Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Basking in the light

Guess what I've been doing tonight?

PRINTING THE LAST POSTER. Well, not the last print of the last poster, but I'm now editioning the last of the seven images. And then I have to print the title page and colophon, so there's still over 250 pages to pull, but YAY nonetheless. I'm aiming to pull the last wet print on Sunday, maybe Monday at the latest, because we want them snug inside their folios and ready to launch by the Thursday afternoon at the Otakou Press wayzgoose.

The second-last one was tricky. Each poet had sent me a choice of poems, and I selected them not only by whether I liked them (because, I have to say, I liked all of them in different ways) but also by whether they would work on a wall. Because some poems are better in the hand, or in the heart, but not on your office/bedroom/loungeroom wall.

Michael Harlow is a local poet -- he doesn't live in Dunedin, but they claim him as theirs, especially when he comes second-up in the NZ Post Book Awards (it was won by Brian Turner, who is also local, and is a past Otakou Press poet). He's also a practicing Jungian psychotherapist, which, when I was told, put the fear of Ceiling Cat into me. The pressure to understand! To make the poster MEAN something! ARGHHH!

I kept putting his poem, The Piano's Birthday, aside; then I thought that I'd better not leave it for last, so tackled it after I finished Sarah Holland-Batt's poem. The few poems that MH had sent me were lovely, but not WALL, except this one, which at least had some visual triggers in terms of colour. Bear with me, I will show you the poem, but I just want to talk about the process for a mo before I show you the outcome.

I looked at it, and looked at it, and felt lost. It seemed dense and loaded, but accessible if I could find an 'in'. I decided to google the term 'marjatta tree' as it seemed to be the most obvious clue.

Lo, there is no such thing as a Marjatta tree, but there is a Marjatta, who is the heroine of a Finnish legend. She was a virgin who became pregnant after swallowing a mysterious talking whortleberry [!!!] and she gave birth in a stable to a God-like child who went on to achieve Finnish world dominance. So, a Finnish Christmas tale, I guess. SYMBOLIC!

And that's when my brain imploded and the poem opened up to me. I don't claim to understand it completely, but it became clear that it was a piece about inspiration and creation, and that there was two completely separate parts to the poem: the first, which is about raw KA-BOOM creative energy, leaping out of foreheads and fighting out of wombs using whortleberries and so forth. The second part is much quieter, and more about inspiration, about hearing and seeing and thinking and being moved, ever so gently, so write a Poem.

Then I was thinking about the colours he'd given me: green and red, and I was thinking about adding some blue somewhere, when Donald-the-Special-Collections-Librarian, seeing me fiddling and leaping and fistpumping and puzzling, offered to show me the facsimile copy of Jung's Red Book that Michael Harlow had donated to the library. Oh OH OH! That's when it all fell into place.

Jung made this incredible dream diary, and decorated it like a medieval illuminated manuscript, and the text is black, with three dominant colours for the decorative elements: red, green and blue.


Harlow print

Goodness me, it was a finicky print to edition. I was printing four colours in each pull of the press, and if I vagued out at any point, I'd miss a bit and stuff up the print. Like this:

printing boo boo 2

when I forgot to ink up the green bit. And this:

printing boo boo 1

when I forgot to ink up the bottom black block. GAH.

This is when music is very important. You need to be in the moment, following a routine, not thinking about anything except the print and whatever music is playing. The music needs to be familiar, but not so much so that it puts you in a trance. If there's nothing to think about, you go into a trance. There needs to be a lyric or two to chew over while you check your work. On this vein, I'd like to thank Laura Cantrell for her newish album Trains and Boats and Planes, especially her most excellent cover of Gordon Lightfoot's The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. It did very well in the role of editioning aid.

It took all weekend to get the print printed. I did some other things: on Friday night we had the opening of Donald-TSCL's marvellous exhibition of Pulp Fiction, where we were all asked to nominate our favorite titles from the show. I'm torn between Slay-ride for Sandra and Tall, Dark and Dead. The covers are amazing, and Donald-TSCL has managed to source a few process pieces, where you can see the photo of the nude model, the drawings of her, and then the finished cover. This is going to be a very popular exhibition, more so than the ALL ABOARD Railway collection exhibition that just came down...

After 3 glasses of exquisite Otago white, I stumbled into town with my Australian librarian friend Allison and we caught the latest cinematic offering from Flight of the Conchords' Jermaine Clement, Predicament. It won't be a smash hit, but I can see it getting a gentle cult following, and has some very good moments of hilarity.

