This is the 100th post of the IDE(A/O)(B)LOG(Y/UE). How anti-climactic.



What follows is some text that was generated while the New Manifesto of the NewLights Press was being made and written. It is a couple of attempts to describe the metonymic, repetitive chains that turn the gears of “the book.”

The book, as it commonly appears, is a repetitive, rhythmic structure. It is built out of a series of overlapping, synchronized, chains of movement. The text moves from letter to letter, word to word, image to image, sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph, chapter to chapter. The book itself moves from page to page. The meaning produced from this reading-movement is of a staccato linearity, flickering, gathering in density at certain points, thinning out at others. Meaning is at once explosive and implosive, connecting out and gathering in.

The book, as it commonly appears, is a repetitive, rhythmic structure. On one side, its inherent temporality seems to make some kind of narrative structure or progression unavoidable—the book, like time, passes. It is (structurally) finite, possessing a clear beginning, middle, and end. We, as readers, expect a book to “take us on a journey.” We, as readers (and viewers), expect books (and all other art) to do what we expect.

But the book, while locked into its endless progression towards the end, constantly frustrates its own temporality by staging exactly the same event over and over again. Each page turns the same as the last. Imagine a story describing, physically, a person reading a book. Could it even be a story, with each occurrence exactly the same as before, maybe slightly recontextualized each time? [footnote 5] The repetitive structure of the book, of its reading, undermines its own progression, nullifying and occupying time at the same time.



Figs. 04.09.04-05
Two forms, one for general correspondence (Fig. 04.09.04) and one purchase record/invoice (Fig. 04.09.05). More of the “Bureaucracy of One.”



I spent the end of last week at the Celebration of the Chapbook, at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City. It featured a bookfair with various publishers of chapbooks and chapbookish things, panel discussions, and workshops. As mentioned briefly in my previous post, I had a great deal of fun, and I am really glad that I went.

The whole thing was well-organized. Turn-out was good. There was the usual bookfair conflict where as an exhibitor one is torn between going to the panels and staying at one’s table. That is a problem that it takes specific planning to avoid. The panels, one on the history of chapbooks, one on chapbooks nowadays, were interesting. I did not attend any of the workshops.

There was some great work on the tables. Highlights (for me) include:

Ugly Duckling Presse is a publishing collective that is putting out tons, tons of great work.

Portable Press at Yo Yo Labs is the publishing venture of Brenda Iijima, and they are releasing books from a variety of interesting writers.

X-ing Books/Booklyn: Booklyn is an artists’ books group in NY. X-ing Books is a sub-sect that is doing some literary publishing. Mark Wagner (of both groups) was kind enough to show me some of his decidedly unchapbook, high end artists’ books.

And of course there was Cuneiform Press (say no more).

I came home with a bunch of new books—bought, traded, and gifted. I also unloaded a bunch of work (see post below) and spread the word about Et Al.

My favorite thing about doing these fairs is the amazing, kind, generous, intelligent, and engaged people that I get to meet and hang out with. Incredible.



The Collected Books of Jack Spicer and The Book 1: The Movement-Image are now officially out of print. The Chapbook Fair in NYC was a lot of fun.



In order to make the pertinent information readily accessible for all you soon-to-be contributors out there, a new, separate blogsite has been started for Et Al., the journal that we will soon be starting. The site will grow as work begins on the journal, but for now it is just submission and contact info. I can't wait to see what you send. Visit the site:



If you are (or are going to be) in NYC at the end of this week, you should come to:


(From the website) "A Celebration of the Chapbook festival calls attention to the rich history of the chapbook and highlights its essential place in poetry publishing today as a vehicle for alternative poetry projects and for emerging authors and editors to gain entry into the literary marketplace. The festival will forge a new platform for the study of the chapbook inside and outside the academy and celebrate the importance of chapbooks to America’s cultural heritage and future.

at The Graduate Center, CUNY, 365 Fifth Avenue & 34th St

For a full schedule, list of exhibitors, location, and times, click here.

I will be sharing a table at the Chapbook Fair with Cuneiform Press, so that's a high density of mind-blowing books in a 30" x 72" area. Come and say hi. I would love to show you some books.



