OK, I understand
Today’s guest blog from Carolyn Fraser is a very special one. We look closely at the work of Caren Florance and a particular project of hers titled Prime. Using the words of 7 poets from Australia and New Zealand it’s very easy to see why letterpress is perfect for poetry. – Jenny x
Letterpress printing has had long association with poetry – many printers are, in fact, poets. Once you’ve hand-set metal type, this makes a lot of sense. Many poets see language as a physical artefact – letterforms and the placement of words on a page are intrinsic to poetry. It is true, also, that poetry is often short. Shorter than Ulysses, at least, or Anna Karenina, and when you are hand-setting metal type, this makes a big difference.
Before radio or Twitter, the broadside – a one-sided printed piece – was distributed in public places spreading political propaganda, public announcements and the lyrics of the latest popular ballad. These days, the broadside is a lovely meeting place for printers, writers and visual artists. One such person is Caren Florance (aka Ampersand Duck) who is a book artist, printer and teacher in Canberra. In 2010, she was printer-in-residence at the Otakou Press at the University of Otago Library in Dunedin, New Zealand, and in a remarkably short period of time produced a portfolio of broadsides featuring the work of seven Australian and New Zealand poets.
A common question to printers producing this kind of work is: who buys these? The answer varies from title to title, but the one constant is the State Library of Victoria. The Rare Printed collection at the SLV houses an important collection of artist books and broadsides. Give Rare Printed Manager Des Cowley a day, and he’ll pull together a selection of important letterpress-printed works for you to look at. An Australian focus would feature work by the Wayzgoose Press, who in addition to their typographically-experimental book work have produced a great number of broadsides.
– Carolyn x