Tuesday, 16 December 2008

so last week

prior to the recommencement of work, and my, wasn't that a charming experience, i got myself back to edinburgh and off to the pamphlet fait and payback's best of the open mic nights. the payback thing i wish i could've stayed longer for but i'd been late all evening and by the time i got there i had to stand and the swiss spine will just not put up with that! (more money to my physio i fear). but it was all very good. mike dylan, who i'd last seen singing at vox box did, i thought, an excellent set in front of a crowd who definitely were more up for the singing than the spoken word. i'd quite like to see his work written down as he seems to have a rhyming dexterity that'd bridge the gap between performance and page.

as to the poetry fair i'd gone done to eyeball the quality of product rather than content. as such i was as broadly dissappointed as i'd been at a similar event at stanza earlier this year. simple things like paper quality and font choice matter and to compromise in these seems to me to show a lack of aesthetic consciousness at the very least. and as for poor age alignment, well there's just no excuse! i have at least two pamphlets sitting that i can't bring myself to read for all the above reasons

roncadora press stood out in this respect right away. good quality paper, interesting lino cuts, obviously a bit of thought had gone into the look and feel. it didn't matter to me that the poetry really wasn't for me, the thing itself made me want to involve myself in it.

stand out for me then was the rather excellent truth and hope collection by priscilla chueng-nainby. and i didn't get it for the design, but for the poem she read first which tho i might not have liked it so much in english, i was well impressed by her decision to read it again in mandarin. a language i never get to hear slowly. i was transported!

but it was only, on the strength of the reading, that i thought, i'll be having that, that i came across the gem that is this collection. it consists of two groups of poems, mirror imaged against each other so that the back and front are both front covers. there's a cloud/wind motif on the front that she continues thru each and the pages (a nice contrast of warm gray against the ivory of the cover) are layered (can't remember the word for this off the top of my head) so that there's an image beneath the poem. in random corners there are fragments, which may be poems or aphorisms, which you don't notice at first and some of the poems you get in both english and mandarin - handy given that,after indians, the group i work most with are malaysian chinese so i can take this in and get it read as it should sound. to finish it all off when she was selling it she had a red wax seal to mark each copy. i was sold and should've bought more. sadly tho i can't find a link where you, or i, can get it.

and that for me encompasses many of the problems i saw at the pamphlet fair. people will always pay money for well designed things so why does it seem like so few pamphlets pay much attention to this. further, why is marketing and distribution so stunted - i was shocked by the tiny numbers of sales that somehow constituted a pamphlet success. plus i think it's no coincidence that amazingly i was in the bottom ten per cent of the age range present at what was a pleasant and well attended event.

to be honest i came away vaguely disillusioned. i'm unsure that any other response was possible


Rachel Fox said...

Colin Will (Sunny Dunny) has written about the fair and the age question...have you been over to his blog?

I went to the fair last year and it was OK but I wouldn't go out of my way to go every year. Plus my publication is a book not a pamphlet so I don't really belong (but they're friendly and let me sell cards last year...although I couldn't read as I didn't have a pamphlet and...well...it is a pamphlet fair).

As for design...I'm not quite as strict as you about the subject. I'd rather read a good poem off toilet paper than one I don't rate from the prettiest, best aligned book in the world. You should see mine...odd font sizes and everything! Lovely cover though.


swiss said...

i was relieved that colin's comments were broadly the same, if more optimistic, which just goes to show he's older and wiser than me!

but, broadly speaking, i can't agree about the medium. it's true in some cases yes, you have literature, poetry fragments, survivors tales that may well be scribbled on toilet paper but preservation in the face of extremity again focuses on the medium

and people are bothered about it - if they weren't then we'd be reading off those dreadful ebook things. but we don't. we like the feel, the texture, the smell of books.

and without wanting to get too brechtian about it. the font choice, or the lack of it, does matter. just as much as if we decided to produce the pamphlet as if it was handwritten.

paper? the paper we associate with every paper we've ever handled. cheap nasty glossy paper is every leaflet we've ever thrown away

as to layout, if someone can't be bothered to do a decent layout then, really, why should i be bothered reading it

and that's all before the printing and the craft that goes into that

to not be bothered about any of that is, to me, the equivalent of saying that one had never seen a beautiful book. ive got a copy of eliot's little gidding up the stairs somewhere in its original pamphlet form. the paper quality isn't the best, they couldn't afford more, the edges are unfinished but when you look at it it's in this beautiful serif'd roman, solid, black. i look at it and it gives me a tingle!

maybe i've just been lucky over the years, or maybe it's just the way i am, but i've got to handle some very old books, got to make some beautiful things of my own. i can't look at a book without seeing the work, the thought that's gone into it. i like that german word, gesamtkunstwerk and when i pick up a beautiful book that's what i'm seeing

wow, now i really do sound like a jacket! lol

Rachel Fox said...

Sound like a jacket? That's confused me...what's that then?

It's not that I'm not bothered about presentation...not at all...I like beautiful things too (although I am aware that my idea of beauty is a bit...unpredictable and odd). It's just priorities I suppose. I get LESS bothered about that kind of thing than some people (you it seems!). But I have artist friends who try to keep me in line.

I was most keen with my project to use all recycled paper and card and I did that. I wanted it to look good but I was more interested in other aspects of the process overall. Also I wanted to fit in a lot of poems so I did some odd font tweaking that I know has upset one or two readers (and one blog reviewer). I knew that would be the case but I made the decision anyway. I like a bit of disorder.

Other things set me off appalled and ranting of course...I have a list as long as both your arms, both your legs and anything else long you would like to throw in!


swiss said...

jacket = anorak!

so there was a paper and a font choice! lol which is pretty much what i'm saying

Rachel Fox said...

I've been eating so much lately (visitors just now) that when you said jacket all I could think of was potatoes!

And yes, there were choices with da book...just odd ones.


pnainby said...
This comment has been removed by the author.