Producing suitable covers for poetry books can be a tall order – when it’s the much-loved Romantic poets the task is doubly tough. As senior designer at Faber & Faber, Miriam Rosenbloom decided to commission eight different printmakers to work on the eight different poets in the company’s newly released series, and she established remarkable artistic connections between writers and image-makers. She spoke to us from Australia about the challenges involved in doing justice to some of the UK’s most distinguished poets.
The series features Robert Burns, William Wordsworth, John Clare, Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats, William Blake, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Lord Byron, with their best work selected by modern poets such as Seamus Heaney, James Fenton and Andrew Motion.
The printmakers selected for this series were – in the corresponding order – Jane Hyslop, Colin Moore, Ralph Kiggell, Angie Lewin, Emily Sutton, Mark Cazalet, Andy Lovell, and Harry Brockway.
After six years at Faber & Faber, Miriam is now art director at Scribe Publications in Melbourne, but she was good enough to spare us a few minutes…
Hi there Miriam, congratulations on the books, they are really quite beautiful. Why did you choose printmakers to represent these particular poets. Was their traditional process of image making important to the design of the books?
This was the third year I have worked on a printmaker/poetry series for Faber. The first series was part of Faber’s 80th birthday celebrations, and I wanted to renew the historic links Faber had with poetry and printmakers — looking back mainly to the Ariel poetry pamphlet series (dating back to the 1920s), which saw individual poems by poets such as T. S. Eliot, Siegfried Sasson, and Walter de la Mare paired with artworks from the likes of E. McKnight Kauffer, Eric Ravillious, and Edward Bawden.
I’ve also always loved printmaking as a medium and was delighted to have an excuse to showcase it in such a way. I think also that as e-books become more prevalent and more aspects of our industry become digitised, people have become more appreciative of this kind of specially-commissioned artwork.
How did you go about the task of assigning illustrators to each poet?
I created a longlist of about 25 British printmakers from a variety of sources such as gallery shows I had been to, suggestions from other printmakers from the previous two series and, of course, hours of red-eyed web-trawling. I reduced this selection to a shortlist after discussions with the rest of the design department and making sure the artists’ work all worked well together.
It was then onto some serious poetry reading and discussions with Faber’s poetry editors to make sure that the tone of each artist was well-matched to the respective poets. As I have found over the last two years, this process is much clearer than I always fear, and for most couplings there is a natural fit.
Tell us a little about your time designing for Faber & Faber, have you enjoyed your time there?
I worked in-house as a senior designer at Faber for three years, leaving earlier this year to return to my hometown, Melbourne. It was a great experience, and really was the dream book-design job. I had the privileged opportunity to work on the covers for some of my favourite authors, such as Lorrie Moore and Jonathan Lethem, while at the same time I commissioned lots of fantastic illustration by the likes of Emily Forgot, Rachel Salomon, and Mick Wiggins.
I would have to say, though, that the three poetry/printmaker series are probably closest to my heart and, I hope, are a testament to the amazing talents of 20 of Britain’s finest printmakers.