Sunday, December 6, 2015

not quite the last post

it's very strange writing for an audience one does not know, either who they are, or how many, or how interested or not they are in whatever has been placed in this space - it has always seemed to me that I have written this blog for someone, and I have no idea who that someone is, that is, who you are - according to the front page here, the blog has nine followers - and apart from a comment or two over the years, I have always felt I have been writing into a void, that this apparently very public space has effectively been a rather private one, and that I have never had any sense that anything akin to dialog might have been taking place here - please, don't get me wrong (I know you're listening), I am not complaining - rather, I am signalling that this particular activity no longer answers to any personal or professional need that I can identify within myself or within my work - 

as a printer, my work is coming to an end - there is damage to my upper arms & shoulders done by 40 years of wielding heavy ink rollers and turning press handles, and which has taken over a year to heal so far, and that process is far from complete - bursitis & tendinitis are the culprits - and I have been struggling over recent months over the question, whether I should print again - a few posts ago I signalled that a 'next' project would be a boxed set of prints, and I'm sad to say that these prints now will not be done - I have informed the poets who so kindly contributed poems for the purpose, and all have been very generous in their responses - there is one small book by R D Wood to be done, and Robert will print those pages himself under my supervision early next year - and then no more books or printing will be issued from Electio Editions - 

at that point I will prepare a full color, digitally printed catalog of Electio books still in print, and the wonderful American booksellers Vamp and Tramp in Birmingham, Alabama, will thenceforth be the sole agent for all exant Electio books - at that point also, I will set about selling my printery, and take up work as a full-time writer and editor of verso magazine - transforming my studio into a study for this next stage in my life - 

so this is not quite the last post - I'll document Robert's book before signing off - but I will keep the blog online, even tho I'll no longer be adding to it beyond that time - 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

launch date for verso magazine

you are cordially invited to the launch of 

verso 1

a Magazine for the Book as a Work of Art

at COLLECTED WORKS BOOKSHOP
Level 1, 37 Swanston Street
Melbourne, VIC 3000

at 6 for 6.30 pm, Tuesday 10 November

Speaker is CHRIS WALLACE-CRABBE


Sunday, October 18, 2015

I know it's been quiet around here

well, yes, it has been quiet, mainly because I have been dedicated to getting my new magazine, verso, up & running - subtitled a magazine for the Book as a Work of Art, verso is devoted solely to the book itself, and to the people who make them - enquiries and subscriptions can be made here

in the first issue is - 

Marian Crawford on Howl for a Black Cockatoo by Sue Anderson & Gwen Harrison.

Alex Selenitsch on The Codex Foundation's Alchimie du Verbe.

R D Wood on Bruno Leti's & Chris Wallace-Crabbe's The Alignments (one).

Peter Vangioni on the printing & books of Brendan O'Brien.

Alan Loney on Alessandro Zanella's Persephone, a poem by Yannis Ritsos with prints by Joe Tilson.

coming up in verso 2 is -

Francis McWhannell on a book by Elizabeth Steiner.

Derek Lamb on a book by Sheree Kinlyside at Red Rag Press.

Marian Crawford on a book by Juliana O'Dean.

and more




Friday, June 5, 2015

a stack of stutterers


Aaron Cohick of The Press at Colorado College sent me this fine picture of a pile of just completed sewings of Orpheus the stutterer : a poetics of silence, launched when I was in Colorado just prior to Codex 2013 in Berkeley, California - the book begins with three epigraphs - 

1) And it is no secret to any of you that the exact meaning of poetics is the study of work to be done (Igor Stravinsky -

2) in the beginning was the wor-wor-wor-wor-wor- (George South, stuttering -

3) the silence is vibrant with words (Ursula Bethell - 

what follows is a set of ruminations on the lyric, stuttering, the aptitude of the human species for killing itself - 

there's a lovely review of the book in Parenthesis magazine (# 26, Spring 2014) by John Harvey, in which he says 'Coming in an age when publishers are ever less willing to publish books that do not promise to best-sell (a promise seldom kept), Orpheus the stutterer is a premeditated worst-seller'. - a premise that one can only hope is also seldom kept - but the review is very positive and encapsulates much of a fragmentary text very well - 

here's a bit from the first page - 

what is it that each of us will never be permitted to say
and how vibrant with words
will that silence always be
and remain silence         however loud
the murmur of language
becomes in our becoming & unbecoming
rage to speak         in the beginning 
was the unutterable end
of the wor(l)d



Tuesday, June 2, 2015

a boxed set of broadsides

next up for Electio, as hinted earlier, is a set of poetry broadsides, seven of 'em, in a box, to be issued sometime in July/August this year - poets are Marion May Campbell, Robert Wood, Ross Brighton, Jennifer Harrison, Ruark Lewis, Gig Ryan, and yrs truly - all will be on different handmade papers, types and colours, but all printed on the handpress and some, perhaps all, will have extra handwork done on them by Miriam Morris - more news and a picture or two after production starts -  

