An Old Wooden Printing Machine and a Declaration: What the True West Is


I’ve had a project simmering for a while which the awful movie The Last Jedi has pushed onto the front burner: the making or co-creating of a kind of ‘Magna Carta’ declaration of the True West – what it is and why the current backsliding, self-sabotaging version of it we have today is still vastly worth defending, if necessary with our lives, and at the very LEAST with our pens and printing machines.

Today at a coffee ‘bubble’ (I love bubbles, whether drinks or quiet conversation bubbles – just not the asset kind which is about to implode – but that’s a detail compared with the big picture of what we’re doing to our culture) with Raewyn my wife we were nerdishly reading two of the books we got at a garage sale – one was The Tao of Pooh and the Te of Piglet, and the other a book of poems by Spike Milligan, Open Heart University. I read one poem which stood out for me as I do printmaking and hope to do much more:

To Toni Savage and his Old Wooden Printing Machine

When the great tree

Loomed from high-falling,

Her green head pitching down,

Till the great body lay still-straight,

Was she to be heard no more?

Men took her, Piece by piece

And togethered her again,

In new bowen shape

and from her dead body

Words came, and those printed sounds

were stamped with loving care on

the warp and binded weave

of a paper made – from her sister.

Sober truth survives

Her breeze still blows

on the mind of men

and sinks such roots

As no tree, has ever sunk.

So Toni used some of the timber to make a woodcut printing block, I assume. I thought, Yes! I had been thinking of using etched steel, but symbolically it would be wonderful to make a woodcut, and print a poster like the Magna Carta or Luther’s 95 Theses, on flax paper to outlast the ephemeral pulp fiction of the newspapers and popular books hastening the downfall of the West.