This weekend I was working on the info sheets for Et Al., to be handed out at the Celebration of the Chapbook this week in NYC. Images:

Figs. 04.09.02-03

Both sides of the new cards. The construction of this card is the beginning of negotiating what the journal will look like. These images were made from the digital files. The printed version of the second image has a variable stripe attained from an almost empty toner cartridge.



Yesterday I was happy to receive an envelope of treasures (books) from Adam Robinson of Publishing Genius, located in the city-of-my-heart, Baltimore, Maryland. The magazine Poets & Writers recently released a nice article about one of Adam’s many projects: Is Reads, a journal that is not, physically, like other journals. The pages are hung up around Baltimore City (it also operates in Nashville) in various public places. I have seen other public poetry ideas like this implemented, but I don’t know of any that are run as a journal—which is crucial, because organizing the project like a journal makes the path of transmission of it public to public, as opposed to private to public, the typical path of transmission for poetry, whether printed in a book, or posted on a website and/or telephone pole. (That public, of course, is made up an aggregate of individual privates, on both ends of the transmission.) The community of the journal becomes literally (literarily?) embedded within the public space that the larger community occupies, and when the poems get noticed, they may for second, help to draw attention, simultaneously, both to the poem and to that public space. I think Adam put it best: "...for the ten seconds people stand in front of it, I hope they just kind of wonder about poetry again."



From Tony White, “From the Guest Editor,” JAB: The Journal of Artists’ Books number 25 (Spring 2009): p. 3:

[…] In the 1950s, Eugene Feldman started referring to the offset press as his brush and the paper as his canvas. “Painting with the press” was how he described his process of artistic experimentation that he conducted after business hours on the Harris high-speed rotary offset press in his commercial shop. In the 1960s Joe Ruther used the phrase “playing with the press” to describe his experimental approach to pre-press and printing experiments and production. In the late 1970s Philip Zimmermann coined the phrase “production not reproduction” to parse the difference between artistic works and commercially printed products for our industrial society. […] [italics added]

From Roland Barthes, “From Work to Text,” Image, Music, Text, trans. Stephen Heath (New York: Hill and Wang, 1977), reprinted in Art in Theory 1900-2000: An Anthology of Changing Ideas, ed. Charles Harrison and Paul Wood (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2003), p. 968-9:

[…] The work is normally the object of a consumption; no demagogy is intended here in referring to the so-called consumer culture but it has to be recognized that today it is the “quality” of the work (which supposes finally an appreciation of “taste”) and not the operation of reading itself which can differentiate between books: structurally, there is no difference between “cultured” reading and casual reading in trains. The Text (if only by its frequent “unreadability”) decants the work (the work permitting) from its consumption and gathers it up as play, activity, production, practice. This means that the Text requires that one try to abolish (or at the very least to diminish) the distance between writing and reading, in no way by intensifying the projection of the reader into the work but by joining them in a single signifying practice. The distance separating reading from writing is historical. In the times of the greatest social division (before the setting up of democratic cultures), reading and writing were equally privileges of class. Rhetoric, the great literary code of these times, taught one to write (even if what was then normally produced were speeches, not texts). Significantly, the coming of democracy reversed the word of command: what the (secondary) School prides itself on is teaching to read (well) and no longer to write (consciousness of the deficiency is becoming fashionable again today: the teacher is called upon to teach pupils to “express themselves,” which is a little like replacing a form of repression by a misconception). In fact, reading, in the sense of consuming, is far from playing with the text. “Playing” must be understood here in all its polysemy: the text itself plays (like a door, like a machine with “play”) and the reader plays twice over, playing the Text as one plays a game, looking for a practice which re-produces it, but, in order that that practice not be reduced to a passive, inner mimesis (the Text is precisely that which resists such a reduction), also playing the Text in the musical sense of the term. […] [emphasis added]



This past weekend I received the new issue of the JAB, The Journal of Artists’ Books. The current issue, # 25, focuses on “high-speed rotary offset printing and the various ways artists have used offset in the creation of their work.” I have yet to give it a thorough read, but one thing that caught my eye/mind was the following phrase, “coined” by Phillip Zimmermann:

“Production NOT Reproduction.”

