Tim Train is an eclectic zine maker and poet, with a sense of humor. His works are based around writing – whether that be satirical poems or essays, or articles. He tells us about the “world’s first brand new second-hand poetry book” he’s created entitled Ramblings, and how he learned the art of bookbinding.
Getting to know Tim Train
City of origin: I get confused! I was born in Armidale; I grew up in Balranald; I went to Sydney Uni; I lived for a while in Newcastle; and now I’m settled in Melbourne. So when people ask me that I say “I come from New South Wales”. And Melburnians will look very pityingly at me.
Favourite movie: It’s corny but I love John Boorman’s old 1980s movie Excalibur.
Hobbies: Homebrewing, cheesemaking, origami, poetry, zinemaking (obviously), playing music, cooking.
Most useless l life skill: Probably my origami. As a kid I got into the habit of folding stuff on long car trips, and I made so much of it that my family literally filled buckets with it. (And then they kept it! Just sitting in a cupboard!)
The title of my autobiography: Not sure. I’m fond of the line: “But wait! There’s less!”
How long have you been making zines? For a long time! Does the book I made in primary school called something like Return to the Dinosaur Planet count?
I learned zines were a thing when I lived in Newcastle and volunteered on a youth zine there. I put out a series of zines in Melbourne called Badger’s Dozen, edited by a cranky conservative old Badger (called Badger), where I had a lot of fun playing around with zine formats.
What are they generally about? I always like to throw a few of my poems in there; I’ve even done a few short run zines that are a single poem (Thing is one of those).
In Badgers Dozen I had a mix of articles and columns and mock news stories. I liked fake ads so I’d chuck a few of those in. A bit of fiction too. I just like it to be fun and humorous and kind of a real jumble of ideas, all clattering up together in a cozy way, and you can just look at what you like.
Other zines of mine are collections of poems; I must have done two or three of those.
Ramblings: Not your basic poetry book
When I was doing Badger’s Dozen I had this idea of doing a hardcover zine. And I wanted it to be a collection of essays. I just kind of like that format.
Have your live poetry readings helped shape the narratives of your Ramblings book?
A bit I guess – it does open and close with poems, which have both been read out at my regular pub poetry haunt, the Dan O’Connell Hotel! But you can’t read out an essay like a performance poem – (or at least you can try, and you’ll be a very brave person if you do, braver than me!)
One or two of the essays have been published elsewhere – I think the second one was published on the Melbourne Spoken Word website, referring to the Dirty Thirty poetry challenge (writing one poem every day for a month).
What else inspired Ramblings?
I just love that old format, the dusty old tome of essays that you find in second-hand bookstores. Most collections of essays now are far too glossy! And far too on point, far too professional. A good essay should really stray off the point, should maybe only find the point in the last two sentences, or should just be a succession of unrelated, interesting points.
I have a lovely collection of essays by Jerome K Jerome – he was a late-Victorian humourist, his most well-known book is Three Men and a Boat – to say nothing of the dog. Anyway, this collection is titled Idle thoughts of an idle fellow, and they really, really are.
He opens the book with a dedication to his pipe – in really really fancy Gothic font! And then the essays are just – they go everywhere. He just seems to be having fun.
I wanted to do that, to just have fun with a few essays. To not really know where I was going to end up.
You’ve described it as the “world’s first brand new second-hand book”. What’s that all about?
It’s because of my love of second-hand bookstores. That’s where I buy most of my books. There’s an essay in there somewhere called Secondhand Life where I reflect that if I’m ever properly published, I’d like to be published in second-hand book form. So this is my kind of attempt to do it myself.
If I walk into a second-hand bookstore one of these days and see my little tome on the shelf, I’ll know I’ve succeeded! Yeah, I know it’s not really a ‘second-hand book’, but I think I just like to set myself impossible challenges. Keeps me motivated I suppose.
You bind all your own pages by hand, that’s really impressive! What’s involved in that process and how did you learn it?
This is crazy, I took a bookbinding course pretty much with this goal in mind, to know how to make my own hardbound book so I could release this zine.
It was an idea that had really been ticking around in my head for years! It was totally worth it, I really got three zines out of that course – this one (Ramblings), and two single-poetry zines (Thing, and a bush ballad Skippy and the Drop Bear). They’re all in different binding formats.
For Ramblings it was pretty complicated; you had to print out all the pages and arrange them into signatures and then sew them all together, and THEN you had to stick the cover to the cloth, and THEN you stick the cover/cloth to the pages sewn together!
My wife came up with the suggestion of dying some of the papers in coffee to make them look older, which worked really well. (She also did the cute Badger at the front and back).
The other two zines are bound in different ways again – Thing is in ‘accordion zine’ format; you can just do that with a lot of folding and a Glue Stick. Skippy and the Drop Bear is a variation on a Japanese binding method; you just sew all the pages together.
You can see some of those zines being put together on Tim Train’s Instagram account.
Ramblings and other zines from Tim Train and others are available from the Zine Gang Distro Etsy store.