“handwritten messages between their covers. Discrete, epigrammatic, and enigmatic, these inscriptions—whether they’re personal notes or signatures, doodles or dedications— conjure a world of imaginative possibilities.” The Book Inscriptions Project
Often when we gift a book and write something on the flyleaf, we are leaving an imprint of history there – that of the relationship, the time, and ultimately the anonymity. Finding such books second- hand naturally piques the interest, wondering about all the whos, and whats and wherefores from those few dated words.
W.S.Graham’s poem “[To Sheila Lanyon, on the Flyleaf of a Book]” describes coming across a book inscribed to Sheila, in some earlier time in their history:
“Sheila, we speak here on the fly
Leaf of a book which was myself
A good few graves ago.
Now I am maintained by other
Words for better or for worse
To whisper my hello.
The seasons turn. Threshold on thresh
Hold forms continually and falls
Under grief’s lonely hammer.
What did you say? I thought between
These fly leaf words I heard you speak….”
In Translation by Deirdre O’Connor, the poet writes about the feelings that ensued from an inscription on a book gifted to the poet:
“…how I felt believing in it mildly
like a book an old love sent with an inscription
in his hand, whatever it meant,
After such knowledge, what forgiveness . . .
—the script of it like the way my self felt
learning German words by chance—Mitgefühl,
Unheimlichkeit—and the trailing off that happened
because I knew only the feelings, abstract
and international, like ghosts or connotations
lacking a grammar, a place to go…”
Some people collect books just for the inscriptions and here are five examples from The Book of Inscriptions Project:
1.The Physiology of Taste – Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
Alex- A few moments of reading pleasure in return for an evening of sensual delights. Denis October Bacchanalia 1994
2.Palestine – The Holy Land – John Fulton
To Christine With many thanks for heroism beyond the call of duty during the Battle of Jerusalem, June, 1976 Gus
3.Streams in the Desert – Mrs Charles Cowman
To My Mother Lou Alice – I know it’s hard to go thru the desert—but know that God is holding your hand and I am holding you in my heart. I love you—and ache for you – your daughter No. III Priscilla IV
4.David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
Awarded to Fanny [Papper] for an Essay on ‘What I saw during [the holidays]’. Sept 1911
5. [Mislaid the book title for this -so make one up!]
To Mark Let the poetic sound of moons and stars invade your night thoughts to give you sweet dreams always for in your dreams lies the happiness you truly want. hope you enjoy the book Michelle
For our MTB: Critique and Craft prompt, you simply have to
Pick ONE inscription from the above as topic for your poem
- Place the chosen inscription as epigraph at the start of your post
- Enter this portal to the past and use your imagination. For example:
- the relationship between the two
- the outcome in the following years
- how was the book received
Rules: You can write in any style or metre but for those who like an extra challenge:
- write the poem in 2 voices
- alternating stanzas between the giver and receiver
- first and/or third person
- can be any time interval between the giving and receiving of the gift
Once you have published your poem, add it to the Mr Linky below. Then go visiting other contributors as that is half the enjoyment of our dVerse gatherings.