Acquisitions (39): Tara McLeod

Tara McLeod: A Typographic Journey (2020)

Tara McLeod (Otago University, 2013)

Tara McLeod: A Typographic Journey (2020)
[Acquired: Thursday, February 20, 2020]:

Tara McLeod: A Typographic Journey. Ed. Lesley Smith. Foreword by Keith Maslen. Essays by Riemke Ensing, Bronwyn Lloyd, Christine & Tara McLeod, Paul Thompson, Donald Kerr, Jürgen Wegner & Alan Loney. Photography by Liz March & Sean Shadbolt. Dunedin: Katsura, 2020.

This Thursday Bronwyn and I went along to the launch of this wonderful new book, celebrating the life and work of master printer and typographical artist Tara McLeod. It was a most festive occasion, with many old friends to catch up with at the Takapuna library, and a comprehensive exhibition of Tara's work - put together by his wife Christine with the help of librarian Leanne Radojkovich - as an accompaniment.

Bronwyn, of course, is in the book - she contributed a fine essay on Tara's time as successor to Alan Loney at Auckland University's Holloway Press. I can't tell you how exciting it was to look through the box of goodies Tara and Christine allowed us to borrow from their own private collection while Bronwyn was researching her piece. I own a few Holloway Press books myself, but the more expensive collector's editions I'd never even been permitted to handle before.

Tara McLeod, ed.: 8 Poems by New Zealand Poets (Orewa: Pear Tree Press, 2019)

What's more, as a direct result of this project, I was invited to contribute to Tara's latest chapbook of 'poems by New Zealand poets,' which I've already blogged about here.

Why are these things so important to us? Lesley Smith, the designer and publisher of the book, makes no secret of her own addiction to small press printing. She put out a series of exquisite poetry chapbooks for successive poetry day readings at Titirangi (I blogged about that, too, here), so it's no surprise that she understands the natural connection between typography and its associated arts and a certain attitude towards writing itself.

John Denny, owner-operator of the Puriri Press, whom I know well from my Poetry NZ days, put it best, I think, when he remarked to me on Thursday that one has to feel very attached indeed to a set of words if you're going to live with them, day in, day out, for six months or so.

Tara McLeod: Proceed and Be Bold: The Pear Tree Press (Christchurch, 2014)

Poets understand this. We spend a lot of time getting the words right in order not to waste the time of artists such as Tara and John. But there's a lot more to Tara McLeod's work than that - Georgia Prince, Principal Curator of Rare Books at Auckland Central Library, a long-time collector of his publications, who launched the book, remarked on the wit and humour displayed so often in Tara's art: not an especially common attribute of small press printers! She also pointed out his love of colour: not just in the backgrounds but in the words themselves.

You'd be well advised to go down to the Takapuna Library to check out the exhibition of Tara's work while it's still there. And, of course (it goes without saying) to invest in a copy of this beautiful book while it can still be obtained: it's selling out fast.

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