I am delighted to announce that Two Rivers Press are launching a new First Collection Series to provide an opportunity for emerging poets to see their work published in print. First up: The Beholder by Kate Behrens.
Taking on unpublished authors is a risk for any publisher, and a series suggests a series cover – always a good way to economise. The challenge was to create a series design that had a Two Rivers look and feel, but also reflected some aspect of the poets’ work.
I am lucky then to have at my disposal literally hundreds of rubber stamp illustrations created by Two Rivers founder Peter Hay. Pete, who died in 2003, was a multi-talented and prolific artist and enthusiast for all things Reading. His rubber stamp images, cut into ordinary erasers he used to buy in bulk from WH Smith, adorn many of the early Two Rivers classics such as Where Two Rivers Meet, A Much-Maligned Town, and a powerfully illustrated edition of Oscar Wilde’s Ballad of Reading Gaol. What better way to return to the true Two Rivers style!
I spent a pleasant morning in bed (a favourite creative space for me) experimenting with a selection of some of the more ‘esoteric’ images and put together a bright, contemporary palette of different colour combinations. The idea is that the colours chosen for each title will echo some element of the poems’ key themes. That should see us through the first few titles – it would be great to revisit the series every year or two and have another chance to play with those wonderful illustrations! Of course, if things go well and the series is a success, Two Rivers may be able to afford more bespoke cover designs, but then those are fun to work on too.
I also designed a template for the text pages using two of my all-time favourite typefaces: Parisine and Janson. Hopefully all the styles I set up will cover at least some of the more experimental typography that modern poets seem so fond of as well as the established conventions for typesetting poetry – we will see.
I’m grateful to students at the design department at the University of Reading who took prints of all the rubber stamps, digitised and catalogued them for Two Rivers Press. I can promise them I’ll make good use of their work.