the backstory, 2010-2014

Hello. I thought it would be fun to track my work as a printer and designer, so I made this here blog. To start off, here are all the things I can remember having done to date, in as close to chronological order as memory permits:

To mark the 10th year of business for Bird & Beckett Books, I launched an annual magazine called AMERARCANA. I designed the covers, which were printed by the rightly (in)famous Alastair Johnston of Poltroon Press, who, because I’d been graciously introduced by David Meltzer, graciously took on the job at a most negligible cost. I did the interior layout for the magazine, too. It was my first time doing either sort of design, but I was very much pleased with the result. (Photos of this issue courtesy of Michael James Armstrong)





Later that year (2010) I decided to put out a chapbook of my own poems, entitled Slough. I designed the covers, which were printed by Joel Benson at Dependable Letterpress, because Alastair wasn’t able or willing to help out with this one. (Most of the photos below courtesy of Jack Whittington)


When Alastair again declined to print the covers from my design for the second issue of AMERARCANA (he’s really a full conception-to-completion sort of printer, and an exceptional one), I again sent the job to Joel. Though dependable, he wasn’t nearly so affordable. Not that his prices were at all out of line with what such work generally costs; I’d just been spoiled by that first run with Alastair.


The mag came out great, but I resolved to learn a bit of this trade myself, so I might be able to afford to keep doing letterpress covers, at least; and so I enrolled in a series of classes at the SF Center for the Book (2011). The first broadside I made, while just learning to use a Vandercook, was for a book release reading at Bird & Beckett Books for Neeli Cherkovski’s From the Middle Woods. That was followed by a pair of poemcards, the first two in what was to be an ongoing series: one poem of my own (“Station”) and one by Patrick James Dunagan (“Reading Olson in Long Beach”). It didn’t go on, but these were all good learning experiences.

The following year (2012) I printed the covers for the third issue of AMERARCANA myself and learned a lot more from mistakes made.


I decided to print and publish under the Bird & Beckett imprint another chapbook of my own (Scoria) along with a small set of poems by Jackson Meazle (Jack of Diamonds and the Queen of Spades) and a larger set by Erik Noonan (Stances).


JoDatQoS-1 Stances-1

I also printed the wrappers for a double-bound art book by Colter Jacobsen (Leben, Lernen, Lieben/Live, Learn, Love).

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A year later (2013), and more experienced, I printed the fourth issue of the magazine.


Over the course of the year I printed and published another pair of chapbooks under the Bird & Beckett imprint: Local News, by Jason Morris, and Young, by Christina Fisher.

Local News-1 Processed with VSCOcam

I also printed the covers for 88 Haiku, by Sunnylyn Thibodeaux, which Jason put out under his Push imprint.

88 Haiku

Last year (2014), my brother Jack made a couple of linocuts that I used to print the covers for the fifth issue of AMERARCANA.



I also did a few broadsides, including “Ryokan,” by Diane di Prima, and “Bolinas Descarges,” by David Meltzer, both of which I printed as part of fundraisers for the poets at Bird & Beckett.

Ryokan Bolinas Descarges

I also designed two alternately-hued versions of “Winterlude,” by Jackson Meazle (which he had printed digitally at CCSF) to mark a reading he gave at Alley Cat Books and laid out a pair of small books for Jackson’s Gas Meter press: What Surrealism Means To Me, by Garrett Caples, and Vesper Chimes, by Micah Ballard.


Finally, in collaboration with the author and publisher, I printed the covers for Triangle Squared, by Ava Koohbor, which Derek Fenner put out under his Bootstrap imprint.


In the first couple of months of this year (2015), I designed another broadside at Jackson’s behest, this one as part of a tribute to Kathleen Fraser at CCA, co-sponsored by Small Press Traffic and the Poetry Center at SFSU: Fraser’s “III. Wing: Via Vanvitelli.” I’ve also laid out Jackson’s own Gas Meter book, Long Live You and Me, which is just out; and I printed the covers for another of Jason’s Push projects: Material Thinking, by Clark Coolidge.


I’m currently working on the latest Bird & Beckett book, from Book of Kings, by Patrick James Dunagan, more details about which shall be forthcoming in the next post, now that I’ve gotten this all up to date!

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