At Philalalia, an event where artists and writers alike come together to share their work, you can have your art and read it too.
The second annual poetry and art fair took place in the atrium of the Tyler School of Art from Sept. 17-19. The event featured more than 30 vendors, most of which were local. As the murmur of guests and vendors filled the space, as they discussed their work.
“We want it to be a celebration of the poetry and art scene in Philadelphia,” said Kevin Varrone, an English professor at Temple and one of the event’s organizers.
Lynne Kovalchik, a vendor and junior visual studies major, had a table with small printed patches and other works of art. With help from Amze Emmons, a printmaking professor at Tyler, Kovalchik was an intern for Philalalia this year. She created the logo, designed its webpage and illustrated some of the posters. She drew inspiration from last year’s logo, but gave this year’s more of a small press feel to it.
“I learned a lot,” Kovalchik said. “I learned what sells.”
Throughout the weekend, many of the vendors could be seen presenting their work or having a discussion about the industry in Tyler’s Contemporary gallery. On Thursday, there was the Small Press Publishing Panel composed of Brenda Iijima from Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs, Stephen Motika from Nightboat Books, Rachel Levitsky from Belladonna Collective and JenMarie Macdonald and Travis Macdonald from Fact-Simile.
On Friday, Allen Crawford, an artist and writer who co-founded Plankton Art Co. with his wife, presented some pages of his work, “Whitman Illuminated: Song of Myself.” Crawford explained his process of starting the book and seeing it to fruition, which consisted of spending a year in his basement studio hand drawing every word and illustrating his version of poet Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass.”
“Whitman broke with traditional poetic forms, so I decided to take things one step further and make the poem’s form even more wild and free than the original,” Crawford said.
Concerning Philalalia, Crawford is looking forward to its future and his involvement.
“I’m excited by the possibilities that micropresses and independent publishers represent, which stand in stark contrast to the rather tame, stale fare usually currently offered by large corporate publishers,” he said. “If by presenting at Philalalia I can get some young artist or writer excited about printed books and their potential as a medium, I’ll have done my job.”
New to Philalalia this year was Ink & Print, an exhibition curated by Jen Pascoe, book artist, printmaker and professor at Tyler. It featured the work of artists’ books, prints, poetry, comics, zines and more, while also featuring a lounge aspect where Varrone hoped people would stay a while and converse about their interests.
With the addition of Pascoe, Varrone felt it was a more equal representation of art in Philalalia, where last year, “it was really heavily skewed toward poetry-centered people,” he said.
“It was a great opportunity to step in the gallery world a little bit and work with the very supportive staff and directors there but also to reach out to local and regional artists that I had been wanting to work with for a while,” Pascoe said.
Madeline Archambault can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.