Poetry News

Leading Poetry Book Designer Jeff Clark in Conversation at Bear Books

By Harriet Staff


Chances are there's at least one book in your poetry collection designed by Jeff Clark ("Quemadura"). At Bear Books, read about his process, experiences, and take a look at 20 of his grandest book covers. More:

We are not supposed to judge books by their covers, but I do whenever I see a book. If I have to choose between two similar books, I always go for the one with the most appealing cover. And if a cover is appealing enough, I might get the book without knowing much else about it. Jeff Clark, poet and graphic designer, makes covers that grabs my attention in this way – they make me want to hold the book and leaf through its pages. Some of them would be brilliant as posters.

Clark designs covers for several publishers, among them Farrar, Straus & Giroux, University of Minnesota Press, Wave Books and he design all the covers for Ahsahta Press. For this blog post I have selected 20 covers that Clark has designed for Wave Books and Ahsahta Press, two cool independent publishers specialized in poetry.

Juxtaposing covers made for these two publishers shows that Clark can move effortlessly between minimalism with beautiful type and more extravagant and colorful designs. Clark has, I think, contributed immensely to the visual identity of both Wave Books and Ahsahta Press. I had the opportunity to ask him a few brief questions.

You are a poet and you design covers mostly for poetry books. What’s the difference between designing covers for poetry books and, let’s say, academic studies from University of Minnesota Press?

– It turns out that—usually—I have more design autonomy when I work on a book for Minnesota than I do on the average poetry book. I think this has something to do with the fact that the average poet believes they have a good visual sense, so that when they submit their manuscript to the publisher, they will often submit their artwork ideas. In my experience, it’s not often that these design ideas are strong. A publisher like Minnesota, however, has a staff of design and production people who understand that all a designer needs are:
1) the manuscript
2) a general, non-restrictive design brief

Continue at Bear Books.

Originally Published: October 12th, 2016