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Making the 2014 AWP Commemorative Broadside

January 27, 2014
The second in an annual letterpress broadside series from Literary House Press features Nance Van Winckel’s poem, “Because B.”

For this year’s AWP Conference in Seattle, we contacted Willow Springs Editor-in-Chief Sam Ligon to collaborate in the creation of the Literary House Press’s second annual commemorative broadside.  After careful consideration of a few dozen poems published in the Washington-based literary journal over the last several issues, we decided together upon Nance Van Winckel’s piece “Because B,” first published in issue 68 of Willow Springs in fall 2011. The brevity and subject matter of the poem were perfectly suited to the medium; and, of course, we loved it!

Over this past year of letterpress broadside design, we’ve had the fun of experimenting with different paper dimensions. This poem gave us the perfect opportunity to explore the possibilities of a shape we had been secretly wanting to try: a square broadside. The title gave us the main image we would use: a large letter B would keep it simple and typography-based. After this realization, finalizing the design was just a matter of determining how to incorporate this image into the layout of the poem itself in order to create a cohesive and intentional arrangement. Serendipitously, the original poem broke into two clean stanzas of nearly even length. This allowed the text to fit snugly within the loops of our large B, with the title tucked into the pronounced, angular serifs of the Bookman Old Style typeface we chose. And once this puzzle was all pieced together, it formed our desired square. We chose Palatino Linotype for the poem text: a traditional letterpress typeface.

We looked to the poem’s subject matter when picking out paper and ink colors. The setting of this piece is icy and gray, but there’s a bit of melt and mud in there too. We decided on a very heavy weight paper called Murillo in Light Gray—a shade that is both gray and slightly green, the color of muddy clay.  For the large letter B framing the poem: a darker, shinier gray color of ink, almost silver. And finally, for the poem text, title, and colophon: a classic black.

After our custom photopolymer plates arrived from Boxcar Press, Master Printer Mike Kaylor went to work prepping and printing the broadsides with assistance from two of his most dedicated workshop students (and past Literary House interns), Aileen Gray ’14 and Ariel Jicha ’15. Aileen helped Mike with the first shift: measuring and cutting the paper with the large guillotine blade, planning out which color to print first (printing two colors requires printing twice), and precisely lining up the photopolymer plate(s) on the type-high base that has been locked in the press bed. On the second shift, Ariel assisted Mike with the ink mixing (getting just the right shade of shimmery gray) and printing the broadsides on our Vandercook 4 proof press. It is tedious but rewarding work.

Now that the entire edition of 75 broadsides has been printed and numbered, we have packed them up tight for the flight to Seattle. At the Conference, Nance will sign all 75 broadsides and then we will have them for sale at our Rose O’Neill Literary House table in the AWP Bookfair. After we return from the west coast on March 1, the remaining broadsides will be available for purchase on the Literary House Press web page for $20 each.

We have loved having this opportunity to work with Willow Springs and Nance Van Winckel on this year’s AWP commemorative broadside. For the 2015 Conference in Minneapolis, Literary House Press will be teaming up with a Minnesotan literary journal of national reputation. Stay tuned for more details!

—Jehanne Dubrow & Lindsay Lusby


As another project for this year’s AWP Conference, the Literary House filmed this entire process of designing and printing Nance Van Winckel’s “Because B.” We will be playing it on loop as part of our table display, but you can have a look at it here:

Last modified on Jan. 27th, 2014 at 9:45am by Lindsay Lusby.