One of Two Artist's Proofs, in a
Memorable Arborial Binding
SNODGRASS, W. D.
THESE TREES STAND.(New York: Carol Joyce, 1981). 241 x 282 mm (9 3/8 x 11"). 15 French-fold leaves. ONE OF TWO ARTIST'S PROOFS SIGNED BY THE POET AND PHOTOGRAPHER (of a total of 12 copies, 10 of them for sale).
MEMORABLE ORIGINAL PICTORIAL MAROON MOROCCO, WITH MOLDED INLAYS AND GILT HIGHLIGHTS, BY CAROL JOYCE, the binding featuring a molded cream-colored inlaid calf tree, its trunk occupying almost all of the flat spine, its bare limbs spread across both covers, a scattering of twinkling gilt stars visible between its branches, the trunk dividing in two near the head of the spine, the author's name in gilt appearing in the fork. In the original matching burgundy cloth clamshell box. With 12 black and white photographs of the poet by Robert Mahon. In virtually mint condition.
Having been printed on very thick, damp paper at the Tideline Press, the text here is deeply impressed and set off by vast margins; the black and white photographs provide a whimsical accompaniment to the text; and the verse itself is obviously of interest as the work of a celebrated poet. But it is the binding that stands out as the chief accomplishment in this successful book arts collaboration between poet William DeWitt Snodgrass (1926-2009), photographer Robert Mahon, binder Carol Joyce, and printer Leonard Seastone. Joyce and Seastone were involved with the Center for Book Arts in Manhattan, and a copy of our work was included in the New York Public Library's 1984 exhibition, "Center for Book Arts: The First Decade." The poem, originally published in Snodgrass' Pulitzer Prize-winning debut collection, lightly mocks the poet's narcissism, while stating the vision of his poetic journey in the refrain, "Snodgrass is walking through the universe." That declaration was the inspiration for Mahon's series of portraits for this work, which begin with a shot of Snodgrass just visible in the distance on the far left side of the photograph and end with a close shot of the poet's sleeve at the far right side of the shot, as he disappears out of the camera's range. Dubbed by critics the "Father of Confessional Poetry"--a label he despised--Snodgrass received his master's degree from the University of Iowa, where he studied with Robert Lowell. He went on to teach poetry at Cornell, Rochester, and Syracuse, numbering among his students the young Anne Sexton. Joyce, who received a degree in art history and studied restoration and bookbinding in Italy, specializes in unique bindings for small press books. Her design for the binding here derives from the poem's opening lines: "These trees stand very tall under the heavens. / While they stand, if I walk, all stars traverse / This steep celestial gulf their branches chart." The stark limbs against the wine-colored background might look foreboding, if not for the tiny gold stars sprinkled playfully between the branches. Snodgrass himself was quite pleased with the work, describing the binding as "exquisite" in an interview for "Contemporary Authors.". (ST11693)