My Part in the Massive Undertaking that was Why Poetry?

Throughout my life, reading and writing has always played a major role. I never wrote my own poetry, but throughout high school and college, it’s had a large impact on me and has encouraged me to be more eloquent in my own writings. It’s taught me to treat papers, not as assignments, but as pieces of my own self-expression. Adding my English minor was an option suggested to me from one of my professors, and I tacked it on almost as an afterthought. But this small decision has made waves in my life. I’ve met people that I wouldn’t otherwise have known, and had the opportunity to take this class and be a tiny part in this remarkable publishing endeavor.

As for what exactly my role was in the making of Why Poetry? I have to admit mine was fairly small. My job was at first to read over the book announcement and see what I thought of it, and secondary was to suggest any changes that I thought would better catch the eye and to overall make it more dynamic and engaging. This was a fairly simple task, and the announcement already looked great. I just had a few small suggestions to make it flow a little better and stick out a little more design-wise and ta-da, finished product.

I decided, to do my part of spreading the word, that I should design a bookmark. I went through several different options, but I finally decided on one after trying to tie as much together as possible.

Image of bookmark ©Emily Daniels. Quote ©Joe O’Connor

For one, I chose this quote from Joe O’Connor because I thought that it tied together a lot with the overall book that we were working with. Why Poetry? Because you can always be accompanied by it. I also used it because it was on our book announcement, and I thought that it would be great to hearken back to what my job entailed. I used the imagery of a set of library shelves because I thought it was the most fitting. A place that contains a lot of poetry but that you can find just about anywhere, almost as if the place itself is accompanying you. I used Canva (https://www.canva.com) to achieve the design, making sure it had a darker background so that both the color of the font stood out, and so that the bookmark itself would stand out against the white pages.

Overall, I’d have to say that I sincerely enjoyed being a part of this process, no matter how small my job was, because of the amazing final product that came out of it and the creative fun along the way.

Publishers and Their Purposes

After doing the assigned Jacket2 readings, I can say that I’ve definitely learned a lot about the world of publishing and how all-encompassing it is for those who are lucky enough to be a part of it. The how of these publishers and why they decided to become such is pretty oversimplified in the interviews, they pretty much all mention how they spontaneously decided to join this train and put their own spin on it. The whys seem to vary slightly but overall it’s to create some sort of niche that wasn’t around before, whether that’s creating “conversations between readers, writers, and artists” (Carmody), “give space for the dark and excessive, the gothic and grotesque” (Goransson) or to find larger audiences for poetry “through interdisciplinary works that bridge” (Adams) various mediums together.

The concept of the community is also a large part of the interviews. They mostly enjoy being a part of it and are thankful for the camaraderie that comes with it. It’s not just a social thing, though, community “has both an economic value and a social value” (Carmody). I think what Carmody means by this is that they rely on each other both socially and economically. Socially, obviously because they collaborate and hold each other up, but also economically because the critique means that they earn more money. Adams also strongly values the community of publishers as a “community of poets devoted to promoting poety and each other (as much, if not more, than his or her own work)” (Adams). Goransson, however, doesn’t really want to be a part of the community because he sees the U.S. presses as only wanting “oblivion and status quo” (Goransson) and not anything that he actually wants to publish. Overall, it’s a positive experience to be involved with others who do the same work so that one can receive positive feedback while still thriving in their own niche.

All of these authors see small press as sort of the place for those poets that don’t really fit anywhere else. They love weird things and they see the need for a space in which they can be presented as themselves and not the carbon copy of what the bigger presses want to see. Johannes Goransson summed it up best when he said “we’re opposed to evolution. We’re strictly an impasse press. Like the twin sisters who burn down the village because they love the smell of gasoline” (Goransson).

Carmody, Teresa 2013 ©

Works Cited:

Carter, Laura. “On Small Press Publishing.” Jacket2, 25 Sept. 2013, https://jacket2.org/article/small-press-publishing.

