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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Writing With Scissors: American Scrapbooks from the Civil War to the Harlem Renaissance, by Ellen Gruber Garvey

In my previous blog I mentioned a brief history of scrapbooks, and several books on the
subject. Writing With Scissors is probably the most scholarly of these, focusing as it does on some of the most historically significant albums and collections.  

Hooked on the subject by the discovery of a farm woman’s scrapbook of clipped articles dedicated to the environment of the home that she discovered in a used book store, Garvey went on to explore the world of scrapbooks housed in libraries, archives, and historical societies. Scrapbooks are often extremely personal, miniature archives of daily life not meant for public consumption. “Every scrapbook is its own world,” she writes, “compelling and impossibly frustrating.” She quotes from James Tate’s poem “Horseshoe” to describe the experience of puzzling over these volumes, 

          I can’t read the small print in the scrapbook:
          does this say, Relinquishing all bats, feeling faint
          on the balcony? There is so much to be corrected here,
          so many scribbles and grumbles, blind premonitions.
          How does one interpret, on this late branch, the unexpected? 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Scrapbooks: Intimate Records of Everyday Life, and More

When I was in school (long, long ago) we were sometimes assigned a scrapbook project. I can remember doing one on Venezuela that included an essay on Simon Bolivar, agriculture, industry, history, maps, etc. with any illustrations I could find. (Wretched old textbooks and National Geographics from the thrift shops often helped with such projects.) Another was on Abraham Lincoln (I can still feel the coarseness of the construction paper – brown – that comprised the pages of that album. It was old paper, and had a distinctive dusty odor, too.)

Many young friends kept scrapbooks of movie stars, horses, cats, animals in general, the Dionne Quintuplets, Shirley Temple, flowers, and other subjects. Boys tended toward subjects such as aviation, radio, sports, heroes (Charles Lindberg, boxing champs) cars, comic strips, and other “manly” matters.  I think my first unprompted effort was on science, but then, I was always a weird child.  
Adults collected recipes, albums of family travels with photos and souvenir ephemera, records of military service or occupations. Mothers kept scrapbooks on their children’s progress through childhood. College students kept a record of the years in school, with photos, programs for plays and dances and sporting events; clippings, grades, class schedules, lectures, and other souvenirs. I once acquired a pre-WWI album compiled by a student at a vocational college in our state who was studying pharmacy. After much research and a visit to the pharmacy school archivist, we determined that the album maker was in the first graduating class of the pharmacy school and became the first instructor under the dean. A lot more was discovered about his career, including the fact that I had no doubt dealt with him numerous times in a local pharmacy years earlier. Since the school was celebrating its centenary, the album found a home in its archives.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

About the Birds: Poetry Month and Earth Day


Since I seem to be derelict (or busy) regarding this blog, and considering that April is National Poetry Month here in the USA, perhaps it is time to share a few of my poems. And since it is also Earth Day, poems about wild birds seems appropriate.  

Please note that these poems are all copyright in my name.

My young neighbor, years ago, was passionate about raptors and had permissions from National authorities to hold and treat wild species. At any given time you might find Golden Eagles, Bald Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks, and other birds of prey in his aviaries. Cornell flew experts out to perform surgeries in extreme cases. And sometimes he worked with local wildlife vets to rehabilitate some wild birds. He once stopped by my place to show me a pygmy owl that had bumped into a car windshield that he was asked to treat and was transporting to his home up the hill. It recovered quickly, mostly from shock. The heron he tried to save didn’t make it, but I watched while he made the attempt to force-feed it. (He has since become a nationally recognized wild bird specialist with “Dr.” in front of his name.)


Feeding the Heron
I remember how my neighbor’s boy
tried to save the blue heron --   
damaged, starving – entrusted
to his care; how he trussed its wings
against the bulky body, then forced
that long sharp bill apart
to dribble in warm brandy
while his dark and gentle hand
stroked the slender throat
from pharynx to crop. “You don’t
dare move your eyes,” he said,
then told how the stiletto beak
would strike in an instant
at a moist eye’s flash
as though it were a minnow under water.