“What are these deserts? Sheep overgrazed them years ago? / A sweeping gallery forest and a gentle five mile ridge of foxtail pine / Tom and I walk up the arid slope / Caught in lightning crashes — / Siberian Outpost meadow / bunchgrass tufts and gopher holes — / shelter in the space beneath a huge old edge-zone foxtail pine / hail storm and heavy showers, / big root trees, red bark chunks — stay barely dry”
Brown College at the University of Virginia (an undergraduate residential college) invited Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gary Snyder to speak to its residents. I took this opportunity to teach a short class in letterpress printing and work with the students to produce a broadside to commemorate the occasion. We contacted Mr. Snyder and he very kindly provided the poem “Siberian Outpost” for us to print. Mr. Snyder is a careful typographer, and had very specific spacing in mind for the poem. The students handset the type for the broadside in some old, beat up Kennerley and Caslon we had at the Virginia Arts of the Book Center. I produced a woodcut inspired by the foxtail pine/bodhisattva image. [Snyder had mentioned in one of his essays the importance of wild animal imagery, so I hid the head of bear in the tree’s bark.] We printed the piece on handmade Kitakata paper. Mr. Snyder chose to have us print the broadside in an edition of 108, an auspicious number in Buddhist thought. The piece was a huge success and was sold to folks who came to hear Mr. Snyder speak. We used the funds to purchase the paper for the next broadside project. I handmade a presentation portfolio for Mr. Snyder’s copy.