The Birth of a Book

“To make two bold statements: There’s nothing sentimental about a machine, and: A poem is a small (or large) machine made out of words. When I say there’s nothing sentimental about a poem, I mean that there can be no part that is redundant. Prose may carry a load of ill-defined matter like a ship. But poetry is a machine which drives it, pruned to a perfect economy. As in all machines, its movement is intrinsic, undulant, a physical more than a literary character.”
— William Carlos Williams, from his introduction to The Wedge, in Selected Essays of William Carlos Williams (NY: New Directions, 1969), p. 256.

There may be nothing sentimental about a machine, but I have to say that whenever I stop by Coach House Printing, where our books are lovingly printed in Toronto, my nervous system relaxes a little amid the rhythmic thunking of the machines printing and folding and binding and trimming the guts of books—something both comforting and thrilling about being able to witness so plainly how it all works.

So to celebrate National Poetry Month, we wanted to give you a taste of that humble, tactile pleasure. Here’s a little tour of a poetry book being born—not conceived/written or gestated/edited, but of the final stages of it actually coming into the world in physical form. We hope you enjoy these behind-the-scenes photos and clips of binding day for Amy Ching-Yan Lam’s Baby Book.

The book cover stands out in bright cobalt, its artwork and design by Tina Guo and Victoria Lum. Each poem is borne upon the page in vegetable-based ink with a 1973 Heidelberg KORD offset litho press. The Zephyr Antique Laid paper originates from Saint-Jérôme, Quebec.

The pages of each book are printed on large sheets of paper known as signatures and folded into pamphlet-like sections with a Baumfolder. The merging of multiple signatures in the correct order results in a book.

The signatures are then funnelled into a Sulby Auto-Minabinda, where they are bound and glued at the spine.

Amy takes a turn at trimming the bleed edges with a Polar-Mohr Eltromat 72 single-knife cutter.

The books are packed away in cardboard boxes, ready to ship out to readers, reviewers, bookstores, and literary prizes.

Congratulations Amy!

Direct and humorous, Baby Book stacks story upon story to explore how beliefs are first formed. From a family vacation on a discount bus tour to a cosmogony based on cheese, these poems accumulate around principles of contingency and revelation. Amy Ching-Yan Lam describes the vivid tactility of growth and death—how everything is constantly, painfully remade—offering a vision against the stuck narratives of property and inheritance. Power is located in the senses, in wind: multiple and restless.

Read Baby Book.
Visit Amy Ching-Yan Lam’s website.
Check out the rest of our Spring 2023 titles.

While You’re Here…

Check out our first broadside: a limited-edition brilliant gift idea.