Pressing On 

Doing it the old-fashioned way

Doing it the old-fashioned way

By Bonnie Arant Ertelt and Galyn Glick

The advent of the personal computer may have made publishing easy for anyone with a graphics package and a good printer, but desktop publishing simply doesn’t impart a sense of originality to a work. What’s missing is the feeling that human hands have touched the end product, that actual people were involved in the process.

Years ago, most books had to be typeset by hand, and each page was printed by rolling a sheet of paper through a letterpress. As a result, the paper was practically embossed. You could feel the letters on the page, and reading a book was a tactile, as much as it was a visual, experience. A group of writers and artists at Middle Tennessee State University remembers this experience, and it’s determined to keep letterpress printing alive in this age of electronic technology. Started last year as a teaching enterprise by MTSU’s art department, the Tulip Poplar Press stresses interaction between writers, paper-makers, printmakers, bookmakers, illustrators, and graphic designers—a process that not only combines fine art and literature, but also, participants say, fosters a sense of community.

Dr. Charles Jansen, an MTSU art history professor involved in the project, says Tulip Poplar Press is modeled on William Morris’ Kelmscott Press, a late-19th-century operation that exemplified the philosophy of the Arts and Crafts movement, in which Morris was a key figure. Proponents of the Arts and Crafts movement—conceived as a protest against industrialization in Victorian England—viewed art as a civilizing and humanizing presence and stressed the relationship between social issues and the making of art. The collaborative process, they believed, was an outward manifestation of this relationship. In keeping with the Arts and Crafts movement’s socially conscious approach, the Tulip Poplar Press makes its own projects a team effort. It creates community and gives back to the larger community—it does not exist for aesthetic reasons alone.

The Tulip Poplar Press’ first work, Home Land, was released last April and consisted of seven illustrated broadsides, or large, letterpress-printed sheets of paper, featuring pieces by such Middle Tennessee writers as Nikki Giovanni, Andrew Lytle, and Maggi Vaughn. Its next work will include texts from a 1994 collection of oral histories, Arbors to Bricks: A Hundred Years of African-American Education in Rutherford County, Tennessee, 1865-1965, by Laura Jarmon, Caneta Hankins, and Rosemary Owens.

Jansen will be in town Tuesday to discuss “The Tulip Poplar Press and the Inspiration of William Morris” at a Visual Artists’ Alliance of Nashville meeting, 7 p.m. Sept. 3 at Zeitgeist. Call 321-4966 for more information about the meeting; to find out more about Tulip Poplar Press, call Charles Jansen at 898-2460.—Bonnie Arant Ertelt

Of note

Aside from the Bicentennial Mall, one of the best things to come to fruition during Tennessee’s bicentennial celebration is Homeworks: A Book of Tennessee Writers, an anthology recently published by The University of Tennessee Press. A collection of poetry, essays, fiction, and nonfiction by writers with Tennessee connections, Homeworks was the brainchild of the late Douglas Paschall, who was also responsible for Homewords, a similar book published for Tennessee’s Homecoming celebration a decade ago. After Paschall’s death in 1994, Phyllis Tickle, the religion editor of Publishers Weekly, and Alice Swanson, the director of the Literary Arts Program at the Tennessee Arts Commission, took up where the former Montgomery Bell Academy headmaster left off. Gathering works from Andrew Lytle, Madison Smartt Bell, John Bridges, Shelby Foote, Diann Blakely Shoaf, Abraham Verghese, Steven Womack, and others, they put together a smart, literate, and eclectic collection. The book is relatively free of the usual hallmarks of Southern literature, which is a relief. These writings are a response to life as we know it today. While they’re informed by the past, they look to the future with optimism—making the Homeworks anthology an appropriate salute to our state’s 200th birthday.

Although reams of paper have been written about The Beatles, few authors can say they actually spent much, if any, time in the presence of the Fab Four. This week, Dowling Press releases Ticket To Ride: The Extraordinary Diary of The Beatles’ Last Tour by local musician Barry Tashian, whose Boston-based band, The Remains, opened for The Beatles. “My experience was unique,” Tashian writes. “I traveled with The Beatles during their very last tour. I was in their hotel rooms with them, looking out of the windows at the crowds in the streets below. We listened to records together. I ate, drank, smoked, and talked with The Beatles daily.”

The book includes Tashian’s journal entries written during the tour, as well as fan recollections and writings by Judith Simms, the editor of TeenSet magazine who traveled with the press corps accompanying the tour. The result is a well-balanced portrait of The Beatles’ hectic daily lives on the road—and a glimpse at the pressures that later led them to disband.

Details are sketchy, but we can confirm this much: Home-ec goddess Martha Stewart will sign copies of her latest book at the Vanderbilt Stadium Club on Oct. 17. The event is a benefit for the Vanderbilt Medical Center, and tickets, which cost $100, are available through TicketMaster. If you plan to go, get in line early: According to Tennessean columnist Brad Schmitt, Stewart has been known to leave before she’s signed all the books.—Galyn Glick

The book includes Tashian’s journal entries written during the tour, as well as fan recollections and writings by Judith Simms, the editor of TeenSet magazine who traveled with the press corps accompanying the tour. The result is a well-balanced portrait of The Beatles’ hectic daily lives on the road—and a glimpse at the pressures that later led them to disband.

Details are sketchy, but we can confirm this much: Home-ec goddess Martha Stewart will sign copies of her latest book at the Vanderbilt Stadium Club on Oct. 17. The event is a benefit for the Vanderbilt Medical Center, and tickets, which cost $100, are available through TicketMaster. If you plan to go, get in line early: According to Tennessean columnist Brad Schmitt, Stewart has been known to leave before she’s signed all the books.—Galyn Glick

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