Poetry Friday: Of Poetry and Pottery

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


6 Responses to “Poetry Friday: Of Poetry and Pottery”

  1. Myra from GatheringBooks Says:

    Hi Sally, I’m glad that you liked this post. The art work was just plain beautiful and the author/illustrator notes at the end also illuminated perfectly the sociocultural history of the time. My daughter loved it too. =)

  2. Kerry Aradhya Says:

    I’ve always found it fascinating to watch potters at work, and the cover of this book is absolutely gorgeous, so I am definitely intrigued! I love it, too, that Dave inscribed poetry into his work. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Marjorie Says:

    Yes, I long to see this too.

  4. Sally Says:

    This was such a treasure to find; thanks Myra for the heads up on this book! I hope y’all (to use a Southern expression) can find it in your libraries.

  5. Ben Says:

    This book has been on my list to buy for a little while. After reading this, I absolutely have to have it. Thanks for sharing.

  6. laurasalas Says:

    I remember reading *about* this book, and I thought I had read it. But after reading your post, I don’t think I did read it! Off to put it on reserve at the library. Thanks for the nudge!