Poetry Publication Technology

I’ve been vaguely interested in unique ways to publish my own poetry. I already did a post about a year ago about a Paperless Poem I put together for a class, but I’ve been reading about book binding and such things. There are definitely ways to put together your own book cheaply, especially if you don’t mind making some of your own equipment. In the end, it’s still time consuming to actually bind each book. I’m not there yet.

This post is really about making stamps. I was interested in being able to stamp some poems of mine onto cards and be able to give them out. I was inspired by people I had met writing poetry on typewriters in subway stations. A typewriter is in many ways just a very functional text stamp, but I don’t really want to buy a typewriter and sit in a subway station, if not only because there isn’t a lot of making involved.

You can buy rubber for carving into at art stores. I tried laser etching it to make a stamp and was fairly successful:

photoThere were two issues: 1) It took a very long time, because I had to make so many raster passes to get the depth needed and there is all that negative space you have to eat away at! 2) It was very toxic. All of the rubber that is normally carved out in traditional stamp making is instead vaporized and pumped outside, though inevitably some of it makes its way into the air around me because our venting system is not top notch.

However, I really liked the way it turned out, so I went to danger!awesome, a local laser cutting store, to get a poem stamp-erized.

photo 1photo 2I loved it! And they even gave it a fancy wooden backing. However, the time problem came up again because it was significantly more expensive that any laser cutting job I’ve ever had them do for me (of a similar scope,) certainly because they too had to take so many passes to get the right depth. Still, with one stamp I could make thousands of cards, so when you amortize the cost over the usage, a high start-up cost is not necessarily a bad sign.

photo 3Using the stamp a number of times, I wasn’t super happy with the look and feel of the final print. It definitely has the old-time feel associated with a typewriter or other, older printing technique, but its inconsistency in ink weight actually makes it hard to read. Definitely not something you want with poetry.

Despite loving the idea and finding the implementation fun, I don’t think I’ll go forward with it. Look and feel are important and readability even more so, and I wasn’t super happy with any of them. Perhaps that could’ve been fixed with different font type, size, and kerning choices, but with the high cost per stamp (either monetary or time/toxicity) it’s hard to experiment.

photo 4


2 thoughts on “Poetry Publication Technology

  1. Interesting post, I’ve not had many issues with stamps although I tend to cut them a little more shallow than most. I sometimes think we’re spoilt when it comes to laser cutting and we’re used to things being finished very quickly. For me it’s the smell it makes – it’s so horrible!! apparently the eco rubber is much better both with toxicity levels and smell but at 4 times the price you do need to balance out if it’s worth it. I’ve recently bought a little cheep Adana press which I’m hoping to use to stamp with laser cut rubbers which will hopefully get more even ink distribution as doing it manually is definitely an issue. Would love to hear more about experimental stamping or poetry posts. I wonder if anyone has done urban street poetry using a stencil and a pressure washer? That could be a pretty cool concept because it would be like you were cleaning away the mundane grime of the city to reveal the poetry underneath. Slight issue with not being able to sell it afterwards though…

    1. I agree, the time isn’t that big of a deal. I was mostly concerned about the smell, like you were, which meant I didn’t want to do it on my office’s lasercutter (where the ventilation isn’t great), and therefore time = money.

      The Adana press is a really good idea! When I was first thinking about the stamps I had a whole manufacturing line in mind with a bunch of small presses, probably made out of 80/20. So you’re right, that might help with the quality. Have you tried it out yet? You should send me some pictures! Maybe I’ll make a small press this summer for a stamped chapbook cover.

      I haven’t heard of anyone doing street grime poetry. You should try it!

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