“Everything in the world exists in order to end up in a book” - Stéphane Mallarmé
I came across this quote while doing some background work in preparation for this short article. I found the quote on the cover of a printing by Harry Reese of University of California at Santa Barbara. It is very appropriate because Phil Bevis, the owner of the newly acquired Vashon Books (the former VFW Hall) apprenticed with this fine printer in his earlier years. You see, Phil Bevis is not just a book store owner and afficionado, but is actually a printer and publisher of small press publications of fiction and poetry.
Some of you may know Phil for his successful defense against the Patriot Act protecting his Seattle bookstore, Arundel Books from providing records to the Government.
My favorite quote from the period was by Bevis defending the right of people to buy and not disclose what they purchase, “Books get bought for all kinds of reasons…We have military officers buying books on Buddhism, fundamentalist preachers who buy gay novels and bankers who buy books on stashing money abroad. You don’t know why people buy various books. And it’s just none of the government’s business.”
I came to know Phil while attending a two weekend Poetry Broadside Printing Workshop at his new business and event center at the old VFW Hall. The workshop was led by Bevis with the help of a graphic artist, Annie Brulé. In the workshop, several of us poets learned the history of the broadside in European and Early American history, up until the way it is used in our current period. Sometimes revolutionary, sometimes whimsical, the broadside has been a way for the poet to grab the attention of the passing viewer, and bring them into interfacing with the poem. This is sometimes involuntarily, due to the pure natural reaction by the viewer to the poem.
Five of us poets labored away in the cavernous basement of the building under the steady hands of Brulé and Bevis as we selected the proper fonts, sizing and color selection, any background images or shadings to help in conveying the meaning of the poem, or to reach out and grab the passer-by in viewing. A wonderful feeling of comraderie and place began to develop over the short two Sundays we spent together developing our broadsides.
The poems are all printed on a 300 gram weight paper, which is thick, and textured. It begs to be held and felt. As we watched the first broadside come off the press, we waited with extreme excitement. “This is like waiting to give birth” commented one person. As the first broadside was complete, everyone stood around and critiqued the look and feel of the broadside – did it convey the poems meaning adequately? Was there too much color? Did the lines look balanced?
Bevis was excited to host the first, of what he called “college level” experiential workshops. He is hoping to develop a group of future printers to carry on the legacy of what he first learned under Harry Reese and others in his years of printing while creating a broader sense of community engagement with poetry.
In this effort the broadside poems from the workshop will be on view at The Hardware Store beginning April 1st for first Friday Art Walk to mark the beginning of National Poetry Month.
Vashon Poetry Fest 2011 will present “Broadsides: Poems on Paper,” a collection of poems presented in the style of posters. What better day to introduce this than April Fool’s Day?
Tom Bean is a local musician and poet of Vashon Island. He continues to try and improve his love of words on a daily basis, regardless of the criticism he may receive from his published daughter. As ever, his wife is his muse and inspiration.