Graveyard House Thesis -- Complete!

When last I wrote, this book was just a mockup. I successfully defended my thesis, Wendy Rebinding Wendy, on March 30, 2015, and then held a public presentation and gallery opening that afternoon. I'm proud to say that you may now call me Emma Sovich, MFA2, because I have two masters in fine arts degrees from the University of Alabama: one in Book Arts (2015) and one in Creative Writing (2014).

This fall, thanks to Steve Miller and Anna Embree, I have been teaching at the University of Alabama, while the inimitable Steve has been on sabbatical, making books at Penland and raising puppies. I've had the incredible opportunity to teach two letterpress classes, Print 1 and Print 3, and a boxmaking class, fresh out of my degree program. More on that in another post: back to Wendy Rebinding Wendy:

The book opens four different ways, and is remarkably difficult to photograph. Here is a shot of one cover, along with the box behind it.

And here is a shot from the side. There's a board down the middle that separates the two textblocks. The interior is also a delightful bouquet of color compared to the practically tweed (yet utterly luscious in person) Japanese bookcloth. These first three photos were taken by Alana Baldwin.

The book consists of four intertwined poetry narratives; each of the four sections is related to and interacts with the others, but the reader can (and must) begin where the reader decides. There are linear narratives within each section, but no one narrative takes priority.

The book is a lot easier to hold with two hands. It's also a quite intimate size, about 6" by 4". 

I had four last pages, so I took great joy in spreading the colophon across all four. The paper, which I made by hand last fall, varies in thickness and translucency throughout the book. You can see the back of a poem in the photo below.

I hope to update this blog again soon as I adjust to juggling teaching and making and documenting.

Poetry Update

Some news from my poet-self:

I have three poems online at Paper Darts, and they are illustrated beyond my wildest dreams by Paper Darts artist Seth Young. Thank you, Seth. 

These three poems are part of my first chapbook, forthcoming from dancing girl press this fall. 

I have another poem in the latest Beecher's Magazine, from my Paphos/David/Metharme/Venus series. The journal is quite well-made, and has some sexy attention to detail (check out the rounded corners). I especially like the cover paper and end sheets. Thanks, Beecher's team!

Other publications with my work that have come out since my last poetry post (back in January) include... 

And I can't remember if I've thanked Hayden's Ferry Review  or Parcel here. I love them.

One of my older poems, which I had not had published in a journal because I gifted it to my father, has made it to the side of a building in Highlandtown, a neighborhood in Baltimore, MD (my hometown). Check it:

I don't know who that lady is, but she seems as excited as I am. The poem is maybe 10, 11 feet tall!

And it's paired with some lovely sketches by my dad, Randy Sovich


You would think that now that I have my official Master of Fine Arts degree in hand, I'd be able to lay around all day watching TV with the cats. (Their favorite soap is "Flight of the Carpenter Bees")

But I've been pretty busy snooping around an abandoned house in Bermuda...

...eating cannoli in Waltham, MA, visiting my poem (!!) in Baltimore, MD... and now cutting up and cooking this raw cotton fiber.  Soon I'll be making at least 300 sheets of abaca-cotton paper for my Book Arts thesis. This is a 14 lb bag of cotton fiber, next to my 14 lb cat on an ottoman of indeterminate weight.

I can only fit about 2 lbs of cotton in a big ol' pot to cook, and each batch has to cook for at least 4 hours. I've got my work cut out for me!

One MFA down, one to go.

While I was in Michigan a few weeks ago for the utterly fantastic Paper and Book Intensive, I got an official-sounding email from my university stating that my MFA defense was approved and my degree conferred.

Which is all really exciting, mostly because now I can turn my attention wholly to my final year of Book Arts. You know, now that I've spent two weeks enjoying Michigan birches along a lagoon and experiencing a lot of firsts.

