How to make your own poetry 'zine-type thing

First of all, for anyone who doesn’t know, a zine is a booklet you make yourself of whatever you want, which you then photocopy the crap out of and either sell or give away. Sometimes you hear poets call them chapbooks, but whereas chapbooks smell like libraries and smoke pipes, zines wear big boots, dance hard and cure themselves of their own thrush with vegetables. Essentially the point of zines is that you can say what you want and get it out there without having to go through any middlemen*

apparently, these days you can do zines on something called ‘publisher’ on a comp-ut-eerr, but I prefer making them in real life i.e. all over the bedroom floor with glue on your face at 3am and a cob on, it’s much more satisfying, akin to the frustration and joy of making a mix tape for someone who probably won’t ever listen to it. Plus computers don’t know how to glue tiny silver stars to things (yet).

necessary ingredients: poetry (or whatever your thang is), a4 paper, glue, a printer, a newsagents with a photocopier, around about 20 quid, a long armed stapler.
optional: your favourite 90s jumping-around-the-bedroom nostalgic album and loads of tea

1) Aesthetics: are you gonna give your readers a nice easy-on the brain stark white zine with poems in straight lines? or get them in a jumble sale headlock with cut out lines and pictures they can’t quite figure out what they are? Whatever, collect background bits from magazines and postcards and that internet place and put them all in a pile and go ‘yes, good’ with a self satisfied nod.

2) Title. Remember to do that, otherwise you’ll end up calling your first zine ‘Poetry by Jackie Hagan’ and feeling like the least imaginative person to ever come out of Skem.

3) front and back cover. If this does your head in, a dead easy thing to do is to use fancy weird paper and just glue the name of the book and author on in the corner, it looks quite classy and special. Or, if you can draw, draw something fab (or if you can’t draw, marry someone who can).

4) Decide on an order for your poems, and if you’re fonty, the fonts for each of them, print it all off a couple of times (to allow for cock-ups).

5) if, like me, your brain is so wonderfully creative that it can’t cope with really simple maths, then forget about figuring out all that ‘page 4 is on the back of page 6’ business and just do this:
estimate how many pages you will have, and get a bunch of A4 paper, fold it, and you have a rudimentary zine, on this write the names of the various poems and pages so that you can figure out how many pages you really need, and what will go where, then keep this as a guide for that 2.30am moment when it all stops making sense.

6) cos of the magical mathematical logistics of folding bits of A4 you might end up with a number of pages that is not divisible by 4 and so will have to either a) jib a poem or two b) squeeze a poem on another page or c) fill the extra pages with pretty pictures, new poems, or complete bollocks (yes!)

7) Make the pages, wooo! Remember that photocopiers are knobheads, and they will very likely NOT catch the last half inch around the edge of your paper, so make sure that bit is unimportant pattern or blank. Think about putting page numbers in it cos it’ll make it easier when you’re putting the photocopied pages together later.

8) when you’re happy with it all, wash your gluey hands, give yourself another self satisfied nod in the mirror, do a little dance, and go and photocopy the crap out of it,

9) Try to find one of the elusive newsagents with 2p photocopying, they do exist. Most of all - do NOT worry about a) messing about with the photocopier and breaking it or b) pestering the newsagents man half to death with questions about how to do double sided, make the contrast better etc, all this has to be done and if you don’t piss about you’ll never know and you’ll end up going and spending your life savings at a printers. Sadly you will very likely spend some of your precious photocopying money on getting it wrong, but this is a necessary part of it and an artist like you can’t help but arse-up when it comes to technology.

10) Go home with an arm load of warm photocopies. Mmmmm. Have a well earned cup of tea and realise one page is upside down. Balls to it. Have a cake. And a sausage roll, happy in the knowledge that the newsagents man is very relieved that you have finally gone away.

11) Now comes the science bit, collate the pages by laying them all over your living room and saying ‘page one, page one, page one’ and then ‘page two, page two, page two’ like an ocd android until you have lots of nice piles of paper each of which are one zine. Fold each of these with increasing anxious excitement and then borrow a long armed stapler to make them into real boys! Girls! Zines! Erm.

(If you don’t have a long armed stapler you can 1) try and do it with a normal one by folding the paper but this is dead annoying and I don’t recommend it, 2) use a big elastic band on each zine 3) sew them together 4) get creative with a hole puncher. or many other things I have seen over the years that I can’t remember and have never done myself.)

12) Your baby lives! Decorate it with sparkly goodness or spray on hair glitter and gas yourself and have to go and stand in the garden with hurty eyes. Stand your beautiful child all over the house as if they are an army of zine-people watching TV and lying in your bed, develop a obsession and go weird in the head and have nightmares and have to burn them all for the sake of humanity.

And that’s how to make a zine!

* (however, being mainly the domain of university educated middle class shy people, zines have traditionally contained the least offensive views ever, mainly concerned with how to make your bicycle turnip friendly).

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