Letterpress printing in the postmodern era: Poetry, media and typography
MetadataShow full item record
"Letterpress Printing in the Postmodern Era: Poetry, Media & Typography" is a poetic treatise at the intersection of the burgeoning fields of print culture, media analysis and the aesthetics of visual representation. Building on the research of Jerome McGann, Johanna Drucker, Alastair Johnston and Marshall McLuhan, I argue that the aesthetic, material and typographic dimensions of poetry not only reveal how writing is made, but also how meaning is generated on the page. For the last 550 years, typography, the first form of industrial art, has been the primary mediating technology of poetry, the book, language, and culture at large. While pre-millennium New York Times bestseller Sven Birkerts' sentimental essays mourn the "fate of reading in an electronic age," this study takes a nod from Janus' split gaze, seeking to understand the futurity of print by looking through its history. I begin by discussing the American poets Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson and the emergence of the Arts and Crafts Movement in England---a movement that had a direct influence on modernists such as Ezra Pound and William Butler Yeats. Taking the work of William Morris as my point of departure, I claim that visible forms of communication are anything but arbitrary---aesthetic decisions have deep political and cultural dimensions. Writing makes history. By the end of WWII, commercial printers had replaced their letterpress equipment with offset presses. Young poets, publishers and book artists quickly acquired the obsolete presses and started a renaissance in fine printing and typographic innovation that rivaled that of the Dadaists, Russian Futurists and affiliates of the Bauhaus. "Letterpress Printing in the Postmodern Era" combines close readings of the works of Charles Reznikoff, Wallace Berman, Charles Olson, Jerome Rothenberg, Robert Creeley, Joe Brainard, Lyn Hejinian, Graham Mackintosh, Rosmaric Waldrop, Susan Howe, and others with extensive archival research, interviews and correspondence with poets, artists, publishers and artisans. This study includes over 100 color images, typographic demonstrations, a glossary of printer's jargon, and concludes with a bibliohistory of the Perishable Press Limited.