Thursday, May 28, 2015

stocktaking 6


a spread from Ross Brighton's lovely elegy for David Mitchell, Lullaby, issued in 26 copies in 2014 - printed on the Pratt-Albion handpress in Dante & Gill Sans Light on Magnani handmade paper, with Cave handmade paper covers in a box - the colored figures are done with brass rules - there are three copies still available - the poem should be read aloud, and very slow, to catch both the rich resonances that can be heard in the language - on page one, the first word is "Isle" and three lines later is "Circle", and the isle of Circe in Homer, the ashes strewn on seawater, picks up on the death of Odysseus's comrades, and the loss in "o ash // o body of", when the body is both no more and present to us - and the double 'o', zero plus zero, that no amount of adding to that store can add a thing to the abyssal absence of a felt death - a beautiful counterfactual line, worthy of Simonides in his inscriptions for the dead nearly as old as Homer - and the sound the words make, sonorous as the sea itself, from "seen wave" to "bear break", what A N Whitehead would call an 'exemplification' of his notion of 'our single datum' which is 'the whole world, including oneself' - I love this poem, and not least as it is a lament from a poet of a later generation than Mitchell's in a culture in which a prior worker in the field can be forgotten with extraordinary speed and completeness - Brighton knows that Mitchell & Homer are now the same distance from the living - no further away than the reach of an arm to a shelf of books - of course, these are not the only lines in the poem, and the others refer to an elsewhere, or a series of elsewheres, where each short fragment has its own depth & spatial breath - and even this old experienced typesetter can fumble a bit when setting such short lines in the unmeasurable space of a single death which is all our deaths - 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

a note on David Mitchell


Not so long ago, I had occasion (without issue, as it happened) to write a note on New Zealand poet David Mitchell, who died in 2011 - I was going today to add to the "stocktaking" list, Ross Brighton's book, written to be read at the spread of Mitchell's ashes over Auckland Harbour - but before doing that, I thought I'd retrieve this otherwise 'lost' bit of writing, in order to give it a home - I'll add Ross's book in a day or two - meanwhile, here's a precursor -

