It’s the end of the semester, and we’ve finally wrapped up our publishing process! Why Poetry? by Joe O’Connor is out and about, chillin’ in the book racks along with the rest of Eulalia’s publications, and it’s available for order online as well.
The launch party took place on December 4, and we had a proper turnout. First, Professor Michelle Gil-Montero introduced the Joe O’Connor Poetry Series to the audience, explaining the origin of her friendship and alliance with Mr. Joe O’Connor that ultimately led to the establishment of the series this year. She then called Joe to read from his poetry chapbook, comment on the process of beginning the series and writing the poems, and proclaim his thanks towards everybody who took part in the whole process. It was a night of good fun, many sentiments, and plenty of ideas to go around.
I have personally learned a lot from Joe and his poems, the value of simplicity, appreciation of nature, and time spent thinking about how to help others among the many things I have taken note of. I hope to be able to reach Joe’s level of mellow yet powerful wisdom someday, so that I may be able to aid in others’ realizations of their dreams just as he has. Thank you, Joe, for the wonderful opportunity to read your poetry and learn from the process of transforming it into a chapbook, and thank you, Michelle, for making this semester of learning and growing a reality!!
This semester, our class took on the responsibility of silkscreening 300 covers of Why Poetry?, which we later began to bind by hand using a simple yet lengthy aligning, poking, and sewing technique. To print the book covers by hand, we returned to Meshwork Press like champions and wreaked havoc in a larger area than last time.
Haylee, founder and owner of the press, assisted us in learning a method of screenprinting called silkscreen printing. Silkscreen printing involves use of a custom-made stencil and a squeegee to pass ink onto a page and allows the transfer of multiple unique copies of a single image. The result of each trial is different in color, texture, and alignment.
We all had a lot of fun together and were able to successfully print a fair amount of book covers, all of which was different in its own way!
Find our class’s first experience at Meshwork Press here
Our class’s ultimate goal was to publish a chapbook of poems written by Mr. Joe O’Connor, and all of us students were assigned to one of four groups in order to contribute to the process of getting the book out into the world. I was part of the Book Announcement group, together with Jessica, Christian, and Emily.
The process of creating a book announcement was not particularly difficult — confusing, trying, yes, but not outright impossible. All four of us took part in formatting the page, moving around text, and researching for outside information in order to draft the announcement. Though we went through many trials, we finally, with the help of our press coordinator, Bridget, and Professor Gil-Montero, were able to conceive an end result that only required a few more touches (such as an isbn#). Some trials the Book Announcement went through are below:
The most difficult part of drafting was successfully imitating the font the cover team came up with for the title, Why Poetry?, and finding a visually appealing format that would still allow us to fit all of the required information onto the page. Finding the type font itself for Why Poetry? was quite easy, as the leader of the Cover Team, Micaela, kindly provided us with the proper name of the font; the challenging part came into play when we realized that the effect making the imperfect fill function on the font look like a letterpress technique did not automatically come with the type font. We had to do our best to achieve a similar effect ourselves, and it seems to have come out alright, so I’m not complaining!
Recently, our class was given a chance to speak to an excellent poet and skilled editor. The Skype call was a success, as we were given a chance to ask some questions and learn from Mr. Garth Graeper, who has worked at a small press (Ugly Duckling Presse) in the past and who is currently working at a big-6 press (Penguin Random House).
Some of the topics we talked about that stood out to me the most were:
Small press work can literally change/reverse your life!
Larger presses require more precise jobs, while small presses usually involve employees in a more “all-around” position
Poets/writers can get published to both small and large presses (corporate presses require writers to have an agent(s), while small presses do not)
A lot of small presses publish books that would not normally be commercially “sellable”/profitable
If you like a few books from a certain small press, there’s a big chance that you will like all the works this press publishes (regardless of poet and genre)
In a small press publishing landscape, books are an experience, something more than a book
Small presses focus more on quality than on quantity, adopting a “less is more” and “give 100%” mindset (but presses usually end up taking on more projects than they originally planned to because they adore the works)
Small presses do not cater to a general audience, while corporate presses run on a “need to satisfy customer” basis
Small presses create well-define places and niches for themselves and cater to readers’ wishes for “raw” works that provide them with “the honest truth”
Overall, my favorite quote of Garth’s that he used to describe small presses’ publishing goals was “counter (pop)-cultural.”
