Most of the time when I look back through early pieces I find them, well, cringe-worthy. So it was a pleasant surprise to come across this one, which isn't half bad, I think. At the time I did not realize this was not Wendell Berry's entire poem, but had been excerpted in the version I had been carrying around for years. The piece was an assignment from the wonderful Ann Miller
in her "Calligraphy & Letterforms" class at the Academy of Art University
in San Francisco, summer of 2004. [Ann still teaches the class, but only online. It's pricey (college credit) but an invaluable overview of the history of the artform.] The assignment was to use a curvelinear baseline with a quote of our choice. It's monoline--probably various Speedball nibs, probably Sumi or Higgins Eternal ink.
That summer was a resurrection of sorts for me and glows in my memory. I took the ferry across San Francisco Bay early each morning along with the self-described "worker bees" headed to the Financial District, had my ritual bagel and coffee on the boat, then walked a half-mile or so up Market Street to the classroom with my big portfolio and toolkit. Virtually everyone else in the class was a twenty-something Graphic Design major who didn't quite "get" pen and ink, and couldn't wait to return to their digital lives, but I was enamored and obsessed.
Here are the pieces of the poem I used in the piece:
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold...
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years...Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade...Swear allegiance
to what is highest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
copyright © 1973 by Wendell Berry