Cuneiform Press Launches Project to Publish Musician-written Texts

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Cuneiform Press’ Kyle Schlesinger; photo by Bryan C. Parker

Poetry purveyor and publisher Kyle Schlesinger is issuing a call for writings of any kind from musicians for a new series of books. The founder and operator of celebrated imprint, Cuneiform Press, Schlesinger has been printing letterpress for 20 years since he taught himself analog typography. He has worked with other nonprofit organizations to teach people how to publish books and currently teaches a course on bookmaking at the University of Houston. He started Cuneiform Press 15 years ago to publish new and innovative poetry, and estimates that he has written around 20 books and published more than 60 books by other authors.

Now, he’s adding a new dimension to Cuneiform by seeking to publish work by musicians. He laughs at inquiries he’s already had about poets who once played the recorder in middle school, and clarifies, “I want working musicians, full-time people who are committed to this, who have maybe had an idea for a book; it could be lyrics, photographs, journal entries, doodles, essays, comics.” Schlesinger cautiously refers to the idea as a series, but insists he doesn’t believe in announcing series, “because every time you digress from the series you break a rule.” After speaking with obvious affinity for the diligence that goes into book series he admires, he observes that it “locks you into a particular format.” Instead, he says, “I think it’s better start off without any rules and then see what happens.”

Then, Kyle falls into something he knows well, constructing a metaphor to illustrate his thinking: “I believe books are built from the content out. You don’t take people and shove them into an apartment complex where every apartment is the same. I look at a book as building someone a house based on their particular needs and desires.”

As an alternative to “series,” Schlesinger says, “I’d like to call it a poetics, because that seems like the most all-encompassing term for thinking about art through words. He thinks of poetics not as a discipline but “as the glue that holds disciplines together,” explaining that “pictures, movies, music, visual art—all of these could be part of a poetics.”

Kyle has lived in New York, Berlin, and Providence, among other cities, and says his current environment of Austin may have something to do with his recent fascination with music. After moving here in 2009, he found himself “realizing how much great music is in the neighborhood.” Although he has been inspired to participate in the city’s robust music community, he says he knows he doesn’t want to be a professional musician. “But I’ve gotten pretty good at making books,” he comments with a grin, “and maybe this is a way to bring those two worlds together.”

The new project is well underway, as Schlesinger has approached and is actively working with several people who are well known in the fields of music and literature. Ultimately, artists who have their work published as part of Cuneiform’s new movement will benefit from the imprint’s wide distribution. Although books on the press are available everywhere, Cuneiform books are especially cherished by small independent bookstores and special collections libraries. When asked if he has any tips for what kind of work with pique his interest, Schlesinger says, “I think that batshit crazy is good,” and a big smile spreads across his face. He goes on to say that people often ignore their ideas for a project because they think it’s too weird. But there are no rules here, so if you’re a musician with an idea for a book, Cuneiform would love to hear about it. You can get in contact with them via the imprint’s website right here. We can’t wait to see how this project unfolds.

About author
Bryan Parker is a writer and photographer living and working in Austin, TX. He is the founder of blog Pop Press International and print journal True Sincerity and recently released his first book, a volume on Beat Happening in the 33 1/3 series.

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