Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Great Book Covers

Some of my favorite 2006 book covers.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Letter from the publisher

After my daughter was born in 2004, I took some time off from publishing trade books to figure out where all this was heading. I needed to renew my enthusiasm and did so by taking some courses on letterpress printing and bookbinding. Over the last couple of years I have continued to publish chapbooks and now in 2007, my plans are more ambitious than ever. I will be publishing two trade poetry books, one by Diane Tucker and the other by Andrea MacPherson. I will also be publishing two chapbooks. Hand-made books give a creative publisher the widest conceptual play. The book becomes the art, not merely the structure that houses it. High-quality papers and workmanship make these books well worth the additional cost.

For those of you who are interested in collecting limited editions, or simply enjoy buying books that are beautiful and unique, Palimpsest Press now offers a subscriber service for those who want to ensure a copy of all chapbook titles. The first of these, published in 2005, was Marty Gervais' Taking My Blood. This book combines poetry and photography, as well as incorporating letterpress, transparencies and fold-out leaves into the design. In 2006, Steven Heighton’s Paper Lanterns: 25 Postcards from Asia was published. This chapbook uses traditional Asian bookbinding techniques, and was designed to look like a travel journal with an envelope cover and postcards within. The “postcards” were made using images supplied by Mary Huggard, who took the photographs while the couple was in Asia. Aidan Thompson’s So Earnest to Have a Green Point was also published in 2006. In this chapbook, Thompson creates a theoretical dialogue between early-twentieth century poets and visual artists. Thompson responds to the artwork itself, as well as engaging with the ideas common to both writers and visual artists. In 2007, I am publishing limited edition chapbooks by Valerie Stetson and Christian Bok.

As one can imagine, the costs of this type of endeavor cannot be recuperated through sales alone. To offset some of the costs for this expensive “calling” I have begun to sell design and bookbinding services. Sometime in the upcoming year I intend to diversity into letterpress invitations. Please email with any inquiries.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006


Letterpress ephemera made from extra postcards from Steven Heighton's chapbook Paper Lanterns.

Monday, December 4, 2006

Steven Heighton's Paper Lanterns

I was very interested in constructing a book made with postcards. Steven approached me with an Asian travelogue he had done some time ago. His wife is an excellent photographer and took many pictures while on their travels. I decided to make Steven’s book into a travel inspired journal with postcards inside. To create the postcards I reproduced Mary’s photographs in full colour on the front, and for the back I used Steven’s prose pieces and added cancelled stamps I made on Photoshop. I carefully selected the image for each stamp by sifting through hundreds of old stamps I bought off of eBay.

Because of the Asian theme, I used traditional Asian papers and bookbinding methods. The inner binding is held together with thin pieces of paper I twisted between my fingers, known in Japanese as koyori. The outer stab binding is in a tortoise shell pattern, called kikko toji. The “postcards” are interspersed between Steven’s poetry and held together by a cover that is made to look like an envelop with a decorative lining. The liner is made with Yuzen paper and reminds me of a pattern that might be found on a kimono. The cover stock is a thick handmade paper in brown turtle. The cover proved challenging due to various paper weights and because I wanted it to look like an envelope but not compromise the exposed binding. I think that the results turned out aesthetically beautiful, while maintaining a travel-inspired feel. The Asian origins of the design have been maintained through the binding process and selection of paper. The poems are printed on a textured paper in pistachio and the end papers are handmade Lokta from Nepal in red.

The look of the letterpress title is in accordance with traditional vertical oriented cover labels found on Japanese books. It took some time to get the letterpress ink the right consistency, since I was mixing it with metallic powder. When the cover/envelope is opened, the first “postcard” acts as the title page. The Asian glyphs, found on the sign behind the woman, are the title of the chapbook translated into Chinese. The sign also mimics the look of a traditional title bar found on the covers of Japanese books. The smaller sign contains a translation of Steven’s name. I had to pay someone to do the translation. He then sent the text to me as a transparent jpeg file so I could place it on the sign boards.

My intent was to design the chapbook with the idea of a travelogue in mind, to make it suggestive of notes and postcards stuffed into an envelope. The binding did make the book somewhat stiff, and I had to score each page individually to be able to open it with any amount of flexibility. The closure on the outside was made using a bamboo button sliced in half. I wanted the chapbook to be reminiscent of traditional Japanese books, hence the tortoise-shell stab binding, Yuzen and Lokta papers, and the liberal use of metallics and bold red. In parts it does seem a little over the top, but I wanted the postcards to suggest the “emblazoned jackets” that Steven writes about.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Press Release - Paper Lanterns

Book Launch: Thursday December 7th at 7:30 pm
Novel Idea Bookstore - 156 Princess Street. Kingston, ON.

