In an age of digital publishing and communications, poetry can live anywhere. But for three recent graduates of the Cincinnati Art Academy, poetry is most at home in paper and ink, as artful, physical objects on shelves, in spaces where people can gather for drinks and conversation.
Blake Lipper, Thomas Wagster, and Ryan Khosla are determined to make all these things happen under one roof. They are in the process of launching the Midwestern Press, a small, independent publishing press with a focus on contemporary poetry and art.
The press is setting up shop in an old gas station-turned winery in downtown Mt. Healthy. In addition to designing, printing, publishing and distributing small-batch works, the Midwestern Press will curate a small book shop and event space, featuring a coffee bar and craft beverages, including wines and ciders by in-house winery La Boîte.
The team invites submissions and is particularly interested in collaborating with emerging, independent artists who are “really looking at the world around them and making work about it.” This includes an awareness of — and experimental engagement with — political and social context.
There is an underlying desire, suggested in the name, to champion the city and region in the face of an all-too-common pull towards elsewhere. The Midwestern Press seeks to be one more encouraging reason for young creatives to stick around, because, as they say, there is all this culture here to nurture and sustain.
Midwestern Press will house a variety of books and artwork.Drawing on their own self-publishing experience, Lipper, Wagster and Khosla are eager to partner with fellow poets and creatives in answering the sometimes-daunting questions that they too have faced: How do I format this? How do I get it printed? How do I get it out there?
In addition, as self-proclaimed “object-oriented artists,” the team is looking forward to bringing the entire process in-house. The itch to be hands-on creators and collaborators extends to every detail: types of paper, bindings, embossing, typography, and design choices. They are eager tap into the DIY self-publishing culture that is already here, and to elevate good, interesting work into substantial physical objects.
Others in the community are already reaching out to help make this dream a reality. A letterpress, for example, is scheduled to arrive this week, courtesy of Gary Walton and the Print and Typography Museum in Lower Price Hill.
In addition to local partnerships, Midwestern Press draws on direct relationships with other small, independent publishers worldwide in order to curate their bookshop. Currently on the shelves, paperbound poetry intermingles with art books, theory, graffiti magazines, and even plastic toys. The thoughtful curation and placement showcases poetry as an art form that coexists with its surroundings in fun, fresh, thought-provoking, and dynamic ways.
The overall goal is to serve as a highly accessible community space that welcomes and encourages all levels of engagement through workshops, readings, and discussions. It is poised to be a gathering place for local poets, artists, and audiences, while also serving as a host venue for touring artists. And, above all, it seeks to provide good, local poetry a proper home, in paper and ink.
Midwestern Press is currently open on an appointment-only basis. Their opening party is on Sept. 24th at 7 p.m. and will include drinks, snacks, and readings by three local poets. It will also feature co-founder Thomas Wagster’s newly released poetry collection, Statelessness.