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Pulling a proof at Running the Goat

By Janet Harron | Aug. 24, 2011

A group of creative writing students got a rare chance to practise their printing skills last week at Running the Goat Books and Broadsides in downtown St. John’s. Overseen by founder Marnie Parsons and professor Mary Dalton, the six students thoroughly enjoyed operating Parsons’ 180-year-old printing press.

For writer and student Dana Evely, participating in the open studio was a real treat.

“To have the chance to see the inside operations of a local letterpress was in itself an amazing experience," she said. "But then to feel the paper, ink the print blocks, and pull some levers -- that was an added bonus. It was a real eye-opener to see how much precision and patience goes into each letterpress chapbook. All the little pieces of moveable lead type -- that alone is remarkable. And then to see how much care goes into each page. You really get a sense of how rewarding the finished product is, both for Marnie and for the author. It's nice to know that such wonderful things go on in the downtown basements of St. John's.”

In her advanced creative writing seminar course, English 4911, Mary Dalton guides students in the writing and publishing of their own chapbooks. Currently displayed outside the Department of English Language and Literature office, the seven books (Ferryland by Katie Barbour, Jellybean Houses by Brad Ayers, Gone to Seed by Dana Evely, 13 Zzzzs by Dave Greene, Spellbound by Mona’a Malik, Hubris by Andy Woolridge and Until Music by Len O’Neill) each contain 13 linked poems.

The students of English 4911 will be launching their books on Monday, Sept. 12 at 7:30 p.m. in AA-1046. Readings will take place between 7:30-8:30 p.m. with a reception to follow in the Arts atrium.

Everyone is welcome to attend.

Running the Goat Books & Broadsides is a micro press that specializes in books, chapbooks, broadsides and pamphlets by Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and Newfoundland and Labrador-based writers. Most of their publications are letterpress printed, using moveable lead type and sewn by hand. Founder Marnie Parsons says it was a great pleasure to have Mary Dalton and her students drop by to learn about printing and to pull a proof on the handpress.

“Their interest and enthusiasm reminded me that there are still people who value books as tactile objects, and who see that the physical process of making a book as well as its physical presence adds to its meaning," said Ms. Parsons, who has published 25 titles to date. "I never lose sight of how much fun what I do is, but it is always a joy to see other people enjoying it too. I hope Mary will bring her next creative writing class to see the print shop too; it does seem a lovely resource to have in the community and I'm more than happy to welcome people who are genuinely interested in learning about printing.”

Running the Goat became the publisher of the Faculty of Arts’ Pratt Lectures at the request of the 2009 Pratt Committee and to date has published J. Edward Chamberlin’s The Snarl Around Our Dory: The Long Line of Island Traditions (2009) and has Don McKay’s 2010 lecture, The Speaker’s Chair: Field Notes on Betweenity in production.  For further details please visit Running the Goat at