The story of Dave the Potter by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Bryan Collier (Little, Brown and Company, 2010) combines two great loves of mine — poetry and pottery — so I was absolutely delighted to have been introduced to this recently published book by Myra at Gathering Books. The historical ‘Dave’ was an unusual combination of talent in an age where such talents would not have only been under-appreciated but potentially dangerous. Dave was a skilled and literate slave of the mid 1800’s in South Carolina. His legacy is a collection of large pots and urns, some of which have lines written into them. The lines are short and cryptic, reminiscent of Dickinson. For example, on one of his earliest known pots — a large one for which Dave had a reputation for creating — are inscribed these lines:
put every bit all between
surely this Jar will hold 14
This particular pot could hold fourteen gallons, and these short lines conveyed the volume capacity in rhyme. Other couplets also appear, giving more of a sense of Dave’s personality and of his vocation. Particularly moving was this couplet:
I, made this Jar, all of cross
If, you don’t repent, you will be, lost
Dave the Potter is a picture book, sumptuously illustrated by Bryan Collier, who has captured well the nature of the man and his art. There’s a lovely fold-out panel of illustrations showing the process of pot-making which is visually affecting. My daughter and I really enjoyed Dave the Potter; it is a wonderful book telling a little known story of — as the book’s subtitle indicates — an ‘artist, poet and slave’ of the American south.
This week’s Poetry Friday is at The Small Nouns.