Archive for the ‘Cuneiform Press’ Category

Metaphor Taking Shape: Exhibition Checklist

March 31, 2008

An approximate checklist for the exhibitions Metaphor Taking Shape: Poetry, Art, and the Book and The Publisher’s Roundtable: Book Artists in Dialogue has been posted on this site: Exhibitions. A PDF file of the checklist is also available: Checklist (PDF). This checklist does not reflect all additions and subtractions made during installation.

The exhibitions Metaphor Taking Shape: Poetry, Art, and the Book and The Publisher’s Roundtable: Book Artists in Dialogue consider the ways poetry and book arts interact, their intersections and connections, their shared context and their potentially conflicting functions. Though many poets and book artists uphold the book as an almost sacred cultural object, their approaches and their interpretations of the term and concept “book” may differ vastly. The books in Metaphor Taking Shape and The Publisher’s Roundtable demonstrate some of the variety of ways poets, artists, and publishers have explored the book, its intimacy, portability, and physicality, and the ways they have asserted its position as a multifaceted historical and contemporary method of communication, as well as its signification as an evolving cultural object. The works in the exhibitions consider, too, the book’s history and potential as a verbal and visual work of art, the possibilities the format represents for uniting poetry and the visual arts. Both exhibitions explore questions of textuality, verbal and visual metaphor making, tensions between language and image, and the physicality of texts and books.

In part, Metaphor Taking Shape: Poetry, Art, and the Book is arranged chronologically, showing some of the many ways poetry and art have been united in books since the turn of the last century. The exhibition also draws attention to important themes that have influenced poets, book artist, and publishers over time. The Publisher’s Roundtable: Book Artists in Dialogue features the work of six contemporary small presses that have worked variously with poetry and the visual arts, combing the two art forms in both traditional and innovative ways. The exhibition includes mission statements from each press, describing their goals, challenges, and accomplishments.

Both exhibitions highlight poetry and artists’ books from the Yale Collection of American Literature and the Arts of the Book Collection and draw from the Modern Books and Manuscripts Collection at Beinecke Library and the Yale University Art Gallery, showing the depth and richness of Yale University’s collections in this area. Including both celebrated works by influential publishers, artists, and writers and less well known examples made by individuals and groups that have not yet been well studied, the exhibitions do not attempt to represent a comprehensive view of poetry, art, and the book. Instead, the companion exhibitions present and celebrate the variety and vitality, the traditions and trends, the history and the potential futures of the vast and growing body of work uniting art and poetry in book works.

Nancy Kuhl ( and Jae Jennifer Rossman (, Exhibition Curators

Metaphor Taking Shape: Poetry, Art, and the Book and The Publisher’s Roundtable: Book Artists in Dialogue. Companion exhibitions on view at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library and the Arts of the Book Collection at Sterling Memorial Library, January-March 2008



March 19, 2008

Many thanks to our conference speakers for their smart, thought provoking, and inspiring presentations and discussions; thanks, too, to all conference attendees for making Metaphor Taking Shape: Poetry, Art, and the Book a big success.

In support of ongoing conversation, a PDF list of Conference Registrants is now available. The text of the Publishers’ Roundtable preliminary conversation is linked here: Publishers’ Roundtable Blog Text. Information about the exhibition Metaphor Taking Shape is available here: Exhibition Highlights.

Part 2

March 11, 2008

The Publishers’ Roundtable conversation will continue in person on Friday at the conference Metaphor Taking Shape: Poetry, Art, and the Book. Conference registrants are encouraged to download the complete blog text as a PDF in advance of the event:  Publishers’ Roundtable blog text (PDF).

The Artful Side of Things

March 8, 2008

Response from Macy Chadwick, In Cahoots Press

In response, some consider artist’s books an art form, as I do, others don’t. On the artful side of things, here is a quote from sculptor John Chamberlain: “Artfulness has to do with taking a common thing and making an uncommon item…it’s the difference between making a product, copying something you happen to like, and going into an idea deeply and using very common material to bring out a knowledge that has not yet been revealed…this is the high tradition of what art is about, or what I feel it is about.”

