Archive for the ‘Sutton Hoo 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 (nancy.kuhl@yale.edu) and Jae Jennifer Rossman (jae.rossman@yale.edu), 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

Thanks!

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).

Why do you Publish Poetry and Art Books?

March 11, 2008

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.

“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.

“According to the Demands of the Text”

February 20, 2008

Responses from C. Mikal Oness of Sutton Hoo Press

Q: 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.)?

CMO: I’m interested in what people have come to call artist’s books, and know that they have become sexy in the field and among collectors. I like visual art, and I like structures, and feel they are of equal importance to the verbal text in the making of meaning in a book. Sometimes I have incorporated as many pages of visual text as verbal text in a book. Of course, even if I feel that the variety and subtlety of the codex format and binding structure is also a part of the meaning-making machine that is the book, such projects are never looked upon as artists books. In the end, I think that may be a good thing for me, as I feel many artists books diminish the importance of text too much, and their intentions are too transparent, and they feel contrived to me. I don’t think I’ll ever be a part of that club, though I had, in my earlier days really wanted to be considered. Now I draw from the energy of my collaborators; I take what they give me and read and make the project according to the demands of the texts and my desire to push the technology to whatever limit seems appropriate for the project at hand.

Q: 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?

CMO: When I’m dreaming about what author or what text to use for a book, I often have in mind an artist as well, and an idea about what I think that artist could do for the project. It doesn’t ever work out the way I originally intend, which of course is also part of my intension. I have never given a writer a visual text and asked for a verbal text to go along with it. I have never been able to write like that myself, and have never liked ekphrastic writing I’ve read. Again, it seems contrived. I have given artists manuscripts, however, and asked for their visual contribution, but I have always been clear with them, and talked extensively with them, about NOT ILLUSTRATING THE TEXT. Read it, sure, but work on a visual text that has its own integrity separate from the manuscript. There may be a perverse prejudice in me or a writerly arrogance that feels that it is okay for an artist to work off of a verbal text, but not for a writer to work off a visual text, 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. Let’s remember that the binding structure is a text in itself that joins the chorus early on in the reader’s experience of the book. I have been blessed with very talented, skilled, and patient collaborators in this regard. There are always hours of discussion about the binding structure.

 

Publishers Respond: Choosing a Publishing Model

February 17, 2008

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?

Simon Cutts, Coracle Press
It’s less a question of model, than of idiom. Even the illustrated poetry book is an idiomatic object, owing much to the nineteenth century and one which is occasionally useful. But there should be no separable parts of text and image, but just an attempt to find a synthesis that precludes and overrides their separateness. It’s a question of finding the simplest approach within an understanding of the gestalt.

Carlolee Campbell, Ninja Press
I’d like to say, at the outset, that I work essentially alone. I design the books, set them in type by hand, print letterpress on a Vandercook Universal I on dampened handmade paper (in the main), and then bind the entire edition with some assistance in the bindery. Edition sizes hover around 100. This background should put my responses to the questions on a better footing. I don’t choose a publishing model. The publishing model is arrived at through the digestion of the text. It all starts with the text. The design is text-driven—when there is text. The effect that the printing and binding has on the readers understanding of a text cant be known. There isnt a common understanding, especially in poetry. The books I make present and represent my understanding, my experience of the text. What the reader brings to the book? One can only guess. The relationship of process and product is only everything.

C. Mikal Oness, Sutton Hoo Press
I make fine press books because I’m interested in publishing verbal text in concert with visual text. Most of my decisions about design are based on what I might think is interesting at the time about how meaning is made, not so much about what meaning is made. The latter always leads to contrivance. I suppose I can also say that one thing that is always on my mind when I’m making decisions like this is that my mode of production—the very labor and time intensive act of printing by hand—is something I like to push on, to taunt, as if to say, “Yes, this is a persnickety detail that many readers may not notice, and to do that for 200 copies is a little over the top, but I’m going to do it anyway to be sure the experience of this book is complete according to my vision for it.” The process, then, is the product.

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?