Carter, Laura. “An Interview with Action Books.” Jacket2, 22 Oct. 2015, https://jacket2.org/commentary/interview-action-books.

Carter, Laura. “An Interview with Black Ocean.” Jacket2, 8 Oct. 2015, https://jacket2.org/commentary/interview-black-ocean.

My Handy Book

I would say that my object is a book. I can open it, shut it, and read from it. I believe that it is a pseudo book because it has these qualifications, but it also doesn’t follow conventions of a what a typical book is or should be. I chose the material, human skin, that I did because it seemed both very creative, but also the most readily available, since someone I knew was sitting with me at the time. Artistic materials aren’t very easy to find on our campus unless you are a student of an artistic major, therefore, unless I want to drive and buy materials, I will have to scour what I have at my disposal. With a lot more planning it’s possible that I could have used scrap paper for this book, following the qualifications of a book more closely. But that too would have been difficult, as I would have had to have gotten lucky and had a printer malfunction in some way to score unwanted and used paper. So that left me with either using plain computer paper, which I have used for the past couple of projects, or get a little more creative. I tried to think more like our author who speaks about “a great variety of formats that can carry the name ‘book'” (146). I read the prompt again, read the “human skin” part, and I found my material.

Now, you might be wondering, who can read it if it’s on someone’s hand? But that’s the best part, when you write things down in this way, you get to then decide who gets to see it and who doesn’t. This means that the only people that get to see this “book” are those that are open to “specific affordances of the book” (147) such as the idea that it doesn’t necessarily have to look or feel like a book to be one. The poetry that I used on this person’s hand is in the public domain, just like someone’s hand would be. It is a poem about the thought that we are all temporary, and I thought to use this for several reasons. One, is that the piece is written in pen, so it will very easily wash away, two, that, although a morbid thought, the hand itself is also a temporary thing, and three, that books in general are temporary in the ways that they can so easily be destroyed.

https://allpoetry.com/poems/about/temporary

© Emily Daniels, “Book Object” Creative/Critical Response 1, 2019.

A Zine With a Story

The different zines that I have gone through reflect the various freedoms of this medium. It talks about everything from superheros and science fiction to political topics such as reproductive rights. This means that whatever you are looking to represent, it’s probably allowed within this specific space. This ability to voice one’s own opinions without judgement is very “small publisher” like in the fact that it doesn’t cut off artistic flow by trying to edit what the author is trying to portray. It espouses the rawness of an immediate point of view without trying to censor the outcome, much like smaller publications are much less likely to take over and, say, change the art on the cover to appeal to more markets or some other similar change. The only constraint to this space is that it is very “fringe”, it’s on the outskirts of people’s awareness, and so most people, including me before this assignment, have never even heard of the medium, let alone contribute to it. It’s therefore a much less effective way to advertise for a product or a cause because it’s so unheard of.

These zines sort of ripped off the look of typical publications because the covers are very much like book jackets, and some of them even have descriptions on the back side. It’s technically more of a riff or a subversion though, because it’s very non-traditional with the covers in the way that they are sometimes very radical in their designs and content. In this way, they are very much not commercial, and focus more on what message they’re pushing and how to get it across in a powerful enough way as to urge others into action. Because of this, I don’t think that the word “publication”, with the definition that is usually associated with it, really fits, as it’s not for monetary purposes that these are distributed. I think that publication in zine-land would more be defined as distributing a specific message, in a way that is personal to its author.

I picked my particular zine because it shows support for a cause that affects a community that I have a lot of connections with. It’s a simple zine, which works perfectly since I’m pretty sure it’s obvious that I’m not artistic. It was originally was black and white, so I added rainbow colors, both to liven it up and to more reflect the community that it has impacted so negatively. I also added red to the heart, which was originally white, both because that’s the color that a heart typically is and because the AIDS ribbon is also red.

