Recovering a Lost Book of Poems
by Brian Flatgard
In the early ’ 90s, I ran a very small press which published my poetry and that of others. The “press” was seat-of-the-pants, laser printer publishing. To create books, I used simple Japanese bookbinding – drilling holes near the spine of the book and threading waxed linen cord to hold the pages together. The last step of the process was tying a tight double knot, hidden in the interior of the book. Creating books by hand was as repetitive and satisfying as chopping wood – instant results – and snipping the loose ends of the knot was like cutting an umbilical cord.
Recently, I punched my name into Amazon, and lo and behold, there was one of my old hand-bound books. I created the book, Three Poets, One Car, with two other poets (David and George) as a collection of our poetry and an excuse to tour the West Coast. I don’t have the time (or room) to describe what a fiasco this book tour was, except to say it ended when Canadian customs agents seized all of our books. They had the idea that poetry was as valuable as cocaine, and we were criminal verse smugglers. All our work was gone. I didn’t even have a copy anymore.
So when I saw that book for sale on Amazon, “hand-bound and signed by the poets” and in “fair” condition, I bought it. I paid $19.95 plus shipping for a book which originally sold for $9.95.
I came home late one evening to find the book in the mailbox. I went straight to bed and read the whole thing. I’d forgotten about poems I’d put in the book, and it was a delight to rediscover them, the writings of a brash young man. As I read the works of the other poets, their voices filled my head. Having heard each other read these poems dozens of times, I could hear the intonations, the stresses, the pauses, the whispers and shouts.
The other magic of receiving this lost book was to discover how much somebody else enjoyed the writing. Whoever read this, however it got into their hands, had marked it up with soft pencil scratchings: brackets, almost musical in their notation, around stanzas; stars next to poems they liked; underlines under lines, sometimes doubled to show excitement; page corners still turned in; and the cover beat and ragged and stained. Who was this person who added to this book with scratchings of their own?
George, David, and I spent long nights assembling those books – drinking beer, cutting paper, drilling holes, threading cord, tying knots. I’m glad this book survived two decades. But like everything, that knot will eventually work itself loose, the spine will give way, the body of work will blow away in the wind, and become again a memory of some creator.
Brian Flatgard is a writer and poet living in Phoenix, Arizona. His web site is brianflatgard.com.