Saturday, May 22, 2010

Portland Book Art Show Features Beer Poetry and Lupulin Letterpress

If going wine-tasting isn't your cup of tea, then how about a road trip to Portland for a show of fine book art?

The Multnomah County Public Library often features book art shows. The John Wilson Rare Book Room has some fine letterpress and handbound books and Jim Carmin curates some great shows. This show, it was just announced, has been extended now into June!

The show is titled, Loyd Haberly (1896-1981): Oregon Poet, Printer and Bookbinder. Haberly's design work looks like Wiener Werkst├Ątte meets the pre-Raphaelites, simultaneously modernist and romantic.
Raised in rural Oregon, Loyd Haberly was a Reed College graduate and a Rhodes Scholar who, while in England, gained a strong appreciation for the Arts & Crafts movement. In the tradition of William Morris’ famous Kelmscott Press, he founded the Seven Acres Press, a small private press in England where he printed 16 books, most authored by himself. He later was hired for the position of controller at the esteemed Gregynog Press in Wales, where four more books were produced under his control. Among them was Eros and Psyche, which used the illustrations created by artist Edward Burne-Jones for Morris. Haberly printed one more title in England before he returned to the United States, where he printed another 13 books from 1940 to 1976.

The work of Loyd Haberly as a poet, artist — he created the many brightly colored woodcuts that adorn his books — printer and binder, caught the attention of Portland book collector Brian Booth. Over the years, Booth has generously been donating his Haberly collection to the John Wilson Special Collections at Multnomah County Library. This exhibition, the first on Haberly in more than a decade, features all of these items along with materials borrowed from other institutions and private collections.
While we have an interest in this sort of thing, the show by itself isn't the reason we mention it here.

There's a beer connection! Check out this title. Almost a Minister: A Romance of the Oregon Hopyards, written, illustrated, printed and bound by Loyd Haberly in an edition of 375. Now that's some beer poetry! Be still my heart! (You can read more about Haberly and see a couple more examples of his typesetting and printing in this article on his books in the University of Iowa's special collections.1)

We may willfully be misunderstanding the kind of "romance" Haberly means, but we'll construe it along the lines of this hop dance from March 1905. The decor sounds distinctly Christmassy, and everything else seems to belong a century earlier, in a Jane Austin novel.

"A Real Hop"
A hop-house dance is somethine which the young people of Salem are not often treated to, but no dancing party of the season was more thoroughly enjoyed than one given Friday evening at the Lewis Savage hop house, about four miles northeast of Salem. The hosts were Geo. Miles and Arthur Lang, and nothing was left undone by them to make it one round of pleasure for their guests.

The hall was decorated in firs and mistletoe in a most artistic way. After dancing had been indulged in for some time, all were served a most delicious lunch, such as only can be found at farm homes. Mrs. Lewis Savage and Mrs. A.M. Miles prepared and served the lunch.

A large number of invitations were issued, and all those going from town were loud in their praises of the host's hospitality. The boys are to be congratulated on their success.

We imagine a romance budding and then blooming over the years between these two in the hopyards!

(We are also interested in what clearly is a genre of portraiture, the hops picking portrait. We are finding lots of these, both more newsy action shots and formal posed shots. We wonder about portraits taken during the harvest of other agricultural products - were there any? In later years, when it was common for kids to go strawberry picking, did photographers travel there to shoot? So many questions - and possible material for a future post!)

(Photo: Picking hops from the Gerald W. Williams Collection at Oregon State University.)

The name Savage and the 1905 location northeast of Salem suggests it's possible that Savage Road between Market and D Streets is related to the property on which the hop house was located.

Finally, since we don't have access to Haberly's text, here's some beer poetry, since by now you must be thirsty! We're mixing it up, though, and offer an anti-romance we found moving and full of the there there here.
Across a Great Wilderness without You
by Keetje Kuipers

The deer come out in the evening.
God bless them for not judging me,
I'm drunk. I stand on the porch in my bathrobe
and make strange noises at them—
if language can be a kind of crying.
The tin cans scattered in the meadow glow,
each bullet hole suffused with moon,
like the platinum thread beyond them
where the river runs the length of the valley.
That's where the fish are.
I'll scoop them from the pockets of graveled
stone beneath the bank, their bodies
desperately alive when I hold them in my hands,
the way prayers become more hopeless
when uttered aloud.
                            The phone's disconnected.
Just as well, I've got nothing to tell you:
I won't go inside where the bats dip and swarm
over my bed. It's the sound of them
shouldering against each other that terrifies me,
as if it might hurt to brush across another being's
living flesh.
                But I carry a gun now. I've cut down
a tree. You wouldn't recognize me in town—
my hands lost in my pockets, two disabused tools
I've retired from their life of touching you.

1It contains a fascinating link to Silverton, Homer Davenport, and the Geer family: "When Loyd was still young, the Haberly family moved to Oregon to live on Loyd's grandfather's farm. There, Haberly learned to hoe the fields while reciting his favorite poems and learned to draw on the attic walls already decorated by the famous cartoonist, Homer Davenport, who had lived in the same house when he was a boy."


  1. Many thanks for the kind words about the exhibition, the marvelous connections to Oregon hop culture, and the inclusion of a fine poem by Keetje Kuipers; a great way to start my Sunday!