April 12, 2016

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A (Found) Ode to Signed Books

This week, I went to a reading by the esteemed poet Rita Dove.

1. It was free. Thanks, HoCoPoLitSo!
2. There was music by young composer and violinist Joshua Coyne.

Poetry Friday
Today's Poetry Friday round-up
is at Cathy's blog,

I'd been meaning to buy and read Dove's historical novel-in-verse Sonata Mulattica for several years. (Read the NY Times review here.) She spoke about the book and its subject, child prodigy George Polgreen Bridgetower (1780-1860), on the Diane Rehm Show when Sonata Mulattica was first released.

The selections she read at the event were beautiful. Some of the poems include multiple voices. They are funny, piercing in their portrayal of the society that celebrated Bridgetower, then erased him from history.

But what I really want to talk about is signed books. I did buy a copy of Sonata Mulattica last night and Rita Dove signed it.

Sonata Mulattica by Rita Dove
That got me wondering. Why do we love signed books? I have dozens of them. Some were already favorites when I sought out the author to have the book signed. Others I had never heard of, but fell in love with at a reading or writers' conference. They were bought and signed on the spot.

Are these books a little more special than their unsigned shelf-mates?

I think so. A signed book is similar to a photograph. Every time I open the book and read the personalized dedication, I remember meeting the author and sharing a word or two. I remember asking poet Mark Doty to sign a book and wanting to hide in a giant hole when he pointed out that I'd handed him someone else's book by accident. I remember meeting children's poet Heidi Mordhorst, now a dear friend, for the first time.

Today, I'm presenting a gallery of dedications for you to enjoy. Following the photographs is a little found ode that I wrote. It combines titles of these signed books with words and phrases borrowed from the dedications.

The Song Shoots Out of My Mouth: A Celebration of Music
by Jaime Adoff
Pumpkin Butterfly: Poems
from the Other Side of Nature

by Heidi Mordhorst

The East-West House: Noguchi's Childhood in Japan
by Christy Hale
I Am the Running Girl
by Arnold Adoff
She Had Some Horses
by Joy Harjo

And here is my found poem. Words I added are in bold. Everything else is strung together from the dedications and the book titles.

When You Sign My Book
by Laura Shovan

The song shoots out of my mouth
with great appreciation for everything:
Gr8 to meet you!!
Enjoy!! God bless!!
Looking forward to your next book!
(and thanks for the new horizons).
I am a pumpkin butterfly,
flying East-West in a celebration
of word music.
I am the running girl,
watching with joy,
listening for your sonata.
Poems journey like childhood ghosts
or horses
from the other side of nature.

And, following poet Brenda Hillman's example, here are some drippings -- phrases from the titles and dedications that I wasn't able to weave into the poem.

The House: Noguchi’s in Japan
at SCBWI 3/6/10 Poems
Keep for
She Had Some
Some horses for your

I'd love to hear your thoughts on signed books and book signings. If you have a treasured signed book, or a memory about a book signing, please share in the comments.


Linda B said...

I love the signed books, too, Laura, & have donated quite a few to our library, thus they're signed to the students. I've met a few authors through the years here in Denver, & had the pleasure (in their early careers) of having them come to write with my students. T.A. Barron is one, and I have a signed copy of his first book, Heartlight. He was wonderful with my students, received their writing and sent back individual comments. You've sparked other memories of other signings, but this connected to the students, is a favorite. I love that you combined different signings into a poem, "the song shoots out of your mouth" beginning grabs one, doesn't it?

Author Amok said...

Hi, Linda. That's a nice tradition for your school. I've heard T.A. Barron speak twice and can only imagine how amazing it was to have him working with your students. He seems like such a heart-centered person and author.

Tabatha said...

Joshua Coyne is a wonderful musician, isn't he? And a very nice person to boot.

Making a found poem from signed books is such a fun idea, Laura. Over the years, we have collected a great many signed books, which I love, but I have never thought to "put them to work" like this :-)

Robyn Hood Black said...

Hi, Laura - What a terrific post! LOVE your idea about making a found poem from the personalizations - very special.

(Smiled at Pumpkin Butterfly by our Heidi - signed on my shelf as well.) I went to so many SCBWI conferences as my kids were growing up, I think they thought everybody had shelf-fuls of books signed to them. Now Morgan gets to share many with her third-graders. :0)

Author Amok said...

Tabatha -- Joshua Coyne & Rita Dove were a wonderful pairing. There is going to be a documentary of Sonata Mulattica featuring both of them. Should be a fascinating film.

Diane Mayr said...

What a clever girl, you are!

I have signed books from some wonderful, but now gone, writers--Robert McCloskey, Maxine Kumin, and Lucille Clifton!

Liz Steinglass said...

I love signed books too, but only when I'm there for the signing. Sometimes at the book store they sell books with signatures and that's not nearly as good because there's no special moment or event to remember.

jama said...

Love your poem and enjoyed your gallery of signed books. I love them too. It's wonderful to remember meeting the authors and watch them sign a book to you. My favorites: Madeleine L'Engle, Maira Kalman, Chris Van Allsburg, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Katherine Paterson. :)

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

Your poem is such a clever way to enjoy these dedications on a deeper level! I love to see authors' handwriting. It makes the experience of the book and your connection to it that much more intimate.

Linda said...

Love your poem! I love having books signed too. I'm packing a bunch of books written by some of our Poetry Friday poets to take with me to NCTE. I'm hoping to get them signed! : )

Tara said...

I think my signed copy of Patricia Polacco's Thank You, Mr. Falker has to be one of my all time favorites, and then there's Nancie Atwell's In the Middle, too. Signed copies have such a personal resonance, don't they?

Cathy said...

What a great idea. I just weeded our bookshelves, but maintained that spot for signed books. There's something about a book signed by an author. What a fun way to recognize their significance.


Carol said...

I always think about signed books almost as hyperlinks. It's not so much the signature as the remembering of a wonderful experience- usually coffee, and good friends, and the privilege of hearing an author actually read the words they wrote in their voice. I love how you have translated your signed books into a found poem! Thank you!

Mary Lee said...

I JUST commented on the PF link above yours (Ramona's blog) about running across an autograph from Molly Bang this week! Fun stuff!

Anonymous said...

How creative! I imagine creating a poem from your signed books allowed you to remember some very special moments.