Acts of Labour
Welcome to the first Flush & Brew dispatch! No further introductions needed, we’re just gonna go for it :)
“Looking close at specific acts of radical publishing as interference enables us to see the labor involved, and the values that emerge from social publishing ecosystems that depend upon collaboration, participation, communal care and mutual aid networks. Values that encompass a new ethics and a politics of making public, rather than endless variations o old publishing models.”
- Paul Soulellis
Recently, I acquired a copy of Urgent Publishing after the Artist’s Book: Making Public in Movements Towards Liberation by Paul Soulellis, designed by Be Oakley of Genderfail Press. The ideas and calls to action Soulellis presented really resonated with the impetus behind San, the new micro press housed at Teh People Studio.
If the studio at large is invested in slow craft and the spirit of stillness, then the press is interested in the act of disruption and trespass. These seem to be opposing, but for me, they arise from the same ground of desire to do meaningful and thoughtful work, just different structures for different needs.
The book as art object is often synonymous with “expensive art book”. Yes, making books is a craft, a combination of skill and time, a job. But San Press will not lock the book as art object into a presentation form that prioritizes craft at the expense of everything else. Rather, in this space, the book is an object in relation to creator and audience. The book as object is in relation to the stories it carries and performs. Craft is a factor in those relations. So is cost. So is content. So is distribution.
If as Soulellis suggests, we intend for publishing to be an act of labour, instead of the production of a commodity, what kinds of relations must we transform? This is something I hope to think about steadfastly in my next season of work.
As a writer, language is also an act of labour. I love language. I believe in the ways language makes us and the world. My work is language, which is to say, my work is in what makes us and the world. So for me, the stakes are always real.
Books are precious spaces of language. Book as objects is language in multiple forms. The language of design and colour, of shape and texture. The language of a maker in dialogue with material. A book is a conversation with so many people.
In all my chats with writers I’m working with, I preface / caution them that publishing through this press might not take them very far on a literary career journey. I have no structures built in to ensure they will be championed in the “literary scene”. But if you work with San Press, I say, I’ll make a book you can have a relationship with, that you’ll be proud of.
I really believe I can do this and I only want to promise what I can. It’s an exciting time to be resting on the foundations of what I already know, to experiment and try new things.
As I grow, this studio and press will too; little and big labours making a pathway toward better worlds.
Shelf Life —
Both of today’s books were ordered and picked up from A Different Booklist on Bathurst and Bloor. They’re my favourite place to acquire titles by BIPOC writers.
Shadow Life by Hiromi Goto, illustrated by Ann Xu is about a grandma gone rogue and facing off with Death. epic? yes.
The illustrations by Ann Xu are simple and dynamic. I really love the fluidity of Death’s forms, and the other ghostly hauntings that Kumiko sees (I particularly love the papery souls). I also love Goto’s mixture of traditions and novelty: salt lamp on a vacuum cleaner as a containment vessel? Here for it. Overall, a fun and steady read, with moments that are tender and expansive. Goto is good at depth with a light hand. I really enjoyed it.
I picked up Home Rule: National Sovereignty and the Separation of Natives and Migrants by Nandita Sharma recently due to a spirited review and response published on Briarpatch Magazine.
I am absolutely the type of reader to read reviews in digital and print magazine publications and base my book orders on them.
Given that the scope of the scholarship being debated overlaps and impacts my work a lot, I thought I should wade into the waters and take a look for myself.
Shop Now —
Gradations I & II - a pair of risograph printed illustrated poetry zines. Each zine is a single long poem where the speaker goes for a meandering walk and has a tender conversation with somebody. The landscape is real. Or not. The speaker is the same in both zines, but the stories set a decade apart.
Despite all the relationships found, lost and changed along the way, here we are nonetheless.