Tuesday, May 12, 2009

the backstory

you go into a used bookstore or a second hand shop, or a Goodwill location, and you poke about for books and you find some, lets say, and then you begin to ask yourself:

why were these books brought in?
why were they abandoned? whose books were they?
what's the history of them?

I have done this many times, found small volumes of poetry by the same publisher, or with the same name inside each, or the same first name and a different last name...a woman who started gathering books before she married, and then continued after with her new last name. Of course, I have to create the backstory. Other than an owner's name or publisher info, there is often nothing coherent to tie the books together. No marginalia. No underlining (that makes sense to the casual observer)

Recently, the poet Ann Michael sent me a packet of books that she had in her house. Mostly chapbooks, in fact. Most from a publishing concern she was involved with in the mid-1980's LiMbo bar&grill books which was then headquartered in Melrose Park, PA. The packet included some of the earliest bar&grill books as well as others by co-founder David Dunn of Brooklyn, NY who died 1999.

Fortunately for me, there was a letter from Ann that explained a good deal of "the backstory" so I didn't have to create my own. All the same, it's also nice to speculate how the books might have been connected and how.

The chapbooks themselves become artifacts as well as memorials. Not only did David Dunn pass in 1999 but the publisher of the 2001 chapbook of some of David's poems, Songs to be Hummed While Sleeping, Paul Dilsaver of The Academic & Arts Press also has since died. I had never heard of his Press until now, and now they are as dust in the wind.

There was one book that was not a chapbook, the 2006 collection of David Dunn's work called the lock of the land which was published by Kings Estate Press of St. Augustine, FL. It's a fine book with proceeds of each sale going to the American Diabetes Association. It was illustrated by Wayne Hogan.

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