Production, Distribution, Content

March 7, 2008

Response from Simon Cutts, Coracle Press 

Dick Higgins of Something Else Press used to say that he matched the time he spent editing, organising and producing a book to the time he spent in distribution and getting it out into the world : nine months production therefore nine months distribution.Dick learned from the formal plain-ness of trade printers and binders to make some of the finest books we have seen. Of course, this marriage between production and distribution cannot be extracated from its content.

A similar artisanal approach and understanding informs Jargon Books in their heyday. They didn’t necessarily have to do much of it themselves, although in the case of Coracle, as Erica keeps reminding me, we have more time than money and so end up doing quite a lot of it at home! Those kind of tradesmen, the printers and binders,  provide the idiomatic structures and strictures that we can break out of, again, without necessarily doing it ourselves, except editorially.

I don’t think we should go down the cul de sac of ‘book artists’, nor get bogged-down in the divisibility of parts of the field, editing,production (paying bills?)!,distribution.  Unless we each attempt to find a methodology for our activity different from ‘book art’, it will be doomed to a branch-line of the visual arts (like moving from ‘artists books’ to ‘conceptual performance’?) and also therby become the province of galleries and specialist dealers, and with the usual perjorative thrust towards expense and rareity, when in fact the qualities we really want are simple form, plain-ness, imperceptible editing, and hopeful availability.

“The Material and Immaterial Lives of the Book”

March 5, 2008

Response from Kyle Schlesinger, Cuneiform Press

When I asked Eliza Newman-Saul why she moved away from artists books and towards conceptual performances and lectures she told me that one major factor was that she felt too much pressure to perform the parallel, and at times conflicting duties of an artist and artisan–moreover, an artisan who wears several hats (bookbinder, typographer, designer, papermaker, printer, photopolymer platemaker, etc.). Then there’s the business of distribution, promotion, paying bills, etc. Then there’s the necessary activity of keeping the art alive in the form of writing, research, building, reading, and participating in critical discussions such as this.

Book artists are not all publishers and vice versa and there’s nothing wrong with that. Neither, in my opinion, has an obligation to wear all hats all the time nor to value all aspects of the book. Walter Hamady, for example, has come close to making books all on his own, but I feel that part of the art is realizing ones talents and ones limits on all counts and making use of the resources in the neighborhood. Simon, so far as I know, has his hardcover books bound by a local bookbinder and letterpress work performed by a local printer with excellent results. Concepts, aesthetics, innovations, and subversions are consistently produced in-house in dialogue with community. Decisions, such as what to farm out to others and what do at home, with ones own time, are crucial.

Coming to publishing from a literary background, I indulge in sloppy printing. My primary interest is in getting the work I value into the right hands, and to have fun learning in the process. Perfect inking, imposition, etc. have never been very important to me so long as the author is happy with the book. I’ve learned to learn that after you’ve made a book, in whatever sense, you cant help but look and glean from every book you encounter. Every consideration becomes an opportunity, every letterform a decision, every margin a point of departure but the most difficult, or at least consistent tension always seems to be between the material and immaterial lives of the book, the thing and the idea, object and ideal.

“Are Images More Visceral than Words?”

February 24, 2008

Remarks from Kyle Schlesinger, Cuneiform Press

I’m interested in C. Mikal Oness’s (Sutton Hoo Press) remarks about selecting texts and images for his books: . . . but for some reason I am more comfortable discussing the caveats involved with a visual artist then I would be working it out with a poet writing about pictures. I wonder why? Ekphrastic writing, at least in the most narrowly defined sense, isn’t exactly my thing either, but there are many poems and poets that have written in response to paintings, photographs and films that are of great importance to me as well as many poets whose reputations as visual artists surpassed their would-have-been lives as poets (Vito Acconci and Jim Dine come to mind). And I suspect that many of the people reading this have written some form of inspired response to visual art at some point in time. I’m not directing my question at CMO in particular, but am interested in elaborating on CMO’s statement.

