Deepening Snow, the fifth Plowboy Press title, is haiku and tanka by Michiko Oishi, translated with Judith Chalmer. It’s available for sale at the Plowboy Press catalog in both a limited and a trade edition. I will be focusing on the publishing and bookmaking side of the project for this series of posts. If you are interested in the process of writing and translating the poetry, Seven Days had a review: In a Vermont Book of Poetry, American and Japanese Cultures Meld.
At Plowboy Press, publishing a book is a collaborative undertaking that wouldn’t be possible without a lot of support from authors, craftspeople, family and friends. As in any small business, I fill many roles at Plowboy Press: publisher, editor, designer, printer, and binder. I’m also CEO, COO, CFO, webmaster, and that guy from marketing. It can be overwhelming to be responsible for so many aspects of a project, but the advantage is in the flexibility and control I gain from being both the editor and the marketing department, the designer and the printer. It allows the final product to be as cohesive as possible.
For me, Deepening Snow began with the process of transforming Michiko and Judy’s writing and translating into the text of a book. The editorial stage is one of my favorites. I enjoy being involved with the writing from early on. This is where I start the work of unifying the text and the object that holds it. Since both Michiko and Judy are meticulous wordcrafters, my editing picked up in the later stages of the process: asking a few questions about translation, selecting poems to include in the collection, and making suggestions on how to structure the text—division into sections, the order of the poems and so on.
In the end it was decided to divided the text into two groups with haiku first and tanka second. Each group was then divided into sections: haiku into four sections by the seasons, and tanka into three sections by location—indoors, outdoors, and Japan. The section titles of the haiku are derived from kigo used in poems in that section. A kigo, or season word, is a word used in a haiku that alludes to the season of the poem. The winter section of the book, for instance, is titled Thin Ice. Deepening Snow is also a kigo from the winter section.
Once the text is finalized, it’s off to the design department.