Thursday, September 29, 2016

My first & loveliest Albion

when in Wellington recently I was kindly shown over the Wai-te-ata Press at Victoria University of Wellington by Meredith Paterson - the Press has for some years housed this Albion handpress which I secured under the ownership of the Alexander Turnbull Library back in 1979 - according to Reynolds Stone in his writing on Albions, this one dates (because of the specific fulcrum action when the handle is pulled) to the early 1830s, tho the handle itself has a date of (I think) 1861 or 1881 - in any event, a lot later - I printed several books on this wonderful press, and I still regard it as the best press I have ever worked with - the photos were kindly taken by Dan Tait-Jamieson of Moana Press, Wellington, and of The Printing Museum there - anyone who thinks one cannot get a bit teary over a chunk of old cast iron, should think again -

Friday, September 2, 2016

Letterpress in Townsville

just three days after returning to Melbourne from New Zealand I went off to Townsville in Queensland to spend a week with Sheree Kinlyside and her husband Alan ('a festival of Alans') to share some of my letterpress experience with Sheree. I introduced her to damping paper for printing, and some refinements in hand-setting type and inking. Like most letterpress practitioners in Australia and New Zealand who are mostly self-taught, there are often small things we don't ever pick up until we are shown by someone else. I still recall vividly a day in Eastbourne, New Zealand, when Bill Wieben, who had grown up in his father's printing business, showed me a few things about getting a decent result on the Arab treadle platen I was using then. It changed my printing life forever, and yet each thing he showed me was in itself quite small and detailed. That single day lifted the quality of my printing immensely - 

Sheree's press is a Farley proof press, which is not the most precise of machines, tho it does have an excellent impression adjustment mechanism which is very useful. Over the week, we printed three pieces, one a short poem by a local poet, one which is the border to a poster yet to be completed, and another is a small group of two-color electrotypes she has in her collection, and which will form the basis of a book she will design and print 'in due course'. In the meantime I will be writing a group of short poems to go with each of the images, and Sheree will write an introduction -

here are three images taken on the poster border - inking up a mix of Reflex Blue and Opaque White (a mix I discovered many years ago and have used a lot since) - 

the next is inking up the second color of the border - 

and the printed result. A glimpse of the first color on its own can be seen at top right -

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Handpress master class in New Zealand

on 13 & 14 August I was invited to give a master class in handpress printing at The Printing Museum in Wellington, New Zealand. The brief was to damp handmade paper, set a small poem in type, print it on the Albion handpress in black with a red title - running off a small edition of ten copies for each of the attendees. Here they are, from left (photo by Michael Curry), John Clemens, Terrie Reddish, Dan Tait-Jamieson, Alan Loney, Meredith Paterson, Brendan O'Brien, Nicki Francis, Annette O'Sullivan - as you can see, it was a cool day in the Hutt Valley, it seemed not to dampen anyone's spirits over the weekend - 
here is the press itself (tho it's really to show off my CODEX Australia apron!) with photo by Meredith Paterson -
more photos, this time by Terrie Reddish - first, plane & lock up in the forme - 
inking up, with the outer edge of the roller dry and running on bearers - 
and how to put the printed & damped sheet into the plastic bag - ON your hand, not in it!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Melbourne Journal

I have now received my author's copies of Melbourne Journal, which sits between Sidetracks (AUP 1998) and Crankhandle (Cordite 2015) - it will not be published until October, but it can be pre-ordered at UWA Publishing - a mix of poetry & prose, it was begun when a dear friend gave me a new notebook on my arrival in Australia and said, here is your new writing - it takes the Notebooks from 1998 to 2003 - here's the cover - 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Death of the reader

having mentioned my latest work a couple of posts ago, here's the notice from Mindmade Books in Los Angeles -

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Verso 3 at the printer

Verso 3 has now gone to bed, and will wake up in a few days bright as a button - to subscribe to Verso, click here - at three issues a year, Verso has now run its first annual cycle, and looks forward to a new year of new & old, local & international books appearing on its pages - here's the cover of Verso 3 - with its essay on the latest book by Denise Campbell in Tasmania, Australia - 

