Printer-Poet, Poet-Printer Session I & II: setting new foundations - Emily Abendroth's EXCLOSURES

Printer, you begin a new printing adventure with the idea of a broadbook, a book that is shorter than a chapbook but longer than a broadside. You imagine the pages of this new poetry object to unfold in simple accordion style, stitched in such a way so that the unfolding occurs at the bottom and top of each page, for a kind of raw unspiraling. In printing, you have realized that you must work from the end of the mind's eye and come forward to the front where the reality of what you can do or are doing with the printed object has become (or is becoming). In short, you learn to work from the back forward to avoid making irreversible mistakes. 

It is strange to think that with printing, the history of a printed work is somewhat already preset or determined, no matter the actual outcome of the work. Previously, you have been concerned with representing the history of type faces that have been used and worn, but now, with this new project, you are faced with a compilation (or complication) of histories since you are using a brand-new type face that has never seen ink nor paper, but you are also using several, older, highly-oxidized italic type faces for this project because of the limited number of pieces of type in each case.  So printer, will your concerns fall upon the great responsibility of representing the fresh history of this new type face, and in the process, neglect the other type faces, or will you try to give attention to all of these faces as you come upon them? An unknown or unknowable choice that you will no doubt encounter again and again throughout the printing of this object.

This new type face, Century Schoolbook, pulls you into new, tactile experiences when setting type and brings you into a compositor’s rhythm. Printer, this newly felt rhythm elevates your mind and allows for reminders to set you back so that they might interrupt you.

Use furniture to block out excess space; avoid having a heavy form.

Each piece of type in this newly purchased face is lighter and smoother; each denotable part is highlighted by its sharpness – a malleable sharpness not yet dulled by the pressure of strong wood fibers of countless sheets of paper that it will undoubtedly meet in its future.

Printer, the smoothness of the sides of each new piece makes it easier for you to set them in the composing stick because each piece glides into place without catching on skin or other pieces of type. You find you are able to use the nicks in the type to pull each piece into place in the stick. The rhythm is hypnotic and you almost forget you are setting type because you listen to the soft, magnetic sound that each piece makes as you pull it into the line. True attention cannot be divided in a craft. The eye or mind’s eye must fall upon one action in the sequence of many, rest upon this action, and then move on. And because you set this type faster, you reflect on the slowness of previous type you have set – that being the Bodoni, which has grown rough from oxidation and inking. A roughness that is present in its physical weight. A weight that you now realize is a kind of history that each piece bears and shares with its compositor. A weight that this luminous new type simply holds no trace of. 

Avoid widowing words.

Since several of the pages in this work use italics, you search for a readable, italic type face, with openness in the bowls of certain letters that fit with the readable, openness of the Century Schoolbook. The difficulty resides in being able to find an italic type face that fits this openness and has an ample amount of type in its case.

Work from the back, forward.

Printer, you set lines of type for page one of the broadbook and then it dawns on your fingers as they rhythmically search for another piece of type in the case that a particular letter seems to have a very low count. You pause and count the number of instances that that letter is being used in the remainder of that poem on the page. Then you count the remaining pieces of type for that letter in the case. They do not match. You must redistribute the lines of type you have just set and search for another type face that has the number of letters that you require.

Swell the line with brass and copper spaces to justify the line to the eye.

You add additional 3m spaces between words to lengthen the lines and justify them to the eye. It is difficult to justify where these extra spaces should go. You try to choose with a rational eye, adding another space after a comma or mid-line period, if possible. But they only seem to stand out like extra teeth or badly tuned piano keys to your eye. You know the difference. But does the eye? In swelling the line to create the effect of block prose, original line breaks are altered, spilling over into other lines. But every few lines, the spaces seem to work out or catch up, and you are able to set a line with a break that fits the original one as made by poet. Taking note of all new line breaks to report to poet, you pause and take special note of the first one – with a break between the word “between” and “for.”

Printer, as you redistribute the type that ran short of certain letters, you notice that this particular italic face holds letters within letters. For there, inside the M as it rests upside down in the composing stick, the descender reveals a pair of perfectly silent Vs.