Reading: Friday March 30th at 7:00 pm
TYPE BOOKS - 883 Queen St. West. Toronto, ON.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

So Earnest a Green Point

Palimpsest Press is pleased to announce the release of Aidan Thompson’s So Earnest a Green Point, which creates a theoretical dialogue between early-twentieth century poets and visual artists. Aidan responds to the artwork as well as engaging in ideas common to both writers and visual artists. What is a "true" depiction? Can words or shapes name things in the world? Is a poem or painting a reflection of an experience or an event in and of itself?

Aidan’s poetry contains many geometric images, so I took that element and included it in the design. On the cover is a circular cut out that reveals the title, and inside are two more geometric cutouts that both reveal and conceal the text behind. This structures what the reader is able to see and read. Readers must turn the page to view more of the text, and must open the cover completely to see the entire circle. The reader’s experience of the text, then, is processed through the structure and design of the book. I thought this fitting for a text that concerns itself with the visual.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Exhumation Poems

In these poems the exhumation of Elizabeth Siddal’s body, a true historical event, is seen as the awakening of her creative force. The phrase “truth is stranger than fiction” definitely applies here.


When you died, he declared
to the world his muse was dead.
As the coffin’s lid lowered, he rushed
to place his manuscript beside you,
wedged between cheek and hair.

A dramatic gesture, befitting the first Dante,
whose solitude after Beatrice’s death
lasted an entire year.

At his command, seven years later,
your corpse exhumed —
his poems retrieved.

A bonfire was lit.
Hair filled the coffin, spread through
your fingers. Alive, a vibrant red fire
consumed your body, threatened
to burn the hand reaching in.

He was not present for your rebirth.
Still in his studio, he stroked
your canvased cheek painted
by his own hand. Imagined your skin
smooth like the inside curve of a petal.

For him, you had always been dead.

The Vanishing

Death barely touches you.
Your bright hair, a tail of fire
that weaves myth through scarlet silk.

His manuscript, damp with black
circles of rot, once gently tucked
beside your bloodless face,

is now removed. Each page
disinfected. The stench of alcohol
dissipating as pages flap wet
on a line. Still, his soggy words

cannot be deciphered.
Letters worn through.
Ink smudged, as if
by a wet thumb.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Judging a Book by its Cover

Sometimes a book doesn't stand a chance, and with a cover like this you can see why. Besides the obvious nipples, which seem kind of tactless in this case, the colour and placement of the text with the dull background just looks bad.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


Go to and find out what Google thinks of you or your friends. Just type in your name and find out your googlism. It is like a found poem.

Googlism for Dawn:

dawn is right for me?
dawn is effective and
dawn is coming the charm of
dawn is a network of women scholars and activists who are working
dawn is breaking
dawn is back because 'the price is right'
dawn is £7
dawn is always
dawn is upon us
dawn is a friend of the muses
dawn is canceled and why
dawn is bright'ning
dawn is thoughts of a rural woman by rebecca brown
dawn is my favorite new book
dawn is pregnant
dawn is not shy
dawn is nigh
dawn is available for freelance
dawn is colored with first
dawn is helping a small child
dawn is coming
dawn is in the
dawn is so sweet"
dawn is your
dawn is a feeling
dawn is waking
dawn is releasing special broadcast and print ads that focus on the cleanup of aquatic birds that have been affected by oil spills
dawn is an acronym for "disciplining a whole nation"
dawn is a journal devoted to publishing ideas and information that is dangerous
dawn is followed by night western donors amid the chaos of haiti dawn is coming the charm of regional cuisine
dawn is sprinkling in the east
dawn is brightening
dawn is the closest villa to cane bay beach
dawn is an exquisite luxury vacation / holiday home located just steps away from a spectacular sandy beach on the lush north shore
dawn is one of the few women's organizations that has followed
dawn is slowly breaking
dawn is awaking
dawn is stealing
dawn is a non
dawn is filled with dreams so many dreams
dawn is rising
dawn is a feeling" dawn is a feeling a beautiful ceiling the smell of grass just makes you pass into a dream you're here today no
dawn is first in the caste book series for exalted books detailing the castes of the solar exalted
dawn is always posting
dawn is a time of hope and gratitude for another day
dawn is the time
dawn is
dawn is a graduate of southern illinois university at edwardsville
dawn is designed
dawn is a massive undertaking
dawn is a biblical and mission
dawn is nigh' size
dawn is helping small child while another one is coming for a hug
dawn is suffering from the riley factor
dawn is in the library
dawn is so sweet
dawn is a feeling a beautiful ceiling the smell of grass just makes you pass into a dream you're here today no future
dawn is a quarterly journal
dawn is a supremely geeky outcast and the victim of an endless stream of attacks
dawn is breaking now
dawn is a system of magic that was developed in the late 1800's
dawn is able to mold your precious pooch into a work of art
dawn is not a popular girl
dawn is waking melody
dawn is always happy to autograph books
dawn is a feeling lyric
dawn is her petite size compared to other fashion dolls
dawn is breaking a new awakening from a day in which the world cried a day when the assurance of security died through tears of sadness America torn
dawn is Buffy's younger sister or is she?
dawn is at hand
dawn is just back online this week
dawn is normally terminated with 19 conductors per channel
dawn is to the recording
dawn is a little piece of gold that offers wealth and talent to be heard