To check out Eulalia Books press’s own “counter (pop)-cultural,” awareness-raising works, click here.
Also, make sure to check out Garth’s reading of an excerpt of his poem, “Journal,” below.
Following quite some digging, I have decided on a journal and a poet to investigate for our upcoming term paper.
The Owl: A Miscellany, had three issues, the first released in May of 1919, the second later in the same year, and the last in 1923. The journal opposed the change that was going on in the early 1900’s. Most prominent journals were focusing on experimenting and politics, while Robert Graves, the literary editor of the journal and a prominent poet of the time, remained a Georgian poet who resisted falling out of this romantic, pastoral movement (despite slowly losing respect for the remaining community’s changing focus) unlike most artists of the time who had chosen to fall out of Georgian poetics, pursuing new movements because of the influence of WWI. Thus, Graves wished to publish works that evaded the troubles of the war.
The forward of the first issue even says:
It must be understood that “The Owl” has no politics, leads no new movement and is not even the organ of any particular generation―for that matter sixty-seven years separate the oldest and youngest contributors.
But we find in common a love of honest work well done, and a distaste for short cuts to popular success.
And so on.
Overall, The Owl was successful in its aims, but it remained at constant odds with contemporary trends in literature.
The journal has a nostalgic sort of feel to it, comfortable and sophisticated, though more homey than professional in the illustrated segments because of handwritten content present on those pages. This may be attributed to the fact that Graves’s father-in-law chose the illustrations (and provided the funds for the journals).
I have chosen to (in my term paper) investigate the way in which The Owl’s politically neutral submissions lightly changed the way in which influential WWI poet, Siegfried Sassoon, chose content and context for his poetry that was featured in the journal. In this blog, I would like to investigate a page of his in the last Owl issue, The Winter Owl, to some degree.
The italicized, slightly elegant font, gives the impression of a scholarly journal article (which makes the text seem quite sophisticated), and the uneven texture barely visible in the letters etched into the page which has been scanned makes for a ravishing touch. The close-knit spaces between lines bonds the poem in a way which enhances its form, successfully reflecting formalism as well as professionalism, while the off-set asterisks create an effective barrier between ideas expressed in the poem. Overall, the page looks appropriate to the time and to the aims of The Owl.
The content of the poem itself also fits in with the overall requirements of the journal. Sassoon’s poem details the myth of a nymph by the name of Daphne who is being unwillingly pursued by Apollo, the god of music, medicine, and the sun, because of a curse bestowed upon the god by cupid. In the poem, Daphne is able to escape Apollo’s pursuits at the last second when Jove, the god of thunder and ruler of Olympus, transforms her into a tree. Sassoon paints the situation in an extremely dramatic way that keeps readers in suspense until the last proclamation even if they are familiar with the original myth. There is a definite sense of bucolic and romantic content characteristic of the Georgian movement present in the content, yet the lack of need to experiment with style or dive into politics of the time separates the poem from contemporary writings, which reflects the type of writing Graves wished to broadcast to readers of The Owl.
The object I created to substitute for a standard modern book of poetry was a lightly-drowned poem that stands (or floats, more like) inside of a transparent tub full of water. I wrote a prose poem which regarded a question I have often found myself posing — What is the correlation, difference between living and breathing? — then drowned it. Simple as that.
Uncovering meaning in a drowned poem can seem like a tedious task, but this book is more a representation of poetic meaning than a true manuscript that is meant to be read thoroughly. Light etchings of the drowned words remained when I first doused the parchment in milk tea before locking it in a ziploc bag, the manuscript still legible to some degree, but slowly, with every passing minute, the words began to fade away as the ink ran down the edges of the bag in a milky, liquidy mess. The poem was suffocating. It was suffocating inside the bag inside the water, yet it was more alive than ever before.