I also had another couple of hours playing European board games with Allison and other librarian types on Saturday, flexing the skills I'd picked up a few weeks before to come equal second in Alhambra. w00t!

Now I'm working on the final piece bar the title and colophon pages: Robert Adamson's poem The Sibyl's Avenue, chosen because it has a cat in it, which makes the folio complete. You can't have a print folio without a cat, peoples!

sibyl print

I wanted to use some of the fabulous ornamental blocks that they have in abundance here, and found one that suits bird chitter:

bird chitter 2

It's a lovely calligraphic flourish (guaranteed to make Ronnie moan more than usual in the comments :) ).

And the cat chitter? Check this out:

cat chitter

I've never seen anything like it; most ornaments have confident design lines, but this one is deliciously wobbly and warbling. It just looks like the noise my cats make when they're trying to talk bird. Wonderful.

blue finger

And this print definitely holds the touch of the maker, as I'm using my finger to ink up the bird 'footprints', as it's the only way to get them fading out as they're supposed to.

Goodness. I also entertained a posse of schoolboys with their teacher this afternoon, from Otago Boys High. At least one of them was fully engaged, which made it fun.

Tomorrow I'm doing a live interview on Channel 9, the local television station! It's a show called Dunedin Diary, and the producer said today that I'm only being interviewed for 5 and a half minutes, so feel free to talk as fast as I like... I don't think she realises the speeds at which I can reach when I'm excited and nervous.

It's funny, standing not quite at the end of the tunnel but clearly seeing the light. Best Beloved and Bumblebee are flying over on Saturday night, and taking their time to get to me, arriving in Dunedin on Tuesday to hang out for a while before we start travelling around the south island for a couple of weeks.

I haven't mentioned them much... Best Beloved has been living up to his name, doing a fantastic job as a single parent. He's wrangled Bumblebee through a load of accelerated homework (so that he can take 3 weeks off school) and kept the cats from fretting too much. I can't thank him enough for holding things together while I came here. I couldn't have done this without him.

OK, time to turn off the radio -- I listen to it as a break from my personal playlist, and I've kept it on the position on the dial at which I found it, which is a local commercial station I've lately dubbed INXS FM because they play at least 4 INXS tracks a day, consciously or not -- and head back to my digs to flake out on the couch with my feet high in the air. I've just finished reading Jude the Obscure on my iPhone (which almost made me break out weeping in the dining room of the college over my bowl of fruit and yogurt), and am halfway through Mary Stewart's The Crystal Cave (something I dug out of the college library, which is a weird mix of donated Classics and abandoned airport novels). Life is tough...


Lisa in Oz said...

I've been fascinated by typography for a long time and just discovered your blog - LOVING it!

*off to read through the archives*

ronnie said...

scheeez I'm a pathetic excuse for a calligrapher..... not only do I like the metal type flourish (ahhh purty) but (gulp) I've never seen or even heard whispers of The Red Book before 2 minutes ago.....

mein gott! it's a real dooosey! eeek - I feel a moment of total jealousy about to swamp me..... you (gulp) played with a copy of this......


(ps I really like the final 'cat' piece..... now it's a toss up between that one and the murray for my fav......)

Ampersand Duck said...

Heh, I knew you'd dig this post, Ronnie.

Lisa, welcome! I'm sorry, you've probably discovered by now that you have to trawl through a fair bit of other stuff to find typography on my blog... hopefully my tags help!

Carol said...

I've just been reading about The Red Book in the past week and thought I'd like to buy a copy. I'll have to Google it again.

I've really enjoyed your descriptions of your printing adventures - I think the Les Murray has been my favourite but so hard to choose.

Ampersand Duck said...

Thanks, Carol. Hopefully I can get some good versions of the posters scanned and put them in one post, so we can compare and contrast!

Fiona Dempster said...

I have absolutely been loving sharing your residency vicariously. It has been fascinating and full of learning and sharing and understanding. And on top of that the works are brilliant. I really like the way you mull a piece of poetry around, and ponder what it means and how to do justice to it; to find its essence; its special piece of individualism - and then deliver with gusto.

The Crimson King said...

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Kathi said...

It took me a while to read all the unread posts in my feed reader, so now I finally made it to your blog. I'm usually a quiet reader and don't comment often (which doesn't mean, that I don't love what you do), but this time I have to share something with you. I spent my holidays this year in the US, where I visited Washington DC and the library of congress, which had an exhibition about Jung's Red Book. Being in the small, but beautiful arranged exhibition made me think of you. You would have liked it. Here's the link: