March 2012

March 18: Stayed up till 2 in the morning Saturday night, assembling last-minute copies of Lou McKee’s chapbook to give away at his memorial. I wish I’d had time to make about three dozen more, but as always, I scramble to catch up.

I was also putting together 20 copies of Catherine Staples’ chapbook. On Friday, I’d put together twenty covers. So the next step was printing the page sets (upstairs, on the laser printer), folding the pages into booklets, and trimming them to size. I have two Carl paper cutters–a 12-inch and an 18-inch–and I love working with them. They use a rotary blade and a replaceable cutting mat/bar and are extremely accurate. I managed to get 13 copies assembled and put everything else–beeswax, cord, awl, scissors, tapestry needle, covers, and page sets–into a box with the completed copies, figuring if nothing else, I could put them together in Philly after the memorial.

Then it was bedtime. I had a lot of driving to do on Sunday.

March 19: Drove to Media this morning for Lou McKee’s memorial, an event organized by Eileen D’Angelo. Folks read Lou’s poems and shared recollections: I was struck by the huge impact he’d had on so many.

I never met Lou McKee. Of course I knew his work–I own copies of six or seven of his chapbooks and had seen his poems in journals for years. Lou contacted me by e-mail soon after I launched Seven Kitchens, offering advice on how to manage behind-the-scenes details, advice I very much needed to hear. His generosity truly moved me. Later, of course, Joe Farley nominated Lou’s out-of-print chapbook, No Matter, for the ReBound Series, and it was one of four titles I decided to publish last year in the series. Lou and I exchanged more e-mails and talked on the phone a few times as No Matter moved through production. In the fall, Lou had mentioned not feeling well, but I had no idea that it was anything serious. Our last correspondence was an e-mail he sent after approving the final proof copy and cover design: he was very much looking forward to having No Matter back in print and very happy with how it had turned out.

No Matter came out on November 21. A couple of days later, I received emails that Lou had passed away on that very day.

So for me, the memorial was a kind of gift: poets I knew, others I knew of but had never met, Lou’s former students–all came together to weave poems and anecdotes that created a loving portrait of a talented, generous poet who is truly missed.

March 20: After the memorial, I phoned Catherine Staples, who lives only a few miles from Media. Never would have found her house without the GPS program on my phone–I would have been hopelessly turned around. (Even later Sunday evening, as I sped home along the PA Turnpike, I kept checking the GPS, unable to get over the sensation that I was head in the wrong direction.)

Meeting Catherine was a joy. We had so much to talk about: the conversation flew along. I’d brought along twenty copies of Never a Note Forfeit, but had only managed to get 13 finished the previous night. So I also packed scissors, tapestry needles, cord, and beeswax. After tea, we finished tying the last seven copies.

I work with poets from all over but rarely have the opportunity to meet them in person. I never got the chance to meet Lou McKee. At his memorial, I met, for the first time, Harry Humes, whose chapbook was our very first title back in 2007. Spending the afternoon with Catherine was an absolute delight.

March 24: So many chapbooks–so, so many–to make. Anyone know anyone in the Lewisburg area who’d like to volunteer with the press? I need to make 25 copies each for three authors, plus fill a bunch of orders. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Ay.

I did take some time out this afternoon to update the gallery of covers on our Facebook page: check it out!

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