Remembering Printed in Norfolk

Printed in Norfolk has finished now and the boxes of books and other works that made their way to England from Ballybeg in County Tipperary are now sitting on a kitchen table in Docking in Norfolk, waiting to be collected and sorted through.

We have made some wonderful new friends – in Norwich Neil Powell, Louisa Milsome, Tom Simmonds and Sarah Beare, in Sheffield Laura Sillars, Judith Harry, Jane Faram, Kira Askaroff, Charlotte Morgan, Joanna Loveday and Jen Smith, in Shandy Hall Patrick and Christine Wildgust, Eleanor Camille-Wood and Helen Williams and, at the Poetry Library in London Chris McCabe, Pascal O’Loughlin and Chrissie Williams.

We have also lost a friend and colleague, Martin Rogers of RGAP, who died just as Printed in Norfolk came to an end. Martin had been closely involved in planning the exhibition tour but, from the summer, his illness meant he could no longer be actively involved.

Simon, Erica, Helen and many of the artists and poets featured in Printed in Norfolk attended a celebration of his life in Derby on 14 December.  He is greatly missed and plans are being made to secure the future of RGAP’s artists’ books archive and the Small Publishers’ Fair – both of which are Martin’s creations.

Printed in Norfolk took the work of Coracle Press to audiences in Norwich, London, Sheffield and Coxwold in North Yorkshire.The exhibition was complicated to install. As well as vitrines and wall-mounted works there were several vinyls and a small neon, an Envelope Interior to install, shelves of ephemera and postcards, and reading room areas for people to handle and read artists’ and reference books.

In each of our venues, the exhibition fell in to place beautifully. It was seen by over 9,700 people. We liked that The Guardian’s Robert Clark called the exhibition ‘timely and inspiring’. We also liked these blogs by Liverpool-based exhibition organiser and writer Linda Hopwood, by book artist and lecturer Les Bicknell and by creative art museum interpretation professional and PhD researcher Alex Woodall.

“There are many things still to be done with folded paper and twine.”
Simon Cutts, Norwich 22 March 2012


The Poetry Library

Printed in Norfolk is in The Saison Poetry Library until 2 December 2012. The exhibition includes many books to handle and the Library holds Coracle collections of its own that pre-date the period covered by Printed in Norfolk: Coracle Press 1989-2012.

Cusp – recollections of poetry in transition

Printed in Norfolk has been sent a review copy of Cusp – Recollections of Poetry in Transition. This 244pp paperback sets out to present “the spirit of a brief era which, in retrospect, was exceptional in its momentum towards the democratisation and dissemination of poetry. The era or ‘cusp’… between World War II and the advent of the World Wide Web”.

Cusp is edited by poet Geraldine Monk who has bought together the essays in this collective autobiography. Hannah Neate’s contribution Because the Trent Bookshop Is in Nottingham tells the story of the city’s Trent Book Shop, Poetry 66, and Tarasque Press. Much of her essay is based on transcriptions of an interview with Simon Cutts.

Here is an excerpt in which Cutts’ collaborator in Tarasque Press Stuart Mills sets out, in what Neate describes as ‘his typically humorous fashion’, some paramaters for poetry.

The proper subjects for poetry are;
the Seasons, the Affections, Fishing Boats,
Inland Waterways, Non-Alcoholic Beverages,
Certain Flowers, Certain Trees.

Improper subjects are;
Sex, Drugs, War and Self.

Adjectives should be used sparsely, if at
all, and not ever in proportion of more
than one to every 9 nouns.

Neat continues “By positioning itself in opposition to poetry about ‘sex, drugs, war and self’, Tarasque critiqued the beat and pop poetry being promoted elsewhere in the UK by the Liverpool poets and New Departures. In the above poem we see a respect for a longer literary tradition, an older type of ‘popular culture’ that privileges outdoor pursuits, seasonality and nature. This is almost a variety of pre-war vernacular through which objectivity is used to draw attention to the page, which works as a material and typographic artefact. This is a modern rather than pop poetry”.

Cusp is published by Bristol’s Shearsman Books and costs £12.95. Click here to order.

Exhibition opening at Shandy Hall

Installation 2, Shandy Hall, Coxwold

Some pictures of the (almost) finished installation and the beautiful gardens at Shandy Hall.

Installation, Shandy Hall, Coxwold

The gallery at Shandy Hall is on the second floor of a stone outbuilding. At the back, windows look out across a formal garden to the fields and hills beyond.The space has characteristics and features that we need to work with. At the end of the second day the show is settling in well.

print it, Site Gallery, Sheffield

During its Sheffield stay our Coracle exhibition becomes part of print it – a broader celebration of artists’ books also including a pop-up book shop and a programme of public discussions and activities organised by artists publishing platform COPY.

The team at Site Gallery, headed up by Artistic Director, Laura Sillars, has worked hard to put together the programme and to transform the galleries. Coracle’s exhibition looks beautiful in the clean, contemporary space of Site’s main gallery.

Laura’s decision to send Site’s Kira Askaroff (producer) and Jane Faram (Gallery Co-ordinator) on research trips to visit other artists’ bookshops paid off and the pop-up bookshop is excellent. Coracle and RGAP provided a core list of publishers from the UK, USA and Europe and they have been joined by some promising up-and-coming local publishers.

Joanna Loveday and Charlotte Morgan of COPY have put together a wide-ranging programme of free discussions and activities. The full programme is here and their COPY notebook, which will be updated throughout the residency, is here.

Pictures below of Sheffield – A city of rivers, trees and hills, Site Gallery, Coracle’s exhibition and some of the people involved in making print it and this first northern leg of the Printed in Norfolk tour a reality.


Sheffield installation

Pop-up artists’ bookshop – the publishers

Jane Faram at Site Gallery is putting together the pop-up artists bookshop that will be at Site Gallery throughout ‘print it’ and alongside our Coracle exhibition. Simon Cutts and Martin Rogers at RGAP have helped compile the list of publishers. Thanks to all of them for taking part. Here they are plus links, where available, to find out more.

This is going to be a rare opportunity to browse and buy books from these leading artist publishers. See you there!

AND publishing, London
Boekie-Woekie, Amsterdam
Bookworks, London
Les Coleman, London
Coracle, Ireland
The Everyday Press, London
John Dilnot, Brighton
Granary Books, New York
information as material, York
Lemonmelon, Italy
Mark Pawson, London
Mass Observation, Sheffield
Preston is my Paris, Preston
Red Fox Press, Ireland
RGAP, Sheffield
Sheffield Publicity Department, Sheffield
Colin Sackett, Devon
Ugly Duckling Presse, New York
Westhouse Books, Sheffield



Bookworks' publication.

London event announced

The Saison Poetry Library has confirmed that to coincide with Printed in Norfolk (1 November to 2 December), Coracle press will be the subject of its November Special Edition event.

‘Part Song‘ will be a gathering of Coracle writing and reading and takes place on Wednesday 7 November at 8pm. The event is billed as ‘An assembly of past and present poets and writers whose books ended up on the Coracle list by design, desire and the sheer accident of occasion’.

Readers will include the once-Coracle team of Colin Sackett, John Bevis and Simon Cutts, and include the later addition of Erica Van Horn.

Admission is free but spaces are limited.
To book email

Site Gallery News

We have just heard that Sheffield-based writers collective COPY has been successful in its application to Grants for the Arts for funding for a residency to coincide with Printed in Norfolk’s visit to Site Gallery in Sheffield on 10th August to 8th September.

This gives the go ahead to Site Gallery’s exciting plans to use Printed in Norfolk (which in Sheffield will be known by it’s subsidiary title ‘Coracle Press, 1989 to 2012‘) as the launch-pad and inspiration for a broader celebration of artists’ books under the umbrella title of ‘print it’.

In Site Gallery’s words;

“Print it, 10th August – 8th September is inspired by the pioneering work of Coracle Press whose activity has included working closely with local and international artists and poets for over 35 years to make books and bookshops, galleries and installations from small to large scale.

For the summer of 2012, Site Gallery presents singular and seminal book works, publications and other allied works from the last two decades of Coracle’s production.

