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It’s been a while since we last featured Barbara Henry, though we focused on her role as an instructor at the Center. This time, we’ll look at Barbara and her work with Harsimus Press.
When she isn’t teaching the ins and outs of a Vandercook press at the Center, Barbara can be found creating work under Jersey City-based Harsimus Press. Also under Harsimus Press, she has a series of Random Reports, a booklet of poems “constructed out of randomly chosen words and phrases cut from the dated first section of the New York Times.”
Barbara’s work has appeared in many Center exhibitions, including but not limited to: I will cut thrU: Pochoirs, Carvings, and Other Cuttings; Racism: an American Family Value; Illustrated Fine Printing, Whittington and Matrix in America, and among others.
In 2012, Barbara created Walt Whitman’s Faces, a mixed-media book including letterpress, linocuts and photography. Inspired by Whitman’s experience as a newspaper printer and interest in typography and printing, Barbara began reading Whitman’s poems through a typographical lens:
In 2009 I was asked to write a bibliographical analysis of the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass… While reviewing the text I encountered the poem entitled “Leaf of Faces”… Reading the poem with its new title for the first time, I was struck by the use of printers’ terms. Whitman had been apprenticed to a newspaper printer at the age of twelve and always took a personal interest in the design and typography of his books. “Faces”, I thought, might refer to type faces. The critical history of the poem emphasized human physiognomy and did not include references to typography. I approached Karen Karbiener, the Whitman scholar who had asked me to write the analysis, and she encouraged me to pursue this idea. For me, it was a way to use my typographical training — and my experience of nineteenth-century letterpress technology — to promote a more complete understanding of a poem that had been heretofore neglected by scholars.
Fittingly, Barbara will be leading a Summer Intensive in Visual Poetry and Letterpress. The class will explore the complex relationships between text and image, semantic meaning and visual composition while reshaping ideas about what poetry can be.