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Little Journeys

Little Journeys published in 1906. This volume contains a chapter on Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal. I find it interesting that people refer to her by her maiden name even though married. It seems curious given the time period and haven't found a reason for it. The second "l" is frequently dropped from Siddall, as it is in this instance. Another curiosity.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A Few Favorite Pics

Just a few of my most cherished...

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Cunning Creatures

I am suffering from bouts of insomnia between animal-haunted nightmares. My wakeful pillow gives me no rest. Dreams inhabited by cunning creatures. Some out for blood while others are playfully deceitful. Most are suffering and in need of protection. There always seems to be some lame creature crying for help or about to be swallowed up. Usually set in a house or surreal structure with many rooms, trap doors, stairs that lead nowhere or to an edge that drops indefinitely. Alternately, I am in a boat adrift at sea on dark rolling waves. I fall in to discover a world where I can breathe — encounter strange creatures, some friendly, most not.

Saturday, March 4, 2006

The “F” Bomb

“Fucking Cat”! — that is what my two-year old daughter said. There is no doubt in my mind where she learned that word. I have a bad habit of swearing in moments of frustration, and I said the exact same words in front of her just days before. She said the “F bomb” in a rather casual way, but then looked at me and gave her mischievous smile so that I knew she was aware that it was not a word that should be uttered. Now I know that two-year olds imitate, and that I should be more careful with what I say in front of her, but even still I couldn’t help but be startled by her confidence in saying that word. Although an unwelcome fixture in my vocabulary now, I never said that word when I was young, certainly not at two or even at twelve. I was an adult, working in a factory, when I started swearing. In this setting, profanity lost its power due to sheer repetition. As with watching too much violence on television, one can simply become immune. The “F” word became like any other word, although more varied in its application. Some people used it as an adjective for a noun, any noun, no matter the context, tone or intended response. “Fucking foreman” was meant to be hostile, whereas “she is a fucking hottie” was complimentary and intended to promote reciprocal jargon. It could be used as a noun, as in “what a fuckhead.” And the phrase “fuck that fucking fucker” was the most versatile use of a word I think I have ever heard.

But now I was hearing the word come out of my sweet little girl’s mouth, and my original shock at its visceral force came storming back. As affronted as I was, I could not help being proud, just a little bit, of the way she by-passed the more trivial swearwords like “shit” and “damn” and went straight for the “f” bomb. And it was a bomb!

The problem was this. How could I appear creditable when telling her not to swear when she already knew that I did? I need my own mouth washed out with soap. So I decided to go on a swearing detox. No cursing. Cold turkey. I told her that swearing is impolite and unnecessary to get one’s point across. I told her that although she heard mommy say it, she shouldn’t be swearing either. And so a toddler and her grown mother made a deal that they would each not swear and if they heard the other swearing, then they would point it out and respectfully ask the person to not use that sort of language. She hasn’t said the word since, although I was caught once a few months later. I didn’t think it would be so fucking hard to stop swearing, but bad habits usually take awhile to break. Now that I am culpable to my two-year old, I’ll have to try harder. I wish they made a patch for it, the way they do for cigarette smokers — maybe I can get an extra-large one and just stick it over my mouth.