Making this book from scratch in a class on Anabaptist binding with the ambitious Chela Metzger and Erin Hammeke... Just to give you a sense, here, we started with a textblock, but did everything from there: punched, sewed on raised cords on a sewing frame, consolidated and lined the spine, shaped wooden boards, adhered them to the textblock, shaped them some more (I'd never planed before, and certainly never while the boards were on the book), speckled the textblock edges, covered in gorgeous calf leather provided by Pergemena (my favorite leather tanner)... then cut and dapped and bossed brass for corner and center pieces, and created these nifty, weird spine straps, and even made, from scratch, catchplates and hasps for the clasps (which we were never promised, but begged and pleaded until Erin showed us how to use an anvil, two different vice jaws, a peen hammer for riveting, and a jewler's saw)....

I'd never cut into leather after covering with it before. It's a violent, yet oddly delicate process:

But necessary for the insertion of catchplates for clasps (if you don't want your crummy metal snipping to show):

I'd never dapped and bossed before, and certainly never dapped and bossed directly into a block of lead. I present: The Moon.

These are my brass corner and centerpieces, all ready to be attached to the book:

And I'd never made a book with straps before. Isn't it strapping? The straps are attached just past the shoulders, so when you open the book, they pop off the book.

I'd never before paddled in a canoe across a lagoon to Lake Michigan to watch the sunset with new friends.

In Priscilla Spitler's class on edition binding, I learned many time-saving techniques that will help me when I edition my thesis book (and every other book I edition hereafter). It's one thing to know that jigs are helpful. It's another to get a good sense of how to come up with a jig to get the job done, and to understand when you might be able to use a jig in the first place.

I had never made a sheet of paper quite this large before taking Ann Marie Kennedy's Paper and Place class. This sheet about as large as a decent flat-screen TV. I'd also never used so many different fibers at once before... certainly addictive! We had vats of hemp, flax, abaca, bamboo, and various mixtures that included onion grass, day lily leaves, dried lagoon grass, and more.

I had never taken a selfie while hula hooping before.

And here's an endband Sam Feinstein showed us for PBI PM, an informal workshop we managed to get together twice (amazing, considering how much homework we had and how much sleep we needed).

I made a ridiculous amount of new friends, too. The book arts world is a tight-knit one, where it seems everyone is eager to share and teach and learn and relearn and watch and make ridiculous paper costumes and dance to 50s music in them.

Happy New Year

I was super excited to receive my contributor's copies of Hayden's Ferry Review the other day. I read in their awesome online reading, which the fantabulous Sam Martone organized, and back then it appeared everyone else had received copies -- aaand mine was back in Tuscaloosa while I was visiting Boston. Whoops.

Also exciting was the arrival of Parcel, right before my winter vacation. (I'd have a picture of Hayden's Ferry Review but a cat is sleeping on my arm and purring really loudly and so I am even typing this one-handed. Later.) Both journals have poems from my thesis... and from the chapbook that is coming out with dancing girl press much later this year.

I'm not a big fan of resolutions. I'm afraid of commitment... or perhaps I'd like to think my efforts to improve myself are more adaptable and more frequently established. But there's something to be said for this weird space at the start of the year, where class and work haven't quite started back up yet... and something to be said for this blog space.

1. I find myself nearly thirty (only a couple more years left to chase the Ruth Lilly fellowships) and ridiculously out of shape, so in 2014 I'll continue to attempt to establish an exercise routine that works for me (eating cookies does not burn enough calories to be helpful, apparently). Good thing I attend a university that has a good gym.

2. I have to finish my creative writing thesis by April 4th of this year, so that might as well be a resolution.Woo.

3. I'll figure out how to afford my final year of gradual school (for book arts), by applying to assistantships, fellowships, and jobs and waiting impatiently for the results. 2013 was the year of establishing in-state residency for tuition purposes, and I succeeded. Woot.

4. Everything else I can think of, I'm already doing, albeit slowly and inconsistently in some cases. I've got an erratic but viable writing schedule which I supplement by using any downtime to send work out to journals. I'm busy but as focused as I realistically can be. I'm taking the time for side projects in both book arts and poetry. I will never achieve the right balance between me time, family time, friend time, and cats time. Let's face it: cat time and me time are the same thing. I'm going to AWP (it'd be nice to read for someone), and I'm going to Bermuda, and I'm going to Ox Bow Michigan. I want to make paper again this year. I will make paper again this year. Am I doing this right?

