Wai-te-ata Press artists’ book finalist amongst world’s best: The Wai-te-ata Companion to Poetry

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Victoria University of Wellington’s Wai-te-ata Press has been announced as a finalist in the prestigious Manly Artists’ Books Awards, for its artists’ book The Wai-te-ata Companion to Poetry.

An artists’ book is one made by an artist as artwork, and often reinvents the book form and challenges the reading experience.

The award is a biennial prize run by the Manly Public Library, New South Wales, Australia. Winning entries are acquired by the library and entered into specialist artists’ books collections, such as the Australian National Art Gallery collection, which holds more than 1000 artists’ books that date back to the 1970s.

Wellington artist and curator, Paul Thompson, says the success of The Wai-te-ata Companion to Poetry is due to the imagination that has gone into it.

“I had a strong concept for a book, made a mock-up and went to Wai-te-ata Press to see if they were interested in collaboration,” Mr Thompson says.

Dr Sydney Shep, Reader in Book History at Victoria and Director of Wai-te-ata Press says: “We recognised a good idea and have the experience, skills and knowledge to deliver it. The Press is known for its production of both New Zealand poetry and many other high quality and typographically adventurous publications.”

Designer and fellow book artist Glenna Matcham, focused on the opportunity to “bring enthusiasm, design and craft skills to an unusual project”.

“The Wai-te-ata Companion to Poetry is not a book to be judged by its cover,” says Dr Shep.

“The plain brown cardboard box holds 10 poems covering the last 200 years—ranging from well-known classics to poems from contemporary New Zealand and Australian poets. Each poem is treated as a digital handmade object rather than just a nicely designed and printed sheet of paper. Whether a map, a booklet, a cylinder or printed on sandpaper, each poem takes a unique form dictated by the content.”
“In a way it’s like interactive poetry,” says Mr Thompson, “but it works on several levels at the same time. One can read and enjoy the poems or, like any successful work of art, be immersed in an intensive experience of thinking, associating and exploring.”

For more information, and to purchase a limited edition copy, contact:

Dr Sydney Shep on 04-463 5684 or sydney.shep@vuw.ac.nz.

Paul Thompson on 04-913 9045 or museumphoton@clear.net.nz.

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