‘Gloves of bee’s fur, cap of the wren’s wings’
November 24, 2011
On a rather gloomy Wednesday, with the wind buffeting the iron shutter downstairs, I was alerted (while fishing a consolatory custard-cream from the biscuit-tin) to something happening upstairs. My colleagues were clustered in the bay where the women’s poetry anthologies stand, and on a cleared shelf lay a pile of feathers… No, not feathers, as speckled and feathery as they seemed, but a paper sculpture of feathers. The great giver had taken us by surprise once more!
First there was the clue in the guest-book – but Kay at the reception desk didn’t catch anyone writing in it. Then this exquisite sculpture, ‘Gloves of bee’s fur, cap of the wren’s wings’, right out of Norman MacCaig’s deeply romantic early poem, ‘Gifts’, quoted on the tag. It also says: ‘10/10’ – well, obviously we’d give it that for beauty and pleasure and amazement, but we realised it meant the tenth gift of ten all told. Beside it stood a leaf from an old book, on which the giver has written that one has to know when to end a story… and confirming that the artist is female.
We won’t seek any further – we’ve always said we didn’t want to know who it was (except to say thank you). She’s seen our gratitude and that of the other recipients, though, tweeted round the world and re-tweeted. It has even made National Public Radio and Boing Boing. What gifts she has given! Not only of the precious objects, but also of her time, her extraordinary skills and imagination, and of deep understanding – an understanding of poetry, and of what all of us try to do in sharing our books and our passion for them with the world.
A heartfelt thank-you from all of us at the Scottish Poetry Library, especially because you chose to begin and end here, with your lovely leaves.
It’s important that a story is not too long ……does not become tedious …….
‘You need to know when to end a story,’ she thought.
Often a good story ends where it begins. This would mean a return to the Poetry Library. The very place where she had left the first of the ten.
Back to those who had loved that little tree, and so encouraged her to try again …….and again.
Some had wondered who it was, leaving these small strange objects. Some even thought it was a ‘he’! ……. As if!
Others looked among Book Artists, rather good ones actually…….
But they would never find her there. For though she does make things, this was the first time she had dissected books and had used them simply because they seemed fitting….
Most however chose not to know….. which was the point really.
The gift, the place to sit, to look, to wonder, to dream….. of the impossible maybe…….
A tiny gesture in support of the special places…..
So, here, she will end this story, in a special place … A Poetry Library ….. where they are well used to ‘anon.’
But before exiting …a few mentions. There could be more, because we have all colluded to make this work……. Just a few though.
– the twitter community who in some strange way gave rise to the idea in the first place
-@chrisdonia who gave the story a place, a shape and some great pictures
– and not least @Beathhigh whose books and reputation have been shame-lessly utilised in the making of a mystery ……..
…… But hold on. Someone’s left behind a pair of gloves and a cap……….?
Cheers Edinburgh It’s been fun!
A note from Lizzie on the book used to make the piece:
On the back of the delicate ‘cap of the wren’s wings’, some of the paper strips binding the structure together are more legible, though of course shorn of helpfully full names or terms; one is headed ‘-lcolm Castle’ and is obviously from a page of fiction. There is a Lady Hel- in there, and a Robert Gran-. Irresistible – we just had to try to find what it was from. A little manipulation of internet searches, and we came up with Jules Verne’s In Search of the Castaways – there’s a Lady Helena in it, who is married to Lord Glenarvan of Malcolm Castle, there’s a Robert Grant ….
We don’t know if there is any significance, but we love the idea of this last castaway coming to rest on our shelves.
UPDATE: @NtlMuseumsScot have announced they have received a mystery sculpture marked ‘9/10’: pictures here!