Publishing projects. (two ideas from small presses adaptable to personal computers) (Column)
by Art Bixby
I've run across many interesting publishing projects, and I thought August would be a good time to talk about a couple of them. Many of the ideas I'll be talking about in this and future columns are appropriate for use in schools. Others would be fun for families looking for computer activities.
The first is the compiled book. As nearly as I can determine, this idea was invented by Richard Kostelanetz. Belinda Subraman, whose Vergin' Press publishes Gypsy magazine, has updated the form in two compilation issues of that magazine. The technique is to contact a number of writers and artists and request from each of them 300 copies of a page with literary work or artwork printed on both sides. (A class could do with a much smaller number--perhaps 50-100 copies.)
Many simply sent in 300 copies of a page of poetry run through a mimeograph, a copy machine, or an offset press. But some, such as Joan Payne Kincaid and I, took the time to paint each of the 300 copies individually, which makes each book something midway between a unique artwork and a mass-produced item. Since the artists were left to choose their own work, some of it is very risque, verging on the objectionable. Subraman collated the work as it came in; created a cover, table of contents, and copyright page; perfect-bound the booklets; and sold them as publications of her press. "When I flip through the compilation issues, it's like visiting a museum of modern art," Subraman says. "All different colors and textures. There's a feeling of excitement." In fact, she's thinking of putting together another issue. If you'd like more information about past compilations or if you'd like to be considered for publication in a future compilation, send a stamped, self-addressed envelope and a sample of your work to Vergin' Press, 10708 Gay Brewer, El Paso, Texas 79935.
Another unique publishing venture is the Alternative Press, run by Ken Mikolowski, who is currently teaching at the University of Michigan. Mikolowski purchased an old-fashioned letterpress in the late 1960s. He uses it to create beautifully designed broad-sides (poems suitable for framing), bookmarks, and postcards. By purchasing dingbats and typefaces from other presses that are moving from letterpress to electronic and other printing media, he has been able to assemble an impressive array of obsolete typographic elements, including the buffalo that serves as the press's colophon. Anne Mikolowski, Ken's wife, is a graphic artist. She often designs beautiful wood engravings and linoleum blocks for use in the press (one of her current projects outside of the press is a graphic for an Absolut vodka advertisement).
A few times a year, Ken Mikolowski sends 500 postcard blanks (with the "business side"--the side for the stamp and address--preprinted on his letterpress) to poets like Robert Creeley and Faye Kicknosway and to graphic artists like Archie Rand and Brenda Goodman. The writers and artists prepare something for the back of each individual postcard--a poem, an idea, an essay, a pen-and-ink sketch--and return the postcards to the Alternative Press. Twice a year, subscribers receive mailings which include these unique artworks in addition to the current run of other Alternative Press offerings (the rate is $15 per year). You never know what you're going to get, but you can bet it will be absolutely unique and astounding.
Art in use seems to be the guiding principle of the Alternative Press. Mikolowski says that sometimes these postcards are mailed by subscribers to friends or to the originating artist and then returned to him for archival purposes, completing a cycle of creativity. If you'd like more information about this, write to the Alternative Press, 1207 Henry, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104.
Following this model, a teacher might have each student in a class of 25 make 25 greetings. The teacher could then collate the cards and give each student a folder that contains work from all of the other members of the class. It would be easy to incorporate the electronic aspect into the project by designing (or having the group design) different kinds of cards on the computer, printing them out, and then distributing them for painting.