The Paper Hound is “a new, used, and rare book store” on Pender Street in downtown Vancouver. “We don’t specialize in one particular kind of book, but we favour the classic, curious, odd, beautiful, visually arresting, scholarly, bizarre, and whimsical.” This blog’s founders have spent countless hours browsing and buying there. It’s a really beautiful place.
Last week I found myself on Pender Street and stopped by the store. I had a remarkable experience.
I found a book of correspondence – between poets Robert Creeley and Irving Layton – I had somehow never seen before. (I have a very large collection of works by Creeley, who was a professor of mine and then a friend back in my Buffalo days.) I noticed that the book bore a signature that looked similar to one on a book I purchased there my last time through – one belonging, it turned out, to San Francisco Renaissance and Vancouver poet Robin Blaser. (That earlier book was “The Rustle of Language,” by Roland Barthes.)
I asked the clerk to confirm whether this was Blaser’s signature, too, in the book I was holding. “Yes, that book came from Blaser’s library.”
I was thrown back 44 years. I had gone to a poetry reading by Robin Blaser at the University at Buffalo’s Rare Books Library; it was sponsored by Creeley’s endowed chair. The reading was completely enchanting. I decided, home in bed that night, I was going to devote myself, one way or the other, to the arts, and I have. (My goal before that was to earn a degree in statistics and have a career as a high-level actuary.)
The Rare Books Library printed up a broadside of a Blaser poem to give away to attendees that night. I had mine for years. God knows where it went. I lived in thirteen different places in Buffalo alone.
“We might have that broadside,” the clerk said. I got goosebumps.
“The poem was about Melville and the Aurora Borealis.”
“We definitely have it.” She opened up the big drawer, found it, and put it in my hands. It felt like a talisman.