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Beautiful Books: Scree
Publisher Talonbooks has set on a course of releasing three collections of celebrated Canadian poets’ early works, in beautiful editions, no less. The second such collection, Scree, brings together the earlier and hard-to-find works of former Canadian Parliamentary Poet Laureate Fred Wah, and designer Leslie Smith sets them masterfully amid pictograms and facsimiles of some of Wah’s out-of-print masterpieces. Read on to see a sneak-peek from Talonbooks’ Chloë Filson’s thoughts and photos of this gorgeous book.
Scree was a particularly satisfying book to work on because of the complexity of the task. Resetting 13 books published over 30 years to create a cohesive unit while yet retaining the intent and spirit of the original books was a challenge. It was a joyful challenge, though, because Wah himself hadn’t had much input when some of the books were originally published, but this time around he got to have a say regarding how his poems were set on the page. In the past, Wah had sent off manuscripts to publishers in distant cities and later received finished books, without so much as a proof along the way. Much has changed since then. Faithful facsimiles of two original books turned out beautifully, each giving the reader a clear vision of the books as they had originally been produced. I was lucky to work with Fred Wah and (former Talon production manager) Greg Gibson in producing this book, and in the end the best part was seeing the joy on Fred Wah’s face when he first picked up the the hardcover edition.On the cover of Scree is a 1967 serigraph by Takao Tanabe. Inside the satisfyingly weighty tome, the reader finds the aforementioned facsimile editions of two early books and full-colour reproductions of certain early texts and pictograms to accompany poems in the section Pictograms from the Interior of B.C. The book is printed on smooth, creamy paper (100gsm Hansol wood-free crème) and is set in Garth Graphic, a serif typeface that is comfortably modern and subtly playful. The Malahat Review called Scree “handsome and expansive,” “subtle and breathtaking.” Phil Hall of BookThug wrote, “This is surely the best poetry book of the year! Such care and thoroughness have been taken here to let each important early publication keep its style and colour and format … It is so important that this work is being done, both the writing and the editing.” And the poet rob mclennan wrote, “The book is gorgeous … The resulting volume – shift of image, colour and font – is a breathtaking accomplishment that does far more than simply replicate a selection of thirty years of writing and publishing, but work[s] to present some sense of what those early publications might have felt like in their original forms.”Go find this beautiful book, even just to hold it for a moment. Flip through, read a few words – words like the following, which come from the poem “How To Do This” (p. 313) in Owners Manual [sic], my personal favourite section of Scree: