How Ink Writes Poetry

RAY NICHOLS LOVES THE FACT that sometimes the scent of an idea will bounce around his head for years, and then for some inexplicable reason will coalesce into something concrete and doable. How Ink Writes Poetry and a neighboring book is squarely like that.

AFTER PRINTING, WE NEED TO REMOVE THE INK from the press in preparation for the next run. It helps if you can get most of that ink off the press as efficiently and quickly to start and every printer has their particular method.

Typically, on our Vandercook Universal III which can print an 18" x 24" area, we squirt solvent onto the inky rollers and run a sheet of thin paper through them. We would hang them to dry so we could throw them away which happens fairly quickly because of the thinned ink. Some of the resulting images would grab our attention, looking like a landscape of a lake with hills reflecting in the distance. So, we started saving them. Sometimes we would run a sheet through a second time with a new color.

After a while, we started running 2 sheets through together which doubled our output and also kept the back of the sheets ink free. They just stacked up in a cabinet drawer until we had several hundred of them.

Side story to help explain things


We once won an eBay auction for some 48 point Onyx metal type. It probably weighed 30 pounds and was taped together with cellophane tape, having no chance of staying together during shipping (see the photo to the left). Pulling it out sort by sort (a sort is an individual piece of metal type), we filled a galley, letter by letter in the exactly order we removed them. The galley sat around the studio for a while until we finally decided we should record the melee with a broadside below entitled, How Type Writes Poetry.

How Type Writes Poetry, pulled sort-by-sort, from the shipping box.

How Type Writes Poetry, pulled sort-by-sort, from the shipping box.

Back to the present day story

Several years later there sits this 4" stack of "ink pulls" in one of our cabinet drawers. It was almost an inevitable to produce a book project using these sheets and call it How Ink Writes Poetry.

We've got an idea for extending the series to help explain some of society's important questions. Book #2 using these ink pulls used white ink on black paper for a book entitled, Electric Fire From the Clouds, based on Ben Franklin's experiments on electricity.

Below is a side-by-side comparison of spreads from Artist Proof 1 and Artist Proof 2.


We can't wait until the Manhattan Book Fair in March of 2018 to get some face-to-face reactions of people's take to the books.

Next book : Chesapeake Meander