Categories
Creativity mindfulness Nature Writing

Finding Leonard Cohen down a Rabbit Hole

One of my favorite things about the work I get do to for my books and zines is the sleuthing. Hunting down random (often misappropriated) quotes, getting permissions to reprint, finding hard copy proof. Evidence for my readers — and myself — that I have done due diligence to make what you hold in your hands valid and true to the best of my abilities.

As a student of English literature and journalism, and as a life-long writer and citer, I feel an incredible responsibility to validate as many of my references as possible. To remind my readers, for example, that it was Henry Stanley Haskins who wrote “What lies behind us and what lies before us are but tiny matters compared to what lies within us,” not Ralph Waldo Emerson or Gandhi, and not Buddha.

When I was writing LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness, in which I used that quote, I actually spent six months researching and properly attributing quotes. That task included rabbit holes like the quote sourced to a 1970s motivational poster printed by an academic publisher in Texas written by a retired social worker in Oak Park, Illinois.

I get a little geeky when it comes to that kind of thing. Like a dog with a bone. Truth be told, I love it as much Alice loved going on her adventures!

My most recent adventure involved Leonard Cohen and a 60-year-old book.

While I was working on the spring issue of MANIFEST (zine): CRICKETS, I found a beautiful poem by Cohen called “Summer Haiku.” The poem appeared in his book The Spice-Box of Earth of which there was a rare, limited edition hardcover edition that included illustrations by Frank Newfeld, a renowned Canadian illustrator and book designer.

There were several copies of the book available online starting at around $200, which is a tad higher than my budget for the zine project. Less expensive copies did not include the Newfeld illustrations, and by this point in the adventure those were key.

I did find and purchase issue number 56 of The Devil’s Artisan: A Journal of the Printing Arts that featured Newfeld’s work on delicious, offset-printed, antique laid pages. It even included a letterpressed color keepsake of Newfeld’s illustration for Cohen’s poem “The Gift,” which appears in The Spice-Box of Earth.

I went on to find a bookseller in Canada, Steven Temple, who owns a copy of the 1961 edition. Searching through the 10,000 books he attends to in his home-based bookshop, he found and took the photo of “Summer Haiku” that appears in CRICKETS.

Of course, I was still curious. What did the rest of the book look like? How many poems were there? How many illustrations? How could I see it? Read it?

My local library did not have a copy of the book, nor did Google Books. According to a 2016 article in Toronto Life, the University of Toronto’s Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library is “home to 140 banker’s boxes worth of Cohen’s archives” including “handwritten notes and letters, portraits, CDs, paintings, novel manuscripts, books, early drafts of his poetry and lyrics, and even art he made when he lived as a Buddhist monk.” Would it include a digital copy of The Spice-Box of Earth?

It did not.

Nor did the online Library and Archives of Canada or the Canadian Electronic Library. But on the Hathi Trust Digital Library website there was a helpful “Find in a Library” link that, when clicked, revealed some familiar and within-driving-distance names: Yale University, Wesleyan University, Connecticut College.

Lightbulb! I immediately emailed a woman I know at our local library, Deb Trofatter, who is the Associate Librarian for Reference Services and Technology, and asked…by any chance…can you get a copy of…

Which is how, on May 15, I came to have in my hands a 60-year-old hardcover copy of Leonard Cohen’s The Spice-Box of Earth to savor and share.

NOTES & LINKS

The Spice-Box of Earth, illustrated by Frank Newfeld. (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1961).

• Click here to purchase my book LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness

• Meditations in Wall Street by Henry Stanley Haskins (New York: William Morrow & Co., 1940).

• The Quote Verifier: Who Said What, Where, and When, by Ralph Keyes (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2006).

• Learn more about The Devil’s Artisan : A Journal of the Printing Arts

• Discover Steven Temple Books

• Read “A look inside U of T’s massive archive of Leonard Cohen poems, letters and pictures,” in Toronto Life

• Check out the University of Toronto’s Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library

Alice photo from a Fortnum & Mason (London) holiday window display, possibly 2006. Photographer not found yet.

