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Oh, By the Way!

Assignments Calligraphy Letterpress Literature Poetry

IMG_0372 - Version 2 (2)I might well be taxing your memory when I ask if you remember when I finished my project for a course on the Hand-Printed Book earlier this summer.  That was ages ago now!  Crossing the finish line was a bit anticlimactic, and it took me rather a long time to get photo documentation of the final result.  Then, when I finally did, it got lost in the shuffle of preparations for Poetry by Post.  However, since I marched you so thoroughly through the process, typos and all, I feel beholden to revisit this little book one more time.  I reprinted a poem called "A Dilettante" by Victorian poet Augusta Webster, originally published in 1870 in a collection called Portraits. IMG_0363 (1)IMG_0367IMG_0368 (1)The text papers alternate between Rives Lightweight and natural Kitakata, waxed.  Because the poem is a dramatic monologue in which a speaker (here an aesthete) is addressing a silent auditor (a social reformer), I wanted to represent their "conversation" with two papers -- one that would be doing the heavy lifting of the poem, so to speak, and delivering the text in a legible, cleanly printed way, and one that would be, more or less, playing.  The waxed sheets don't offer anything essential to the reading of the poem, and yet, I hope the reader will feel that they offer something he or she wouldn't want to lose.  Ultimately, the poem makes the case, I think -- and I hope the book does too -- that what can seem like a naive, expendable attention to beauty is instead vital to our experience of life. IMG_0374 (1)IMG_0381 (1)The book is a double pamphlet, and the center of each section features a full spread of a waxed sheet of Kitakata printed in deep, bold colors.  I tend to use a lot of color in my printing; I've heard artists talk about the seduction of color and how easy a lure it can be.  And while I do appreciate the starkness of black and white or the attention a subtle use of color demands, I confess I really just can't help myself. IMG_0382 (1)These particular colors were chosen to feel mature and ripe.  Not freshly sprung April greens or pale pinks and yellows but intense, late summer and early fall hues, all with a warm, golden undertone.  This was another way of conveying the fact that the aesthete of the poem, immature though he might be perceived, actually presents a thoughtful, considered argument.  His perspective is not borne of naiveté but of wisdom -- at least, as I read it. IMG_0391 (1)I always find myself curious when encountering small letterpress-printed editions of books about what the motivations were for choosing the text, and since I had things I knew I could say about Webster and the context of this poem, I went ahead and added a two-page "Printer's Note."  Perhaps one of the touches I'm most pleased with, though, is the Colophon.  For anyone out there who doesn't know, a colophon is a note typically printed at the back of a book or in tiny letters on a broadside that offers information about the production of the work -- typeface, paper selection, date of composition, occasion, etc.  As my imprint is "Pentameter Press Studio," I decided to write the colophon in a very loose pentameter.  The operative word here is "loose" given that I really mean that it is written about ten syllables to a line, though since they are not strictly iambic lines, it is also not technically pentameter (pentameter could be fifteen syllables if you were using anapests or dactyls; my feet are too varied to actually categorize them any which way).  Anyway!  My point was that I like that little colophon, and I think I will try to write all of my colophons in pentameter from now on. IMG_0393 (2)So at long last, there you have it.  My very first hand-printed book, very luckily informed by lots of feedback and advice from an experienced, skilled teacher and an awe-inspiring group of classmates.  I guess I should say that I have actually printed another book, but that one came to a halt over a year ago due to a conundrum about the binding, and while I have settled that quandary, I unfortunately haven't had the time to return to it yet.  It'll be first on my list of things to do when my thesis project wraps up, though, and I'm really excited about getting back to it.  They're the poems of a late friend whom I loved dearly, and her work is exquisite.  I can't wait to share that book here as well.  In the meantime, here's to progress and experience!  There were plenty of moments I thought I would never see the end of this project, but it's done as done can be.  And I daresay:  I am proud of it.


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  • Karyl Smith on

    I am also very proud, and I want one of the books!

  • Penny on

    Laura, this is amazing & quite beautiful ! We’re very proud of you — fantastic job !
    I’m loving all of your posts so far :)


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