Below Title Photo: Ned in his Iowa State University office in October 2015 around the timeframe when he wrote "Rare Book and Reader"
“Rare Book and Reader” is also the opening of my new book, 3 Nights of the Perseids (University of Evansville Press), selected by the Erica Dawson for the 2018 Richard Wilbur Award. Much of the book explores the tension between the past that shaped us and the contemporary technological world in which we find ourselves today – not always happily.
I Googled the information I needed to ensure my memory of the location, procedures, and rare book room holdings was as accurate as possible. Then I went to work.
On a personal note: as a regular reader of superhero comics till around the age of thirteen (my first publication, ca. 1971, are letters in Marvel’s Daredvil and Tomb of Dracula, and Warren Publishing’s Creepy), I was happy to discover that the figure leaping into the time portal on the cover of Al Stewart’s album (Right First) is Stan Lee (Right Second) and Steve Ditko’s (Right Third) Doctor Strange –recognizable by the trail of his collar and cloak as he vanishes, halfway through but mostly obscured (probably to avoid copyright infringement). I’d never noticed this back in the days when I actively listened to the album.
That discovery, as quirky as it is, enriches the poem for me. It reminds me of how random elements (two of Marvel’s celebrated creators, Al Stewart’s (Right Fourth) music, an unsung graphic designer, etc.) are swept along by time and, briefly, brought together by happy accident.