MERCER, Jennifer. “DEEMED TRULY NEFARIOUS (TO US HILARIOUS)”. Poster Signed. Philadelphia: Nemean Lion Press, September 2011. Measures 11 by 17 inches.
Limited edition poster for the September 27th, 2011, reading at Robin’s Books/Moonstone Arts Center, featuring authors Ernest Hilbert, Elizabeth Gold, Daniel Nester, and David Yezzi, one of 12 numbered copies, signed by the designer, all four authors, and host Lynn Levin (as well as two proof copies, hors série), featuring the official Nemean Lion chop stamp on reverse.
Posters of various kinds have existed for hundreds of years, but the modern poster dates roughly to 1870, when color lithography made mass production possible. “In little more than a hundred years,” writes poster expert John Barnicoat, “it has come to be recognized as a vital art form, attracting artists at every level, from painters like Toulouse-Lautrec and [Alphonse] Mucha to theatrical and commercial designers.” Concert posters have ranged in styles from Art Nouveau, Symbolism, Cubism, and Art Deco to the more formal Bauhaus and hippie posters of the 1960s. Posters advertising poetry readings have become popular collectors’ items on the rare book market, the most famous among them being the “Six Poets at Six Gallery,” a poster for an evening organized by Kenneth Rexroth for poets Philip Lamantia, Michael McClure, Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Phil Whalen, Kenneth Rexroth, and Jack Kerouac—“[a] remarkable collection of angels on one stage”—on October 7, 1955 in San Francisco, though it may be noted that the poster is memorable more for the event it advertised than its impromptu design.
With the advent of digital production and printing technology, a new generation of artists has begun to expand the field of the concert poster while building upon earlier traditions. Designer Jennifer Mercer printed “DEEMED TRULY NEFARIOUS (TO US HILARIOUS)” using the unusual Hamlet Handtooled typeface on 60lb polar matte paper. “DEEMED TRULY NEFARIOUS (TO US HILARIOUS)” is taken from Ernest Hilbert’s poem “In-School Suspension” and was selected by David Yezzi for the event’s name. The poem originally appeared in The New Criterion, which Yezzi edits. The illustration, by French engraver Gustave Doré, depicts twelfth-century Occitan troubadour Bertran de Born as consigned by Dante Alighieri to the eighth circle of Hell (Canto XXVIII, Inferno), where he was punished as a sower of discord (Henry II of England believed Bertran instigated the uprising of his son Henry the Young King). In Longfellow’s translation, de Born explains: “Because I parted persons so united, / Parted do I now bear my brain, alas!” Doré’s are among the most celebrated of illustrations for Dante; they won him the cross of the Legion of Honor (see Malan, 57-58). “The varied torments of the dwellers in Hell are shown [by Doré] with minute and sometimes shocking fidelity” (Ray, The Art of the French Illustrated Book, 327-28). L’Enfer de Dante Alighieri avec les Dessins de Gustave Dore, Traduction Française de Pier-Angelo Fiorentino Accompagné du Texte Italien first appeared in Paris, published by Hachette, 1860. The plate was selected because Dante appears to be doing a “face-palm” in exasperation at the sight of de Born parading, nude, with his head held above his torso, a scene that harmonizes agreeably with the substance of the poem “In-School Suspension.”
This is the seventh poster issued by Nemean Lion Press and will be available for free at the reading.