When the New Zealand literary avant garde (let's give it a name, as any would be equally inadequate and contested) announced itself at the end of the 1960s, it did so thru I think three publications: Freed magazine, the New Zealand Universities Students Association Arts Festival Literary Yearbook, and David Mitchell's Pipe Dreams in Ponsonby. Within two years, Murray Edmond's Entering the Eye (Caveman Press 1973) and A Charlatan's Mosaic (eds Stephen Chan and E S [Elizabeth] Wilson 1972) were issued. In these books a pattern was wedged open with a very different relation between poems & production, and between text & image on the page, than seemed current in mainstream literary publishing. There were a few American magazines that contained images among the poems, some of which were illustrative, but many of which were not – already a juxtaposition of elements that resisted any impulse towards narrative that readers might have had. Traditional narratives, production values & relations between text & image were all under review in those few years. Only the different relations between text & image seems not to have survived the intervening time. And the avant garde (however problematic in the New Zealand scene) no longer has a regular publication or publisher in New Zealand.
             It was always clear in the 1950s and 1960s that to be published by Caxton or McIndoe or Pegasus presses was to participate in not only literary value but book production value also. The book of poems was first & foremost a book of poems, one which had a value supplemental to the poems themselves & in some measure independent of the poems themselves. Freed magazine in contrast was more frail, more ephemeral, went from one format to another as if in isolated fragments, and each issue was just stapled together, a new literary community that was not securely bound in a standard format according to the best of print technology. I was very interested in this when I established A brief description of the whole world in 1995 – its authors & artists had the capacity to put any mark whatever on any part of their pages, and the photocopier was a perfect production method for it.
            My impulse as a printer was different, even tho I valued the early 1970s practice, and was instead to offer a modality of mainstream publishing to avant garde authors that, in those days, was only rarely offered to mainstream poets. Fine press printing has in New Zealand always had its share of detractors, and yet that was in fact how the first poets who 'became' the poetry canon were published in the 1930s by Denis Glover, Bob Lowry and Ron Holloway, and in the wonderful Phoenix magazine, which also mixed text & image but in more traditional ways than did Freed forty years later. These days, text & image have a much more radical & more seamless life in the realm of the artist’s book, often in a unique edition (i.e. edition of one), where image & text and the material of which the book is made all overlap & intertwine with each other in a single experience of reading/viewing, where book & art are fully present in and as the same work. In an interesting way, the historical model for Freed magazine is a book printed in 1499, in Venice, by Aldus Manutius (a hero of some of the most notable book people in New Zealand – Janet Paul, J C Beaglehole (whose poetry was published by Caxton in the 1930s), and Glover) titled Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, in which all possible problems and arrangements of image & text were posed and solved for letterpress printing for the next 350 years. There's a copy of this in the Alexander Turnbull Library, and an English translation which preserved all the page layouts and typeface of the original was published in 1999.
            A major transgression enacted by Mitchell's Pipe Dreams in Ponsonby was that it published poetry in a sans serif type – something that Caxton and its cohorts would never have countenanced – sans serif types were for them (via the English scholar Stanley Morison whose work was well-known to mainstream printer/publishers in New Zealand) appropriate for advertising and some book covers, but not at all for the serious business of cultural transmission of the highest order. The later A Charlatan's Mosaic and Edmond’s Entering the Eye took this a step further when they printed poems in a multiplicity of types throughout – all sense of a unified aesthetic that bound the book together thru the standardised arrangements of poems & types on the page dispersed in front of the reader – no wonder so many of the mainstream poets & critics in the country were bothered, even angered by it. Such dispersal meant there was no central validating principle of ‘authorisation’, and thus no single target for their critical displeasure; but it did permit the traditionalists to lump the multiplicity of targets (i.e. Mitchell's poems, Alan Brunton's poems, Edmond's poems, Russell Haley's poems etc) all together and refuse to make distinctions between them. Nevertheless, I have sometimes wondered, as painters have been more adept at incorporating text into their artwork than writers have been at incorporating images into their texts, whether we let a great opportunity slip by with the passing of the avant garde publications of the early 1970s. A lucid (and ludic) study of the ways in which poetry was printed & published in 1970s New Zealand is still waiting to be done, the groundwork started by Gregory O’Brien (1991) and Noel Waite (2007) yet to be developed outward to the field at large.
            Mitchell's text however also transgressed in other ways, and particularly in his abbreviations of various words, writing them as they are uttered rather than as spelled – the 'e' in 'the' so frequently not sounded in usage, for example, writing 'th', not 'the'. His abbreviations brought the reader back to the materiality of the written or printed word as 'a thing and not a picture of a thing'. And a number of others either followed him or were part of a larger movement in Western poetry in which Mitchell was simply a significant local example. And what of that note at the beginning of the book, that 'all the poems in this book have been read aloud in public' : a very different kind of validating principle from any that had been presented by the poetry of previous decades in New Zealand, and which was and is to me a measure of the coming to be of the poem itself. If it couldn't survive being sounded aloud, it needed changing – a measure I have never abandoned since I first understood it at that time. I only met David twice, the first time in the later 1970s, and this meeting bears on the sounding of the poem very well. He was with Peter Olds and in a house in Christchurch sometime I think in 1977, I read the whole of my poem dear Mondrian to Peter & David. After some raucous applause and a few nice words about the poem, I offered a copy of the book to David, which he declined on the grounds that he was worried he might be influenced by it in his own writing. What he then took from that reading was the sounded poem – aloud, certainly, if not quite 'in public'. I think that many poets now have no idea that the poetry readings they so avidly go to or participate in were pretty much initiated by the rebels of the early 1970s, and that the university arts festivals were primary occasions for them. The poem on the page altered dramatically at this time, the poem got more air at arts festivals, theatres, university campuses, restaurants and pubs, and book and magazine production values underwent a critical examination that is still perhaps waiting for its full articulation. David Mitchell's Pipe Dreams in Ponsonby was a primary component in this pattern that was already appearing in other parts of the culture, both in New Zealand and overseas. Bardic, in the best sense, and acutely aware of how letters & words register on the page, he is still in Pipe Dreams, one of the best and most interesting poets on the block in the early 1970s.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

a poetry reading, no less

here's a great poster/sign in the Helvetican tradition, for the eighth in a series of poetry readings organised by Bonny Cassidy - this will be the first poetry reading in which I have read my own work for years - I read a Martin Harrison poem at a memorial reading for him last year - and I read from Crankhandle at the launch last week - but this is the first 'proper' reading for a long time - the name Sporting Poets derives from an earlier name of the pub where the readings are held, The Sporting Club, but a recent name-change has severed that verbal connection - I'm not sure what I'll read yet, but I have this notion that I might link pieces from all of my limited edition books as a way of airing what usually is not available for purchase here - or, because Crankhandle is a continuation of my Notebooks, I might read from the first volume (Sidetracks 1991) and Melbourne Journal (unpublished) - there is plenty of time in which to change what's left of my mind - 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

stocktaking 5



these two pictures are from Soma : guarding the body, a set of poems made up from various translations of fragments from the preSocratic philosophers - the prospectus says : 'I first encountered the preSocratic philosophers in Kathleen Freeman’s translation in  the early 1960s. The poems are derived from several different translations of the preSocratics, with additions, omissions, alterations and even downright distortions by the author. While none of my speculations should be attributed to the translating poets and scholars, I nevertheless dedicate this book to them, for most of us know little of the beginnings of secular thought in the West without their labor. The paper is Magnani handmade 160gsm damped for printing on a Pratt-Albion handpress with Giovanni Mardersteig’s Dante types. The images are made from brass rules and other type decorations, with some handwork, especially with hand-wielded rollers, by the author.'  Binding and slipcases by Wolfgang Schaefer. 230x140mm, 48 pages. Edition is 30 copies, 26 of which, lettered A to Z, are for sale.  There are still three copies available.




