The Sting of the “Cold”

In reading through Meg Matich’s poetry, I’ve had a consistent sense of dread and discomfort. Most of the poems either chronicle the perspective of someone who is living in torment in their solitary, icy world or speak to the reader of this doomy life with a threatening spirit. With winter around the corner, these words of sorrow took form in stinging tingles along the length of my arms, as if I were walking in a blizzard with only the T-shirt and shorts I wore in my room as I read the poems. True kudos to Meg Matich, because it’s been a while since an unfamiliar author affected me in such a way.

In my entranced state, everything Matich described in these poems sent sensations to my nerves according to the subjects in question. When reading ‘summer waters… push beneath the ice’ in Solarium I would unconsciously feel a pain erupting in my stomach, as if the pain was the water and the walls of my stomach were the ice. Even when reading about the opposite of cold gave me freezing splashes. In Kiln, for example, reading of how an island mysteriously formed from lava gave me the illusion of my skin crusting around my body. I felt weak.

Visuals that entered my mind as I read Matich’s poems, by ARTsbyXD and ulleo respectively from Pixabay

This may be overreaching, even for a class like this, and it could very well be purely suggested from the emotionally vulnerable position I was under, but even the spacing and organization of the text printed on the papers and the gray rectangle to the right of the page contributed as some sort of subconscious gloomy visual. Perhaps the blank space served as a clearing for the visions of miserable blizzards and the ravenous animals that live in frigid spots.

There was one poem that was like an antidote to these bitter sensations, and that was Tibra. Somehow, the visual of a geode cracking open transitioned beautifully to the soothing writings of sleeping and being rocked by the lake. It may have served as a relief from the visual of the water pushing the water from earlier. The ice breaks, the pain is gone, and I’m willing to find motivation again.

Burning Deck Press

Flipping through the subtitles in A Poetics of the Press, the first press to catch my eye was Burning Deck Press, perhaps because Halloween is just around the corner, and the title helped evoke the spirit in a strange sense. This press was founded by couple Keith and Rosmarie Waldrop in Michigan in 1961, and began as a magazine that published ‘experimental’ poetry and stories. It shortly evolved to a publisher of diverse poetry and short stories in offset book form.

Rosmarie and Keith Waldrop (left to right) at Harvard University for the 40th anniversary reading

In an interview with WWB Daily upon the presses closing, Rosmarie Waldrop recalled what sowed the seeds of Burning Deck was a rivalry between the Donald Allen and Hall-Pack-Simpson presses, which she called a ’war of anthologies.’1 Keith was frustrated by the hostility in the world he called home, and responded by cofounding a magazine that was more inclusive with the poets it featured.

In the interview, I’ve noticed Kyle Schlesinger, the interviewer inquiring possible signs of bias, particularly towards the writings of Brown graduates, but Rosmarie replied that Burning Deck Press finds manuscripts in all sorts of ways, that they and Brown University have no financial relations, and that, after a recent rough count, she found that almost around thirty of the 135 authors featured by the press happened to by Brown graduates, but never by students.

Kyle also questioned their utilization of traditional rules of legibility despite featuring mostly experimental literature, he brought up Camp Printing as an exception. Rosmarie responded in saying that while she finds traditional printing more pleasing to read, she had made a mistake while printing one of James Camp’s chapbooks, but enjoyed what came of it and began to experiment farther with the printing process. This part of the interview stood out to me for its encouragement to never waste a moment of your life mowing through a task, even in frustration. There could always be some element that could push your work or your craft to the next level.

Work Cited

Words without Borders, Experimental Poetry Press Close Shop: An Interview with Burning Deck’s Rosmarie Waldrop. Becker, Eric M.B., 2018

To Speak Through the Letterpress: An Excursion

Last Wednesday, I took a trip with my small press/publishing class to the relatively new Meshwork Press print shop in Wilkinsburg, PA. Despite its small interior, it was a welcoming environment with an affable staff. Most of the tools and resources used for their work were kept close to the entrance, rather than blocking it off with a cold or gimmicky front. Now would be as good a time as any to address the founder, Haylee Ebersole, and her contributions to local youth help organizations (1). Seeing her in person as she hosted our excursion, I’m sure we can all agree that her love for the letterpress craft, and her desire to teach young people and children the value of creating something to make people happy is prominent.