The part of my project that most closely resembles a more conventional model of a book is the parchment on which I wrote the poem. The rest of my project resembles more of an “artists’ book” as Amaranth Borsuk mentions in The Book, correlating to a document that “[has] much to teach us about the changing nature of the book,” partly through “highlight[ing] the ‘idea’ by paradoxically drawing attention to the ‘object’ we have come to take for granted,” especially since the introduction of the more modern concept of mass-producing identical books. Picking up my book when it is drowned is much more interesting and symbolic than trying to read the parchment on its own.
When reading, however, be cautious — don’t turn this book upside down; it will surprise you with a little spillage from the cracks between the lid and the container! Do not attempt to free the poem — the water suffocating it, encompassing it, gives it purpose, a true element, and without this mysterious aspect… the poem will truly die. Out in the open, the ziploc bag will lose its sheen, seemingly containing only a scrap of paper soaked in lifeless ink, lying drained and static and miserable on a dry surface.
“The shape and style of … earlier manuscripts reflect the reading practices of their day and the needs they were designed to meet,” Borsuk wrote. “Reading was, in the manuscript era, a practice fundamentally different from the kind of private, meditative engagement we now experience.” So saying, the book I designed is meant to intrigue people, to cause them to contemplate and philosophize and feel, or, perhaps, to make people laugh or to entertain them. The audience I am aiming for is the overall community of poets, as I have found out that poets in particular often find poetry to be intriguing even in the strangest of forms. May this conceptual book reach out to those, who believe in the changing art form, the breaking of societal bounds, and so much more!
Borsuk, Amaranth. The Book. (Boston: MIT Press, 2018).
Visiting Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Oakland Branch would not have felt as fulfilling if our excursion had not involved rifling through boxes of zines. Those little (and, occasionally, big) pamphlets resembling homemade magazines really made my day.
Now, you may ask, “But why should I read a piece of printer paper folded into six sections with hand-drawn images and hand-written words if I can read a glossy-covered pamphlet that smells like nail polish?” First off, zines are truthful — they can say whatever they want, show whatever they want. They can even bring people together as a cult of magical fungi lovers and get away with it since there are no authority figures out to stop their publication because it is “too risque” or “not appealing enough, not popular enough.” Another very attractive feature of zines is their alleged “DIY look.” A zine is often created from scratch, by the hands of a creator rather than by a large team of designers, contributors, and electronic printers like a magazine is formed. The appeal of such a handmade format is that creators have more freedom to play with less standardized layouts and content while providing readers with a more immersive reading/viewing experience!
In the photo below, the diversity in the way zines can be designed becomes apparent, as the way in which the handmade zines differ from one another even just when lying on a table beside each other contrasts the drastically similar display of commercial magazines taking up the shelves lining the wall set behind the zine table.
Zines, however, can be limited by the available finances their creators have for production purposes. Though there is more room for creativity, there is oftentimes no large amount of money that has been set aside for publications and distribution, which means that the quality of the zine depends on the abilities of its creator. Another problem that may result from a lack of money is an inability for a creator to continue his/her publication throughout multiple issues (unlike commercial magazines, which often continue to release new volumes on a regular basis).
Indie poetry is pretty much on the same page as zine culture in that this literary medium is often overlooked by large publishers and is pushed to the back alleys of what is considered “renowned literature” in our world. Though indie poetry oftentimes gets the short end of the stick, it deserves much more, just like zines do, and if the two are combined, the result is a wonderful pamphlet full of wonderful poetry that could shine in any bookshelf among all the traditional books and commercial magazines lining the shelves.
Eulalia Books has published a poetry zine created in the form of a chapbook; make sure to check it out!
On September 11, 2019, a new world fell upon me in a magnificent heap of wonderfulness: I, for the first time, used a real live traditional printing press!! It’s just like in a fairy tale; I still cannot truly believe that I was actually allowed contact with such a majestic device…
Experiencing letterpress firsthand for the first time opened my eyes in many respects. Feeling the wheel beneath my fingertips as I turned it was exhilarating, as was seeing the final product that came out of pressing our team’s stamp into the paper and passing my hand over the image after the print dried. The entire process of formulating ideas, formatting, and manually printing brought with it a sense of control that does not usually come with using electronics or other methods of creating content. I felt as if whatever I did would become the product itself — how much effort I put into the process would be perfectly reflected in the output as long as the letterpress was working properly.
