The Rare Book Publisher Gives a Talk 

Feb 8, 2019

Today’s poem is "The Rare Book Publisher Gives a Talk" by Jefferson Navicky. He is the author of the poetic novel, The Book of Transparencies, and the story collection, The Paper Coast. He is the archivist for the Maine Women Writers Collection and teaches English at Southern Maine Community College. 

 He writes, "One of the great parts of my job at the Maine Women Writers Collection is that we sometimes go on book-related field trips. This poem draws its inspiration from one such visit with a rare book publisher, who did exactly as the poem title says." 

The Rare Book Publisher Gives a Talk
by Jefferson Navicky 

On the second floor of the library, special collections hosted a talk by the rare book publisher about the future of book publishing, which was actually a talk about the past. He held up a book from 1508 and told us, don’t lay it down flat, just cradle it gently in your hand and turn the pages.
As he turned the pages, I noticed his hands shaking, slightly and barely noticeable at first, and then it was the only thing I could see. His hands, not out of nervousness but because of some essential tremor, fluttered with the pages, paper and skin flapping together to show us the twinned movements of language and fragility turning into each other. The sight sent us towards a center, brought our attentions to a focal point,
but I couldn’t tell what was at the heart beating beneath the wings? Was it knowledge or was it pain I glimpsed at that moment, revealed and given life when set in motion like a cartoon strip of a deep and ancient secret? Knowledge or pain, which one?
I could hear the wind in the trees outside the library.
I think it was pain, the deepest.

Poem copyright © 2018 Jefferson Navicky.