Last Friday, which was a beautifully breezy sunny day, David Ossman and Judith Walcutt visited Egress Studio. The main purpose for this visit was for David to sign and number 150 copies of the latest poetry book published by Egress Studio Press.

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David Ossman gets ready to sign his new books in Egress Studio. Beside him are 150 books in stacks of fifteen. On the couch, Judith Walcutt converses with Jim Bertolino.

David was excited to see the book, and to get busy signing them. They were waiting for him in stacks of fifteen on a table in the studio. He sat down and took a little time to look at the book. I am so glad he likes what the book looks like and how it feels in the hands. He began signing shortly thereafter. First, he tried the pen out on the paper of the book’s interior: French Paper Company’s Speckletone Starch Mint, a lightly speckled, lightly green smooth paper. Good idea to try out the pen on the paper first, which worked just fine. And then he began to sign.

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The signing and numbering of a limited edition is easier than signing books for people, and goes a lot faster. No need to ask who to sign the book for, or how to spell a name. The hardest parts are keeping the signature similar start to finish, and remembering what number you are on.  David didn’t run into any trouble.

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Here, David has signed several books, but the stacks to his right are still high. In this photo, you can see the hand-scored and folded square spine, and the cotton rug yarn endpaper.

In the meantime, I mentioned to Judith that, if she happened to like raspberries, she was welcome to pick as many as she wanted just outside the door where I’ve grown two rows of raspberries for several years, though I don’t like berries. Well, I found out she likes raspberries. I think they smell as delightful as roses.

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Jim Bertolino likes every part of poetry, from the inkling of an idea to the oral presentation of each poem. He couldn’t help but sit there in the chair watching someone signing every single poetry book of a limited edition.

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It was not long before David had finished signing and numbering the books. Here he is signing the last one.

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After this, we opened a bottle of wine and toasted to the signing and the numbering of the book, to the book, to David Ossman, to poets, to poetry, and all things poetic. It must have been a very large bottle of wine because we had to finish it at dinner. Oh, dinner. The dinner was appetizers (olives, raspberries, artichoke/parmesan dip with rosemary crackers) first, then, out at the pond, there was a salad with lettuce varieties from the garden, beet-pickled eggs from the Sicilian Buttercup hens, pasties, hearty bread with sunflower seeds, and sparkling water. We went back to the studio for dessert: Peach Kuchen. By then, the sun was beginning to set. “Good timing, sun!” as we were exhausted. What a wonderful day!

Many people know David Ossman as one of the main characters of the infamous Firesign Theatre, since its beginnings back in the amazing ’60’s. A precursor to Saturday Night Live, Firesign Theatre was like a godfather to SNL, Frank Zappa, and others.

But this post is about David Ossman as poet. His new book, titled The Old Man’s Poems, is inspired by morning coffee, an artful cat, and the mysterious majesty of Mount Baker. Ossman is agile and savvy when it comes to writing from the heart—his poems share the honest experience of someone who’s been around the block a couple million times. He’s trustworthy, and has a beautiful mind.

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David Ossman in his study

Ah, but I mentioned a Book Launch Party in the headline of this post.

David Ossmans’ Book Launch Party: The Old Man’s Poems

with David Ossman reading from his book, and hopefully talking about things. In celebration of Ossman’s new book, The Band of Poets from Seattle, a music and poetry group— with John Burgess, Anna Jenkins, Jed Myers, Ted McMahon, and Rosanne Olson—will also be performing.

Saturday, August 17: Program begins at 6pm
(I know I said 7pm in earlier promotion, but I’ve changed my mind. It’ll be 6pm. The harpist has to leave by 8.)

Potluck at 5pm. If you can’t decide what to bring, here’s a suggestion: A-D, please bring a dessert; E-L bring a salad or vegetable dish; M-T side dishes or an entrée even; U-Z appetizers might be nice.

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David Ossman during a performance.

The process of publishing this book was much slower than I had hoped, but the soft covers are all but finished, with only fifteen outer covers to score, trim, fold and wrap around the interior book. David will come up to the studio tomorrow to sign and number all 150 copies. Then they will be done.

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This photo shows a few unscored, untrimmed, wraparound covers at the far end of the table (hope you don’t get dizzy looking at it), beside the tools I use to score and trim the books, and then there are 135 books with their outer covers on ready for signing tomorrow, and the final stack of fifteen books in the box (with the red interior cover), which I’ll finish up as soon as I’m done writing this post.

Please notice that this is a limited edition, handmade book. It is like an artwork, because I consider poetry not only an oral art, but a visual art as well, once it’s on the page. I enjoy designing poetry books, and attempt to reflect the poems in the typography, layout, and cover designs. For this book, I also prepared six linoleum blocks to make the interior and cover illustrations.

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The price for the book ($27) does reflect the artistry of David Ossman and the work that went into making the book. Handmade books cannot compete with mass-produced books, except in artistry of production. In the future, the soft covers will be joined by several hardcover artbooks as well. These are not made just yet. But you might want to know that the poems in these hardcover books will printed on my handmade papers, and illustrated with each of the six linoleum blocks tipped in. Those will take a while longer to make, but I’ll certainly announce when they are finished.

I will post more about David Ossman, the Band of Poets, the book, and this event as we get closer to the August 17 celebration. Come and help us celebrate.

—Anita K. Boyle, publisher, Egress Studio Press

My studio rarely looks like it does during the studio tour, workshops, meetings, or salons. It’s a mess, albeit a coordinated one. Here’s what it looks like a couple weeks before two workshops and a salon are happening. It’ll be nice and clean in a couple weeks, but I’m sure it’ll become far more chaotic before then.

This is what the studio looked like yesterday afternoon. It is an organized disorganization of neat project areas.

This is the area where I’m inking the linoleum blocks on my small etching press.

This is where I cut the linoleum blocks. It is a very safe way for holding the blocks still, which reduces the number of injuries. It is still out because I occasionally need to recut a line or two while I’m inking.

Right after I took this photo, I took these dry prints off the clothesline.

Here is another area, where I am making paper. The brown liquid contains the rest of the hosta pulp from paper I made earlier. I plan to add cotton linters to it, and it will make an entirely other type of paper from what 100% hosta pulp has made, which is a little brittle and hard to work with.

Here is the hosta paper dripping on the studio’s cement floor. Towels come in handy during the paper making process. The intention for this paper is for artworks, not books.

These papers were printed in my toner printer, and then I wrote quotes on them from The Big Burn book. I do not know if this artwork will be finished in time for the Allied Arts show. I have a plan, but we’ll have to see.

This is the newest project. It will be an assemblage when it’s done. It uses wood from old buildings and furniture around Bellingham. So far, I’ve cut, glued and nailed in the framing. The glass piece is just sitting there.

Back to the linoleum blocks, here is how I set up making prints: roller, glass plate for ink, linoleum block, ruler, and paper.

This is what it looks like when the ink has just been rolled on… a little shiny and opposite of the print.

Here are eighteen of the prints hanging near the heater to dry for a day or two. No need to rush, which helps the prints from smudging.


Well, now I better get back to work. Lots to do before I’m done.
—Anita K. Boyle