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What’s Poetry? It’s a Party!

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!!

See the book description here

Buy the book online here

(blog post #12)

On Screenprinting and Other Trials

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!

Post from Eulalia’s twitter page here

Find our class’s first experience at Meshwork Press here


“What Is Silkscreen Printing.” HarmstonArts, process.html#/.

(blog post #10)

Process of Creating a Book Announcement

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!

Please support our book by pre-ordering it here!

(blog post #9,11)

A Discussion with Garth Graeper

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.

Garth reading an excerpt from his poem, transcribed here

(blog post #8)

To Cover A Chapbook: The Debut of Why Poetry?

The completed base design for the cover before the final color scheme was added ©Micaela Kreuzwieser

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.

The final chapbook-ready covers, screen printed with the aid of Haylee Ebersole ©Micaela Kreuzwieser

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?

“Don’t Mean Nothing”

Hearing “Double Negative” again at the Book Launch felt intimate in a way I’m not sue was there in class. Upon hearing Joe O’Connor speak these words again as a way to summarize the night preceding fit well given what came before, in the sense that it felt like he gave the thesis statement for “Why Poetry?” at the very crest of the night, in a good way. Hearing the phrase “don’t mean nothing” repeated as a sharp mantra to help bring out the vital calls for community that were the proceeding poems. “Why Poetry?”, if anything, is an answer to its own questions, to help reveal the deep seeded truths about human connection that are needed to help humanity, as a whole, survive into the future.

I felt like I needed to hear that because it helped put a cap on the semester, as well as the work we all as a class put into making Joe’s book a reality. There wasn’t a single thing I did without the aid of others and didn’t help others in some way, whether it be help align the cover for “Why Poetry?” so it was just right, later printing out all the books at MeshWork, or sewing them by those physical covers back at Saint Vincent. It felt like it was all too perfectly aligned that poetry, a medium that shines when published through independent means, was the method towards understanding the means of small but tight-knit communal publishing. We need to work together and keep in touch with our humanity to produce things like “Why Poetry?”

Photography from Vietnam War, taken from

I think it’s more than adequate, as well, that “Double Negative” explored the horrors of the Vietnam War, as that event in history was evident of a situation that necessitated poetic sympathy and community. A war led on by the bureaucratic, faceless powers that was large military, leading to its soldiers becoming hardened husks and sapping them of their humanity, and participating in pointless conflcit that harms the weakest of all parties involved: we need poetry not just to understand these horrors, but to build past them, which is something I feel strongly now that strong independent publishing can help accomplish.

Trying to answer the question, of Why Poetry?

by Jacob Snizik

Last Wednesday was the culmination of our group’s work of bringing Joe O’Connor’s poetry pamphlet Why Poetry?, not only to life, but to a very willing and receptive audience that bought the books up at our launch on campus.

The opportunity and the work we did in this class was unlike anything I’ve done and probably will ever do. From the beginning I found the whole process intriguing and although hesitant at first, I quickly wanted to jump right into it. As a writer, the whole business, labor, and artform of publishing was always something I looked at as being down the road, something that was someone else’s job to do and that I would be only nominally involved in. What this class revealed to me is that reality is quite the opposite, if you know where to look.

We had our first meeting with Joe and were given the lay of the land of his work and what he wanted to do with it, we were told to read it and take notes about what we thought and to ask him about it. Not only was this a rare, delightful circumstance, to speak with an author about his raw unpublished work, it was also practical. He informed us of what he had in mind for the appearance of the book, we all tossed ideas back and forth and by the end of the night, had been assigned groups that would be tasked with a specific step in crafting the book.

My team and I worked on the interior, picking the font, the layout, the margins, the hue of black used in the ink, very minute things that would be remedial if not for their importance. if we were off by such much as an eighth of an inch, it would ruin the geometry and symmetry of the pages.

After this was done, and everything was in print and we had hand pressed the covers at our partner studio in Wilkinsburg, our entire group spent three hours pain painstakingly assembling the finished books; the hand work was precise, delicate and full of care. We considered with each crease and stitch, not only the work we had done up to that point, but Joe’s work, the pouring out of his poetic soul present on every page.

We were present when the book was launched, credits, compliments and introductions filled the air and then, everything slowed when Joe took the podium and we were all able to sit back, relax, and enjoy with read through of the book. He read it slowly, taking care to wring every drop of passion and fiber from the words. It was beautiful, and when that had concluded, they sold like crazy.

I have my own signed copy and I will treasure it.

The finished product on display at the book launch December 4th

“Why Poetry?”: It’s Simple!

Joe O’Connor had a book launch for his poetry chapbook, Why Poetry? and it was different than any other reading I had seen in a very profound way.

As an undergraduate student and biochemistry major, presentations I have viewed are almost always rigid in structure and stale in content.  Presenters want to get a lot of information across in a short amount of time and as a result they generally speed through presentations as quickly as they can.  Being speedy is not particularly bad if the content is dynamic and still comprehensible for the listener, but students often rush in order to meet all criteria pertaining to a syllabus, leaving the audience clueless and bored.

Joe O’Connor, author of Why Poetry?   © Eulalia Books

O’Connor managed to give a very down-to-earth presentation that was compelling to audience members.  Whether the audience had read his works or not – it didn’t matter.  O’Connor spoke the simple truth and that was it.  Opinions on his background, how he defined poetry, and the types of people he met in his life, are just a few of the topics that he covered and these topics gave his formal presentation the illusion of casual conversation.

As a audience member of several literature readings, most presentations have been exactly the same – first there is a discussion, next is a reading, and finally there is a question and answer section.  Often times the reading section feels long and boring because the author fumbles trying to decide good places to read from or just picks spots that are seemingly random to the audience.

