On Monday April 1st, English, Art, and Science students stepped back in time to the age of the printing press. At this semester’s Poetic Table students and faculty came together to write and print their own poetry via letterpress.
Students produced haikus based on the Periodic Table and then spelled out each line with metal type. This exercise not only gave the students an appreciation for the time and effort it takes to produce text in this way, but began to teach the science and art behind the discipline.
Upon arrival in MAC S268 students were given the chance to write a haiku based on one of the elements of the periodic table. A haiku is a short poem consisting of a five-syllable line followed by a seven-syllable line and another five-syllable line. Each line is written in common vernacular and works to describe a natural event in a realistic way. After the poems were written we were placed into groups and set to work spelling out each line, letter by letter, in a frame. After we completed the poems in the frame we had to test out whether or not we spelled everything correctly. For most of us that was not the case. Usually it was a problem of two letters that look very similar. A confusion between an “n” and a “u” or a mistaken “d” for a “b”. But once everything was spell-checked we handed in our finished product and it was placed on a larger printer with the other poems.
The printing process was no less tedious, but very fun. Each student got to print out two copies of the poem sheet. We each did a small dance of stepping on pedals, inserting paper, walking the roller over the press, removing the paper, and beginning again. But the complexity and anxiety of “am I going to be the one to accidentally break this machine” proved worth it. In the end everyone in the room got to walk out with two copies of the room’s poems and new knowledge of the complex, hard work that publishers had to do in order to print even the simplest of text.