Tuesday, May 5, 2015

what's next for Electio

there's been something of a hiatus in printing at Electio, occasioned by damage to my shoulders after years of wielding a heavy ink roller & handpress handle turning - right now I am doing gentle exercises & receiving physiotherapological pummelling in order to loosen the shoulders and heal the damage - so I'm planning smaller projects than books, even tho I have two books on the bench to which I am committed - one, a poem by Robert Wood I commissioned last year, and the other, a selection of poems by my friend & mentor of the 1960s George South - 

meanwhile, a suite of prints or broadsides is being prepared - poems are in from Ross Brighton, Marion May Campbell, & Robert Wood, two more are in preparation (I'll announce those when the poems are in), and I may add to it myself - for the broadsides Robert Wood will turn the press's handle for me - the proposal at present is for the broadsides to be available as a boxed set, with some prospect of individual copies also being for sale - the overall edition is likely to be 26 copies, each approx 230 x 305 mm (9 x 12 inches), with a range of papers, types, designs, colors, and some hand-work on all or some of the prints by Miriam Morris - 



as part of my thinking about how I might usefully 'down-size', as the saying goes, I have ordered a few sheets of papyrus (yes, made in Egypt) to see what other prospects can be in store - and it has only just occurred to me to wonder if the printerly fascination with Zerkall Nideggen paper (see picture above), with its very visible laid and chain lines and darkish tan color is in part due to a sort of historical memory of the texture & color of papyrus, upon which so much of the original western literary & philosophical heritage was written - after years of messing around on the edges of Ancient Greek material, I started formal study of the language at Melbourne University this year, and 'I wouldn't be surprised' (as Archilochos said after seeing what seems to have been a solar eclipse), if I began writing poems in Greek - and wouldn't it be great to be able to print something that looked like this, from Callimachos (taken from Wikipedia) classified as an 'Elegy, Aitiological poetry' - 





Tuesday, April 28, 2015

stocktaking 4


another nice photograph by Bruno Leti, in this case of Mouseion Museum, in just 15 copies with 12 for sale - there is one copy left - the poem is made up from passages in my The books to come (Cuneiform Press 2010) - it's on Cave handmade paper, printed in silver at the Pratt-Albion handpress, with Dante, Libra, & Open Kapitalen types - the image is made with brass rules on loan from Otakou Press at University of Otago, New Zealand - and the book is 170 x 130 mm in a blue cloth-covered box - I like the way the shifting colors of the paper alter the colors of the type, and each page is colored differently from page to page and copy to copy - it is I think one of the most condensed accounts of my own engagement with words, with the poem, and with the book I have put together - here's another poem from the work - 

                     the muses as
                              THE LIBRARY
                              THE BOOKS
                     wherever they are
                     a library which has
                               no opening
                               or closing hours
                     that we never visit
                               and never leave
                     in which we inevitably
                               READ
                                      &
                                  WRITE

Friday, April 24, 2015

stocktaking 3


a spread from Heart Sutra, issued in 2009 - a response to being caught up in this most extraordinary of Buddhist Sutras, one of the toughest documents in the philosophical canon - I first read it in the mid-1960s in the translation & commentary of Edward Conze, a little book with both the Heart and the short form of the Diamond (or the 'Diamond cutter') Sutras - as with a number of works that are primary for me as a writer/thinker I had wanted to print Heart Sutra for many years, but was held back by having no qualifications for doing so, and it always seemed to me that reproducing a version that was still commercially available didn't make a lot of sense - when I later found that there were many versions of the work, most of which were translated and on-line, I wondered whether a kind of crib might be possible by comparing every translation I could find - the job was compounded by there being a number of 'originals', versions in a number of other languages that had been made centuries ago - I eventually had about 15 of them spread out on the desk - roughly, what I did was to strip (some of the versions were somewhat flowery in their language & the amount of religious reference they contained) everything that seemed to me to be unessential to the core of the work, to see if it were possible to show a writing that could be read, understood, and accepted by even the most rabid atheist - even so, I wanted to personally be in the background, my name's not on the titlepage, a way of saying that the work chose me, not the other way round, and there is no black ink in the book at all - the poem is printed in silver - there is one copy for sale - the photo was taken by Bruno Leti - 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Crankhandle's launch date


my first commercially produced book of poems since 2008 will now be launched on Wednesday 6 May, 6pm, at Collected Works Bookshop, 1st floor, Nicholas Building, Swanston St, Melbourne - it will share billing with 3 other books, all part of a new venture of poetry book publishing by Cordite Books Inc, publishers also of the online magazine Cordite - the launch will be done by Justin Clemens, and poems will be read from all four books - I will read from Crankhandle, John Hawke from his Aurelia, Tony Birch from Natalie Harkin's Dirty Words, and Lisa Gorton from Ross Gibson's Stone Grown Cold - I understand the latter 'substitutions' are because those poets don't live in Victoria, and won't be present at the Melbourne event - 

because this blog is also bookish in other senses, I'll quote here from Crankhandle, which is subtitled 'Notebooks', two bits quoted from others in the text - 

