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Inside the Cover: The Alder

This week’s Inside the Cover is looking at The Alder. The encapsulated poem by William Everson describes the felling of a tree. Peter and Donna Thomas used an alder from Kingfisher Flat, the location Everson felled a tree in his poem, to bind the pages. The illustrations were created by Donna Thomas using linoleum cuts and paper pulp pochoir images, and (of course) the paper was made by Peter and Donna Thomas. 

Everson’s words beautifully describe the process from selecting a tree to fell to the final moments as it falls. One of the final stanzas of Everson’s poem above describes that final moment before the tree falls: 

"Suddenly the stroke takes. 
A Shiver runs up the stately frame.
The yearning top, that had reached for the stars, 
Begins to sway. A kind of raptor shiver
Runs down it, a wince of anguish, then an awful agonization Possess it, a moment transfixed."

William Everson, or Brother Antoninus, was an American poet and small press printer born in Sacramento, California. He is recognized as a part of the San Francisco Rennaissance in the 1940′s and as a part of the Beat movement of the 1950′s.[1]

Everson also served as teacher at UC Santa Cruz, that is where Peter Thomas met and studied under him. Peter describes his time as an apprentice, "No questions were asked and no answers were given. Everson led us through the mysteries of the Black Art in silences broken by cries to the gods for mercy. In the end we knew typography and printing and the desire for perfection."  [2]

In the end, we thank Everson for teaching Peter how to print and make books because who knows if The Alder would exist otherwise. 

[1] "William Everson, Beat Poet, 81." The New York Times, 6 June 1994, pp. 25.

[2] Thomas, Peter. California State Library Foundation Bulletin, Number 40, July 1992. pp. 12.

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