Monday, July 11, 2016

is there any, ever, progress

well, is there, even tho I extrapolate (read 'steal') from Leonardo, about whether anything is ever finished - I've been selling all Electio materials - the types are all spoken for, the paper has all sold, but the Albion handpress is still for sale, with the price at $12,000. It's in perfect condition, and I'd be happy to teach a buyer how to get the best out of it - 

just published is Death of the reader, a chapbook published by Mindmade Books in Los Angeles - coming out later this year is Melbourne Journal from The University of Western Australia Press - the Journal is my Notebooks 1998 to 2003, wedged in between Sidetracks (AUP 1998) and Crankhandle (Cordite 2015) - other volumes on their way are poems, Next to nothing (Red Dragonfly Press, Minnesota) and Ron Holloway, printer : a memoir / 1909 - 2003 (Puriri Press, Auckland) - both these latter will come out either late this year or early 2017 - definitely in late 2017 will be my Beginnings from Seismicity Editions at Otis School of Art & Design in Los Angeles - 

at Verso, my other 'significant other' activity, #3 is due out in a couple of weeks, with essays on Robin Price's Love in the Time of War, poems by Yusef Komunyakaa, Donald Friend's An Alphabet of Owls, Denise Campbell's VESSELS, the Barbarian Press acquisition of the Curwen Press printers' ornaments collection, the New Albion Press edition of Music in the Mirabell Garden - and a profile of New Zealand printer John Holmes at his Frayed Frisket Press - 

one nice thing about Verso 3 is the appearance of Robin Price & the printer of An Alphabet of Owls, Jim Walker, in the same issue - Jim told me he & wife Ruth were going to the US in June, specifically to Connecticut, and I realised he would be only a short driving distance from Robin Price's home in Middletown - I then arranged for them to meet, and here's a picture taken of their visit with Jim next to Robin on the right, and Ruth Walker second from left in Price's studio - 


Sunday, December 6, 2015

not quite the last post

it's very strange writing for an audience one does not know, either who they are, or how many, or how interested or not they are in whatever has been placed in this space - it has always seemed to me that I have written this blog for someone, and I have no idea who that someone is, that is, who you are - according to the front page here, the blog has nine followers - and apart from a comment or two over the years, I have always felt I have been writing into a void, that this apparently very public space has effectively been a rather private one, and that I have never had any sense that anything akin to dialog might have been taking place here - please, don't get me wrong (I know you're listening), I am not complaining - rather, I am signalling that this particular activity no longer answers to any personal or professional need that I can identify within myself or within my work - 

as a printer, my work is coming to an end - there is damage to my upper arms & shoulders done by 40 years of wielding heavy ink rollers and turning press handles, and which has taken over a year to heal so far, and that process is far from complete - bursitis & tendinitis are the culprits - and I have been struggling over recent months over the question, whether I should print again - a few posts ago I signalled that a 'next' project would be a boxed set of prints, and I'm sad to say that these prints now will not be done - I have informed the poets who so kindly contributed poems for the purpose, and all have been very generous in their responses - there is one small book by R D Wood to be done, and Robert will print those pages himself under my supervision early next year - and then no more books or printing will be issued from Electio Editions - 

at that point I will prepare a full color, digitally printed catalog of Electio books still in print, and the wonderful American booksellers Vamp and Tramp in Birmingham, Alabama, will thenceforth be the sole agent for all exant Electio books - at that point also, I will set about selling my printery, and take up work as a full-time writer and editor of verso magazine - transforming my studio into a study for this next stage in my life - 

so this is not quite the last post - I'll document Robert's book before signing off - but I will keep the blog online, even tho I'll no longer be adding to it beyond that time - 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

launch date for verso magazine

you are cordially invited to the launch of 

verso 1

a Magazine for the Book as a Work of Art

Level 1, 37 Swanston Street
Melbourne, VIC 3000

at 6 for 6.30 pm, Tuesday 10 November


Sunday, October 18, 2015

I know it's been quiet around here

well, yes, it has been quiet, mainly because I have been dedicated to getting my new magazine, verso, up & running - subtitled a magazine for the Book as a Work of Art, verso is devoted solely to the book itself, and to the people who make them - enquiries and subscriptions can be made here

in the first issue is - 

Marian Crawford on Howl for a Black Cockatoo by Sue Anderson & Gwen Harrison.