Dan Carr : 'the process of craft - the transformation
                    of materials - is a process of discovery of
                    previously unknown or unseen aspects of
                    existence'

Kathy Walkup : 'the book is a public place'

and while I'm at it, here's the epigraph to the work, a gritty reminder of the sheer fact of historical forgetting occasioned by the advent of the computer & its masking of the means of its operation, from Rochelle Altman -

                    in antiquity, people knew the meaning and relevance
                                    of every component of a writing system

Saturday, April 18, 2015

From hence poetic fancy learn'd


today's title is filch'd from the type set in the picture above, as the photo also is filch'd, from the website of The Salvage Press of Jamie Murphy, in Dublin, Ireland - I recommend too his tumblr site - there's a lot to see, so when you go into either site, have a few minutes up your sleeve - Jamie Murphy himself seems to roll up a lot of sleeves here & there, including setting the above type, a page from a poem by Jonathan Swift, and curating an exhibition at The National Print Museum in Dublin, titl'd Exquisite Editions, where "25 outstanding books from some of the world's leading fine press printers" has today concluded, having run from March 4 to April 18 - while it's gratifying that I have been included in the "25", it's great to see Tara MacLeod & his Pear Tree Press in New Zealand also in the mix, as part of the recent inclusion of antipodean printers in the overall international scene - a short selection from the other exhibitors includes Barbarian Press, Editions Koch, Greenboathouse Press, Heavenly Monkey, Midnight Paper Sales, Russell Maret, The Lone Oak Press, Incline Press, The Old School Press, & Jamie Murphy's own The Salvage Press - Jamie describes his press activities as 'nomadic', by which he seems to mean that he moves from one printery to another, making books and establishing projects as he goes - it's not quite the same as early itinerant printers who'd cart a printing press around from one town to another, print a few things for the local people, then move on to the next town - but Jamie's enterprise must be unique, tho it would be interesting to see if there are other examples - but, check him out, it's a fine thing he's got going, with high standards of text & production 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

stocktaking 2


Prima materia is the first & only type specimen book I have issued - it didn't list or name types with alphabets, but simply used the types in various settings, some of which were copies of pages in previously printed volumes and others were newly minted for the purpose of the book - the image on the left above is made solely from brass rules, while that on the right contains an image & a few words taken from the great Aldus Manutius's Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, Venice 1499 - I had that block made sometime in the 1980s and have brought it out from hiding on a few occasions since then - 

below on the left is simply a small act of homage to the man who started us on the way to print & the multiplication of (more or less, as it turned out) exact copies of a single text - even if "aventur und kunst" were not Gutenberg's words they still perform as a primary stimulus for most of us in the field of fine printing - the types here are John Peters's Castellar & Giovanni Mardersteig's Dante - on the right, the large figures are wood type and the only part of whatever font it is that I have - the Greek below is Jan van Krimpen's Open Kapitalen, and the whole setting a nice example of what can be designed when one accepts the sheer limitations of what one has - 24 letters in the Greek alphabet = 22 + 2, and voila, a design & text looms into view - 

the work is done in 50 copies on Magnani handmade paper & printed on a Pratt-Albion handpress - there are just 2 copies available at AUD $750 - the pictures were taken by Bruno Leti - 


Monday, April 13, 2015

more Richard Wagener in 'Vestige'


when noting Vestige way back on February 16 I should have included one of Richard Wagener's wood engravings, and I thus rectify that omission here - the are five in the book, all with the central colors different on different colored backgrounds - all of the colors are very soft and seem to sink into or emerge from the paper, which is a very thin, fragile, Japanese handmade yamagampi paper which rests on a blank sheet of sturdier Twinrocker as a kind of support behind it - all the poems were written to be of the same length as the poem shown, each to fit closely the size of the central image in the engraving - it's another example where the prints came first and the poems after, a reversal of the more common process of making images to follow texts - I understand there are still copies of Vestige available, tho the earlier collaboration between Richard & myself, Loom, published by David Pascoe's Nawakum Press (see Nawakum's new website, it's splendid) is out of print - the picture above was taken by Richard - 

Friday, April 10, 2015

stocktaking 1


over the next few weeks I'll be running notes on Electio books that are still in print (which means that a copy or two is still available for sale), even tho 'in print' may mean there's only one copy left - above is the title opening of Jenson's Greek, based originally on a reading of Nicolas Jenson's 1480 Last Will & Testament - calligrapher Deirdre Hassed drew some wonderful enlargements of some letters from Jenson's Greek type (1471) and they became 'illustrations' for the book, each printed in a different color - some of the poems are poetical-looking accounts of fragments of the history of the types & Jenson's place in Venetian printing, some are rearrangements of parts of Jenson's Will & some nice oddities in the English translation, and some are a) a copy of the Jenson type, b) a resetting in Victor Scholderer's New Hellenic type, c) a rough transcription of a number of translations of the passage (from Plato's Gorgias quoted by Aulus Gellius in his Noctes Attica, printed by Jenson in 1472) - here's one of Deirdre's letters, hand-drawn and reproduced in the book using magnesium blocks - the pictures were taken by Robert McCamant - 