I mean, just look at this beauty!!
Traditional letterpress stands on its own in my book — it could easily replace modern printers if there were fewer people and businesses and useless things in the world — but, devastatingly, there is not always enough time to print everything from report cards to books with a letterpress without thoroughly working somebody to the bone. It is difficult to ignore the rise of digitized products that happened in the 1980’s (which played a big role in the fall of traditional presses’ popularity at the time) as well as the immense amount of time and effort the letterpress process can take.
Since letterpress has been “revived,” so to say, it has gone through some changes because of the modern surroundings it has been introduced into. Today, several modern technologies can be paired with letterpress to decrease time of production, to increase quality of prints, and even to bring back typesets that have been lost!
A collection of poetry written by Robert Frost, compiled by others. A glimmering cover which reflects the light of the world and its curiosities, silver lining on the pages. A curved gutter, leaving enough room for a thin ribbon. A smooth, thick cover. Vintage introductory papers to wrap around the inside of the cover, to pose a sentiment to the content which is highlighted with an older style, long-lettered font.
Thin but sturdy pages.
A bulky formatting of text, made even bulkier by the amount of text overtaking each line, as if spilling into a stanza of word upon word upon slightly circular font, separated from the overbearing title by a strange-looking computer-designed strand of leaves…
Though the content is enjoyable and the cover is pretty okay, the book bends back slightly slowly, not as purely as I would like. It’s like looking for a tear where there are only perfectly-rendered stitches in a blot of fabric. No coffee stains, no tea stains, no teardrops… Only smooth paper dotted with robotic ink.
Now, if this book was created to be a unique copy of an original book like the early modern books that Amaranth Borsuk mentions in The Book, reading it would become more personable for me, as if I would be interacting with the people who compiled the anthology into a small volume. Unfortunately, this Frost collection was created to look and feel identical to all the rest of its kin from the press it came from. I wish I could feel the melancholy of the words, the loneliness, the serenity of the scenery… The imperfection of nature, yet the beauty overlapping this imperfection. But all I see, feel, smell, sense is perfection.
Though the book is wonderful, its design makes the experience of reading slightly impersonal because of the standard way in which it has physically been compiled. I hope to someday wreck it into a state which is more… fitting, perhaps…
Borsuk, Amaranth. The Book. (Boston: MIT Press, 2018).
Questions we may or may not ask ourselves and others day in and day out:
Is letterpress printing still alive?
Has it truly found a way to assimilate into our modern culture of machines that do most of the work without human supervision or interference?
What difference does it make whether a press prints its texts using a letterpress or a more mechanical source?
The answers to these are quite simple. Yes. Yes. And, of course, a fairly large one.
See, when talking about the survival of the letterpress in the modern world, it’s pretty reasonable to say that the concept of formatting documents and printing them manually is barely sustaining itself on bread crumbs. Overall, letterpress printing remains quite underappreciated in this day and age. However, with the current uprising of “vintage culture” and “old-school taste,” letterpress printing is beginning its ascent into more or less safe waters. Hopefully, more and more people begin to appreciate the process of this less automated, more personal, work ethic-based printing in the coming years.
The idea of letterpress printing currently depends on the people who wish to revive the practice of using your hands to creatively set up a page to print, to select textures and colors and other wonderful media and designs and fonts and all the jazz that used to interact with readers in a physical way which would awaken their senses and engage them in a text in a way that a standard modern printed document can only dream of. Among such revivalists are a multitude of small press publishers. The staff of these presses oftentimes print poetry, fiction, and other forms of literature in a strikingly physical format that truly brings out the vivid voice in a collection of words. Eulalia Books takes part in this process with the help of Haylee Ebersole, a letterpress artist stationed primarily in Wilkinsburg.