Harry Smith Print Shop Tour
Near the foot hills of the Rocky Mountains, nestled in the shadow of the University of Colorado, sits the Harry Smith Print Shop, a scrappy, well-loved letterpress shop with a rich literary history. It’s a place where writers have gone to learn the traditional tools of publication. And yes, it’s solar powered. Named after the poly-math counter-culture figure, Harry Everett Smith; whose home the print shop now occupies. Located on the grounds of Naropa University, which in the summer months becomes the Summer Writing Program (SWP) a.k.a, the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, started in 1974 by Allan Ginsberg and Anne Waldman. The SWP is still a thriving four week workshop intensive inquiry into all forms of creative writing.
I was lucky enough to spend a week there recently, watching poet, teacher, and Master Printer, Brad O’Sullivan (of Smokeproof press fame) and a group of talented writer/printers produce an artist’s book for the amazing Laurie Anderson, a guest performer at the SWP this summer.
And yes, they have their own buckyball right next door.
Follow this post after the jump for a photo tour of this shop and learn more about it’s compelling history.
Of the history of the presses and type in the shop, the Naropa Website says,
The core press and much of the older Perpetua type were originally owned by poet Lyn Hejinian’s Tuumba Press. Poets printed in this press included Alice Notley, Fanny Howe, Clark Coolidge, Michael Palmer, Ron Silliman, Bob Perelman, and Charles Bernstein. After Lyn passed the press on to David Sheidlower, David used the imprint Coincidence Press. He printed chapbooks by Larry Eigner, Pat Reed, Andrew Schelling, Robert Kelly, Rachel DuPlessis, and others.When David decided to stop printing, he offered his print shop, including the historic Chandler & Price Platen press, to Naropa. Later, equipment arrived from Rydall Press, which was founded by friends of DH Lawrence, and from Ken Mikolowski’s Alternative Press. The larger platen press was received from Salt Works Press and dates back to 1915. Type and more equipment have been added, thanks to the generous gifts from donors.
The Kavyayantra Press [kavyayantra translates literally to 'poetry machine'] is the imprint for chapbooks and broadsides published through the Department of Writing and Poetics. The press is housed in the cottage where filmmaker, scholar and musicologist Harry Smith resided. Printers Brad O’Sullivan and Julie Seko teach letterpress printing courses, which are offered every semester.
This group of photos are all evidence of the Laurie Anderson book project, which used a lot of t-h-e’s
While neither the most pristine or most well-airconditioned, this shop excels as a community hub and site of literary history.
The shop was full of little artifacts of it’s storied history.
Just think of all the poetic posteriors that have sat on this bench.
Keep those presses warm!
The Print Shop also sports a small museum of antique music boxes.
For emergency wood cutting.
I kind of love this folding machine. It’s a triumph of modern design.
Students in the 2012 SWP Letterpress class hard at work.
This well-loved Vandercook saw a lot of action.
This pile constitutes a great summer reading list for any type enthusiasts.
Any shop where trays of type are biked-in is A-OK in my book.
The main office of the SWP.