Saturday, March 28, 2015

the Book Beautiful in New Zealand


the photo is by Mark Beatty, and here Ruth Lightbourne, Curator of Rare Books at The Turnbull Library, Wellington, and Melissa Bryant, a Master of Information Studies student at Victoria University and a recent intern at the Turnbull show some of my books (Jenson's Greek by Loney, Lullaby by Ross Brighton, and Mondrian's Flowers by Loney and Max Gimblett which was published, not by me but by Granary Books, New York) - the books are part of The Book Beautiful exhibition running from 2 March to 22 May 2015 -  "selected by Ruth Lightbourne, Curator of the Rare Book Collection, this beautiful and exquisite grouping includes medieval manuscripts, early hand-printed works from the 15th century, the finest examples of the 19th and early 20th century private press movement, embroidered and jewelled bookbindings, and more. A New Zealand section features a specially commissioned work by Auckland printer Tara McLeod of the Pear Tree Press" - 

the term 'book beautiful' is derived of course from the essay The Ideal Book or Book Beautiful by T J Cobden-Sanderson (Doves Press 1900), in which he elaborates a set of ideals in the fields of Calligraphy, Typography and Illustration toward 'The Book Beautiful as a Whole' - I don't have a copy of the Doves Press publication, but a reprint from The Arif Press of Wesley Tanner (Berkeley 1972) - a small volume nicely printed in 500 copies, 350 'sewn in wrappers', 150 'hand bound in boards at the Press' - I wonder if, because Cobden-Sanderson's essay was written just over 100 years ago, a kind of philosophical update might be worth a try, when the world itself and the book within it have changed so dramatically since then - Doves Press was to my mind a far more accurate guide to the future of the book & of type design than was anything by William Morris, even tho Morris was the more influential thinker about the fate of the book against the procedures of industrial production in the late 19th century and the role of craft in the face of industrialisation - so it's nice to see Cobden-Sanderson recalled in the Book Beautiful, and in New Zealand as well, as far geographically from the so-called centres as can be imagined - if you can get to the exhibition, go to it - 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Daidalos lives!


yesterday, a serious-looking box arrived thru the post with the words ‘Codex Foundation’ noted on the packing slip – it contained the much-awaited Alchimie du Verbe project : a set of 26 signatures of & by 26 book artists from all over the world, all hinging in one way & another, as stimulus or counter-stimulus, to the poem by Arthur Rimbaud having this title – if one was looking for a snapshot of the life & health of the book as a work of art, then this collection has everything – most of it based on letterpress printing, but others relying on linocut, wood-engraving, photography, digital printing, and one work done solely as writing in pencil – a brilliant register of the spread of bookish possibility, from the craft-based artisan at one end of the spectrum to the wit of the conceptual artist at another end – to quote from Peter Rutledge Koch’s introduction to the collection: “To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the CODEX Book Fair and Symposium, the Codex Foundation commissioned 26 printers and book artists from eight countries to contribute a single signature to a printers’ assembling and exchange entitled Alchimie du Verbe. The project, designed to support the work of the Foundation, is a compendium of the printer’s art ranging from examples of fine press printing and typographic experimentation to the avant garde – an assembling representative of the collective genius of the CODEX International Book Fair.” –

my ‘favourites’ I will keep to myself, but I want to list everyone here, and for the most part, googling their names will allow more to be seen from each one (the order is purely alphabetic) : Walter Bachinski & Janis Butler, Victoria Bean, Karen Bleitz, Carolee Campbell, Aaron Cohick, Crispin Elsted, Nacho Gallardo, Martha Hellion, Sarah Horowitz, Mikhail Karassik, Peter Rutledge Koch, Patricia Lagarde, Clemens-Tobias Lange, Alan Loney, Peter Malutzki & Ines von Ketelhodt, Russell Maret, Rick Myers, Didier Mutel, Robin Price, Harry Reese & Sandra Liddell Reese, Dmitry Sayenko, Veronika Schapers, Gaylord Shanilec, Johannes Strugalla & Francoise Despalles, Richard Wagener, Sam Winston –

for my own work in the project, I wrote & printed a new poem with Rimbaud’s poem very much in mind – here’s the cover – 






Saturday, March 14, 2015

new book from Cordite Books


here's the cover spread of my first 'commercially published' book of poetry since Day's Eye, Rubicon Press, Canada in 2008 - it continues my Notebooks, tho they have not been continuously issued - the first instalment was Sidetracks : Notebooks 1976 - 1991, Auckland University Press 1998 (copies still available thru AbeBooks.com), and the next is Melbourne Journal : Notebooks 1998 - 2003, as yet unpublished - the current title Crankhandle comes from a friend's request for poems to publish in a venture that didn't materialise, but I had said to him that I'd be happy to "crank out a few poems " for the purpose - and there's a mechanical relationship (however dubious, however distant, however tenuous - perhaps the real & sole connection is the writer's role as cranky crank dwelling outside the mainstream!) between the crankhandle of my first car, a 1930 Plymouth, which I occasionally had to crank into life, and the handle of the handpress which is a constancy in printing on the Albion - the present book will be published in April, and no doubt it will be launched somewhere, so I'll register that information when I know it - here's a bit from Crankhandle