Rebinding and Printing

Life has been fantastic lately. I mean, sure, the government is shut down, giving my sister an unwanted holiday, making my mother work without pay, and possibly costing my roommate's parents their house, but all in all, life is peachy.

How could it not be peachy, when the Vandercook SP-15 looks like this?

And wood type prints soooo fiiiiiiine?

Tell me these letters aren't sexy!

And look at this mending. I mended that! I said, hey little book, let's fill your holes and strengthen your edges with fancy Japanese papers. Hey little book, let's be friends.

My workplace is never quite a zen garden... but I had so much mending and filling to get through!

How 'bout this marble/endsheet/leather combo, hmmm? 

Here's a rebinding on parchment tapes. This book will be a limp vellum model.

Back in the Type Lab, everything is galore-ious, even when accidentally printing on tympan.

And I tackled the book plough for the first time!  Here's my first-ever rounded and backed AND ploughed book. The plough makes the edges super slick.

As awkward as sewing on a frame was when I first learned last spring, I'm loving the sewing frame. I'm also becoming a little more ambidexterous. 

Single cords:

Double cords (possibly my favorite, if the more time-consuming for me at the moment):

And here are these two paired with their leather and endpapers-to-be. Swoon!

Moose would like to leave you with a bit of advice:

Adventures in Book Conservation

I've been teaching English 101 and Poetry Tour and most of my students are earnest and lovely people. I have been thesising. Yes, thesising is a verb in my life. I have been reading Citizen J by the brilliant Daniela. Daniela, who will be in town soon (September 12) for a reading, The Artificial Houndstooth Reading, which will precede a house party featuring the band KRILL.

But I'll just sit these here. These are my babies:

I have removed their spines delicately but without anesthetics, for the purposes of bettering them. For example, this book started with a leather spine (calf), in certain disrepair.

I furthered the disrepair with the aid of a blunt knife.

Side view, just pretty. Look at that marbling. The marbling is going to be a bear to line back up neatly.

Scrape scrape scrape. Leather, glue, going going gone.

With the help of goop, suddenly I could see the sections underneath all that glue!
Incidentally, animal glue reconstituted smells like dead things.

 With the spine free of glue (FREEEE AT LAST!), it was time to break the book, section by section.

Until all of the sections were independant.

It is important to keep track of who follows whom.

In the end, the book looks like a rattier book if you stack it neatly with the covers.

I found a lock of hair among the pages of one of the other books. Gross. Romantic? It was the Illiad. In Greek, so I'm not exactly sure if the page carries romantic significance.

Always behind, always ahead

I'm really happy to have a poem (poem? prose?) online at Hobart. You may quickly realize that I was in some way influenced by Kathy Acker, among others. I had the most fun writing this poem than I've had writing a poem in a while, so it's nice to see it out there on the intarwubs.



I've already crowed about it on the book of faces, but my very first BWR has arrived, and I love it. I love everything in it. Love love love love. Get you yours here (er, as soon as we can get BWR 39.1 listed for purchase).

And yet! My time as BWR editor has all kinds of threads which are beginning to tie themselves off.  Today was my last poetry meeting. To come: my last feature meeting, my last galleys 1-4, my last blues, my last decisiveness when facing the last gorgeous cover options my design editor offers. I'm happy to continue working with my awesome genre, managing, and design editors right up through the end of the semester. Then the holidays, AWP, and some lasts I'd rather not imagine yet.  It's too early to reminisce, to nostalgize. Vomit. Still, some firsts left, too.


Whenever I have free time, I spend it playing Magic the Gathering with friends, or eating out more than I ought, or traveling three hours each way to see Ann Carson read, or watching the Bama Theater Art House movies every week, or getting ahead in reading for class. Fall is my favorite time of year, and I am finally doing things I always envy others for but never seem to do: waking up "early," going for walks, reading in the sunlight, absorbing myself in crafts. And pumpkin carving. (My friend's was more impressive.)