Alex Selenitsch on The Codex Foundation's Alchimie du Verbe.

R D Wood on Bruno Leti's & Chris Wallace-Crabbe's The Alignments (one).

Peter Vangioni on the printing & books of Brendan O'Brien.

Alan Loney on Alessandro Zanella's Persephone, a poem by Yannis Ritsos with prints by Joe Tilson.

coming up in verso 2 is -

Francis McWhannell on a book by Elizabeth Steiner.

Derek Lamb on a book by Sheree Kinlyside at Red Rag Press.

Marian Crawford on a book by Juliana O'Dean.

and more

Friday, June 5, 2015

a stack of stutterers

Aaron Cohick of The Press at Colorado College sent me this fine picture of a pile of just completed sewings of Orpheus the stutterer : a poetics of silence, launched when I was in Colorado just prior to Codex 2013 in Berkeley, California - the book begins with three epigraphs - 

1) And it is no secret to any of you that the exact meaning of poetics is the study of work to be done (Igor Stravinsky -

2) in the beginning was the wor-wor-wor-wor-wor- (George South, stuttering -

3) the silence is vibrant with words (Ursula Bethell - 

what follows is a set of ruminations on the lyric, stuttering, the aptitude of the human species for killing itself - 

there's a lovely review of the book in Parenthesis magazine (# 26, Spring 2014) by John Harvey, in which he says 'Coming in an age when publishers are ever less willing to publish books that do not promise to best-sell (a promise seldom kept), Orpheus the stutterer is a premeditated worst-seller'. - a premise that one can only hope is also seldom kept - but the review is very positive and encapsulates much of a fragmentary text very well - 

here's a bit from the first page - 

what is it that each of us will never be permitted to say
and how vibrant with words
will that silence always be
and remain silence         however loud
the murmur of language
becomes in our becoming & unbecoming
rage to speak         in the beginning 
was the unutterable end
of the wor(l)d

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

a boxed set of broadsides

next up for Electio, as hinted earlier, is a set of poetry broadsides, seven of 'em, in a box, to be issued sometime in July/August this year - poets are Marion May Campbell, Robert Wood, Ross Brighton, Jennifer Harrison, Ruark Lewis, Gig Ryan, and yrs truly - all will be on different handmade papers, types and colours, but all printed on the handpress and some, perhaps all, will have extra handwork done on them by Miriam Morris - more news and a picture or two after production starts -  

Thursday, May 28, 2015

stocktaking 6

a spread from Ross Brighton's lovely elegy for David Mitchell, Lullaby, issued in 26 copies in 2014 - printed on the Pratt-Albion handpress in Dante & Gill Sans Light on Magnani handmade paper, with Cave handmade paper covers in a box - the colored figures are done with brass rules - there are three copies still available - the poem should be read aloud, and very slow, to catch both the rich resonances that can be heard in the language - on page one, the first word is "Isle" and three lines later is "Circle", and the isle of Circe in Homer, the ashes strewn on seawater, picks up on the death of Odysseus's comrades, and the loss in "o ash // o body of", when the body is both no more and present to us - and the double 'o', zero plus zero, that no amount of adding to that store can add a thing to the abyssal absence of a felt death - a beautiful counterfactual line, worthy of Simonides in his inscriptions for the dead nearly as old as Homer - and the sound the words make, sonorous as the sea itself, from "seen wave" to "bear break", what A N Whitehead would call an 'exemplification' of his notion of 'our single datum' which is 'the whole world, including oneself' - I love this poem, and not least as it is a lament from a poet of a later generation than Mitchell's in a culture in which a prior worker in the field can be forgotten with extraordinary speed and completeness - Brighton knows that Mitchell & Homer are now the same distance from the living - no further away than the reach of an arm to a shelf of books - of course, these are not the only lines in the poem, and the others refer to an elsewhere, or a series of elsewheres, where each short fragment has its own depth & spatial breath - and even this old experienced typesetter can fumble a bit when setting such short lines in the unmeasurable space of a single death which is all our deaths - 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

