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Wave Books

by Doug Black in Design on 17 June 2009

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Wave Books is a poetry publisher clearly smitten with books as objects. Born from the ashes of Verse Press in 2005, the independent Seattle-based press consistently produces volumes that reflect the care and consideration given to the poems themselves. There's no clear thread running through their diverse catalog — Wave, instead, describes its aim as "publishing the best in American poetry by new and established authors." But even this line proves too strict, as a book by French poet Franck Anré Jamme and a collection of short stories by Pulitzer Prize-winner James Tate clearly break these broad parameters.

In addition to the widely-available softcover versions of their books, Wave offers a particularly attractive annual subscription series. Subscribers get a limited-edition, clothbound hardcover version of every book released that calendar year. Volumes are individually numbered, signed and come wrapped in exclusive two-color jackets designed completely independent of the softcover version.

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Take the book "Poemland" by poet Chelsey Minnis. The limited hardcover version (above left) differs greatly from the far more common softcover edition (above right) which has a deliberately disorienting barcode motif reflected throughout the book (both designs come from the one-man design shop Quemadura). For Jamme's book "New Exercises" (pictured at top) Wave collaborated with the author on a limited edition box set of silk-screened reflective broadslides printed by Portland, Oregon's Seizure Palace.

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Noelle Kocot's cover for "Sunny Wednesday" aptly reflects the tortured voice of its narration, while the glossy design of Mary Ruefle's diminutive book "A Little White Shadow" relies on large portions of deliberately whited-out text.

Combined with a stable of similarly dynamic poets, Wave's dedication to design predicts that it will be a force in book publishing as long as we're still publishing books. This fall, we can expect poetry collections from Rachel Zucker and Dara Weir, as well as "Bluets," a book of lyric prose by Maggie Nelson. For more information on their catalog, or to subscribe for the limited hardcover editions, visit the Wave Books site.

Images from the Book Cover Archive.

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