Coming at a critical moment in the history and future of the book, the artist collective COPY will undertake an explorative residency in the exhibition.  A curated book shop of artists’ publishing from international independent publishers completes the project.”

We are looking forward to working with artists Charlotte Morgan and Joanne Loveday of COPY. They will be in residence at Site throughout our exhibition and will be hosting conversations, undertaking research and making new physical, printed and written works.

And the extended bookshop is coming together well too. We have been working with Site Gallery and RGAP on this to put together a selection of works by leading artists’ book publishers from the UK, USA and Europe plus key reference works.

So put a date in the diary to treat yourself to a feast of artists’ books this summer at Site Gallery (10th August to 8th September).

ps. If you’re wondering where the title ‘print it’ came from, it’s inspired by the Charles Ohlsen quote that features in Printed in Norfolk;  “Don’t ever be intimidated by the disdain or disinterest of the world. Get yourself some type, get yourself some paper, and print it.”

From the Norwich exhibition comments book

We’ve been looking at the comments book from the Norwich exhibition. What comes up most is that people wished they had more time to spend in the exhibition. Here’s a handful to give an insight into different people’s responses to Printed in Norfolk at The Gallery at NUCA.

‘It was great to handle the books and feel the texture. Wonderful. Thank you.’
‘Absolutely astonishing. I live with 2000 books stacked around me, in the bed with me, the kitchen and on the stairs, but none so beautiful as these. This exhibition introduced me to Coracle and will stay with me for many years.’
‘- great exhibition of book arts a difficult medium to exhibit but done really well here’
‘Amazing collection of printed material. I had never heard of Coracle, Erica, nor Simon. I’ve clearly been missing out. Thank you for enlightening.’
‘Amazing, inspiring. Going straight home to dig out card, string and ink!’
‘Beautiful work could spend days in here.’
‘I like the humour and distinctive presentation.’
‘No Kindle can compete!’

Next stop Sheffield.



A review by Jen Smith

This review begins the night before I went to view the exhibition Printed in Norfolk. The final question at Simon Cutts’ talk, “The Metaphor Books”, was this: “These books…in their very limited editions…are there any libraries where we the public can access them? Are there any collections of these books?”

Naturally, Simon replied with the National Art Library at the V&A, the Saison Poetry Library on London’s Southbank (where the tour of Printed in Norfolk concludes), and the list included in the free exhibition pamphlet. If it hadn’t been the very last question of the evening, and if there had been time for just one more comment, I would have said, “We the public can buy Coracle books ourselves and read them in the comfort of our homes.”

Of course, for the next few weeks, the best place to see Coracle’s work is at The Gallery at NUCA, which provides brilliant light with its floor-to-ceiling windows. The pieces are displayed in vitrines, on walls (in vinyl and neon), on shelves, and, best of all, on two sets of tables pushed together to give readers plenty of space to spend time reading books as they are meant to be read: in their hands. The fact that there are two tables stocked with the same 30+ titles means that it’s possible for a group of people to have a lively discussion about them at one table, while those of a more contemplative nature can have a quiet read at the other table.

Since the majority of the items in Printed in Norfolk are straightforward-seeming books, it could be argued that they might have been more efficiently packed into a library-type vertical shelving arrangement, but that style of display would stifle the invitation to peruse afforded by the open tables. The mixed-methods display allows the rarest and most fragile pieces to be seen while still being protected from accidental damage; at the same time, the handling copies demonstrate how robust, well-designed, and well-crafted Coracle’s books are.

I like to think that the man who asked which libraries hold Coracle books has gone to the exhibition himself by now, and that he was pleasantly surprised by the affordability and availability of the majority of the pieces he saw. In the list of titles being sold at The Bee Hive during the period of the exhibition, the most expensive book is £45 (Some More Notes on Writing & Drinking), and twenty-eight of the forty-four books are between £5 and £10. For “we the public”, Coracle pieces are art made possible.

