It came from an idea of access.

Jane Sprague, “Introduction to Forum on Small Press Publishing

The Tiny Press Practices class, taught by Jen Hofer in the MFA Writing Program at CalArts, is a hands-on exploration of contemporary autonomous small-press practices as they relate to a poetics of community accountability. The basic question the course examines is how each of us might participate in creating the literary world we would like to inhabit. What is our responsibility, as makers, writers, readers and thinkers, to a larger literary-artistic culture? What kinds of literary and art spaces would we like to participate in creating, and how might we begin to construct them? What kinds of communities are made possible through different kinds of cultural action and cultural work?

Tiny Press Practices considers zines, broadsides, little magazines and journals, micro-presses and small presses, reading series, cultural centers, and collaborative or cross-genre projects. We consider autonomous tiny press projects as a whole, with an eye toward critical conversation that encompasses both the work presented and the form(s) and mode(s) of that presentation. The class was first taught in Spring 2010 and has been a part of the MFA Writing Program curriculum ever since. Three presses have been instigated through this class so far: Gao Swan BooksIn Process Inventory, and Stamped Books — hopefully there are many more to come! Thanks to librarian and book artist Brena SmithThe CalArts Library collects all the books we read in the class, as well as all the books produced in the class; Tiny Press Practices student projects are also collected at The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University.

The most recent Tiny Press Practices additions to the CalArts Library collection can be viewed here.

The central questions guiding Tiny Press Practices are: “What sorts of autonomous tiny-press practices illustrate and instigate an alternative universe of poetics and ethics?” and “How might we activate a literary-artistic gift economy that proposes an enthusiastic and participatory community of adventurers?” Readings and explorations for the class center on different writers’ and artists’ visions for how, in Kaia Sand’s words, “to seize and re-seize power” to create independent literary publics. What are our visions for the power that can be enacted in writing, and how might we seize (and potentially reconfigure) that power via the works we create and our ways of producing and distributing them?

Learning to see requires vigilance so that actions are not taken for granted.

Keith Smith, Non-Adhesive Binding: Books Without Paste or Glue


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