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Necessary Work: Bryce Milligan’s World of Words and Design” Exhibit to open April 9

April 4, 2016


Brycewebimage_2Over the last few weeks, UTSA’s Rare Books Librarian, Agnieszka Czeblakow has been working with Bryce Milligan and Bihl House Arts on an exhibit featuring books designed and produced by Milligan under the auspices of Wings Press. The exhibit,  Necessary Work: Bryce Milligan’s World of Words and Design” opens with a reception, which is free and open to the public, at Bihl Haus Arts on Saturday, April 9, from 6 to 9 pm.  The evening includes poolside jazz by George & Aaron Prado, libations and light hors d’oeuvres.

In addition, on Saturday, April 23, 2-4 PM, Bihl Haus will host a panel discussion “Independent Publishing and Book Design” with Bryce Milligan (publisher, editor, designer, Wings Press), Rosemary Catacalos (Poet Laureate of Texas, author of two fine press chapbooks), Roberto Bonazzi (publisher, Latitudes Press), and Dave Oliphant (publisher, Prickly Pear Press). Moderated by Agnieszka Czeblakow, Rare Books Librarian, UTSA Libraries Special Collections.

The exhibit, which kicks off National Poetry Month, highlights the importance of the cover designs, colors, bindings, papers, and threads, and invites the viewer to think about the books and their physical attributes and visual elements as complex objects imbued with meaning, cultural ideals and aesthetics of a particular time and place. It features books, archival materials such as photographs, correspondence and original artwork, which illuminate the myriad processes and decisions that go into designing and producing a book. From choosing letterpress or laser printing, selecting handmade papers and folding them into “signatures” to sewing, stapling or gluing the books together, the design process reflects the necessary work that goes into the creation of an object, which, in readers’ hands becomes “a coalescence of human intentions,”* beyond that of simple utilitarianism or commercial considerations.”

Wings Press began in 1975 as “an informal association of artists and cultural mythologists dedicated to the preservation of the Literature of Texas.” Managed by Joannie Whitebird and Joseph F. Lomax, the small, independent press, first based in Houston, published collections of poetry, works of music, fiction, and history.  Upon Lomax’s death, in the early 80s, Whitebird took over Wings’ editorial and publishing duties and ran the press until 1995, when, with her health in decline, she sold it to Bryce Milligan for $100 and an oath sealed with a bloody handshake to “keep the press going.”

Since 1995, Milligan has published 200 books ranging from small, handmade chapbooks to 600-page hardbacks, as well as ebooks. Sharing Whitebirds’s vision of “small press as an agent of change through literature,” Milligan continues to publish multi-cultural books of poetry, fiction, drama, history, young adult and children’s literature, as well as broadsides, anthologies, textbooks and musical recordings. The Wings Press roster includes national and international award-winning poets and writers as well as regional and national poet laureates. However, the Press continues to publish works of little known writers across all of the Americas. The Wings Press mission statement, printed in every book, says: “We believe that good writing is innovative, insightful, and interesting. But most of all it is honest. As Bob Dylan put it, ‘To live outside the law, you must be honest’.”

Bryce Milligan is the author of five collections of poetry, Daysleepers & Other Poems (1984), Litany Sung at Hell’s Gate (1991), From Inside the Tree (1990), Working the Stone (1994), Alms for Oblivion ( 2003) and Lost and Certain of It (2006). Milligan is also the author of four historical novels and short story collections for young adults, beginning with With the Wind, Kevin Dolan (1987), which received the Texas Library Association’s “Lone Star Book for Young Adults” award. Other works for young adults include Battle of the Alamo (1990), Comanche Captive (1990) and Lawmen: Stories of Men Who Tamed the West (1994).He is also the author of five regionally produced plays and well over 2,000 articles, essays, and reviews. He was the book critic for the San Antonio Express-News from 1982 to 1987, and for the San Antonio Light from 1987 to 1990.

The founding editor of Pax: A Journal for Peace through Culture (1983-1987) and Vortex: A Critical Review (1986-1990), he became in 1995 the publisher/editor of Wings Press, one of the oldest continually operating small presses in Texas. In 1985, Milligan co-founded (with Sandra Cisneros) the Annual Texas Small Press Bookfair, which evolved into the San Antonio Inter-American Book Fair. Milligan was the director of the literature program at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center in San Antonio in 1986, and from 1994 to 2000. Milligan has taught at UTSA and Palo Alto college and as poet-in-the-schools with San Antonio ISD, and directed the only 4-year high school creative writing program in the country.

Bryce Milligan‘s collection documenting his  work in San Antonio’s literary community is housed at UTSA Libraries Special Collections, and portions of it has been digitized.  Included in the collection are manuscripts, drafts, galley proofs and correspondence related to Milligan’s many book and journal projects. The San Antonio Inter-American Book Fair and Latina Letters conference are represented through planning materials and correspondence. Also included are poetry, articles, chapbooks, newsletters, scrapbooks,  and assorted digital media.

* Michael F. Suarez, Director of Rare Book School, Professor of English, University Professor and Honorary Curator of Special Collections at the University of Virginia.

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