Artist and writer Phyllida Bluemel explores "the nimbleness and sheer stubbornness of the small press, which allows visual and physical experimentation to flourish in its hands."
It’s a wonder I’ve been trusted to write this at all. When the editor of this issue and I last worked together, on a chapbook for Guillemot Press, the collateral of my artistic ‘vision’ amounted to three broken printers and a small electrical fire at the printing press.
Guillemot has earned a name for publishing work that brings poets and artists together in thoughtful (if occasionally destructive) collaborations. And, for a designer, though budgets are small and timings tight, the small runs and face-to-face relationships that distinguish the small press can often mean a ‘yes’ when you were expecting a no. Alternating paper stocks? Sure. Folds on the outside? Why not. A total mechanical meltdown? If the idea’s worth it.
The nimbleness and sheer stubbornness of a small press allows visual and physical experimentation to flourish in its hands. Here’s our pick of publications that have pushed the boundaries…
Corbel Stone Press
LASTGLACIALMAXIMUM, Richard Skelton
Created by Autumn Richardson and Richard Skelton, Corbel Stone Press makes work that treads the bounds between art, music and writing. All space, slowness and silence, it makes and publishes around ecological, mythological and landscape themes. LASTGLACIALMAXIMUM (Richard Skelton, 2019) is a large format work of visual poetry where text converges and parts on the page, modelling a glacier’s movement.
Henningham Family Press
Mud, Chris McCabe
The Henningham Family Press describes itself as “making books to be touched”. Following a model that allows the press to be both accessible and artistically ambitious, Mud comes in a paperback and a handmade artists’ edition. The deluxe edition features forms a cast from London mud, while the paperback is bound with a unique triangular spine and a jacket that unfolds into an A3 poster.
Jerome’s Study, Catrin Morgan and Max Porter
Prototype takes an interdisciplinary approach, and Jerome’s Study is a case in point. Illustrator Catrin Morgan’s interpretations of St. Jerome’s study, borrowed from renaissance paintings, were responded to in turn by Max Porter, in an exercise of looking at looking. Every copy is hand-assembled and carefully engineered by Morgan to create an intricate clean-cornered space for the text and images.
Charles Causley, A Portrait of the Poet, illustrated by Irene Vidal Cal
Atlantic Press is a Cornwall-based publisher showcasing the illustrator’s authorial voice. For Charles Causley, A Portrait of the Poet – made in collaboration with the Charles Causley Trust, alongside Causley’s poetry and biographical contributions – his life is illustrated slantways in belongings and trinkets, beautifully drawn by Irene Vidal Cal.
Zimzalla 005, Derek Beaulieu
Zimzalla takes a playful approach to poetry publishing, and its series of objects include stamps, CDs, teabags and a board game. Here, it publishes Canadian visual poet Derek Beaulieu in miniature, complete with magnifying glass.
Appetite whetted? Follow these leads for more visually exciting presses –