed, some people only made one copy while others personally number every copy that gets made. I found it interesting when paging through the zines that there was no copy right page or mark. It seemed to me that the creators were more focused on spreading creativity and not on authorship or money. 

When looking through the archive I was very surprised at all the different materials that were used to create the zines, some were made of paper, others material, and a few even made with fabric. By looking through the zines I felt as if I learned more about the author through how their zine was put together. There was a certain child-like aspect to the zines, almost as if they could create whatever they wanted and no one could tell them differently. 

© 2019 Elspeth Mizner from the Zines at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Oakland

I think publication is defined in zine land as sharing your work with the world. There is an imaginative aspect to zines and creating things at one’s own liberty. These authors are not being told what they can and cannot write or illustrate about, it’s all up to them. I believe that zines are meant to be read and shared and it’s all about how the reader wants to interpret it. Zines are about sharing one’s own personal stories and artwork. Indie publishing is similar to zines with their uniqueness and creativity but are different because often indie poetry may have someone overseeing the work and holding someone accountable for the poetry. In zines, there is no one looking over one’s shoulder to see what they are doing. 

Seeing the zine collection exposed me to a whole new world or creativity and publishing. I think we often get caught up in reading books that are only seen on shelves at book stores and we forget about the small publishers or the unique books or zines that are still being created. This excursion forced me to look outside my comfort zone when it comes to looking for new materials to read. 

Work Cited

Borsuk, Amaranth. The Book. MIT Publishing. 2018.

A Look Inside Meshwork

When we travelled to Meshwork Letterpress last week, I learned so much about the Letterpress and Printing. After watching “Pressing On,” I had a good idea of how the letterpress worked. But, to see it in person and try it for myself, it gave me a much better appreciation for the letterpress and small businesses. 

We started out the trip by seeing different projects that were done by Mesh Works. The projects varied from business cards, to books, and poetry collections. Mesh Works also does a lot of work on stationary, invitations, and announcements. It made me realize how important it is to support and utilize small businesses.  We then were given a demonstration by Haylee Ebersole about how to properly set up text and the attention to detail that it takes to set up the text and the furniture in the cast iron frame. Once, the text is set up and secured it is place on the letter press. The ink, which is similar to a rubber like substance, is then placed on the circular press which is then rolled evenly across. I was very surprised about how little ink is actually used for the press. It supports the idea that less is best. We were able to see the press get used and how sometimes, you have to test it a few times to get your letters or images in the spot you want. After everything is prepped, it’s all about printing your image. I was surprised how fast you can print them as an expert. 

The Letterpress itself
Photo/Image by Elspeth Mizner

After the demonstration we were able to play with the text ourselves and set up our own things to be printed, some chose complex phrases or images, other chose simpler ones. I loved how everyone chose something that was unique to them and no matter how many times you printed something, no two would be the same. I love that unique aspect about letter pressing. It was satisfying at the end of the experience to have something that I made from start to finish, from choosing the design, laying it out, and physically printing it. I really enjoyed the excursion to Meshwork and meeting and getting to work with Haylee Ebersole. She was so knowledgeable and kind to let us use her space and try everything out on our own while offering support and advice. This was such a fun experience and unique way to put what we saw and learned in the film in action and get our hands a little dirty at the same time too.

My finished product
Photo/Image by Elspeth Mizner

I also found this article that shares the importance of the letter press and the history of the letterpress. It made me get a better understanding of the letter press before going on this excursion. The article can be found here.