“Artists Against AIDS”, September 24, 2019. © Emily Daniels

Letterpress Letters in Poetry

I chose the font A2 Impacto partially because it actually had a history no matter how small, but also because I wanted to see what kind of font had the audacity to actually name itself based on the impact that it would have with readers. I have to say that the name is accurate, it does jump out at the reader and leave an impact on the mind. One might actually read something that was in this font just because it had this font, it seems like something interesting might be discussed like this. But I also can’t imagine reading any sort of lengthy article or even short story with this kind of text, especially if it were much bolder than its regular form. I’d have to look away for a moment and then come back to it, because it seems like it would be overwhelming to look at it for any extended amount of time.

What is this font and how did it originate? First of all, A-2-Type is a type foundry that has been set up by a London-based design studio. This studio was established in order to release and distribute over a decade’s worth of specifically crafted typeface fonts that were created for print, the screen, and the environment. It has several fonts across all genres and also undertakes custom type commissions to this day for brands and organisations across the globe. The Impacto font specifically was designed as more of a display font. It was inspired by machine-cut wood type and sans/slab faces from previous historical specimens. It is a solid face that’s newer but that has plenty of history.

This font communicates by drawing you in. In the line that I chose, from the poem The New Poetry Handbook by Mark Strand, he talks about how complicated a relationship there is between a man and his poems. Most of these lines are about horrible things that will happen to a man who has various reactions to poetry. But the line that I picked, I thought was quite sweet. He talks about a man being afraid of death, like we all naturally are at some level, and he talks about that man’s poems, his life’s work, saving him. Rescuing him from that void. I feel like this font makes this meaning all the more clearer because it grabs the reader, it doesn’t let the reader just gloss over the line, it makes them focus on it and actually think about what it means.

Impacto, Henrik Kubel, September 17, 2019. ©
A-2 Impacto font collage, September 17, 2019. © Emily Daniels

Works Cited:

A2-Type. “TYPE.” A2, https://www.a2-type.co.uk/impacto.

Strand, Mark The New Poetry Handbook. Scribner, 1970

A Mere Object

Something that I have definitely disregarded is the physical book versus e-book debate. To me, it’s always been whatever is cheaper, which usually means that it is on my phone. Others have definitely had more of a problem with it. To the generation before me, it looks like I’m just playing games or on social media just because I have my phone out, which is annoying and has pushed me to move back, albeit only slightly, to physical books. There is something about the weight of the book in your hands, and the sound and feel of turning a page that is satisfying I will have to admit.

The book of poetry that I have chosen specifically is Wade in the Water by Tracy K. Smith. I chose this book because it stood out to me the most with the look and feel of it. The look of it struck me the most, the art of the mountains in the mist leading up into the sky, and the shimmering river forking its way through is dazzling in its beauty but also in its simplicity. The font is center stage and quite bold with its type and the way that it’s two-toned, but somehow it’s also subtle in the way that it’s still soothing to the eye. The overall effect is still serenity, like you’re looking into some hidden valley, and you can almost hear the water flowing through. It continues in this vein on the back, a soft gray color highlighting the book’s praises, which cover the back except for the small photo and description of the author. Something different is the insignia of the publisher, it’s actually bigger than the author’s picture. This suggests that it is possibly a big name in the publishing world, that they are a small publishing company trying to compensate, or maybe that this publisher is just really excited to be publishing the works of a Poet Laureate.

Besides the look of the book, there’s also the feel, it’s very soft, more than what one would expect from a book, but it isn’t quite smooth, there’s a little bit of friction, like the cover wishes for you to linger, take your time. It’s not a texture that you can quickly run your fingers over. The heaviness of the pages suggest the same, they’re heavier, this is definitely a book that, when resting, stays closed. Overall, I get the feeling that this book doesn’t want you to rush things. From the title (wade which has a connotation of slowness) to the design, this book wants you to discover it, but then to absorb and savor it. Wade through it. It seems silly that a simple book cover could make you feel this way but as our author says writing has already “fundamentally changed human consciousness” (Borsuk).

