an anti-design design

I’ve just added a new link to our Blogroll from Shanna Compton of DIY Poetry Publishing Cooperative. Her insights are spot-on. Of course, as an editor and part of the design team, I’m a bit biased . . . Nonetheless, her analysis is intelligent and worth checking-out. In addition to what Compton mentions about Catherine Meng’s Tonight’s the Night, I thought I’d also mention that the cover essentially serves as the “table of contents” for the book. If you’ve seen the book, you know that every poem is titled, “Tonight’s the Night.” Compton identifies an important connection involving the “ghosting/repetition” of the title, which is partly taken from Neil Young’s song of the same name – “a kind of tremolo or reverb effect” she calls it. There is also an added layer of meaning in that the text of the book “spills-out” onto the cover, thereby pushing the boundaries of the object itself. In other words, it is a physical manifestation or embodiment of the poetic project itself; i.e. a challenge to the constraints of form and genre; a challenge to restrictions or conventions regarding the book itself; a poetic discourse that challenges the boundaries of poetry. In Johannes Göransson’s, A New Quarantine Will Take My Place, Compton again highlights the “anti-design” elements of the cover and use of negative space, as well as the invisible “enclosure” created by color differentiation (or lack of in this case). The text on the back essentially bleeds into the front page and the interior title page, as though the textual space of titling is in conversation with itself and its “container.” This presents a challenge to the notion of a “true and fast” boundary between interior and exterior space. It also conflates the material and textual aspects of the book as an object with the poems themselves. We very consciously and intentionally create covers that are not simply consistent with the poetry but exist as a continuation of it.

Gary Sullivan who writes the “Elsewhere” blog ( suggests that “a book cover is like clothing. It’s a kind of identity marker.” I suppose then, our clothes are a bit transparent, or depending on the particular cover, translucent, so as to expose each poet’s linguistic and textual identity without the standard intermediary faces. Perhaps the old adage, “you can’t judge a book by its cover” needs some rethinking. . . . .

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