It was an exhilarating experience to design the cover for Joe O’Connor’s Why Poetry? I was the team leader for the cover and was joined in my efforts by John Rogan and Amanda Moyher. It was peppered with some trouble in the very beginning due to a lack of familiarity with Illustrator. However, after fumbling our way into some understanding, we chose the design option with the tree centered in the middle of the front page. We sent five samples with five different fonts to Michelle Gil-Montero for approval; she chose #5, a thick and blocky print with a neat letterpress aesthetic that would make the tree graphic, originally done by Jim Kozak, look whimsical. We were painstaking in our efforts, wanting the results of our work to be as visually pleasing as possible. My team then put the ISBN bar code and Eulalia logo onto the back page of the cover in Illustrator and sent it on through to its next stage of development: the silk screening in Wilkinsburg with Haylee Ebersole.
At Meshworks in Wilkinsburg, I was part of a team with Daniel Whirlow and Elspeth Mizner: Danny worked the squeegee to create the beautiful covers in shades of green and blue (colors chosen specifically to evoke Walk Whitman’s Leaves of Grass), Elspeth was “clean hands” and grabbed each piece as it emerged fresh and pristine from the silk screen, and I was the runner, responsible for taking what Elspeth handed me and placing it somewhere safe to dry. By placing the paint in strategic locations, Danny was able to create a lovely gradient for the cover image. With the colors blending together over time and our needing to refill the paint every now and again, each version of the cover came out differently, with some boasting a pronounced gradient while others had a more consistent coloration, a shade of turquoise that was just as gorgeous. Joe O’Connor himself also had a hand in some experimentation; by dabbing a spot of paint onto the part of the screen where the moon would fall, he was able to create covers with a yellow moon peeking from behind the green/blue/turquoise branches.
Being present at Joe O’Connor’s reading on Wednesday, December 4 was the culmination of our Small Press Publishing course. After an introduction by Michelle Gil-Montero and Daniel Whirlow, Joe O’Connor himself took the stage. He gave background and supplementary information on the writing process and inspiration for each poem he read, leaving untouched no detail that went into making Why Poetry? a reality. Joe touched on his own lessons from its creation, a main one being how poetry does not have to be grand or large in scale; what matters is the telling and how it is conveyed. It was immensely satisfying being in that room in the Fred Rogers Center listening to Joe O’Connor read his work and knowing that we had come to the end of the Why Poetry?’s production process, if a little sad. We all learned so much from getting a close-up and hands-on experience with the publishing process, from working with the initial manuscript to designing the cover, planning out the interior pages and table of contents, formulating PR announcements, and scheduling the launch event, in addition to gaining experience with silk screening the final covers. A final thank-you to Michelle Gil-Montero for running this course, to my fellow students for joining me in this journey, to Haylee Ebersole for letting us all silkscreen at Meshworks with her, and to Joe O’Connor himself for giving us the privilege of working on Why Poetry?