I spend almost as much time in the world of experimental cinema as I do in the world of poetry, so artists’ books are often a place where these two worlds, the worlds of words and images, tend to mingle. I woke up the other morning with a funny question: has a poem ever made me scream? Laugh? Yes. Cry? Yes. Celan makes me cry, and yes, oddly enough, Wittgenstein does too at times. Scream? I don’t think so, at least not in the way that even the most tawdry horror film does. Are images more visceral than words? More kinetic? More emotional? Why is it that even when you know you know what’s going to happen and it happens you jump anyway? This has something to do with suspense and narrative and more. Expectation is the key. As a poet, critic and collaborator, John Ashbery, for example, has spent a lifetime writing about and after visual artists. You never know what’s going to happen in his poems but you do know what will happen in Hitchcock and they’re both classic.

Images more powerful than words? With the words and images traditionally divided (verso-recto) image wins. See (or at least look) first and read later. And even in the books Alice didn’t like (what use is a book, thought Alice, without pictures or conversations?) when there are no images the image of negative space, text blocks and word forms register before linguistic meaning takes place. Or perhaps that is the part of linguistics that intersects with typography that no one can explain? CMO says (caps his) that the there will be NO ILLUSTRATING THE TEXT by the visual artist in Sutton Hoo Press books. What’s wrong with that? I take it that illustration suggests something to do with the literal interpretation of words? There are many artists (George Schneeman and Trevor Winkfield come to mind) whose literal or double-literal interpretations of the poets’ works work wonders and are decidedly not decorations. So I want to know if an illustration inherently detracts from words while an image informed by, but not necessarily a literal rendering of words, necessarily accentuates the poem? The question itself is problematic, for these terms seem a little archaic for artists book discourse, but that’s changing.

Publishers’ Roundtable: Getting Started

February 14, 2008

To begin the preliminary on line component of The Publishers’ Roundtable, publishers were invited to engage in an e-mail conversation, considering the following list of questions as well as any addition issues and concerns raised by members of the group.

This preliminary dialogue is not intended to exhaust any topic or preempt the conference Roundtable in any way. Instead, it will provide an opportunity to shape to the conference conversation by allowing Roundtable Publishers as well as conference attendees to begin posing questions, voicing opinions, and mapping some of the primary subjects of concern in advance of the conference. The conversation will continue in person at the Metaphor Taking Shape: Poetry, Art, and the Book conference on March 13 and 14, 2008.

Excerpts from the electronic dialog will be posted periodically in the weeks leading up the conference.

Publishers’ Roundtable: Some Preliminary Questions

*How does your choice of publishing model (livre d’artiste / luxury edition model, handcraft / fine press model, low-cost / higher distribution model, etc.) shape the meaning of the book works your press produces? How does the printing or binding method affect the reader’s understanding of (as well as experience of) a text? What is the relationship of the process and the product?

*How do you balance artwork and text in your books? What is the importance of this balance? What are the different effects of the variety of relationships that might exist between art and poetry in the book format (consider the difference between poetry-art books in which images are used to “illustrate” a text, those in which a text is used to accent artwork, those that aim to more fully integrate the two art forms, etc.)?

*How do you select artwork and poetry that will be published together in one volume? What are your primary criteria for each art form? Which comes first in your selection or publication planning process—image or text?

*What is your sense of your press’s readership? Who is your intended reader? How do your readers figure in your understanding of the total “meaning” of any individual book you’ve published? What role does your sense of your readers play in your publishing decisions (selecting texts, images, publishing model, etc)?

*What are the book’s strengths and limitations as a format for uniting poetry and art? How does your press manage the limitations and maximize the strengths?

*Does poetry provide particular opportunities /challenges for interaction with artwork that might not be available if you were working with prose? How do you approach poetic projects differently? Does the poetic line function differently in the context of an image-rich book than the prose line or sentence?

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

*What, if any, role does collaboration play in your press’s mission, work, publications, etc.?

*What makes a successful union of poetry and art in a book?