19 August 2009

Back-words and Upside Down

I've been making weekly visits to Mike Kaylor's print shop at the O'Neill Literary House to start working on the Sleight book project. So far I have the type for the first two poems set and have begun setting the type for the last one. Setting type letter by letter by space by punctuation mark is a tedious, slightly disorienting, but oddly relaxing task. Lines of poetry are set in the usual order: from top to bottom, from right to left (on the page)--with type that means that one places the character sorts (pieces of lead type) in this same order, but backwards and upside down on the composing stick. Even the character sorts themselves are the reversals their printed selves. So when searching around in the job case, 'b's look like 'd's, 'd's look like 'b's, 'p's look like 'q's, and 'q's look like 'p's. Sometimes we don't even realize we've switched these letters until we print the first sheet and proof it. This could possibly be the origin of the proverb: "Mind your P's and Q's." It can be confusing, but after a while you learn to read your words and sentences backwards.

Here's my progress:

"Jack"




















The job case from which I've been working




















My small workstation
I'm looking forward to going back for more next week!

04 August 2009

Sleight: A Trio of Duets

Emily has finished her beautiful watercolor paintings illustrating my three poems: "Jack," "Queen of Clover," and "Childling King"--and I am in love with them. You can read the poems here, if you wanted. Now it's time to get down to the actual makings of the book. I am so excited!

First, we need a press name. My press name for my solo projects is Goose Hill Press (could've guessed that one, right?); for my projects with Emma it is Chester Cat Press; and I'm still thinking about what to name my collaborations with Emily. Right now, I'm favoring Thread Lock Press, but we'll see what she thinks. And we've already got a title for the book itself. It is to be called Sleight. This title was decided upon because of the many ways in which this word naturally draws upon the themes inherent in the poems and paintings: Sleight as in "sleight of hand" card tricks (as explained in an earlier post, these three poems play with the Calvino-like idea of folk & fairy tales and playing cards); Sleight as in sounds like "slight" as in a slim volume of work (not even long enough to be a chapbook really), as in small children protagonists, as in the underestimation and marginalization of folk and fairy tales in the literary world. As you can see, quite a bit of thought went into this title selection.

Next, the design and layout of the book. I've decided that the text block itself will be one signature (it's only ten pages long including the half title, full title, dedication/acknowledgements, and colophon pages). But the end papers and the front and back covers will make it more like five signatures (as far as the sewing is concerned). I've chosen to use a coptic stitch for the binding for two reasons: 1. Because it is a natural choice for books with exposed spines (the red thread is an important thematic element connecting the poems and paintings so Emily and I want it to show); 2. Because it also has a beautiful braided effect. The covers will likely be a heavy sort of paper. I'm not quite sure about the dimensions of the book yet--probably somewhere around 4.5 inches x 7 inches. I don't know yet.

I will be printing the text of the book on master printer Mike Kaylor's antique letterpresses (housed at the
Rose O'Neill Literary House). I've already started to set a bit of the type for the first poem. I've chosen Garamond for the font--nothing too flowery or decorative. It's plain but elegant--simple and subtle. Emily's watercolors will be scanned onto her computer and then printed out separately as full-color, photo-quality images. We will then attach them to the appropriate pages by tipping them in. We decided that this was the best method because the extra paper layer will keep the colors from showing through onto the other side of the page; and it was going to be difficult enough printing the text and images separately and using two totally different machines (It would have been extremely difficult to letterpress-print Emily's paintings, not to mention, expensive; and laser printing the text just seems like a cheap imitation when you have the practice on and access to a real live letterpress). This same generational tension (i.e. antique letterpress printing v. digital printing) is another theme that plays out in both the paintings and poems, so we knew we were going the right way about it.

We still need to pick out and purchase the paper we will be using for this book-project. This is going to be a very difficult decision for us both. But once that is arranged, we just need to cut it to the right size (still to be determined) and print! Once the type is set, that is. Then we attach the painting prints; bind the book and wrap it in some sort of heavy-paper protective slipcase. And if we finish in time, Emily and I could present it at the inaugural
ChesBookFest in November! It's a great time to be a book-artist.