Wednesday, September 2, 2015

S is for Serendipity

dear Robert,

I know it's been a while, but I have to tell you about this thing that happened today. It's so random but also entirely true; it seems like something you'd read in a book.

So, speaking of books. I am a librarian now, which was kind of surprise to me when I figured that out, but somehow I think you could have predicted that way back when I was in your collage class, making what you called "poem-objects." I didn't know then how much you were a poet, alongside from the artist and photographer and teacher I knew. Anyway, today, some 12 years later, in a library in another state, my eyes were scanning the spines of books in section "Z," library science and bibliography, print history, typography. And there, a skinny volume between heavy, encyclopedic tomes, was your name: Seydel. The title: Songs of S.

'What?' I thought. 'I didn't know he wrote another book before he died.' But then, I opened it up and saw the date, that it's new—the revelation that they've been going through your work since you've been gone. Sharing you with us, as you surely meant to, if you'd just had a bit more time.

But this book all poems, no pictures. How strange to happen to find this here, I thought, on the search for something else, because I definitely need to read it.

Here's the really ridiculous part. Poetry belongs in the "P" class, according to the Library of Congress, on another floor of this building entirely. I checked the call number again: definitely Z232. For a minute, I could believe this was a clever joke of yours rather than simple error. It seemed so entirely within the realm of your expansive, omnivorous wit and the impish sense of humor in your art to intentionally mis-classify a library book, or that one of your many alter egos was a typesetter for the government printing office. Another layer of fictional history. A kind of geologically slow performance art, begging the question: is it still a performance without an audience?

I hope you would find all this funny, if you were still here.

And I hope most of all that you knew, even if I never said it, that you were the best kind of teacher there is, the kind any student is lucky to come across even just once in a lifetime. 

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