Photograph by Ben Rollins
Rare and classic books keep finding Rosa Duffy. Some have fragile, first edition spines that creek like arthritic joints. Others have musings jotted in the margins by previous owners. These are Duffy’s favorites—the ones that she hand-selects from online sellers, collectors, or other independent bookstores to live in her Auburn Avenue reading room and store, For Keeps Books. They contain, what Duffy calls, intertextual conversation left on the pages or in the folds. This could be a grocery list or receipt used as a bookmark, a note written in response to a passage. “It gives insight into the interpretation of the text, mapping its impact on the readers starting with the very first lover, then on to those to whom they’ve been re-homed.” Here, Duffy provides her own annotations for a couple of first editions by Gwendolyn Brooks and Jayne Cortez, and two examples of intertextual conversation in works by Audre Lorde and Sonia Sanchez. —Kamille Whittaker
Counterclockwise from left
1. Aloneness by Gwendolyn Brooks. Broadside Press, 1971. First Edition. Fourth Printing
In this children’s book that’s illustrated by Leroy Foster, Gwendolyn Brooks guides young readers through discerning the difference between two feelings they’re likely to battle with for a lifetime: Loneliness and aloneness. “Loneliness does not have a lovely sound. It has an under buzz or it does not have a sound. When it does not have a sound I like it least of all.” She continues with good news, “But aloneness is delicious…or like loving a pond in summer. There is the soft water, looking a little silver-dark and kind.”
2. Scarifications by Jayne Cortez. Bola Press, 1973. First Edition
Scarifications is the second book of poetry by the multidisciplinary artist and writer, Jayne Cortez. The cover is wrapped in bloody red with markings referencing one of the ways the term scarifications can be interpreted: one’s country marks or tribal skin etchings that were used to identify “not only the people you belong to but the place” as stated by Kimberly N. Brown. These markings also call back to “quilt codes.” These patterns were found on quilts that were used as codes to direct folks who were navigating the Underground Railroad. This type of navigation can also be found in the assemblages of words in Cortez’s work. Through theory presented in stanza, Cortez helps to direct the readers to freedom through the mapping of the scars of her memory.
3. Cortez’s partner, Mel Edwards, works in tandem with her words. He creates visuals that add melody to her lyrics. Marrying the use of loose black ink and chains as stencils, the images are stamped alongside her poetry with force to match the roar of her text. The images serve as a radical Rorschach that are only to be decoded by Cortez’s prose.
4. Homegirls and Handgrenades by Sonia Sanchez. Thunder Mouth Press, 1984
Homegirls and Handgrenades by Sanchez starts with an inscription on the title page. It reads, as her inscriptions often do, “To Brother Daryl, In love/struggle.” This inscription is a telling start to the journey Sanchez takes the reader through in the text. The poems serve, in some instances, as a collection of notes to and about the folks that helped to shape what is now considered by most as “Black History.” The dedication comes next and reads, “For my homeboy, Huey.” Around this time, Huey P. Newton, the leader of the Black Panther Party and a man who worked alongside activists and artists alike, was dealing with the recent closing of his Oakland-based program. Next, on page 17, a poem titled “Poem Written after reading Wright’s American Hunger,” where she speaks to one character, “the homegirl who told Wright of her desire to go to the circus.” On page 63 she writes a letter to Ezekiel Mphahlele, who made the return to Africa with his wife Rebecca. She acts as an usher and revels in his bravery, “Now you are returning home. Now your mother’s womb cries out to you. Now your history demands your heartbeat.”
5. The First Cities by Audre Lorde. The Poets Press, 1968
In this copy of First Cities, Audre Lorde’s first book of poetry, the title page has unsigned script from an anonymous reader, “These are poems of searching, of a need to find (sic) to join with…so, the eyes, and light and darkness and touch, and all the functions of a search are sparklingly clean in Miss Lorde’s poetry. Especially when they’re contrasted to non-positive functions leading to a finding: the dark secrets and so on.” This inscription, while personal to the experience and understanding of its author, creates a starting point for future readers that was unintended when published by Lorde, but anticipated when it left the Poets Press Inc. and into the hands of the public in 1968. This particular copy has been scribbled in to the point of illegibility. Audre writes on an unnumbered page, in the poem titled “Coal,” “Some words live in my throat,” to which the annotation from the reader asks, “Caught? Stuffed?” Lorde continues, “Seeking like gypsies over my tongue,” to which the reader answers, “Roaming.”
This article appears in our September 2023 issue.
The post Here’s what makes the books at For Keeps special appeared first on Atlanta Magazine.
Rare and classic books keep finding Rosa Duffy. Some have fragile, first edition spines that creek like arthritic joints. Others have musings jotted in the margins by previous owners. These are Duffy’s favorites—the ones that she hand-selects from online sellers, collectors, or other independent bookstores to live in her Auburn Avenue reading room and store, For Keeps Books.
The post Here’s what makes the books at For Keeps special appeared first on Atlanta Magazine. Atlanta Magazine