In Arts & Entertainment

Local Luddite prints letterpress 'zine

"I've been influenced by Charles Henri Ford, New York poets and the mimeographed generation," says John Tyson, who wanted to create a collection of poems that could be, in his words, "hung and touched."

So, with the help of Jim Baker from Bay View Printing, the 46-year-old housepainter/telemarketer/poet and self-described Luddite created Accurate Key, a stunning anthology of letterpressed poems by local and national writers.

"Accurate Key was created out of loss: marriage, children growing up, triple by-pass surgery, the death of John Wieners and my need to publish poetry," says Tyson, who will read with "AK" poets Rob Baumann and Stacy Szymaszek at Voss Books (229 N. Water St.) on Sat., Feb. 21 at 7 p.m.

Accurate Key is printed in two formats: a boxed set of poems and an oversized "book" with unbound pages. The boxed set will be created once a year around spring, and the supplemental large-scale collection will be available twice a year, in summer and fall.

Tyson doesn't solicit submissions, instead, he attends poetry readings and reads a lot of poetry collections and chapbooks to discover authors he wants to include in his project, including Andrei Codrescu, Alice Notley, Milwaukee's Szymaszek ("A local goddess and poet," Tyson says) and musician Richard Hell.

"I like working with all of America. I look for great work," he says.

Tyson chose the name "Accurate Key" after a local business he has regularly walked past since his bypass surgery.

"At the risk of getting sued, it's the name of a lock shop which I walked by to get to work, before my by-pass surgery," says the father of two. "It was almost half-way between home and work. It for me is very true and a wonderful 'found' name."

Accurate Key is printed on Baker's letterpresses from the '40s. As technology becomes more and more precise, it seems many people long for the beauty of imperfection.

"We need to remember how amazing print presses into paper," says Tyson. "I love the smell of ink and they're gorgeous machines."

"It's a classic look," says Baker, who has owned Bay View Printing since 1984 and is mentoring Tyson in the letterpress craft. "People like the look and the feel of letterpress. You can actually run your fingers over it and feel it."

Accurate Key is available for $20 at Luckystar Gallery, Voss Books and Woodland Pattern Book Center.

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