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Icing on the Cake

On my wedding day, my husband and I performed a traditional wedding rite — the dutiful cutting of a white frosted wedding cake in front of a photographer, who snapped as many pictures of this ritual as he did the ceremony itself. Rather silly, I thought. What is the big deal, it is only a cake?

Apparently it is a cake with a history. I recently read that the wedding cake as we know it — a multi-layered buttercream confection stacked on top of each other in a pyramid shape — became popular after Queen Victoria’s daughter wed in 1859. The cake itself, tiered cascades of frothy white embellished with the daintiest of ornaments, is a stand-in for the bride. Symbolic of her body, the cake must be pierced in a dramatic rite of passage. Although I find the historical lineage of our most cherished customs intriguing, this traditional notion inherited from the Victorian age seems, well, Victorian. I wonder if brides knew this if it would change anything. Probably not, since the white dress never went out of fashion. It seems when life’s most important moments are to be celebrated or mourned, people cling to vestiges of custom despite their symbolic hangovers.

I refused to have my daughter baptized. Not being a Christian I couldn’t think of one good argument why I’d want to symbolically cleanse my daughter of original sin. Many Christians do not know that original sin is nowhere mentioned in the Bible, that it was, in fact, Saint Augustine who developed and then popularized this belief. I consider my union with my husband a beautiful thing, and no fifth century bishop is going to tell me different. “Still,” I was asked, “what is the harm if it makes your father-in-law happy?” It is, after all, just a bit of water. The harm is in the symbolic importance. Perhaps, being a poet, I am particularity sensitive to symbolism, but I don’t see how if something is symbolic than it means it is less real in our minds and hearts. If we attribute a specific meaning to a symbolic act, then the meaning is valid.

What if, however, we are unaware of the meaning? What if we follow custom by mere habit, a learned behaviour? It is something we do because our parents did it, because others expect it. My own wedding was rather traditional in many ways. I wore white, and although knowing full well the symbolism behind that fashion statement, I chose to ignore the implications simply because I thought the satin dress in the boutique pretty. It was an off-white, if that makes any difference.

We were married outside in a public park, the sky was a pale blue and behind us was a little pond with birds. There were flowers everywhere. Our reception, small by today’s standards, was held in a country club dining hall. We celebrated with a meal of garlic roasted chicken and a vegetarian pilaf, some short and some lengthy speeches, wild and shameless dancing, plenty of drinks, and of course, a wedding cake to cut and share amongst the guests. Our cake was lavished in white buttercream frosting and each tier was covered with fresh red roses, identical to the ones in my bouquet. If one was looking for similarities between cake and bride, there it was. I guess when it comes to custom the meaning comes from those collectively involved. We ascribe meaning to what matters, and I doubt anyone there cared in the least the symbolism attributed to the white wedding dress or the cutting of the cake. To us, the cake was merely a sweet treat, and a delicious one at that.

Another custom is for the bride and groom to save the top layer of the cake and store it until their first wedding anniversary. It is considered good luck to do so, and in some cultures the top layer is saved until the christening of the couple’s first-born. Good thing we didn’t wait until our first-born, or that cake would have been seriously freezer-burnt. With today’s cakes, being light and sometimes mousse-filled delicate creations, it is perhaps unwise to save the cake at all. The fruitcake that was used for wedding cakes of our parent’s generation was more easily stored, but definitely not as tasty. I attempted to save the top tier from our wedding cake, but the memory of that luscious vanilla icing won over my desire to be sentimental, and it was unwrapped and greedily gobbled up a mere month later.

We do such silly things in the name of finding luck. In ancient times, bread was broken over the bride’s head for luck in her marriage, and although we no longer do that we still perform many rituals based on the promise of luck. We carry something burrowed and something blue, save the top layer of the cake, and although a groom no longer breaks bread on his bride’s head he is encouraged to smash cake in her face. Any rational person knows that luck cannot be found in these customs, anymore than luck is guaranteed in a favourable astrological reading. Does anyone go out and buy lottery tickets because their horoscope says they are particularly lucky this week? I hope not. But custom is custom, and people do these things because they are tradition.

Weather customs are performed due to tradition, the promise of luck, or as a symbolic rite heralding in a new stage of life, those involved have to be aware of their attitudes beforehand. A christening was too symbolically charged, and too meaningful in all the wrong ways, for me to disagree with the principle and yet go through with it to satisfy others. A white dress, though, seemed a harmless tradition. And as for that wedding cake, is was melt-in-your-mouth yummy, and being able to savour its sweetness all over again, after being frozen and then thawed, was just icing on the cake.