This week I finally seemed to hit my stride with printing. I understood what I need to do to get the results I want and I got some traction with the book I am making.
What is interesting to me at the moment is how this poem, Powerful Words, which I have been fiddling with for some years is now becoming something greater in the process of making it into a book. I persisted with the poem because I could see it had unrealised potential, and enough depth to keep me coming back over and over again. Yet I chose it to make this first hand-printed book precisely because it was not what I would consider my best work. I didn't want to 'waste' one of my favourite poems on a project whose primary purpose is learning.
What this means is that the very qualities lacking in this poem that I'm practicing with are developing out of the process of giving it a physical presence. Perhaps any poem, or text, would flourish under the extensive consideration that this one gets as a practice piece. But in the long, thoughtful conversation I am conducting with printing, design and the text itself, the poem is not a passive text being manipulated by arbitrary processes.
The content of the book I am printing almost certainly would not have existed without the slow collecting of each wooden or lead letter from its compartment. The constraints of the chase, the jigsaw puzzle of furniture, the sticky ink, my inexperience, the available typefaces and presses create a space in which the poem tests its boundaries. Answers to the technical questions of size and shape and flow and colour are found not only in the text that I started with but the text that emerges in response to those questions.
It's a bit like being a parent watching their precocious child become an admirable adult.