Wake: Up to Poetry
Judging a Book by its Cover: Vona Groarke’s Spindrift
While an old adage suggests that you can’t judge a book by its cover, in the modern publishing world, that’s often all you have to go by. The ever-expanding digital marketplace uses cover art as an ambassador for the intangible, providing a thumbnail image of the physical book. Similarly, in old-fashioned bookstores, cover art is, more often than not, what tempts the customer to take home a copy. The impact aesthetics have on the collective consumer pocketbook is undeniable.
That being said, cover art serves an artistic purpose in addition to its promotional value. Book art must illustrate the content, form and emotion of a poet’s words. It must be carefully selected to convey the author’s intent in a singular image.
Candide Jones, assistant director and manager of the press, described the process of selecting cover art here at Wake Forest Press: “Sometimes a poet tells us an artist that he or she is interested in using, sometimes we look for important images in the book, or for a work of art that pictorially rhymes with the poetry.”
Vona Groake, author of Wake Forest Press’s recent release, Spindrift, was interested in using the work of photographer Clifford Ross to embody the visual impact of her text. Ross’s photograph, “Hurricane VI,” was eventually selected for the cover illustration because of its literal representation of the book’s title, “spindrift,” a word defined as the spray blown from cresting waves.
As the publishing world increasingly moves toward a digital format, some smaller presses have done away with the production of clothbound books entirely, but our mentality is that books of poetry are works of art, and hardcovers are a necessity. “The design of the text is the first hint of what the book represents,” explained Jones. “Cover art is extremely important at Wake Press because we make real books. Not only is the poetry art, we consider the tangible book to be as well.”
While art for art’s sake is all well and good, WFU Press is also a business, and in order to cut back on production costs, we did away with traditional book jackets for hardcovers, opting instead for a sleek obi or belly band to provide the critical cover copy.
Groarke’s Spindrift is only our second book to receive the obi treatment. The obi, a three-inch band wrapped lengthwise around the back cover of the book, includes all the textual content typically found on a book jacket or paperback cover. Spindrift’s obi includes a summary of the poetry, dotted with quotes from reviews, in addition to a brief biography of the poet.