First, thanks to everyone who has bought the SAGE book and sent such warm notes as you read your way through my words. It is more than a little nerve-wracking to finally launch a project out into the world so it is gratifying to hear all of your comments. You can still get a copy of the book here.
Onward and upwards to a new project. My creative partner, Claire Owen and I, have been curated into an upcoming exhibition entitled "Bartram's Boxes Remix" (BBR). BBR is a collaborative project between the Center for Art in Wood and Philadelphia's Bartram's Garden, home of the famed 18th century explorers and botanists, John and William Bartram.
The title of the project references Bartram's boxes containing seeds, plants and curiosities that he sent all over the country and the world to 'seed' New World gardens. Claire and I are among the artists invited to 'remix' history, materials and inspiration from 13 trees felled in a 2011 storm at Bartram's Garden. We will be creating our own boxes that will include three 'commonplace books', an ancient tradition that is sort of a cross between a field guide, journal and collection of famous quotations. You can help by checking out the new web page for this project and adding your favorite Bartram story or quote. Check it out here.
To get you in the mood, here is a sample of one of the poems I wrote as part of our exhibition proposal; this one for the Tulip Poplar (photo above) one of the trees lost in the storm. It includes a cast of characters including patriarch John Bartram, his most avid English plant collector, Peter Collinson, and a narrator who could be one of the many un-named, un-famed, Bartram women. We will keep you posted as the project develops.
Europe coveted tulips – couleren, rosen, violetten –
named to exalt admirals and generals, even as the plague took
sisters and children. They wanted petals of flame
perhaps to remember, perhaps to forget, until they lost
all reason, buying nothing but futures of air
and empty promises.
Collinson writes, Send the cones of the Tulip Tree
and whatever else thou thinks well of –
John writes, This is what you need to know –
root it in rich, deep soil and it will grow to 100 feet,
yield honey to sweeten your bread. Its wood will
plane smooth and true to fit the pipes and valves
of an organ for you who praise your God with song.
It will make a coffin. It will give you shade.
This is what I would write, When it catches
the breeze, each leaf will capture the light,
flutter of its own accord into brightness.
In autumn, it will be transformed into
a goblet of gold. As for its flowers,
they will blossom –yellow, orange, red –
too high for us to see but we imagine them,
much as we imagine heaven.
(c) Beth Feldman Brandt 2012