Campus / News / Student Research / February 28, 2008

Making media, killing cowboys

Junior Zach Hagar has built his own printing press, co-founding the new literary magazine Cowboy Killers to be published using it. The goal behind the press and magazine is to “build a community without having to deal with the middle man.”

The “middle man” Hagar speaks of is the current elite of literary magazines at Knox. He hopes this new literary magazine will appeal to those “desensitized” by the mission statements of these previous publications. Cowboy Killers plans to hold a submission drive at the beginning of spring term.

They are hoping to get pieces that express “the raw, [the] off the beaten path, experimental with a purpose, and not only in style but in content.”

The idea behind the publication, and the title “Cowboy Killers,” Hager said, is that “[The cowboy] is a romanticized figure in America.”

The title then expresses doing away with that “underlying tradition” of what is correct and status quo.

The press was “relatively simple” to put together. Hagar ordered the plans online and took one weekend to assemble it. It cost him less than $100. He is currently working on creating typeface from copper plating and a chisel. He predicts it would take one person 45 hours to create the entire alphabet; he plans to finish the type over spring break.

The project was spurred from the idea he and his roommate came up with to create a late-night café and bookstore that would host poetry readings.

“Essentially the idea was to build a community to start creating your own [art],” he said. These ideas intrigued by the philosophy of the beat generation.

Hagar prefers paper to the cold feeling of the computer. This is why he opted to use the press.

“Books are the most intimate pieces of art,” he said. “You put them in your lap, you hold them in your hands.”

He also prefers the rawness of the press. This literary rawness is best described as “a piece stripped down.”

It is a reaction to “all of the adjectives and flowery language [that] put up a barrier.” Rawness also pays attention to “word economy,” that is, the measure of diction sensitivity.

Hagar also tries to incorporate this rawness into his printmaking as he begins his second year in the art. He has a fondness for found objects, such as the old doors he printed to pick up their grains. He is currently working with forklift flats.

Hagar is influenced by William Blake’s innovative creation of his books, particularly his illuminated books. He also looks to poet Robert Creeley and Eastern poetry.

Hagar has considered a career in publishing, it’s “always been something alluring,” he said.

Klayr Valentine-Fossum

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