Being near a real letterpress, let alone getting to use it was like embracing the past, utilizing a skill that had been lost to time. Unsurprisingly, it was intimidating at first (especially being around it with the motor in action), but likewise, it was rewarding to develop a judgment and instinct for which prints to use and how many spacers to place between and around them. It also accentuated the value of teamwork. Physically looking around the room for resources for our teams’ projects provided a sense of accomplishment not too common in the world of graphic design today.

A print a fellow student and I constructed with letterpress tools as a logo for her Dungeons & Dragons party

If there was one thing I would’ve done differently on my visit, it may have been to make more than one design through the large press, or to take up more than one line of print. Granted, there was a much smaller press that was much easier to use with a star pattern already prepared. The professor advised us to ease ourselves into the process by using one line of print, but seeing all the extravagant designs the other students printed, I still believe I could’ve, at least, tried to make some more. If I could take anything from that, it might be to think more critically of instructions.

Our class’s teaching assistant printing her design on the letterpress. As seen from the motion blur on her hands, it takes a bit of elbow grease.

Now that I’ve gotten a good taste of the work that goes into the letterpress, I can confidently say that if I was offered a job in this business, I’d gladly take it and contribute to the community with a smile and a grin. Every young student looking for a career should understand that any job will come with stress and heavy emotions, and that’s just the reality of it. When you have an idea of what you want to do, you have to consider the problems that will come with it, but you’ll soon realize that this stress you feel is over something that inspires you, and you truly have become apart of the community, and that ought to motivate you to do what is needed to maintain balance once again. In the words of Mister Rogers “What a good feeling to feel like this, and know that the feeling is really mine.”

Work Cited

Meshwork Press, Ebersole, Haylee; Bushaw, Kirie, 2021

Our Next Film Today is Pressing On: The Letterpress Film

Like any documentary focusing on a craft from a distant time period, it celebrates its legacy, and is also brutally honest of its fade into obscurity, and not too hopeful for its return. What surprised me, however, was how much I learned how much artistry was involved in the press itself, rather than just the design of the prints.

Beyond the lettering designs, this film also highlights the importance of considering what material of stamp or paper to use, relating to the style or substance. Knowing this could certainly make for smoother work and less wasted time. After watching the film, I’ve researched additional information, and discovered the reason behind the numeric values for font sizes, which has carried over to the digital writing programs of today.

A stash of hand crafted prints for an old letterpress. Downloaded off of Pixabay.

As for the improbability of press making a comeback, I believe there are pros and cons to the case of it returning as well as it remaining in obscurity. On the one hand, digital printing doesn’t demand the same dexterity and exercising of skill as letterpress printing, but it also comes with little to no physical hazards. I don’t know about you, but I’m the kind of artist who needs all ten fingers. On the other hand, if letterpress were to suddenly return as an industrial necessity, we would be in for an economical rollercoaster having to reestablish all the other companies that helped keep it alive, some of which, would otherwise be a waste of space.

Personally, I don’t think letterpress ought to die off completely. With plenty of independent press companies powering through and welcoming curious newcomers, this craft could open more possibilities and innovations for future generations as it has for this one.

One fundamental truth that should be gained by this film, especially by young artists, is that rules and boundaries are essential to sprout one’s creative voice. As I always put it, you can’t go anywhere without a floor to walk on. But by the time you’ve built that floor, you’ll realize you have a floor to dance on.

Work Cited

R.I. Sutton, The Hair Brained Press Project. 2017

Three Simple Words; A Hundred Heartbeats

This accordion book might fall somewhere in between the categories of a quasi book and a visual book. Merriam/Webster define (ex. a set of written sheets of skin or paper or tablets of wood or ivory) a book proper in many ways, but they all specify that that it includes ‘written’ material. The main component of the material is a short animation of a character mouthing the words “I love you.” Outside of the titles on the covers, nothing is written, but three words are clearly delivered through the visuals in the pages. And that’s how I want to challenge the traditional definition, blurring the lines between a book and a cartoon.

