Having time to write, at this moment in my personal history, is not an issue; survival--for my wife and for me--is, as no doubt it must be for many more in these hard times. Like so many others in the occupation that was mine for nearly 40 years--advertising, I am out of work. Our losses have been considerable, and the strain of anxiety has militated against the imaginative life--at times, threatening to overwhelm it. The NEA Fellowship will afford me the equanimity to finish The Book of Imaginary Colophons: Alphabets of Desire & Sorrow--excerpts from which pleased this year's panel, for which I am grateful. Beyond this work, I look forward to writing a book of long poems, whose subjects are slowly becoming known to me and whose music and structure I can very nearly grasp. Let me call that subject grim, as befits these times, alas; and let me say that the poetic line conveying that subject will be highly stressed, the language appropriate to the extremes of experience the book will record. To have been granted so enviable an award as this one, at this stage in my artistic career, makes me almost believe in Providence: I should not have needed or valued it half so much when I was younger, nor was I so ready then to make good use of it. I say, again, I am grateful for it.
Alphabet of Birds
Surprised by birds on a hillside in Crete, the youngest member of
the Dutch legation to the Ottomans, Wilhelm van der Meer, an
amateur ornithologist, attempted until well into his middle age to
invent an alphabet whose letters, startled from repose upon the
page, would let go their grip on the paper--like those dazzling
birds the branches of the pine trees--and vanish into the shadows.
Van der Meer's Alphabet of the Birds, cut in 1730 by the German
typographer Karl Bernheimer, was used once only, in a printing of
Jakob Böhme's treatise on the natural language of man to be
spoken on his return to Paradise. A single copy of this work is
extant, in the Jakob Böhme House in Görlitz. While all its pages
are blank, to turn them is to hear the rustling of wings.