(Which reminds me of a printmaking t-shirt, made by students at the University of Iowa (I believe?), that reads: “Printmaking, like sex, has never been solely about reproduction.”)

What does this mean for or to the artist/printer? Especially the artist/printer who is using industrial printing processes? An offset press is not a copy machine. It does not automatically reproduce a book or magazine already set into physical form—offset is, most often, the process that locks those texts and images into a definitive physical form for the first time. (Before printing, text and image are manuscripts, dummies, films, separations, etc.—physical but intermediary.) Is there a way to print that puts printing before the construction of the matrix? Probably. But many artist/printers, including a few discussed and discussing in this issue of JAB, allow both components of the construction of the printed object, the matrix and printing process, to affect each other. Here is Phillip Zimmermann’s advice, from the “Foreword” of his book Options for Color Separation: An Artist’s Handbook (Rochester: Visual Studies Workshop Press, 1980):

The techniques described herein are on the whole interpretive rather than reproductive. They have a life of their own and their beauty lies in their own specific qualities rather than in the qualities of an original art work or the precise reproduction of reality “out there.”

This is essentially the high modernist principle of letting, making, the medium speak of its own inherent qualities. Yet somehow it remains radical. Is it because of the fact that it is attached to a process that is the industrial process for the mass production of printed items? Or is the foundational tenet of high modernism more complicated, more pernicious than many “postmodernists,” myself among them, would like to admit? Does such a principle, of letting the medium do its thing, and only its thing, become extraordinarily complicated when the medium is meant for industrial, mass-cultural use? When the medium is considered in a larger social field, instead of a purely physical/optical one?



The NewLights Press is very excited to be participating in this:


Thursday April 23rd, 2009 - Saturday April 25th, 2009

A Celebration of the Chapbook festival calls attention to the rich history of the chapbook and highlights its essential place in poetry publishing today as a vehicle for alternative poetry projects and for emerging authors and editors to gain entry into the literary marketplace. The festival will forge a new platform for the study of the chapbook inside and outside the academy and celebrate the importance of chapbooks to America’s cultural heritage and future.

Thursday, April 23
at The Graduate Center, CUNY, 365 Fifth Avenue & 34th St

Chapbook Fair
10:00am-6:00pm, The Elebash Recital Hall Lobby

Brief History of Chapbooks
3:00-4:30pm, The Elebash Recital Hall
With Isaac Gewirtz, Curator of the New York Public Library’s Berg Collection; Eric Lorberer, Editor of Rain Taxi; and Michael Ryan, Director of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Library at Columbia University. Moderated by Richard Kaye, Hunter College, CUNY

Chapbooks in the 20th and 21st Centuries
4:30-6:00pm, The Elebash Recital Hall
With Michael Basinski, Assistant Curator of the Poetry/Rare Books Collection of the University Libraries, SUNY at Buffalo; Anne Waldman, Chair and Artistic Director of Naropa University’s Summer Writing Program; and Kevin Young, Emory University. Moderated by Ammiel Alcalay, Queens College, CUNY.

Keynote Reading
6:00pm, The Elebash Recital Hall
Readings by Lytton Smith, Gerald Stern, Judith Vollmer, Kevin Young and others, with an introduction by Kimiko Hahn.

Friday, April 24
at The Graduate Center, CUNY, 365 Fifth Avenue & 34th St

Chapbook Fair
10:00am-4:00pm, Rooms 8301/8304

Chapbook Now: Producing Chapbooks
A Workshop for Poets
10:00-11:30am, Room 8400
With Rachel Levitsky (Belladonna*); Sharon Dolin (The Center for Book Arts); and Ryan Murphy (North Beach Yacht Club). Moderated by Alice Quinn (Poetry Society of America).

Chapbook Now: Producing Chapbooks
A Workshop for Publishers

11:30am-1:00pm, Room 8402
With Jen Benka (Booklyn); Matvei Yankelevich (Ugly Duckling Presse); and Brenda Iijima
(Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs). Moderated by Rob Casper (Poetry Society of America).