A shot of the black and white covers back to back, taken by myself indoors so that the text would be easier to make out.

I’ve went with standard card stock for the page paper because it was perfect for hand-drawn images, which is how I make my designs the most efficiently. The colors of the binding of the covers are black on the front and white on the back. This book is meant to convey a tender message of love, friendship, and emotional support. One way I like to show gratitude of a friend’s kindness is preparing food, mostly baking cookies. For some reason, when I was assembling the covers, I was thinking of black and white cookies, and I decided a two-sided object could easily emulate the look of an attractive, two-sided treat.

The pages of my book, taken by myself, spread open to deliver my simple, yet meaningful message

I want the reader to rediscover the power and majesty of the words “I love you.” It’s the arguably most overused phrase I could say to someone I care about, whether it’d be to a girlfriend, a family member, or even a close friend, and can even sound phony, so I find myself refraining from saying it when I should. No matter how much we change, and no matter how much our world change, when I tell you I love you, I always mean it in the vain of the adorable face lip-syncing the words in the pages. In essence, I wanted to make an adorable cartoon face as real and as personal as possible, to communicate that there is that same sentiment in the comics and cartoons that we are endeared to in the people in your life.

As much as I’d love to make a more extravagant project in the future, I wanted everything about this project to be simple once I realized the main idea. I wanted this book to LITERALLY speak for itself. Even the hundred hearts I drew around the faces seem tacky to me in retrospect. It really is fulfilling to come up with my own way of expressing love for some, similar to Mister Rogers’ “143 Means I Love You” song.

Open and Enter the World of Tafoya

Our subject today is Rhiannon Skye Tafoya’s Ul’nigid’, a unique literary structure that embraces the artists’ heritage as well as her ingenuity. Already at face value, two flaps of the cover folded over the front of the object strikes the reader as a detract from the norm. The cover’s material such as the title, author’s name, and humble illustration of what I’m guessing is the Tafoya’s grandmother complimenting the structure plays an important part in keep the reader’s interest.

Photo taken by Tafoya for the WSW website of the book closed off with the front cover in full view

Once the reader opens the covers, they’ll find that the avant-garde journey has only begun. They shall find more flaps unfolding every which way. Any way the panels could be arranged immerses the reader into a three-dimensional design, adding figurative and literal depth to the material. These aspects also tell stories or convey messages through the patterns, which are both based on Cherokee syllabary, and woven with a traditional pattern to weave a Cherokee white oak basket, offering a perspective of what Tafoya grew up with and the impact it had on her. Even the color arrangement communicate tones of vigor and tenderness.

Photo taken by Tafoya for the WSW website of the object opened how one would think to unflod it

The language of the Cherokee tribe, known as Tsalagi, is an oddity in and of itself. The name “Cherokee” derives from the Muscogee word meaning “People of different speech”, referring to their unique phonetic writings and symbols (Augustyn, Kuiper, Glancy, 2021).

Photo taken by Tafoya for the WSW website of the object in a full-three dimensional arrangement

Augustyn, Adam, Kuiper, Kathleen, Glancy, Diane. “Cherokee People” The Encyclopedia Brittanica,

The Vessel for Zack Anderson’s Voice

The Outlaw, The Red Ghost, Half-Lives, a Photogram Exposed by the Dirt is composed of a stack of smooth surfaced, rough edged paper that’s been digitally printed on and bound down the middle by a single staple. This lands it in the ‘vessel’ category, as opposed to an ‘object’, and a humbe vessel at that. The paper is just small and sturdy enough to be secured by one stable. The rough edges also present a rural quality to the vessel, communicating the urban spirit of the material just by feeling it.
The cover consists of a digital print of a vague shape (which, to me, appears to be a horse’s skull seen from above) that provokes the reader to analyze it or read the material to decipher what it’s supposed to be.
The text is printed with an unusually small, standard Times New Roman font, and is all compacted to the top left, leaving ample space on each page. I suppose this spacing choice provides the atmosphere of reading a short letter or even an email from a distant friend or relative. It’s small, it’s humble, it lets the content speak for itself.