O’Connor started with an introduction but then intertwined his personal notes and stories with the poetry that he read.  In between each poem, he included shared another segment of his life or just gave an opinion on something pertinent to his poetry.  The back-and-forth structure kept the readings fresh and set the stage for individual poems so that they could be well-digested by the audience.

My reading from the event was O’Connor’s “Double Negative,” where O’Connor explains how war and times of struggle can make aspects of life that should be beautiful and meaningful seem as if they “Don’t mean nothing.”  He read the text with such great pacing and power that is needed when reading a text with repetition; I don’t think the text has nearly the same effect when not read aloud.

My favorite side-blurb that O’Connor gave was his discussion about simplistic poetry and why its existence is important for the sake of what poetry is.  He shared that he used to not fully appreciate simplistic poetry, but then how he grew to appreciate it because simple poetry allows the reader to form a lot of imagery, ideas, and so forth, from simple ideas.  I felt like the O’Connor’s blurb complemented “Double Negative,” because to look between the lines and draw out the good in times of stress or war is what exactly what humans need.

Overall, the book launch was a neat experience and a chance to appreciate the simpler things in life.  I was glad to have been a part of the project and I hope to one day have the chance to speak at my own reading with a creative angle to match.

Sewing and Growing: What it Means to Start Small

In collaboration with Eulalia Books and as part of a Small Press Publishing course, I was able to help in the production of Joe O’Connor’s poetry chapbook, “Why Poetry?”

While I am fairly skilled in using technology and designing, I was late to joining a team in the project and I only contributed minimally to creating announcement flyers for the project, as a result.

Covers of unbound “Why Poetry?” books. ©Eulalia Books

My biggest contribution, unexpectedly, was the manual threading of the spine of the book.  As someone who has terrible large motor skills and struggled during middle school sewing class, the idea of putting together several books that people would purchase was daunting to say the least.

Despite my concerns, I sporadically said “yes” and found myself sewing several books for the project.   Julia Snyder, threading expert, showed me how to sew the book and got me rolling in less than five minutes.  While I made a few mistakes and shed some blood along the way, thus creating an exclusive “Blood Edition” of the chapbook, I found the experience to be soothing and I felt proud of the multiple books I tied together.

I took pride in not only what I produced, but in participating in something I was unfamiliar with, which is a complete turnover from how I reacted to new situations in my childhood.  In recent years I have acquired an ambivalent skill set because of my willingness to be flexible, my sporadic tendency to say “sure” when I am asked to help out, and my desire to gain new experiences.  The reason I note this change is because I think the power of the small press and the power of entrepreneurship is underappreciated.

For people working within a smaller community or independently with limited resources available, a wide array of skills is needed to succeed.  Being an expert in just one skill is not always enough and I am proud to have been part of a group that acknowledges the need to try new things and share skills with others.  I wish that larger presses and other occupations encouraged diversification over specification, because I strongly believe that people grow as appreciative and understanding beings from trying new things.

“Why Poetry?” Because It’s Necessary.

Author Joe O’Connor at Eulalia Books launch of his work, “Why Poetry?” © Mandy Sirofchuck

Bittersweet but successful, our Small Press Publishing Class met for the last time on Wednesday, Dec. 4, for the culmination of all our learning and effort: the book launch for author Joe O’Connor’s first published work. Each member had worked diligently on their assigned portion of the event, and the effort was evident! 

Joe O’Connor’s vibrant personality and humility delighted me. He read each poem with sincerity and genuine enthusiasm. Rather than plow through his entire work, he paused thoughtfully between several poems and gave us snippets of experience—little windows into his world—to consider and take to heart. Many were life-lessons that he learned during his time at Saint Vincent, and one of them I will never forget. O’Connor recalled the college President’s speech at his freshman banquet, where he instructed the students to look to their right and to their left, proceeding to tell them that those were the people who would teach them ninety percent of everything they’d learn at college. How true that is! His minute details, painting mental images of his life, drew me into the wisdom of his down-to-earth poetry and helped me to relate to him.

He also touched on artists, being one himself, in ways which piqued my interest. Jim Kozak, cover design artist for Why Poetry, roomed with him at Saint Vincent. Both aspiring artists encouraged each other. Encouragement, O’Connor declared emphatically, is the most important thing one can give an artist. Encouragement carried him through agonizing years of mere publishing dreams to the reality of a printed work in his hands, a work to be distributed and enjoyed by people he may never meet, as is the nature of selling books. He thanked his wife, Ms. Gil-Montero, Kozak, and our entire class for roles in encouraging him to carry on with his life-long dream.

I always find it fascinating to learn what roots such a passion for the arts in each individual. O’Connor shared that he first learned to write poetry in detention. Forced to memorize passages of books if he wanted to leave early from his punishment, he found himself face-to-face with words, grappling them and their irascible nature to slip out of mind just when needed. Memorizing the passages made him organize words and view them in a new manner, a manner which led to writing his own. 

O’Connor’s speech and reading of his work satisfactorily answer the question, “Why Poetry?” The answer, in essence, is because it’s necessary. No matter the job—as Joe O’Connor himself worked in economics—every person needs a little color, a little touch of art in their life, a little way to express their deepest thoughts and dreams on paper, and sometimes, a little way to share them with the world.

This class has been a pleasure! I wish best of luck to everyone as we embark on the next leg of the journey: taking what we’ve learned and applying it to our own careers and daily life. A special “thank-you” to our fabulous professor, Ms. Gil-Montero, the wonderful Haylee Ebersole for hosting our group for workshops, and author Joe O’Connor, for inspiring each of us along the way.