To register, call (212) 817-2005 or e-mail abozicevic@gc.cuny.edu – registration is offered on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Friday, April 24
at The Center for Book Arts, 28 West 27th Street, 3rd Floor

Bookmaking for Writers: A Studio Workshop
With Susan Mills and Karen Randall

Bookmaking for Publishers: A Studio Workshop
With Susan Mills and Karen Randall

To register, call (212) 481-0295 or e-mail info@centerforbookarts.org – registration is
offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. There's a $20 materials fee for each workshop.

at The Center for Book Arts, 28 West 27th Street, 3rd Floor
6:00 pm
All are welcome! Visit the exhibitions at The Center for Book Arts: \’fl \:art, text, new media,
Roni Gross: Zitouna at 20, and Spotlight: 2008 Artists-in-Residence.

Saturday, April 25
at The Asian American Writers’ Workshop, 16 West 32nd Street, Suite 10A

Collector’s Show-and-Tell:
The Secret History of Asian American Literature
Patricia Wakida


Publishing from the Margins
With Tan Lin; Dawn Lundy Martin (Third Wave Foundation, Black Took Collective); and Bushra Rehman. Moderated by Ken Chen (The Asian American Writers’ Workshop). Followed by a brief reading from the Workshop's Postcard Poetry Project.

at The Asian American Writers’ Workshop, 16 West 32nd Street, Suite 10A
6:00 pm

Co-sponsored by The Office of Academic Affairs, The Graduate Center and MFA Programs in Creative Writing of the City University of New York, The Asian American Writers’ Workshop, The Center for Book Arts and Poetry Society of America

Participating Publishers

Achiote Press



Book Thug

Cuneiform Press

Dancing Girl Press

Diagram/New Michigan Press

Flying Guillotine Press

NewLights Press

Noemi Press

North Beach Yacht Club

Octopus Books

Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs

Rain Taxi

Sarabande Books

Slapering Hol

Small Fires Press

TinFish Press

Toadlily Press

Ubu Editions

Ugly Duckling Presse

X-ing Press

­and others



A Confession:

The fine craft, precious, luxurious qualities of letterpress printing have always bothered me. I don’t know if I can say exactly why—could it be a strange class anxiety on my part? Some sort of Oedipal complex? A general annoyance with fussiness rewarded and prized?

But I love letterpress printing. So how does that work?

It works, literally works, by mining a space in which the dominant assumptions about how letterpress can/should be used, and what and how it means, can be contested and played with. The tradition of fine printing goes back a long way, but right alongside of it is the fact that up until the 1960s almost everything commercially printed was letterpress as well. That means that for the majority of its 500+ year history, letterpress printing was simply the way in which things were printed, no more, no less.

So, historically, letterpress has its job printing side. A whole area of its signifying history waiting to be mined. Some might say that the job printing aspect is a moot point, as there are now more efficient ways to do job printing, and efficiency has always been the key.

But there are more commercial letterpress shops right now than there have been for a long time. BUT they do high-end, expensive job printing.

BUT their presence in the culture broadens the discourse, because they are teaching people how to print, to think about printing, in a way different from what can be learned in academic settings (which is my background). A whole area of signifying history waiting to be lived.

Printers, printmakers, are (the oldest) media artists. Like photographers, film and video makers, digital artists, we are tied to our equipment to make our work. And thus our equipment plays a role in determining the boundaries of what we can do—how big? How many? How long will it take? What will it cost? Etc.

Access to commercial equipment—fast, accurate, automated printing presses, and photopolymer plates—means that letterpress, within certain circumstances, can still be economically (both time and money) competitive with other methods out there. And the artist still has a tremendous amount of control over the process. Every reason to love the act of printing is still there.

Meaning is never permanently stable. Letterpress printing, like many media, is in a state of flux. Where will it go? We will have to make and see.



Figure 04.09.01
Frank Stella, The Marriage of Reason and Squalor, II, 1959
Stella's early paintings are examples of hand-mechanical painting processes.

