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What We’re Reading: Letterpress Mail Goodies

2011 April 14


April has been a fabulous month. Nothing says springtime like receiving poetry in the mail during National Poetry Month. From my lovely friend Meryl DePasquale at Four-Letter Press sending me wonderful letterpress mail art, to a poetry collection from Holy Cow! Press (suspense: look for it in an upcoming WWR post!), to this week’s subject of WWR, Feelings Using Wolves. Feelings Using Wolves is a poetry collaboration between Emily Kendal Frey and Zachary Schomburg, published by Small Fires Press out of Memphis, Tennessee. The book itself (from an edition of 74 soft covers) was enough to make me hyperventilate: carefully designed, letterpress printed on marvelous handmade paper, and beautifully hand-bound by Friedrich Kerksieck. The craftsmanship, time, patience, and artistic eye that went into this labor of love is obvious.

And then there’s the poetry – quirky, deliberate, bodily, and even a little sexy, this trio of poets and bookmaker have got their collaborative art to a saucy, textured science. The poems drift between the poetic and the goofy – such as poo-burritos. Yes, I said it. Buy it for yourself, and you’ll see what I mean. It’s a finicky balancing act attempted by many, but not always met with success. Frey and Schomburg succeed. It makes me wonder how their process works, and how they balance each other out as writers when collaborating. They’ve done two other collaborative works before: Team Sad (Cinematheque, 2010) and OK, Goodnight (Future Tense Books, 2010), that I want to check out now, too. The poems are short and simple, none amounting to more than 14 lines long, with short individual line lengths, too. Not a word is wasted, misplaced, or not brought to its full potential. The poems make you ponder, then interrupt your oh-so-thoughtful reverie with a fresh pinch o’ humor.

Favorite poems: “Feelings Using Wolves,” “The Space Between Burned Out Suns,” and “Little Handle.”

A favorite snippet:

when a tree breathes

you can feel


the forest bend forward

on its elbows

(From “Tree Lung.”) I hope you get some equally intriguing surprises this spring! Tell me, what have you been reading to honor this month of poetry?


3 Responses
  1. timothy permalink
    April 14, 2011

    One of the fun things for me about your site is that I’m learning a ton about the letterpress scene that’s out there. I did one very limited broadside because a friend of mine was in a letterpress class, but I wasn’t terribly involved in the process, and it wasn’t a new poem – she had a piece in mind that she wanted to do. Anyway, even in the past month of reading what you’ve posted I’ve gained a ton of insight into this side of writing that I’ve wanted to expand into but haven’t known where to look. So thanks for that!

    In honor of National Poetry Month I’ve been reading an anthology called The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart by Robert Bly, James Hillman and Michael Meade. Anthologies can be hit or miss, especially one that has a “purpose”, but this one is pretty right on. They subtitled it “Poems for Men”, but a female coworker and fellow poet recommended it to me. It features a ton of phenomenal poets, classic and contemporary, including a bunch of women writers. It’s definitely an anthology to have around.

  2. Wren permalink
    April 14, 2011

    I’m glad you’re enjoying our letterpress obsession – it’s so fascinating to me! We’re actually in the process of buying our own little letterpress, so I’m sure you’ll be seeing more of these letterpress posts. Are there specific things you want to know about the process, or other printers? Have you seen our broadside? (Go to Press Here in the top menu.) We’re hoping to print a new one soon…

    I looked up the anthology you recommended, and found out it’s named after the last line of a poem by William Butler Yeats – “The Circus Animal’s Desertion.” Have you read it? It adds an interesting spin on the name of the anthology! It’s so interesting to me when literature references other literature. The anthology referenced this poem, this poem references Oisin, the legendary poet from Irish mythology, who married a fairy, and Cuchulain, another mythical Irish hero. Does this play into your reading of the anthology? Do they mention anything about this in the editor’s note? Hmm, I am definitely intrigued by this anthology now! Thanks for the recommendation!

    Here’s a link to a blog that has the full Yeats poem:

  3. timothy permalink
    April 15, 2011

    I have seen your broadside and if funds were just a liiittle more steady I would snap one up yesterday. I think I’m drawn to letterpress because of the all around tactility – everything from the creation to the product is, by it’s very nature, something that begs to be touched and scrutinized closely. I find that really beautiful. Once you’ve acquired your letterpress I’d love a step-by-step look through the whole process.

    I have read that Yeats poem – in fact, the third section of the poem is the epigram that prefaces the whole book, so yes it certainly did affect my reading of the collection. The forward to the book also talks about Irish mythology to make a point about the broader place of poetry in culture. It’s a fascinating book. There’s a forward to every section that enlightens the readin of the poems in that section. I’ve learned a lot about poetry since picking it up.

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