Thursday, May 16, 2013

Ink Press

Today I’m going to write about Ink Press, which is the most dead-on name for a press I’ve ever heard (except maybe one called “Book-Maker Press”). It’s a Baltimore press, run by Tracy Dimond and Amanda McCormick, who are both just peachy keen folks. They host a writing group called Gin & Ink and have had tons of readings; they’ve published a literary journal, Espresso Ink, and two books, both of which are fabulous small-press outings. I recently spoke at a reading with Dimond about the press and the printing process, which I find fascinating. The books are hand-bound and designed in-house. There’s something really satisfying about holding a piece of art someone’s made out of another piece of art someone else made by writing it.

5 Drawings of the Maryland Sky, by Joseph Young, is a chapbook of Young’s microfiction. Young is known for his Publishing Genius collection Easter Rabbit, which is composed of similarly brief microfiction. And when I say “micro” I mean the longest story is 27 words long. These aptly named “drawings” sketch imagist, resonate micro-scenes. Drawing 2 states, “Just there at the rim where the water caught, some cloud. Under the rocks things with shells and diamond eyes. Went back our hands in the grass.” Young evokes strong images and streamlines his language to only the bare essentials, while still leaving room for resonant meaning. Drawing 4 goes like this: “Great grays of it falling a too sweet rain. We climbed the upward hills.” What makes Young’s work so powerful is its thinness; he plants the suggestion of a scene and then leaves room for its interpretation. There’s so much meaning packed into these scant lines that it nearly bursts through.

Sorry I Wrote So Many Sad Poems Today, by Tracy Dimond, has the feel of a self-produced indy-rock album that perfectly captures a 20-something milieu. I couldn’t help but think of Pavement or some similar band when reading these tragi-comic poems. Her poems are also mostly brief, but whereas Young’s work is fairly difficult, Dimond’s is more accessible; there’s an endearing simplicity to her work:

Today is a Gift

Have you been to the Gulf lately?
British Petroleum lives in my hair.

Tomorrow I’m washing my hair with Dawn,
just like an oil-soaked duckling.

You said smiling is for the weak
and showed me a picture of your dogs.

I would buy you a gift basket
if you sent me more emails.

The confetti would be shredded poems
I didn’t write about you.

The title poem to the collection captures Dimond’s playful tone well, “Sorry I haven’t written/anything happy lately./The sun sets early.” She begins. She’s hinting at a kind of social confinement, here; this is a world that conflicts with happiness. Later, in “I Couldn’t Think of a Title,” she says:

I write poems that are funny
to other people, but sad to me.

9:30 a.m.
I smell like French Fries.

There are stains on my pants
that are going to have a hole soon.

I already ripped the lace
on my underwear.

Writing is like running;
I don’t want to stop.

The ennui Dimond hints at is the result of the social confinement I mentioned earlier. Dimond is less than enthusiastic about her current situation (and probably sees not much hope for change in the future) but there is hope, “…I gather fireflies/and keep them in a drawer/for something to follow.” she says later in “Catching Fireflies.” “I Got So Sad” is a touching portrait that exemplifies many of the themes in the collection:

I know I am twenty-four,
but I should believe

puppies live forever at the end of rainbows
and my vote matters.

* * *
-CL Bledsoe

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