Excerpted from Caroline A. Jones, The Machine in the Studio: Constructing the Postwar American Artist, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 148-9:

[…] the painterly aspects of [Frank Stella’s] Black Paintings (and even their "bottomness") still linked them to earlier evocations of the natural sublime. Not yet the fully technological icons of the Aluminum Paintings to come, they could still allude to tenebrous depths, and oceanic (if regular) expanses. Thus, despite the discipline of Stella’s housepainter’s brushstroke in the Black Paintings, there were still drips that escaped, irregular layers of enamel that built up, erratic widths in the painted bands that allowed certain oscillating "breathing lines" between them, ranging from narrow white interstices to mere whispers of oil-stained canvas. Although almost impossible to convey in reproduction, some aspects of this visual instability can be seen in [Fig. 04.09.01], the second version of The Marriage of Reason and Squalor that Stella painted in November 1959 for the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition. The interstitial breathing lines are soft, the bands’ borders ambiguous. There is a perceptible drift to the right as the configuration "leans" towards the painter’s preferred hand, muting the success of the hardening program at which repainting was aimed. The "black" in the earliest canvases is not pure, not complete in its denial of light; mixed with white in the earliest works, it reads as brown or dull gray, a "no color" according to Stella (a color of earth or darkness-in-the-body, which Richardson describes as "a somewhat brownish cast"). The penetration of the glossy enamel into the unprimed cotton duck is erratic. Some layers of Stella’s dutiful overpainting are soaked into a matte texture of dark canvas; other layers are repelled, as the impervious lacquer began to dry and build into a soft sheen. As one moves laterally in relation to the painting, light is reflected, refracted, and absorbed in varying degrees. William Rubin wrote of "being mesmerized" by the Black Paintings "eerie presence," and indeed, I want to argue that the eerie presence of an other world is what gives these paintings their force and bite. Stella’s executive stance was at curious odds with the painter’s workmanlike facture and black deviance; the readings of these canvases that were authorized by their defenders emphasized a brisk, problem-solving approach, but the paintings kept on signifying otherwise. The complex polyvocality of the Black Paintings […] precisely the marriage of reason and squalor—the union of control and flow, the matings between differences, the pleasures of conjugation—[…] allows the procreation of meaning in the Black Paintings […].



Fishing around on the Internet during morning coffee turned this up this:


It's a blog about artists' books, by Elisabeth Long, who lives in Chicago. I have yet to do a thorough reading, but a brief skim makes it clear that the posts are meaty & thoughtful. I will be adding it to the list...



I will be writing-designing-printing (making, that is) an insert to be included with the third issue of Mimeo Mimeo. The essay (the written essay, the visual essay, the structural essay) will be about “bad printing” and why it is good sometimes. I prefer the term “naughty printing” myself. The idea for it grew out the manifesto, and from some of the comments about it that I have received. It goes back to Andy Warhol’s comment on why he made his films the way that he did, paraphrased here: If you do it badly, people realize they’re watching a film.

So “bad printing” becomes a way to make the process legible, to leave the marks of the making visible. It is an idea related to the “unfinished” or “unrefined” canvases of the abstract expressionist painters. But a printer cannot assert themselves, their presence, in the same manner that a painter can. Printing is, by its nature, always removed, always always already. The printer is a machine-like absence, and it is only in the movement of the process of production that a trace of the printer can be found.

The traditional approach to printing, the “crystal goblet” approach, dictates that the printer should not show themselves in the final work, as to do so would interrupt the transmission of the contents, would leave fingerprints on the surface of the goblet, so to speak. I believe that this idea guides “fine art printmaking” as well, as far as the actual process of printing goes. Approaches to the construction of printing matrices are radically different, but the approach to printing remains fundamentally unchanged. There are, of course, always exceptions.

It would seem that this “crystal goblet” approach is very postmodern. Didn’t postmodernism begin with the suppression of the artist’s hand, with the readymade, the fabricated industrial object, and the simulacra of popular culture? The problem is, in printing, not showing one’s hand has always been the way to play. Printing never went through the same modernist-postmodernist development that painting did, except when it was chained to painting, (re)producing its already thought out, already authorized images.

Hal Foster (in the book Return of the Real, quoted here) puts forth the idea that the logic of seriality is central to modernism and postmodernism. Seriality comes directly from the printed object, and Modernism and its Post did as well. Printers, printmakers, have failed to acknowledge this in their work, beyond vague references through appropriated imagery. But the articulation of those concepts cannot come only through content, it must come through form, the processes of production, and the modes of reception as well.



is not the focus this week. More next.