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A Letter at a Time: Adastra Press

Behind the scenes at Adastra Press, where Gary Metras has steadfastly produced hand-sewn, letterpress-printed poetry chapbooks for nearly three decades.

  • 1 of 8Adastra Founder Gary Metras
    Credit: Gary Metras

    Adastra Founder Gary Metras

    Gary Metras founded Adastra Press in 1979 in Easthampton, Massachusetts. So far he has published eighty-one titles by fifty-three different poets.

  • 2 of 8Adastra Poets
    Credit: Gary Metras

    Adastra Poets

    Adastra Press poets at the Grolier Poetry Bookshop in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 2002. From left: Michael Casey, store owner Luisa Solano, David Raffeld, Stephen Philbrick, Gary Metras, Susan Edwards Richmond, and Greg Joly.

  • 3 of 8Chandler & Price
    Credit: Joshua Bodwell

    Chandler & Price

    In 1990, Gary Metras purchased a 1930s-era Chandler & Price press able to handle an eight-by-twelve-inch sheet; it is hand-fed, but has a motor in addition to its foot treadle. “I like letterpress for poetry because this is a machine that you control,” says Metras. “Too much modern technology has made us just ‘operators,’ and then you’re no longer a craftsman.”


  • 4 of 8Colophon
    Credit: Gary Metras


    A colophon, set and locked in the chase, for Adastra poet Mary Jane White's translation of New Year's: An Elegy for Rilke by Marina Tsvetaeva (2007).

  • 5 of 8Composing Stick
    Credit: Gary Metras

    Composing Stick

    Adastra Press founder Gary Metras sets type on a composing stick. "I am the son of a bricklayer," Metras says. "Working with my hands is my heritage."

  • 6 of 8Gertrude Halstead
    Credit: Gary Metras

    Gertrude Halstead

    Gertrude Halstead, poet laureate of Worcester, Massachusetts, printing a page of her first book, memories like burrs (2006).

  • 7 of 8Michael Miller
    Credit: Gary Metras

    Michael Miller

    Adastra poet Michael Miller working on his book Each Day (2005).

  • 8 of 8Type Chase
    Credit: Gary Metras

    Type Chase

    Gary Metras locks two pages of type in a chase. "We don't know how so much in this world actually works," he says," so I chose letterpress in part because we can all gather around this machine and understand it."

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