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When Stephen Gibson got tired of getting the runaround from literary publishers, he decided to make an end run around them. “I had a pile of poems that never got any bigger,” Gibson says. “Every time I added one, I would take out another one that was bad. Eventually, I said to myself, I really have to do something with this.” So last April, Gibson teamed up with Dave Wofford, an old classmate who has single-handedly built Horse & Buggy Press of Raleigh, N.C., into a leading manufacturer of handcrafted books. Last fall, they jointly released City of Midnight Skies, a collection of D.C.-centric poems and drawings by Gibson.
Gibson, 33, and Wofford, 30, met in 1994, in a bookmaking class at the Penland School of Crafts in western North Carolina. Since then, Wofford has won awards from the American Institute of Graphic Arts and plaudits from Independent Publisher magazine for a half-dozen painstakingly crafted literary titleseverything from An Elizabethan Bestiary: Retold to In the Light From Stained Glass: Poems on Growing Up Catholic, each printed individually on textured paper. Wofford agreed to make 250 copies of City of Midnight Skies by hand in an exclusive letterpress edition, featuring hand-sewn paper, hand-set type, and handmade covers. He also printed 500 facsimile copies in a less expensive “trade edition.”
Gibson grew up in Northwest’s Palisades neighborhood and attended Georgetown Day School, Tufts University, and the University of Washington, where he earned an MFA. After returning to D.C., he spent five years working as a bike courier before joining the Council of Independent Colleges last year as a projects coordinator. Gibson, who now lives in Logan Circle, always remained plugged in to the city’s arts scene, helping organize Blabbermouth poetry events at the Black Cat and, in 1996, co-founding Mobile City, the nation’s first literary ‘zine by and for bike couriers. (After a two-year hiatus, Mobile City’s sixth issue is slated for release this summer.)
Gibson says that publishing City of Midnight Skies has finally brought him closure on his stack of old poems. “I feel a lot more free to write about different things now,” he says. Louis Jacobson
Gibson and Wofford will appear at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31, at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. For more information, call (202) 364-1919.