a note on David Mitchell

Not so long ago, I had occasion (without issue, as it happened) to write a note on New Zealand poet David Mitchell, who died in 2011 - I was going today to add to the "stocktaking" list, Ross Brighton's book, written to be read at the spread of Mitchell's ashes over Auckland Harbour - but before doing that, I thought I'd retrieve this otherwise 'lost' bit of writing, in order to give it a home - I'll add Ross's book in a day or two - meanwhile, here's a precursor -

When the New Zealand literary avant garde (let's give it a name, as any would be equally inadequate and contested) announced itself at the end of the 1960s, it did so thru I think three publications: Freed magazine, the New Zealand Universities Students Association Arts Festival Literary Yearbook, and David Mitchell's Pipe Dreams in Ponsonby. Within two years, Murray Edmond's Entering the Eye (Caveman Press 1973) and A Charlatan's Mosaic (eds Stephen Chan and E S [Elizabeth] Wilson 1972) were issued. In these books a pattern was wedged open with a very different relation between poems & production, and between text & image on the page, than seemed current in mainstream literary publishing. There were a few American magazines that contained images among the poems, some of which were illustrative, but many of which were not – already a juxtaposition of elements that resisted any impulse towards narrative that readers might have had. Traditional narratives, production values & relations between text & image were all under review in those few years. Only the different relations between text & image seems not to have survived the intervening time. And the avant garde (however problematic in the New Zealand scene) no longer has a regular publication or publisher in New Zealand.
             It was always clear in the 1950s and 1960s that to be published by Caxton or McIndoe or Pegasus presses was to participate in not only literary value but book production value also. The book of poems was first & foremost a book of poems, one which had a value supplemental to the poems themselves & in some measure independent of the poems themselves. Freed magazine in contrast was more frail, more ephemeral, went from one format to another as if in isolated fragments, and each issue was just stapled together, a new literary community that was not securely bound in a standard format according to the best of print technology. I was very interested in this when I established A brief description of the whole world in 1995 – its authors & artists had the capacity to put any mark whatever on any part of their pages, and the photocopier was a perfect production method for it.
            My impulse as a printer was different, even tho I valued the early 1970s practice, and was instead to offer a modality of mainstream publishing to avant garde authors that, in those days, was only rarely offered to mainstream poets. Fine press printing has in New Zealand always had its share of detractors, and yet that was in fact how the first poets who 'became' the poetry canon were published in the 1930s by Denis Glover, Bob Lowry and Ron Holloway, and in the wonderful Phoenix magazine, which also mixed text & image but in more traditional ways than did Freed forty years later. These days, text & image have a much more radical & more seamless life in the realm of the artist’s book, often in a unique edition (i.e. edition of one), where image & text and the material of which the book is made all overlap & intertwine with each other in a single experience of reading/viewing, where book & art are fully present in and as the same work. In an interesting way, the historical model for Freed magazine is a book printed in 1499, in Venice, by Aldus Manutius (a hero of some of the most notable book people in New Zealand – Janet Paul, J C Beaglehole (whose poetry was published by Caxton in the 1930s), and Glover) titled Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, in which all possible problems and arrangements of image & text were posed and solved for letterpress printing for the next 350 years. There's a copy of this in the Alexander Turnbull Library, and an English translation which preserved all the page layouts and typeface of the original was published in 1999.
