September 19, 2013

No Small Measure: A collaboration between poet Christopher DeWeese and artist and printer Megan Fowler

No Small Measure is a collaborative portfolio of letterpress printed broadsides, which was organized by artist Margot Ecke, curator Beth Sale and poet Ezekiel Black. Fifteen poets have been paired with fifteen artists and each group was asked to create a letterpress printed broadside. The project was made possible with funding from the University of North Georgia Art Galleries with a generous grant from the Forsyth County Arts Alliance. Over the next several weeks, each collaborative team will be interviewed and asked about their experience working on the project.

Our fourth interview features poet Christopher DeWeese and artist and printer Megan Fowler.

A Conversation with poet Christopher DeWeese:

Your poem conjures up dark imagery and provokes a certain mood. What kind of design did you expect your artist to present as their visual response?  
I proposed "Deady" for our collaboration after exploring Megan's website, viewing her amazing work and a wonderful short film that details not only her artistic process, but its context within the other facets of her life. Megan's press is located on a gorgeous rural farm in Georgia, and I thought that "Deady," with its autumnal and somewhat agricultural energy might present a good space for our collaboration. As far as what I was expecting, I was hoping for something spare, and was really excited to see the elegant result of Megan's design.

Have you ever had your poetry letterpress printed? How do you feel about the technique (and paper choice with its deckled edge) and its relationship to the poem upon seeing the final piece?
Graduate students at Columbia College in Chicago letterpressed a poem of mine called "The New Sympathizers" as a fundraiser for the journal Court Green about five years ago, but I had no contact with them at all through the process. I really love the work Megan did with "Deady"- I feel like her design here magnifies the poem without gesturing too overtly to any one specific moment within it, which I very much appreciate. 

A Conversation with artist and printer Megan Fowler:

There are so many visual prompts in this poem. Would you please tell us a bit about how you developed your artwork and color palette for this piece?
It took a little while for me to funnel my initial interpretation of the poem into something that I felt allowed the imagery and text to have a harmonious marriage on the page. Somehow once I learned a little more about Christopher's writing practice and methods and learned the history and story behind this particular poem I felt a lot more uninhibited to try something really graphic.

Your composition is so distinct. What were you thinking about when developing the layout? My end goal when creating the composition was to help the reader feel all of the visceral imagery used in the poem. I knew I wanted to tie it back to something organic so I started with the drawing of the leaf underside. I loved the way the veins in the leaf could also double as a window into a heart chamber. The beginning compositions used the leaf pattern over the entire page from which I then created a rectangular white space in the center to rest the text on.  I was trying to reference the headstone / "deady" aspect of this poem, but it just ended up being too literal. Also there was so much to look at it took something away from the words themselves. So, from there I decided to use the leaf image as if it was being looked at on a slide under a microscope. I used the lines not only to frame up the poem, but help provide that sense of finality... of death. To show that even the organic has its limits. The red line is my reference to the body/ blood imagery, but compositionally it was my punctuation mark.

A bit of technical talk: could you explain how you created the leaf image?
The leaf image began as a pen and ink drawing. It was then scanned into photoshop where it was transformed into a bitmap image. This allows me to bring the drawing into illustrator and begin working with the text. From there everything, including the text, is made into a vector outline. The final step is sending it to a company, Boxcar Press, to have everything made into a photopolymer plastic plate. This plate then becomes the printing matrix. Et Voila.

For more information about Christopher, please visit his website: http://infiniteowls.blogspot.com/

For more information about Megan, please visit her website: http://brownparcelpress.com/

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