Why do you Publish Poetry and Art Books?

Q: What is the primary motivation for your poetry-art presswork? In other words, why do you publish poetry and art books?

Carolee Campbell, Ninja Press: The primary motivation for my poetry/art presswork is purely investigative. Working simultaneously on all parts of the book is what excites and challenges me. The evocation of the poetry and its emerging physical manifestation is the magic—the magic of turning ones original idea into a compelling, artistic, seemless whole that, in turn, opens up an intimate dialogue between the artist and the viewer/reader—that’s the expedition I’m on.

Macy Chadwick, In Cahoots Press: My main motivation is to produce artist’s books as an art form. For me, books are my canvas.

C. Mikal Oness of Sutton Hoo Press: The easy part of this question is the ‘why do you publish poetry and art books” part: poetry and art are just better than anything else. Poetry is literally the most important thing in the world. All the world’s problems are answered by it: “men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there . . . .” etc. What is more difficult to talk about–and maybe it is because I’m most interested in the problem–is the primary motivation for making books at all in the way I do—letterpress. The one word answer that keeps coming into my mind as I’ve been turning this question over in my head for the last few years is: sustainability. I still don’t know how to fully make sense of this idea, because when I think of all the obvious ways I can interpret this notion, none of them are completely accurate in and of themselves or even taken together: spiritual food, money to pay bills, verve for art and life, control. For me so much is about process, and I like the reader to have a sense of the process of the making of the book when they use it; I like having it revealed in the binding for example, however subtly. But how does process jive with the notion of sustainability? I keep hearing in my head a small, off the cuff remark that Kim Merker said one day as we were having a coffee break in the press at Iowa. He said, “I like the letterpress because I can stop the machine at any time, walk away and come back to it.” I can stop at any time, I can stop at any time, I can stop at any time. Somehow that notion is at the root of my idea of sustainability, and maybe our conversation in March will help me come closer to understanding why and how. Yes, I grow my own food, I raise my own meat animals. I build soil. I grow grass. I remodel my own houses with materials I recycle, and I can stop at any time; I can invent a new solution; I can make shit up as I go along, and make sense of it and be surprised by it and be enlightened by it, and . . . .

Simon Cutts, Coracle Press: I’ve forgotten, but it just keeps going on. A kind of perversity, seeing how badly things can be done, and getting to know how simply they can be done. A kind of perversity, to deny conventional economic structures, to be in charge of the means of production, to just want to make something, with materials, as an objective correlative to ideas. Then to realize that certain things have to be done, or else they will disappear.

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