Pepys, uncut

Despite making erasure poems from the Diary of Samuel Pepys for more than a decade, I’ve always worked digitally and never actually owned or indeed opened a volume of the 1899 Wheatley edition, whose text I’ve been taking such liberties with… until now. Last night when I went to the monthly meeting of our local Audubon chapter for a presentation on orchids, a member who had attended my own presentation back in November, in which I’d mentioned my erasure project, gifted me the entire set! I was momentarily speechless. She said she’d been a book collector for many years but was now in de-acquisition mode and finding homes for all her treasures.

I’m beyond grateful. From a haiku perspective, there’s so much wabi-sabi in old books like these. For one thing, they seem never to have had a single reader in their more than century of existence: the pages in most volumes, though yellowing, remain uncut. (And no, I’m not going to mutilate them to make analogue erasures. My dad was a librarian. He’d come back to haunt me! I’ll use photocopies if it comes to that.)

I record this here as a reminder to myself never to say no to local gigs, no matter how much they might cost me in nights of lost sleep. As Qoheleth says: Cast thy bread upon the waters.

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