Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

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The cover of your first publication, The Quait Chiel, was beautifully pictorial, done by Scott Simpson. The next two were mainly understated typographical covers. Do you like to think each one will look different, or are you going for a house style? Design thoughts?

Originally I started out with the plan of working with illustrators for every project. In many ways it makes the design job much easier if you’ve got pictures to work with, and I think it can broaden the appeal of a publication. However, I quickly realised that illustration adds considerably to the costs. What with the margins being so tight anyway it just doesn't always make financial sense.

So I’m now less dogmatic about it. I’m still really keen to produce illustrated pamphlets, and if it looks like I can make the financial side of things work, then I’ll happily do so, but just not as regularly as I first thought. Illustrations won't always be suitable for a particular text anyway.

The important thing for me is to treat each publication on its own merits. When I’m doing the typography, I always try to make sure that the design is suitable for, and beneficial to, the poetry it contains. The design has to reflect the material, and with the varied work that Tapsalteerie produces I wouldn’t feel comfortable trying to force each pamphlet into a house style.

For example, I would never use the same typeface for all my pamphlets. The choice of type is something I spend a huge amount of time on; to my mind it’s one of the most fundamentally important aspects of a publication. The cover of Tapsalteerie’s latest publication Glasgow Flourishes, for example, is set in FF Govan, which was designed specifically for Glasgow’s year as the UK City of Architecture and Design in 1999. The way it draws on Glasgow’s traditions to produce a contemporary design was just so reminiscent of the poem itself that I had to use it.