            A major transgression enacted by Mitchell's Pipe Dreams in Ponsonby was that it published poetry in a sans serif type – something that Caxton and its cohorts would never have countenanced – sans serif types were for them (via the English scholar Stanley Morison whose work was well-known to mainstream printer/publishers in New Zealand) appropriate for advertising and some book covers, but not at all for the serious business of cultural transmission of the highest order. The later A Charlatan's Mosaic and Edmond’s Entering the Eye took this a step further when they printed poems in a multiplicity of types throughout – all sense of a unified aesthetic that bound the book together thru the standardised arrangements of poems & types on the page dispersed in front of the reader – no wonder so many of the mainstream poets & critics in the country were bothered, even angered by it. Such dispersal meant there was no central validating principle of ‘authorisation’, and thus no single target for their critical displeasure; but it did permit the traditionalists to lump the multiplicity of targets (i.e. Mitchell's poems, Alan Brunton's poems, Edmond's poems, Russell Haley's poems etc) all together and refuse to make distinctions between them. Nevertheless, I have sometimes wondered, as painters have been more adept at incorporating text into their artwork than writers have been at incorporating images into their texts, whether we let a great opportunity slip by with the passing of the avant garde publications of the early 1970s. A lucid (and ludic) study of the ways in which poetry was printed & published in 1970s New Zealand is still waiting to be done, the groundwork started by Gregory O’Brien (1991) and Noel Waite (2007) yet to be developed outward to the field at large.
            Mitchell's text however also transgressed in other ways, and particularly in his abbreviations of various words, writing them as they are uttered rather than as spelled – the 'e' in 'the' so frequently not sounded in usage, for example, writing 'th', not 'the'. His abbreviations brought the reader back to the materiality of the written or printed word as 'a thing and not a picture of a thing'. And a number of others either followed him or were part of a larger movement in Western poetry in which Mitchell was simply a significant local example. And what of that note at the beginning of the book, that 'all the poems in this book have been read aloud in public' : a very different kind of validating principle from any that had been presented by the poetry of previous decades in New Zealand, and which was and is to me a measure of the coming to be of the poem itself. If it couldn't survive being sounded aloud, it needed changing – a measure I have never abandoned since I first understood it at that time. I only met David twice, the first time in the later 1970s, and this meeting bears on the sounding of the poem very well. He was with Peter Olds and in a house in Christchurch sometime I think in 1977, I read the whole of my poem dear Mondrian to Peter & David. After some raucous applause and a few nice words about the poem, I offered a copy of the book to David, which he declined on the grounds that he was worried he might be influenced by it in his own writing. What he then took from that reading was the sounded poem – aloud, certainly, if not quite 'in public'. I think that many poets now have no idea that the poetry readings they so avidly go to or participate in were pretty much initiated by the rebels of the early 1970s, and that the university arts festivals were primary occasions for them. The poem on the page altered dramatically at this time, the poem got more air at arts festivals, theatres, university campuses, restaurants and pubs, and book and magazine production values underwent a critical examination that is still perhaps waiting for its full articulation. David Mitchell's Pipe Dreams in Ponsonby was a primary component in this pattern that was already appearing in other parts of the culture, both in New Zealand and overseas. Bardic, in the best sense, and acutely aware of how letters & words register on the page, he is still in Pipe Dreams, one of the best and most interesting poets on the block in the early 1970s.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

a poetry reading, no less

here's a great poster/sign in the Helvetican tradition, for the eighth in a series of poetry readings organised by Bonny Cassidy - this will be the first poetry reading in which I have read my own work for years - I read a Martin Harrison poem at a memorial reading for him last year - and I read from Crankhandle at the launch last week - but this is the first 'proper' reading for a long time - the name Sporting Poets derives from an earlier name of the pub where the readings are held, The Sporting Club, but a recent name-change has severed that verbal connection - I'm not sure what I'll read yet, but I have this notion that I might link pieces from all of my limited edition books as a way of airing what usually is not available for purchase here - or, because Crankhandle is a continuation of my Notebooks, I might read from the first volume (Sidetracks 1991) and Melbourne Journal (unpublished) - there is plenty of time in which to change what's left of my mind -