MANIFEST (zine): Crickets is a riff and a rant about the consequences of creative bravery. It’s a 24-page, full color booklet that includes a curated Spotify playlist for your listening pleasure. Click here to order your copy today!

Categories
Creativity mindfulness Nature Writing

The Healing Process

The storm took so much it’s difficult to consider — gone the familiar, the known path. Feet so sure there was no need to gauge progress. It was how I became present again, how I stepped back in the moment.

It was where I could breathe, let go, release my rooted stride. Slough off thoughts. Embrace the solitude with just a heartbeat and birdsong for company.

But her wide canopy of solace is gone now, and I have been hobbled.

Those sacred spaces of breath and respite are changed.

And so am I.

So I take a different path this morning and it comforts me.

It whispers…

This rabbit will caretake the old path.

This turtle, hopeful, lays its eggs. As does the robin.

Part of this snake is here but its heart has moved forward,

and this spider writes her poems in the spaces left behind.

Essay ©2021, Jen Payne. If you like this essay, be sure to purchase a copy of my book LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness, available here.
Categories
Nature Poetry Writing

Sanderlings

Perhaps it is the same flock,
the one I met years ago,
the one that startled me
here on this shore
that very first walk,
when every rock and curve,
every wind and wave
was unfamiliar still.

Perhaps it knows me now,
this flock of small fidgety birds,
always nervous or impatient,
quickened by anticipation of
the next wave, skittering
to the beat of their sharp trills,
quickly quickly ahead
never near enough for hello again.

Until this morning when I,
in keen focus on a resting shell,
became for a moment
likewise and warmed by the sun,
looked up to find myself surrounded,
heart quickened and nervous
that one false move would startle them,
their gathering at my feet.

Poem and Photo ©2020, Jen Payne. If you like this poem, then you’ll love WAITING OUT THE STORM, a collection of my poems about Cape Cod. Click here to buy the book now.
Categories
Nature Poetry Spirituality Writing

Everything is connected…

The new white tuft in my hair
reminds me of the rabbit
who lived in my yard last spring.

I called her Idiom,
soft brown fur, also white tufted,
she taking time to smell roses
when I could not.

Now there is all the time in the world
to smell roses,
to smell daffodils, tulips, lilacs, iris, peonies
each in succession, not waiting for us
or virus or waves or protests or
the great collective consciousness to
wake the fuck up and see how it’s all connected
the microscopic virus,
the pandemics of greed and hate,
the white tuft in my hair,
the small new rabbit,
the small new baby, even
who mews like all new creatures
white, black, furred, feathered
who may or may not outrun the fox
to meet the multiflora rose next June
introduce themselves to the clover
its bumble and honey companions
I step softly over so as not to disturb
their humble prayers or mine
to a god who needs no standard,
requires no bloodletting,
asks no more than sweet, simple reverence

for everything.


©2020, Jen Payne.


Categories
Nature Poetry

Thursday Rain

The contrast of
misty gray
against
May green
in the treetops
out the window
tells me it’s raining
before I even hear
the gentle tapping
on leaves
and grass
and spring flowers
bowed in gratitude
for the veil of quiet
descending

even poets bow
for the respite
stay inside
the rain says,
there’s a poem waiting

Photo and Poem ©2020, Jen Payne
Categories
Creativity Nature Poetry

29 – Getting Out

I’m in the woods.
Grandgirl says
as she steps her
wee self off the trail
and into the leaves
then gallops
ahead to chase
the butterfly
see the meadow
I’m in the woods!

he says, too,
as Nephew leaps
from the inside
breathes the outside
and careens
down a path
in front of us
climbing rocks
light saber at the ready
running
running
running

I’m in the woods!

Poem ©2020, Jen Payne. For Max and Lia. National #NaPoWriMo. National Poetry Writing Month. If you like this poem, you can read similar in my books, available from Three Chairs Publishing on my ETSY SHOP. They come autographed, with gratitude and a small gift.

Categories
Creativity Nature Photography

Spring Comes No Matter

Photography ©2020, Jen Payne