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Trees in the Watkinson




William Ray Bowlin, ed. A Book of Treasured Poems.
Chicago, New York: Laidlaw Brothers, 1928. Front Cover.

Courtesy of the Watkinson Library, Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut



Julia Alvarez, Seven Trees. North Andover, Mass. : Kat Ran Press 1998. Front Cover.

Courtesy of the Watkinson Library, Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut

Tiara Desire-Brisard

The day that I found A Book of Treasured Poems by William Ray Bowlin in the Watkinson library, I was thinking about trees. Trinity’s campus is surrounded by elm and maple trees, and our alma mater even focuses on the way that we’ve grown and changed while beneath these elms. Finding Bowlin’s book unintentionally coincided with my search for trees that day. A few days before I became enamored with Julia Alvarez’s beautifully illustrated Seven Trees. Alvarez’s book stood out due to its beauty both linguistically and artistically.


Julia Alvarez, Seven Trees. North Andover, Mass. : Kat Ran Press 1998.

Courtesy of the Watkinson Library, Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut


Yet, I decided to focus on Bowlin’s book not due to its slight connection to trees but instead due to the editorial choices that he made to ensure that this book came out the way he desired.


While information on Bowlin himself has proven difficult to find, the majority of poems that are included within this work are ones that I have seen consistently throughout my academic career. One of the poems took me back to fourth grade on Poem in your Pocket Day. I had steadily been making progress in the novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith and in order to pay homage to trees, I began to look at poems that were about trees. One of the first that I stumbled across was “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer. This beautiful poem written in rhyming couplets is an inner monologue from the poet as he wanders around in nature. Although this poem is rather straightforward in tone and meaning, it still remains incredibly important in this collection as well as my life as stated before. Most of the poems within this collection are ones that the reader probably has interacted with before or have heard about in passing. Bowlin’s main point in this collection was to have poems that evoked emotion and would hopefully inspire the reader to look at poetry without a scholarly undertone

William Ray Bowlin, ed. A Book of Treasured Poems.
Chicago, New York: Laidlaw Brothers, 1928, 78-89.

Courtesy of the Watkinson Library, Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut

If you look solely at the physical attributes of A Book of Treasured Poems, you would not be extremely fascinated. Bowlin’s publishers stuck to a very traditional template when creating this book. Yet, it is not only the outside that is lackluster in comparison to the contents. There are few extraneous details in this book, the exception being the small images of authors or ones that were inspired by the text. Bowlin explains this choice along with others in his foreword. He writers, “the absence of formal notes in this little volume is not the result of inertia or of oversight, but an attempt by the editor to remove poetry from the realm of pure intellect and to restore it to the field of emotion.” (iii) Although Bowlin was primarily referring to the lack of annotations, notes, and other forms of scholarly conversation, he does note that the main function of this book is to connect poetry back to emotions. This would involve taking away images and bindings that were associated with the scholarly or the profound.

The book while simple is beautiful; the cover is a thick dark brown fabric with the title stamped in a bright orange at the top. Bowlin did not place his name on the cover further highlighting his desire for the attention to remain on the content rather than the form. The small images of authors next to the titles and the small comments describing their importance does bring in a slight air of sophistication yet it does not strip away from the focus on the text.

William Ray Bowlin, ed. A Book of Treasured Poems.
Chicago, New York: Laidlaw Brothers, 1928, iii.

Courtesy of the Watkinson Library, Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut

Although Alvarez’ poems and the associated illustrations are beautiful and perfectly connect nature and life, Bowlin’s collection brought back memories to the spring semester. One of the final projects that we had to work on was a commonplace book. This practice began in the 15th century Italy and spread to England by the 17th. Commonplacing hold a special place in my heart since it allows for the commonplacer to act as an editor, illustrator, and author all at once. Since it is an extremely personalized activity, it allows for you to engage with your favorite texts. Bowlin’s collection stood out since it allowed for us to see the different styles of commonplacing. Out of the books that I looked at while in the Watkinson’s, Bowlin’s A Book of Treasured Poems appears to be one that marries the form with the content the best. While sticking to a demure and understated color pattern for the images and binding, it is easy for the reader to zero in on the poems and understand the editor’s intent. I find that compilations of various authors work provide us with easier access to overarching themes that take place in literature. Books in all forms share the ability to form connections between readers and the authors. Yet the beauty of collections is that the reader receives a clear understanding of what the author desired to express.




Published in: Uncategorized on July 21, 2018 at5:36 pm Comments (2)

Live life, throw the dice

One of the books housed in the Trinity’ Watkinson Library is A throw of the dice will never abolish chance, by Stéphane Mallarmé, an important figure in symbolist poetry. Mallarme seems to be concerned about the human reaction to the destruction or the downfall of the belief in the old G-d and the legacies thereof, in the era of industrial revolution and modernity. The crisis in belief, symbolized by the “shipwreck” on the first page (line 5) prompted the poet to speak more.

This printed edition, by Greenhouse Review Press, comes in a delicate box, with a plain dark purple leather hardcover. The paper on which the poem is printed is Umbria, handmade in Italy by the Fabriano Mill. The foredges are left undecorated. Pastedowns and end leaves are made from the exact same paper as the text block.

Every page is filled with a lot of white spaces, or, rather, the words are set with lots of space between them in order to draw even more attention to the white space of the page. The words in different stanzas are of sizes of different fonts which also gives meaning. Scattered across the page, the lines appear in readers’ eyes both big and small, and in different line lengths. In this way, the printer makes the lines come alive. It is as if the reader were

listening to the poet softly hum the words with much cadence, varying speed, emphasis and emotion. The poem, going from upper left to bottom right, hastens and/or decelerates its pace according to the font and the length of each line.

One might also say that the poem is presented like a silent movie with nothing but subtitles, yet one can almost hear the prelude to modernism and the death of G-d. “The Master” , whose “legacy” is “vanishing” upon the rise of the new concepts from non-existent religions brought by the industrial revolution in terms of technology, way of life and philosophy, will tremble and collapse (page 5).

The poem challenged my way of thinking not only in terms of the relationship between humanities and G-d, but also the power residing in each individual, as we are all capable to make an impact in the complicated net of global butterfly effect and domino effect, predicted by Mallarme long before those terms were even invented. Among the streams of seemingly bleak, orderless words, a beacon of hope is revealed, as any person, any action, and any thought, “expresses a throw of the dice,” which makes a difference.


Published in: Uncategorized on July 16, 2018 at1:44 am Comments (1)

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