how make it new

of old words
                                                                        time to give
old paper                                                                        meaning
& old pens                                                      the slip
                                                                                          that eyes open
old hands                                                      for the first
& old blood                                                                        time

old books
& old eyes

Thursday, March 12, 2015

&, while I think of it

"do not let the wonder of it get away" - William Saroyan, talking on a recording of him reading from his work I used to have a few decades ago - and, into the bargain, extrapolating from Wittgenstein - and here I am again, also, being Bartleby again - and that via Blanchot - do I have anything whatever to say that doesn't come from another - 

the word is everything
that's in the case


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

the very old is now


a glimpse of Gill Sans Greek as used in Peter Koch's edition of Herakleitos, translated by Guy Davenport, and which type I have just bought from Offizin Parnassia - no lower case, no accents, like most ancient stone inscriptions and papyrus documents, and closest therefore to some of the oldest Western documents we can read - Guy Davenport says Herakleitos's "presence as a spirit in both modern poetry (Eliot, Pound, William Carlos Williams, Hopkins) and modern physics makes him peculiarly a twentieth-century guide" - the type does not have the kind of inscriptional characteristics of ancient stone-cutting that went into the late Dan Carr's wonderful Parmenides metal type (of which I have no picture, I'm sorry to say, and nor does it seem to be available now, and nor does the closest thing to it, Christopher Stinehour's digital Diogenes Greek and the variant Diogenes Text Greek - Gill's Greek is what they call 'monoline' where the line of the letter is the same width thruout, whereas the lines of both Stinehour's & Carr's types are slightly flared at the outer ends, showing a much closer relationship to the original chisel-cut letters from which they are derived - in any case, examples can be seen in one of the great books on book-making in the current era, Carving the Elements : A Companion to the Fragments of Parmenides, with essays by everyone involved: Peter Koch (printer/publisher), Robert Bringhurst (translator), Dan Carr (metal type designer & cutter), Christopher Stinehour (letter-carver & digital type designer), Daniel Kelm (bookbinder), Peggy Gotthold (bookbinder), Richard Wagener (wood engraver) - and while there is no essay by him, Richard Seibert was also a compositor in the project - Gill's Greek, however, remains to my eye very elegant and I look forward to making word in it, then making book - 

Monday, March 9, 2015

fresh type from Parnassus


well, perhaps not quite Parnassus, but certainly Offizin Parnassia in Switzerland (they have, by the way, a splendid type catalog in PDF form you can download) - pictured here is the 24pt Albertus Light I showed back on January 10 - there's something about unused type, a sense, when I look at it, of open possibility, the scope of which will decrease at the precise point when it is put in the press, ink'd, & press'd into paper - the letters of the English alphabet are capable of registering a great many languages, a prospect diminished at the time any one language is chosen - is it similar to the loss of linguistic possibility written about by Daniel Heller-Roazen when he recounts Roman Jakobson : ". . . infants, he maintained, are capable of everything. Without the slightest effort, they can produce any - and all - sounds contained in human languages". And then quoting Jakobson : ". . . the child loses nearly all of his [her] ability to produce sounds in passing from the pre-linguistic stage to the first acquisition of words, that is, to the first genuine stage of language". (from Echolalias: On the forgetting of language, Daniel Heller-Roazen, Zone Books 2005) - is unprinted type like that - full of a total possibility that is erased or at least diminished when it's put to the service of just one or two languages - and if the type one acquires is secondhand, what then, if it was used in one language, to be henceforth used for another - there is of course no memory in the metal that passes over tho some would like to think so - a kind of unrealisable inherence, perhaps - in the transformation of lead type into gold words, the work stands at an absolute beginning, every time new, every time fresh, every time as all time, and no time as part of any sort of sequence - and, listening again to Guy Davenport in 1974 (the year I started to print) : "We are just now seeing, amidst the fads and distractions, the strange fact that what has been most modern in our time was what was most archaic. . . " - along with the Albertus from Switzerland came a quantity of Gill Sans Greek type, in capital letters only, in which both the old and the new are both equally present to sight and to the prospects at hand &, literally, in the hand-setting of type - what's past is present, and the present is ever reaching forward - 



Sunday, March 8, 2015

new book from Carivari in Leipzig

back in the old days of CODEX 2014 in Melbourne, when Sabine Golde of Carivari showed & presented her books at the Book Fair, we found ourselves in conversation about books and about Autumn, her "favourite season", and one possibly more sharply delineated in Germany than our autumn is in Victoria, Australia - during that talk she asked if I would write something, a poem, on Autumn for her, and now the resultant book is available - 
the cover, not the text pages, is a concertina, printed with images of Eucalyptus leaves on both sides of the paper, as the light coming thru in the picture shows - the book is bilingual,  my first ever, in any language, English & German, with the German translation done by well-known translator Steffen Popp - the two languages are differentiated by different ink colors, and placed on the page thus - 

there are 23 copies, 262 x 102 mm (10.3 x 4 inches) - the orange cover slides nicely into a red slipcase, and the price is 70 Euros - 

