Cuneiform Press: Strong, Silent Type
Making books more deep in the heart of Texas
By Wayne Alan Brenner,
4:30PM, Fri. May 1, 2015
There are people who make what are called zines.
You know some of these people, of course you do, because the technology is prevalent and inexpensive, so much easy access toward publishing in these United States of America that a bunch of Europeans murdered and enslaved their way to establishing, seems like only yesterday, amirite?
And so now everybody and their cousin, we're noticing, makes what are called zines.
There are people who make what are called zines, little photocopied magazines about this & that, often digestsized, reproduced in editions of a couple hundred, if that many, with Office Depot standard paper for the interiors and maybe the same but in a heavier weight for the covers.
(The paper cuts. Oh god, imagine the paper cuts.)
The contents of these zines are thematic or otherwise, compiled from contributions by friends or from solicited strangers who perpetually seek outlets for their writing, their mark-making, their amateur design skills.
The people who make these zines, these people are zine makers – let's hear it for tautology! – or, if they’re feeling especially pleased with the quality or the sheer numbers of their creations, maybe they’re calling themselves micropublishers. And they’re micro because they’re not major, because they’re indie, because they’re not among the powerhouse consortia busy turning entire forests into bestsellers or mostly remaindered washouts of modern literature.
(The chain saws. Oh god, imagine the chain saws.)
But of course there are micropublishers and then there are micropublishers.
There are micropublishers who produce zines, cheaply saddle-stapled and flimsy, and then there are micropublishers who produce limited-edition chapbooks composed of fine papers, printed by hand and antique machine, and bound via traditional methods with materials classic and rare and most likely expensive.
When we talk about Cuneiform Press, we’re talking more about the latter.
That’s Cuneiform Press, founded and run by a quietly affable and curlyhaired fellow named Kyle Schlesinger. Who trucks mainly in the publication of poetry and the sort of things you’re more likely to be familiar with if you’ve done an academic thesis or two on those things' practitioners, are down with the whole belles lettres scene of the past umpteen decades, are an aficionado of oblique strategies of wordsmithery and typography and the paperbased presentation of same.
(The allusions. Oh god, imagine the allusions.)
When we talk about Cuneiform Press, we can talk about perfectbound chapbooks that could fit in one's pocket and that boast impeccably letter-pressed covers of simple and elegant design and contain multitudes of careful thought. (Slow Poetry in America by Dale Smith, for example.) Or we can talk about larger, more zinelike affairs with eye-catching silkscreened covers and fine interiors and text like a minimalist code toward some ultimate knowledge. (CON DOT by Ted Greenwald, say.) Or we can even talk about beautifully hardbound volumes of erudition and portent – Poems to Work On: The Collected Poems of Jim Dine, anyone? – that would be downright de rigueur among the bibliographic objects in The World's Fanciest Library.
(We imagine this Library to be somewhere in downtown Barcelona, near a 100-year-old bakery famous for its macarons.)
And we are talking about Cuneiform Press, because Austin's burgeoning populace seems able to support not just one bastion of poetry books and esoteric literary matter (Farewell Books) but two bastions of poetry books and esoteric literary matter (Malvern Books).
So you should know that, as sure as Farewell has regular receptions to celebrate the changing of visual art on its walls, as sure as Malvern has a robust schedule of readings and presentations by authors from all over the world, you should know that Cuneiform Press (based in Victoria, Texas, and just three miles away from Fossati's Delicatessen) is alive and well and publishing deeply poetic takes on the world around us, that Kyle Schlesinger is not a zine maker as they're popularly regarded but a traditional printer and publisher anchoring a storied line that descends all the way from William Caxton if not some even more old-school fellow.
And now you do know.
And so we say unto thee, O friend of books: Go, and read some more.