The binding class I'm taking has absorbed me. I'll be taking the next section of it in the spring. People at the Kentuck Festival of the Arts bought two of my nicest books and a package of two double-pamphlets. I now have cash to pay for the unbound version of the gorgeous Webster's Pictorial Dictionary, which I'll use for a project next semester.

I am in love with boxes and Japanese silk book cloth. I am in love with color matching and paste making. I am in love with structural circles in my stitching.

I am trying to figure out which book to give to my creative writing mentee, who has been brightening my Mondays all semester.


If I seem overly cheery and productive, well, you should know I haven't swept or vacuumed in over a month and I accidentally locked my roommate out of the house, which inconvenienced her by two and a half hours and two miles, after her run. And that's all I'll admit to the internet.

Knee-deep in contest entries

I'm extremely pleased at the high quality of contest entries we received. Although this means deciding upon a winner will be quite difficult. Thank goodness we have contest judges, yeesh.


I'm taking a book binding class in the book arts program, and it's the most satisfying class I've had in a long while. I love workshops and lit classes, but there's something about the immediate utility of bound books that has a similar pull for me as ceramics. (Though I've had difficulty making time to properly investigate the Clay Co-op down the street.)

The repetition and precision and craft of binding are what comfort and thrill me. When it comes to making creative choices (cover choice, varied materials, colors, etc) I bump up against the mental exhaustion that makes writing more of a chore these days. But because the emphasis of this class is craft, is practice, I feel as if I'm somehow strengthening the creative part of my brain. Like when I took Robin's forms class (and before that, in Baltimore, Ed Perlman's forms class).


Kellie Wells's class on Fabulism has single-handedly refreshed my joy in reading and talking about writing.


This weekend, my cousin married his girlfriend of ten years, on their ten-year dating anniversary. I'm ridiculously happy for them, and admire their love, confidence, courage, and downright love of life. I'm also impressed at how perfect a wedding it seemed, simple but beautiful, and highly personalized.

It's about time for art

I've had a small tabletop printing press for about two years now, and I have very little to show for it other than my very first lino cut prints and a bookmark for a friend.  I decided that part of the problem is that I have no idea what fonts I actually have in my possession -- I know the names of some, but not all (the labels on some of the antique trays have fallen off), and I don't really know what they look like.

Solution?  A type catalog.  But hand setting the alphabet would get boring done fifteen times over, so I asked some friends here at 'Bama to send me short sections of their writing in exchange for a copy of the type catalog when it's complete.

Which means I now have decisions to make regarding structure of the booklet, size, paper, etc.  I'll have to make at least 15 copies, and I might as well make a few more.  Does the booklet get a name?  A table of contents?  What dimensions?

And really this is all I ever need.

Tomatoes -- mostly Roma, some Sungold -- from the garden, lightly sauteed with basil from the garden and garlic. Doesn't even need cheese.

In other news, boyfriend visited, and now my computer is both Jeckyll and Hyde: he kindly partitioned the hard drive with BootCamp and installed Windows so we can play all of the games together long distance. This bodes poorly for my writing. I might have to learn a thing or two from Oliu and put all the forthcoming "research" to good use.

The lovely dog remains, which is nice, because boyfriend left.  She's getting along famously with the cats, which is surprising only because the cats aren't fond of dogs other than Harvey (my roommate's dog).

OH, and Laura and I did a joint Black Warrior Radio show today. Catch one of us next week 12-2 as usual!

Back in the game

I took eight 4-sheet signatures of Ingres paper in various shades of blue and earth, and stitched 'em up in a coptic stitch...

with handmade hemp endpaper from the papermaking class I took last spring... (the hemp fiber was a bit overbeaten, so the wrinkles pictured are natural to the paper)

and a splash of handmade kozo (mulberry) paper, also from papermaking class...

with a cover made of soft recycled leather wrapped around boards.

And the best part is, I did it all with a friend.  Bookbinding is better with company.  Her coptic book is more than twice as big, has a gorgeous cloth cover, and will make a great sketchbook.