Monday, November 8, 2010


A longer post than usual here but there's a new project I'm working on that takes a little explaining...

A while back, I spent some time digging around the archive at Bartram's Gardens which included Bartram's compilation of herbal remedies. This got me interested in historic collections of 'herbals' and I found my way to the Rare Book Collection at the Lenhardt Library of the Chicago Botanic Garden during my residency last year at Ragdale, an artists' retreat outside of Chicago.

With the help of librarian Ed Valauskas at the Gardens, I discovered John Gerard's "The Herball: The Generall Historie of Plants" (1633) and was inspired to begin a collection of poems which paired 'found poems' excavated from Gerard's text with poems written in conversation with the found work.

This has become quite an undertaking which will culminate in a collaborative artist book with the amazing Philadelphia book artist Claire Owen. I am off to Ragdale again in December to move the project along but thought I'd start sharing the work and hear what you think. Feel free to comment -- this is still a work in progress.

The first poem below (in italics) is a found poem. Imagine taking the text from one plant's description and blacking out words (like an old-time censor of WWII letters) until what is left makes a poem. The second poem (in the non-blog world, they will be laid out side by side) is written in response to the found poem.

More about the project as it unfolds, but in the meantime, here is a small taste of the title poem, "Sage" which considers those family secrets that often remain unacknowledged, at least out loud.


End of memory

The secret, no doubt
as it should be, leaves.

wrapped in linen
hold grief.

Gone and with you, the secrets
you had held hard and deep
as stones under water, and we,
with the wisdom of children,
felt the ripples, averted our eyes,
diverted our words,
all our lives drawn to things
at the edge of our sight
like the flicker of minnows
we lured with string
and bits of bread but never

© Beth Feldman Brandt 2010

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