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.

Table

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

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For the past year or so, I’ve been busy with family things, and neglected a lot of my art&poetry-focussed things (i.e. my business). But, I’ve recently made another schedule, one with a (hopefully) doable plan for publishing a couple of extremely patient poets; for making and showing my artworks; and for putting together a poetry manuscript of my own. The family things more serious and personal than I’d like to mention in this blog.

The two poets I mention have very likely been grumbling about their book not getting done, and I certainly wouldn’t blame them if they were. In fact, I’d encourage them to complain, at least a little. The recent and future books by Egress Studio Press are handmade, limited editions that contain artwork, and so they take more time to publish than usual, and require stretches of time dedicated to them alone. I describe them as poetry art-books, and I’m going public now by saying I think they’ll be ready by June. I will be hard at work on them until then.

I’m making some progress on the artwork for the cover of both, and the interior of one. That’s mainly what I want to show in this posting. One will have a few original linoleum block prints in the hard cover, and copies of them in the soft cover version. The other will have a monotype reprint on the cover. And those are the main focus of my thoughts right now.

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This is what I’m working on for the cover of one of the books. These are monoprints, and I’ll be making several more before I’m through. Those two on the upper right are just me goofing around with color and paper and texture and the et ceteras that come from the draft form of art. I see I have a ways to go before I have the final version.

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These are sketches for the second book. I’m trying out layouts for linoleum block prints. Each of these has possibilities, but the final will look different from these. The book will have five or six of them, including the cover.

You’ve probably already seen The Moon’s Answer by Lana Ayers. The pen and ink illustrations took quite a while to complete. But the final layout and assembly of the books still required a lot more time before project completion. Currently, all the soft covers are finished and have been in the hands of readers since the summer of 2016. The six casebound books were finished in November 2016. And I am looking forward to finishing the final three accordion books later this year.

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Hard copies of The Moon’s Answer. On the lower left are the six casebound books with handmade paper on the cover and endpapers. Top and right is the accordion book, with all the interior and exterior papers using two colors of handmade paper.

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In this close up of the front cover, you can see the crosshatching that is a part of every illustration in the book, and is on the hand-dyed lavender paper. The moon is cut out of the lavender paper and pasted onto a yellow paper to create the two-color presentation, as it is throughout the accordion books. 

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All of the books are signed and numbered by the author and illustrator on the page opposite the colophon. (Sorry for the out-of-focus photo. I’m in a rush.)

 

The previously mentioned schedule requires that I keep this blog updated with what’s happening at Egress Studio.  All I have to do is follow this schedule a minimum of 75% of the time, and I’ll stay on course. Wish me luck. So far, so good. I’ll post about the manuscript I’m putting together later on, as well as other posts about the poets and artists around the Northwest.

Space Hawk

Where the sphere of actuality
and the sphere of possibility turn
against each other, a winged creature

is flying through the Earth.
Broad rhythmic strokes
propel it through densities of stone

inward to the molten core.
Then, like a red-tailed hawk riding
a sudden thermal, it is buoyed outward,

erupting from the surface
into space, where it disappears
in a shimmer of exhilaration.

==

“Cosmic Bird” by Leo Osborne

This poem, which inspired a sculpture, is from my book Snail River—published in 1995 by the Quarterly Review of Literature Award Series, Princeton University. Leo Osborne created his sculpture in response to the poem, and it will be up for auction (together with a copy of the book with Leo’s drawing on the page with the poem), at the Museum of Northwest Art in La Conner, Washington. The event is scheduled for Saturday, June 16th—doors open and silent auction begins at 5 pm; live auction begins at 7:15 pm.

Osborne is a Guemes Island artist, and his sculpture reminds me that I wrote a poem inspired by a Philip McCracken painting––Phil is another long-time Guemes artist who, well before Leo arrived on Guemes, was well-known for his sculpture. Back when I first lived on the Island, it was in a rental house about three doors south of Phil and Anne McCracken’s house and art studio. That was the mid-eighties. One evening when I walked up the road to visit the McCrackens, I was enjoying the sound of frogs singing. I noticed that the frogs got louder as I approached the house. When I mentioned that phenomenon to Phil and Anne, they pointed to a small pond near the front door, and insisted that all frogs were quite welcome. Later Phil loaned me that painting titled “Frog Voices”—which, in a somewhat abstract manner, depicted the rising music of the frogs.

Frog Voices by Philip McCracken

I spent a number of evenings meditating on the painting. Then I wrote a poem which I titled “Frog Voices” in honor of the artwork it was interpreting. The McCrackens liked the poem very much, and Phil said he wanted me to keep his painting as a gift. The “Frog Voices” poem was soon to be published in my volume First Credo, 1986, which was the first of two books that were published in the Quarterly Review of Literature Contemporary Poetry Series.

Here is the poem:

Frog Voices

The swamp is silent.

Dawn’s slow voltage
reaches wild currant, and each twig,
each slim living rheostat
feeds light to the blossoms.

Then one by one open the gold
and green-flecked eyes of the frogs.

Over the distant Bering Sea,
over resting bowhead whales
and sea birds at roost,
a missile punctures the brilliance
of morning sky.

Shivering ponds of swamp water
harbor a grim reflection
as the projectile descends its chilling arc.

Suddenly the frogs begin.
Their voices rise,
feathery trebles, croaks and trills
all weaving a shield
of sound.

When the missile explodes
the blinding egg of fire is enclosed
by singing, then is repelled
into cold space
beyond the range
of song.

––For Philip McCracken

Poems by James Bertolino