Works Cited: Borsuk, Amaranth. The Book.MIT Publishers 2018

Photo by Amazon.com ©️

A Different “Type” of Nostalgia

After watching the movie at home, it seems to me that this is another form of the overarching nostalgia that people from previous generations typically seem to have. People yearn for the “old days” when people did more physical labor, did more with their hands, were exhausted by the end of the day but satisfied with their work. This kind of blue-collar thinking really shines through with letterpress. It’s a practice that has been outdated for decades, but still lingers around through the satisfaction of making something beautiful with your hands, and getting them dirty in the process. People find this to be more relaxing than making the same work on a computer or a phone, like they can leave their troubles behind and just focus on making something. I think that this sort of physicality over mentality approach appeals to small press publishers because it tracks more with what they’re about, getting the purity of the work, solely what the author intended, out to the people. It matches well with the creativity that comes with making one’s own type and manually carving it to life.

Because of this, I think that a future for letterpress exists through small press, but in poetry especially. Poetry tends to take up a lot less space, and requires much fewer words than, say, novels. So there’s a larger possibility to actually be able to be typed using letterpress. Not only that, but I think that the more people saw this, and knew the processes that went behind making it, the higher I think the demand would be for more. People like old ways of doing things. I think they would pay a lot of money for a book of poems made this way, just to own something that they can say so much work went into, especially by hand and through a process that is close to extinction. I think that it is very valuable to learn these sorts of methods that were employed by previous generations so that they don’t. These are methods that were pioneering at the time, that changed the game. I think that we should keep them around purely on that basis.

When it comes to heritage items, I would have to say that there are definitely some that would work much better if they were kept in use and some that work better kept properly in storage. Quilts I would say should be in storage, as that starts to fray and fall apart the longer that you use it. With printing presses though, it looks like, according to the film, that it would work better if kept in constant use. Overall, I’d have to say to use discretion when trying to figure out what kind of way to preserve historical pieces.

Letterpress Printing

Silent Absorbtion vs. Aloud Recitation

When I read, whether I am confronted with an empty building or a busy suite, I always read quietly to myself. I’ve never thought about why I do this, it just has always come naturally to me. I think part of this is because I have a pretty vivid imagination, when I read to myself and am interrupted, I feel like my movie’s been paused, but when I’m interrupted from speaking aloud, I feel relieved. Reading aloud has always been a chore for me, it’s something that has always been required to do at some point in school, so I associate it with something that I have to do versus something that I’d like to do.

Due to this, I have a much different relationship with the spoken word than the written word. Since it’s tied to school in my head, it always comes with a feeling of self-consciousness, so much so, that as I am reading aloud, even if I am completely alone, I focus on how to say every word perfectly, make appropriate pauses at commas and periods, and even go back and redo parts that I got wrong. This, and the fact that this takes up so much brain power that I also can’t visualize what’s being said in the text, makes it so that I have a much weaker grasp at the concepts that are being talked about. Usually, it means that I have to go back over it and read it silently in my head to finally get it.

It might be true that, at least according to Borges, “for the ancients the written word was nothing more than a substitute for the spoken word” (Borges), but, in the modern age, particularly with fictional stories where the visual aspect is so important, written word is so much more. It’s essential for most people to be able to do this if they want to be able to read with any sort of frequency. The world today is much more populated and busy than the world in which these ‘ancients’ lived. The United States alone has reached over three hundred and twenty-seven million people. So in order to read a little of that book before work, or on the train home, or during a lunch break, one must learn to read silently or else risk disturbing others.

U.S. Population (in millions)

In this day and age, reading aloud is more ‘strange’ than reading silently. It often encroaches on others and is considered as more childish than anything, as if only a child would have to read aloud in order to understand text. But for me personally, I’ve gotten so used to keeping it inside, to mulling it over in my head before elaborating on it vocally, that to do anything else would be more than strange, it’d be outlandish.