What the End is For, by Jorie Graham, Illustrations by Julian Lethbridge, Arion Press

I have often remarked in these pages how I appreciate Arion Press exposing me to works that I would otherwise not allow myself to be enlightened by. I enjoy ‘core canon’ classics, and have often felt there are so many great works in history that spending time on contemporary works would only distract me from more ‘important’ reading. A questionable approach, to be sure, but it has served me well over the years. Arion Press publishes their fair share of core classics, such as Moby Dick, Don Quixote, Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography, Sappho, The Moonstone, Paradise Lost, Age of Innocence, Leaves of Grass, and many more. However, they also sprinkle in ‘next tier’/lesser known classics such as Shirley Jackson‘s The SundialElias Canetti‘s The Voices of Marrakesh and Czeslaw Milosz‘s The World. I would have never explored these great works (to my loss) had Arion not published them.  Finally, Arion Press also occasionally publishes contemporary works which I also would have never explored on my own, such as their excellent Squarings (poems by Seamus Heaney), and their latest publication, What the End is For, a selection of poetry by the accomplished American poet Jorie Graham.

Let me state up front that I have not read this book yet, nor have I ever read anything from Jorie Graham. I am publishing this article now as I know many of you are excited to see some pictures and hear some details on Arion’s latest, their 101st  publication. Fans of fine press books will not be disappointed. I find the production attractive (can I call a book that is 11″ x 9″ with 238 pages ‘pretty’?), especially the unique cloth binding color which strikes me as violet/lavender with tiny bits of pink.  The 190-gram weight mould-made paper, from the Magnani mill in Italy, is brilliant bright white with just a hint of sturdy stiffness. The type is Stymie, in 12 point for the poems, 10 point for the introduction and subsidiary material. It strikes me as a retro-modern type of look. My guess is it would perhaps get tiring if used in full page text, but seems to work wonderfully in the more sparsely populated pages here. The type was composed and cast by Mackenzie & Harris in Monotype. The book contains sixteen color relief prints by artist Julian Lethbridge, printed from polymer plates by letterpress. As Arion has introduced me to written works I would never have explored on my own, they have often done so with their illustrative styles also. I am not a huge fan of most modern art, including Abstract Art. Yet, I find this work by Mr. Lethbridge attractive (there is that word again!), and fascinating. I have learned my lesson about interpreting too much into illustrative work until such time as reading the work it is incorporated in, so for now I will leave my comments to those initial positive impressions. Last but not least, the introduction is by Helen Vendler who, as I have remarked before, writes the best, most informative and engaging introductory essays in the world of books today. I look forward to reading her words here, as they always leave me a smarter person than before! Subscribers to Arion Press are lucky that she has participated in so many of their works.

Arion Press tells us about Ms. Graham:

This is a generous selection of fifty-five poems, written between 1977 and 2011, by Jorie Graham. She is in the front rank of American poets and the recipient of many prizes, including the Pulitzer Prize, and a MacArthur Fellowship. Jorie Graham was born in Rome in 1950. Her father, Bill Pepper, was the Mediterranean correspondent for Newsweek magazine. Her mother is the sculptor Beverly Pepper. After schooling at a French lycée in Rome, she attended the Sorbonne. In 1968, she began to study film at New York University, and became avidly interested in modern poetry. She received an MFA at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, eventually becoming its director. At Harvard University she has succeeded Seamus Heaney as the Boylston Professor of Poetry. There she became a colleague of the critic Helen Vendler, who is the A. Kingsley Porter University Professor at Harvard. Vendler chose the poems for this volume in consultation with the poet, and she has written the introductory essay. Jorie Graham lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

I look forward to reading this book and will update this review with commentary on the work, both the poetry and illustrations.

About the Edition

  • The book contains sixteen color relief prints by Julian Lethbridge, printed from polymer plates by letterpress

  • Introduction by Helen Vendler
  • The page format is 11 by 9 inches, 238 pages

  • The type is Stymie, in 12 point for the poems, 10 point for the introduction and subsidiary material, composed and cast by Mackenzie & Harris in Monotype

  • The paper is mould-made, from the Magnani mill in Italy, 190-gram weight

  • The binding is in full violet cloth with titling in black

  • The book is housed in a full-cloth slipcase

  • The edition of the book is limited to 300 numbered copies, plus 26 lettered copies for complimentary distribution to participants

  • The page format is 11 by 9 inches, 238 pages

  • The price of the book is $850 (minus 30% for subscribers)

  • There is an extra suite of prints available: They are printed on Somerset Satin, a British mouldmade paper, 300-gram weight, size 18 by 15 inches, image size 14 by 11-1/2 inches, presented in a portfolio with title page and documentation in an edition of 30, numbered 1/30 to 30/30, and 5 artist’s proofs, numbered AP 1/5 to AP 5/5, and 5 publisher’s proofs, numbered PP 1/5 to PP 5/5, and signed by the artist. The suite must be purchased with a book.

Pictures of the Edition

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What the End is For, Arion Press, Slipcase Spine
What the End is For, Arion Press, Slipcase Spine
What the End is For, Arion Press, Cover and Spine
What the End is For, Arion Press, Cover and Spine
What the End is For, Arion Press, Macro of Spine
What the End is For, Arion Press, Macro of Spine
What the End is For, Arion Press, Macro of Side View
What the End is For, Arion Press, Macro of Side View
What the End is For, Arion Press, Title Page
What the End is For, Arion Press, Title Page
What the End is For, Arion Press, Macro of Title Page
What the End is For, Arion Press, Macro of Title Page
What the End is For, Arion Press, Contents (Partial)
What the End is For, Arion Press, Contents (Partial)
What the End is For, Arion Press, Sample Text #1 (Introduction)
What the End is For, Arion Press, Sample Text #1 (Introduction)
What the End is For, Arion Press, Macro of Sample Text #1 (Introduction)
What the End is For, Arion Press, Macro of Sample Text #1 (Introduction)
What the End is For, Arion Press, Sample Text #2
What the End is For, Arion Press, Sample Text #2
What the End is For, Arion Press, Sample Text #3 (Macro)
What the End is For, Arion Press, Sample Text #3 (Macro)
What the End is For, Arion Press, Sample Illustration #1
What the End is For, Arion Press, Sample Illustration #1
What the End is For, Arion Press, Sample Text #4
What the End is For, Arion Press, Sample Text #4
What the End is For, Arion Press, Sample Text #5
What the End is For, Arion Press, Sample Text #5
What the End is For, Arion Press, Sample Illustration #5 with Text
What the End is For, Arion Press, Sample Illustration #2 with Text
What the End is For, Arion Press, Colophon and Signatures
What the End is For, Arion Press, Colophon and Signatures

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