Figures of Speech and beeing by Meryl Phair.

by Meryl Phair

Figures of Speech is a multi-themed collection nurtured over time, and beeing centers humans’ stewardship of nature and self. Both collections fuse humming imagery with highly visual formatting, creating a unique gift readers are privileged to hold in their hands.

What she wanted:

To pair the playfulness of concrete poetry with inventive explorations of how we care for ourselves, the earth, and each other.

What she had:

Two complete, typed poem manuscripts.

For the love of life and letters…

In Meryl’s poems, letters trickle down the paper, reach out to one another across yawning space, and sometimes dissolve altogether. The true joy of reading her work is making meaning from these pieces.

Meryl credits a summer study in Scotland with fueling her writing, specifically the sculptural gardens of poet Ian Hamilton Finlay. From here, she was stirred “to turn words into physical objects and create poetry where the surrounding environment was just as informative to the understanding of the poem as the word itself.”

Meryl also cites her early love of nature while growing up in Massachusetts. Though now in New York City, she carries environmental responsibility like a polished stone in her pocket—and this is seen most clearly in beeing. In addition to poetry, she writes pieces for Straus News Manhattan and publishes a climate newsletter called Field Notes.

“Besides enjoying the playful nature of the poems, I hope readers take away a sense of how complex and malleable language is. What we think we know about the world can easily take on new meaning and form.”

Bringing the look to life…

Meryl came to our team with cover mock-ups for how she wanted text and exterior to harmonize. When she saw what our designers created based on her inspiration, she was thrilled with her choices.

Though some of the cover options had a busier look and more geometric abandon, the end results she selected are minimal, bright, and bold.

Every page is a piece of the puzzle...

Discussions about design didn’t stop with the cover: we also needed to get the interior contrast right, since some of the poems have multi-colored text. (Cue lively conversations about paper, ink, and printing.) Then we dug into every line of every poem to ensure proper alignment, line breaks, and format. The poems needed to skip just so across the pages.

In Meryl’s collections, open space tells a story as richly as text. With every page turn, readers see that the space isn’t empty after all—it’s a pause for reflection and wonder, a crucial piece of every puzzle.

“In a lot of poetry, you’re considering the words on the page, but in my poems, you’re also considering what’s not there.”

The end is just the beeginning…

After discussing options with our team, Meryl chose to publish print books and sell them via Lulu and Barnes & Noble. The book covers are matte and velvety, and Meryl says she couldn’t be happier with the end results. “Tell Tell was so supportive and great from the beginning,” she says. “It’s been such a great partnership.”

For sales of beeing, Meryl donates 15% to the Women’s Earth Alliance, amplifying her power to enact concrete change beyond her stunning concrete poems.


Check out the animated interview we made with Meryl Phair!

Stop making excuses. Make it happen.