Ink is a vital fluid. Ink flows and binds. Ink is as fundamental to the transmission of ideas as blood is to oxygen, as semen to intergenerational conflict. I use ink daily to excise thoughts from my brain, to scratch out a half understood meaning and structure to my stupidity. I have ink on my fingertips. I have ink in my skin, perhaps as a prosthetic personality, but hopefully as a measure of control over form. Ink is a vehicle for essence.
For all that it can contain; it is often discarded. Wasted ink is a symptom of a dying idea and disposable pens are thought crimes making idea and essence liminal and trashy (I’m adding that to Bic’s previous gender crimes). So, celebrations of ink are meritorious indeed.
Consider this ink maker; in both livelihood and passion. Forgive me for holding up an advert as creativity, but watch the following and tell me that the world wouldn’t be richer if all adverts were this sumptuous, this sexy, this cerebral.
Another fine example of ink artistry is a small publisher called Peirene Press who specialize in translated literature. They certainly cannot be accused of wasting ink; publishing no more than three books a year. All of which have been acquired, read and loved by the inestimable Meike Ziervogel, often after winning prizes in their native languages.
One of many notable points about Peirene are the salons that they host. For their most recent publication, Annexe swizzled a few invites to learn about their latest publication, ‘Sea of Ink’ by Richard Weihe. This fictional account of a former aristocrat turned artist in feudal China is accompanied by beautiful and intense ink drawings.
Nick heard about them, no doubt due to his impeccable taste. I heard about them because Nick knows I’m a sucker for free drinks. I had to look up what a salon was. Upon confirmation that I wasn’t about to donate my hair to charity, once bitten and all that, I heartily agreed.
So we brave soldiers of pretention scaled Senate House library to attend the ‘Sea of Ink’ Salon in the Germanic and Romance Library (try to resist the urge to jest about the juxtaposition).
A lovely time we had too. The space is everything a library should be, unctuous and oaken, ladders climbing the alphabet, and curtains that I’d happily use as bedding. The night was structured around readings of the work, which sometimes strayed into ‘Winnie the Pooh’ storytelling, but over a flavour of the text. To accompany the readings, a clarinetist played improvisational piece inspired by the work. I love the clarinet played live; it causes my fillings to resonate.
There was texture to the night too. Most press events I’ve been to are self indulgent marshmallow fluff, self congratulatory circle jerks. The Sea of Ink Salon, thanks partially to a stinging question from Nick, had depth. I’d not considered whether sympathy was an Anglo-Saxon trait in literature before.
I left the event buoyant, tipsy with ideas and enthusiasm. Peirene Press is one of a number of small publishing houses who are trying to make books, and therein the ink, matter. I’m certain that if we approach ink in the manner of the artist in ‘Sea of Ink’, as Peirene Press does ink will have regained its proper status.
Peirene Press is a publishing house that focuses of releasing European literature in English translation. Their unique and unconventional style has won them awards and citywide praise from the literary in-the-know.
This piece was written by Annexe stalwart, Alex Mee. A recent addition to the permanent staff at Annexe HQ. Wish him well.
You can read our review of Sea of Ink here.