Monday, February 16, 2015

new book from Mixolydian Editions


word has it that it was Sappho who invented the ancient Mixolydian mode for the lyre (a scale close to playing the white notes on the piano from B to B) - her influence, tho still active among us, can still serve as a benchmark that so many of us poets fail to match - if we are, as printers, still trying to catch up with Gutenberg, then can we also be seen, as poets, still trying to catch up with Sappho - 

Richard Wagener's Mixolydian Editions has just released Vestige, five wood engravings by the printer and eleven poems by 'the present writer' - it has just been shown at CODEX V, tho sadly I was unable to be in California for this year's book event - here's the colophon - 

Vestige was designed and printed by Richard Wagener at Mixolydian Editions, Petaluma, California. The text was composed in Monotype Bembo and cast by Patrick Reagh, Sebastopol, California and printed on handmade Twinrocker paper. The engravings were printed from boxwood blocks on handmade Yamagampi paper. Deirdre Hassed, Melbourne, Australia, created the calligraphic title. The book was bound by Lisa Van Pelt in Philo, California using handmade Twinrocker paper for the cover. The slipcase was made with handmade paper from Papeterie St-Armand, Montreal.

The edition is limited to 36 signed and numbered copies for sale. In addition, there are 9 artist and studio proofs, and 5 copies hors de commerce. 32 pages, 13 x 6.75 inches. US$750.00.


Orders may be placed through richardwagener.com, or at 818.599.0945. Individual prints may be available upon request.


this book is the second collaboration I have had the privilege of being involved in with Richard, the first being Loom, published by Nawakum Press, California - and it is a great pleasure too that the title lettering was done by my Melbourne friend Deirdre Hassed - 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

one's library's hidden depths

there are books on my shelves that I have (almost) never opened, books that have been there for years, even decades, without my attention becoming directed to their pages - one such is William Carlos Williams's Paterson, Books I - V, (London, MacGibbon & Kee, 1964) - not because I made any sort of decision against it, but simply, with my incredibly slow reading speed and along with more other books than I feel comfortable about, I haven't got around to it - Paterson of course is one of the primary modernist works, even if Charles Olson did give it a hard time, and ought to have been in my consciousness a long time before now - so, I open it at random, and here it is on page 65, in Book II - 

Without invention nothing is well spaced,
unless the mind change, unless
the stars are new measured, according
to their relative positions, the
line will not change, the necessity
will not matriculate: unless there is
a new mind there cannot be a new
line, the old will go on
repeating itself with recurring
deadliness. . . 

and I am perk'd up, straight away, knowing that this is not just a view for then, but for now, and for me - how I have over the years invented fresh forms, knowing that without fresh form there is no fresh content - if I can put Robert Creeley's great phrase - 

form is never more than an extension of content

alongside another which says -

content is always an expression of form

tho the replacement of 'extension' with 'expression' poses its own difficulties, I am prick'd again by ageing's wish for comfort (in my case, anyway, I just wanna sit down), to realise I have still to keep alert to new inventions (John Cage said he invented rather than created, and I deeply respect that) - Williams's Paterson was a great invention, still is, even to having lines angled on the page - and the mix of poetry & prose, the shifting layers of space within & between the lines, and flight of punctuation, like stars from the centre of the universe, all with multiple voices & voicings that constitute a city and a person - I suspect Williams knew more about a city than Olson did, but then all of us know something more about something than others do - the answer to the question What do I know? is always both 'nothing' and 'everything', all-at-once, all-the-time - 

Friday, January 30, 2015

(a)stray not(h)ings

as Miriam is away in Europe visiting family for a few weeks, this blog will lack images, but I can say a few things - a new limited edition of my poems, In Autumn, is due out from Sabine Golde's Carivari in Leipzig - it is the first time a collection of mine has been translated into another language, in this case German, and the book is in both English & German - I don't have the details of size, materials or price yet, but I'll post them as soon as I can - 

another edition, this time from Richard Wagener's Mixolydian Editions (California) is also due out - titled Vestige, it is a development from the earlier Loom published by David Pascoe's Nawakum Press (California) - Richard, interviewed by Edwin Dobb in the latest Book Club of California's Quarterly News-Letter, said about Vestige : '. . . grew out of a special print for Loom. It's more painterly than Loom, with five engravings of tightly woven threads, somewhat distressed, and brushstroke-like gestures, against a subtle color background. Alan wrote another poem to accompany the engravings' - again, once I get the prospectus, I'll post the details - 

In Autumn, Loom and Vestige will all be shown at the CODEX V Book Fair in February - 

to add too to an earlier post about a series of Broadsides issuing from Electio this year, I can now say that the poets in the series will be Marion May Campbell, Ruark Lewis, Robert Wood, Ross Brighton, and Jennifer Harrison, tho this may not be the order in which they appear -