I had my first class today in the Letterpress Printing & Fine Press Publishing Seminar for Emerging Writers at the Center for Book Arts. So much fun! Sarah Nicholls gave a nice introduction to the center and passed around some of the chapbooks from the award series and the broadsides from the reading series. I got to handle some broadsides by those who have read before me, in particular one by my friend Jennifer Kwon Dobbs and one by D. A. Powell. Made me feel all the more humbled to have read as part of their series.
As for my classmates, they are lovely: eight of us total, four gals, four guys (and I know our names because today we printed our names in different types and size fonts): Ella Mei Yon Biggadike, Rena Priest, Hossannah Asuncion, Jean Hartig, Timothy Leonido, Gabriel Rocha, and Myronn Hardy. The ladies are all grads of Sarah Lawrence’s MFA program and some of them know my friend Alex Dimitrov. Ella is a nonfiction writer, and Rena, Hossanah and Jean are poets. Myronn is in Columbia’s MFA program for fiction but he is also an accomplished poet (with two books out from New Issues Press: check them out!). Timothy lives in Philly and is working in the fertile cross-genre, hybrid space between poetry and prose. And Gabriel is a poet and teaches pre-school and is interested in the activist potential in having your own press and distributing pamphlets and fliers. Our instructor is the quite knowledgeable Barbara Henry who is also a poet and publishes chapbooks.
Today’s guest speaker was Jill Magi who shared her story of coming to poetry via graphic design and founding her own press Sona Books. She shared her philosophy and reasons for publishing alternatives to the mainstream, in particular a quote from Anne Waldman: “poets publish other poets.” One of the topics we discussed was thinking about your work and its impact on the public, channeling the Brazilian tradition of cordel where poets publish pamphlets of their work and sell them in public. Speed too, the satisfaction of getting someone’s work out to a public without long months of waiting in a publication queue. Jill has used a subscription series to help finance the publications from her press and that is one way to finance your operations as you can control the supply based on the demand. Just a few of the topics we discussed.
I learned so much today my head is full and brimming. Tomorrow we start setting and printing our own poems. We’ll each be printing copies of a one-poem page for a loose-leafed folio we all get to take home. Looking at last year’s folio I saw friends Beth Anne Royer and Tommy Pico amongst the participants. So poetry friends, if you are close to NYC definitely consider applying to this seminar in the future. If they accept you, it’s tuition free! Wee!
More on my classmates tomorrow as I get to know them better and more on the process as we head into day two!