Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Small Press Poetry

This week's Poetry Month post is not about a particular author but a press, Red Dragonfly Press to be exact. It is a small press that produces letterpress printed limited edition books of poetry. Red Dragonfly Press came into existence

in 1997 with the publication of Hunting My Home Town by Dale Jacobson. The pages of this book were set using a word processor, printed, then photocopied to make an edition of 100 books. Japanese block-print paper was used for the cover. It was bound using the traditional Japanese four-hole binding. I remain quite fond of this book, knowing the strength of the poem printed carries far more than its share of the burden in the marriage. Since then the press has printed many books. These range in size from pamphlets containing a single poem to a full-length books—the majority fall somewhere between, at the chapbook size, a size that seems perfectly fitted to letterpress work. Additionally, the press prints broadsides, bookmarks, cards, and other ephemera.
I must confess now that my husband knows the founder of the Press, Scott King. He used to work with Scott when my husband was a newbie bookseller. My Bookman credits Scott (and myself) with inspiring him to read poetry. It was through Scott that he became a Jane Kenyon devotee. Red Dragonfly Press is in Red Wing Minnesota these days so it isn't often that my Bookman sees Scott. We do, however, always see his publications when we attend the Midwest Bookfair every year at the State Fairgrounds. We have several of the Press' chapbooks so I can attest to the quality of the work. He tends to print poets whose names I have never heard of as well as a few who are "known." Here are two example poems for your consideration:
Acts of Faith Here at this table filled with bowls we come to answer our own prayers in feast, in belief, in presence of our own silence. Here where the universe balloons outward from our tongues and comes back down to the smallness of fish bones and seeds on our plates. You and I tell of the day's labor, the ice-chilled roads, work shot wild with old troubles. And we accept the unburdening and relief as we dissolve the unwanted, praise the world for its sun and birds we continue to find not just in dreamsleep or in the nest in the berrybush but in the eyes and lips and fingers of each other. Here is sanctuary, here is refuge, here where we are safe from the snow-fed winds, where our bowls are full of the tender grain and where later you and I like the blue herons moving down from the clouds will fall to bed and touch the ground, singing. --Diane Jarvenpa in Winter Readings, 2001 Blue Shift What does a heart know of light? Locked in its lattice of cattails, the river dreams of its old bed, swells to return each spring, then retreats. Shale takes the sun's heat, holds it after dark. Frail as an echo, shut between stone sheets, the fossil fern remembers. Ventriloquist, the heart throws its voice to the wind, thrums from the burr oaks and lichen covered stones. The river takes the voice and spools it like silk til it spills. Desire pools in the blackbird's throat. Spinning faster than sound, spring drives its needle into the heart. --Vicki Graham, Alembic