About Jen Smith
Jen Smith has just completed a PHD at the National University of Ireland in Galway, “Artefact Books: Toward a Multi-field Analytical Framework for Literary Research”, which featured Erica Van Horn’s book “Scraps of an Aborted Collaboration” as one of three main contemporary pieces. Jen is currently studying for an M.Sc. in Electronic and Digital Library Management at the University of Sheffield and hopes to work in a faculty library teaching artists’ books through collections and “getting the word out”.

Simon Cutts’ talk, The Metaphor Books

To coincide with Printed in Norfolk, Simon Cutts gave his talk The Metaphor Books in NUCA’s Duke Street lecture theatre. Last presented in Granary Books, New York, the talk was a fascinating introduction to Cutts’ on-going project to explore the book as the physical metaphor for the poem itself. For the Q&A, Cutts was joined by bookbinder Stuart Settle, who recalled his days studying bookbinding in what was then Norwich Technical College. For over twenty years, Settle, who has worked in commercial bookbinding all his life, has fitted in binding jobs for Coracle in his spare time in the shed at the bottom of his garden.

The Exhibition Opening

Installation 3

Installation 2

Packing books for Norwich

We are packing books for Norwich. We seem to be packing endless numbers of books.
Some are ready to be chosen from the cupboards in the book barn. A great many need to
be fetched from the other barn. We make a list and then every once and a while I run up
there to collect whatever is on the list. Today it is raining off and on, so I time my trips for
the sunny dry moments. Em waits outside the book barn and when I go up to the other
barn she follows me and settles herself down outside the door of that building. By the time
I come out she has to be surprised by my reappearance and then she gets to her feet and
follows me back to the book barn. A few trips back and forth and she is weary of the job
and weary of the lack of undisturbed sleep. Feeling bad about the many disturbances I
finally take her over to the house where I leave her to enjoy an undisturbed nap.

It is not just books being collected and packed. There are cards and there are things in
frames and there are things not in frames. Everything has to be gathered together and
listed and then packed in different kinds of categories. We have the books and objects
which will be displayed in cases behind glass. Some things which we would like to take
we cannot take because they are too big to fit inside the glass vitrines. Then there are the
books which will be on the reading table. These are the books that will be handled and
read. There are other books which will make up a small reference section. These will also
be available for reading. The piles get bigger and bigger. We do not want to pack them
until we are certain that we have not forgotten anything.

Another category is The Books for Henry. Every once and a while, one of us will ask Do
you think Henry would like this? Or Is this right for Henry? We speak of Henry with great
familiarity. We speak his name warmly as if we have known him and his preferences well.
We each have a sense of what he does and does not like. Sometimes we disagree and
one of us will say No, that is silly. Of course Henry does not want that! Neither of us have
ever met Henry. Henry has a bookshop in Norwich called The Book Hive. He has agreed
to sell some of our books during the time of the exhibition. We are trying to choose the
right books for him and this shop. We look forward to meeting him. We hope that our
choices are right.

Erica Van Horn

Very Small Kitchen

An insightful quote here about Coracle from

“…where minimalism becomes a utopian neo-pastoral proposition about fusions of form and content embracing book, space, and conviviality.”

For the full article, SMALL AD SWEETHEARTS OF THE IMAGE VIRUS DO-POETRY, with more on Dieter Roth, Emmett Williams, Ian Hamilton Finlay and others click here.

Poetry and writing

“Coracle has, through her art and books, reinvented the very idea of line, and place,
thus defying lineage and placement. Coracle is that rare vessel that travels lightly,
even with substantial gear, and knows how to navigate between waves.”
Roger Conover, Executive Editor, MIT Press

For anyone interested in the poetry side of Coracle’s work, the exhibition Printed in Norfolk includes publications made with poets John Bevis, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Harry Gilonis, Susan Howe, Cralan Kelder, Thomas Meyer and William Minor, and in particular, by Coracle Director, Simon Cutts.

is the first
that comes

the last
to go

as the speed
of light

leaving, only
a distant

Readers may also be interested in Erica Van Horn’s journal documenting life in rural Ireland Living Locally.

24 December Saturday Christmas Eve
A woman in the village wanted to know if I had heard some man singing. She could not remember his name but she said he was a truly great singer. She said he was like a mix between James Brown and Pavorotti.