Amanda Bernstein is the Rare Books Librarian at the University of Sheffield. She has specific curatorial responsibility for the Small Press Poetry Collection and the Private Presses Collection, which include substantial holdings of Tetrad Press, Circle Press, Zephyrus Image and CURVD H&z.
Colour In the Frame: Barbara Caruso’s Seripress
This paper will introduce the history of the publisher Seripress to an audience outside Canada by examining Barbara Caruso’s methodology of working with the poet bpNichol. It will show how this collaboration was not an artist illustrating a few poems, but how the words and images were joined together by the use of line; exceptional, unusual colour; and faultless printing. I will be using the unique holding here in Sheffield to explore in detail some examples of Caruso’s practice.
I will argue for the uniqueness of Caruso’s fruitful, close collaborations with Nichol (an intellectual female artist/printer and a male poet) and will show how this relationship played out in the published work through the use of colour and printing technique. I will concentrate on the significant letter H, colour mix and rubber stamping.
Caruso, a Canadian, was first and foremost a modernist visual artist, who, at the height of her career, poured all her artistic power into an astonishing collaboration with Nichol, one of Canada’s most respected non-mainstream visual poets. These collaborations were published by Seripress, Caruso’s own small press, which ran from 1971 to 1979 and which she operated from her studio. The name ‘Seripress’ came from combining ‘serigraphy’ and ’letterpress’ and perfectly encapsulates how Caruso’s art and the poetry she worked with are locked together. Barbara Caruso has been overlooked in both the art and the poetry worlds because, perhaps, she is uncategorizable, belonging to both and neither simultaneously. It has been suggested that poetry critics don’t discuss her because she’s an artist and that art critics don’t discuss her because of her work with poets. I will conclude by claiming that Caruso’s work through Seripress was ahead of its time and remains almost unprecedented.