The image embedded lower in this post came to me courtesy of Matt Trussell, who lives beside a bog somewhere in Maine. I don’t know much more about him other than that he is quite pleasant in communication, likes baseball, and is damn good at the game of fantasy baseball. It’s through fantasy baseball that I know the little of him that I do. We played in a league together for a number of years. Somehow—and I have no idea just how—Matt became aware of this blog, and at one point expressed his liking for my poem The Mating Trill of the Red-Winged. What follows is the story of how the piece that the image mentioned above portrays came to be, and how the image came to be on this blog.
In the course of correspondence earlier this year, about whether or not I would be playing in a particular league this (which unfortunately I was unable to do), Matt sent me a note, from which, along other notes in the same email thread, I’ve gotten his permission to quote.
Matt: Hope all is well. I have to snap a picture of a project I worked on this past fall. I hope you don’t mind. I took one of your poems, The Mating Trill of the Red-Winged and printed it out and framed it with a wing of a Red-Winged Blackbird that I preserved. Some time ago we found a dead blackbird in our backyard. It was odd, there was nothing about it that seemed distressed or anything, it was just there, near the bird feeders, dead. I did some research and ended up removing a wing and preserving it, planning on doing something with it at some time. When I found your poem it clicked. So I’ve got that, the wing and three preserved cat nine tail plants. I think it came out pretty nice. Only after I got the frame all sealed up (had to hot glue the backing on) I realized I didn’t attach your name to the poem. I had just copy/pasted the poem itself. Dumb of me. I gotta get that fixed sometime and add that, or if we ever cross paths, get you to sign it. Anyway, thought you’d like to know about that, hope you don’t think that’s totally crazy or anything.
John: Your project sounds quite fine and like something I’d enjoy seeing (perhaps you could send me an image of it?). I’m quite happy you told me about it. And I’m happy to have you use the poem in it on the condition that you do credit me as the author of the poem in some clearly visible manner within the piece itself (even if that does mean the painstaking job of undoing and re-applying that hot glue).
Matt: Thanks for getting back to me. I will definitely shoot you an image of it once I get it fixed. I should be snowed in this weekend, so maybe I’ll crack into [it] then.”
Matt (a bit later): I finally broke into the frame and fixed it up, here’s the finished product, hope you approve.
Matt Trussell’s multi-media piece using a black wing, cattails, and my poem The Mating Trill of the Red-Winged. —Photo by Matt Trussell.
John: I do approve. Great idea, and great execution, Matt! Thank you.
I may (read very likely will) use this on my blog in the near future with your name. Do you have any particular info about you, or on the process of making it, or link you’d like to see attached?’
Matt: Awesome, glad you liked it. I’d love for you to share it. As far as the process, just mention that I found the bird so no one thinks I run around killing birds to cut off their wings or anything. I live right on a bog so the bog/swamp birds are around our backyard a lot and we feed them year round. I used snips to cut the wing off as close to the base as I could and then hit the internet on how to preserve it. I found this site:
I used the cornmeal method since I normally keep cornmeal in the pantry. That method worked great. You can include it or not, your call. I mentioned I live right near a bog, so the cattails are readily available. Just make sure you spray something on them to preserve them, otherwise you end up with an awful mess when they go to seed. Found that one out the hard way. Fine, white feathery seeds all over the place.
Not sure much about me would be too entertaining, just a guy from Maine who enjoys the outdoors and baseball. I’m far from a poet, but do enjoy reading it. My favorite is e e cummings.
John: This is great, Matt. Pretty much exactly what I was looking for. What I’d like to do is use the entire text of your process email plus some excerpts from some previous ones, if you’ll allow that. I think I will title the post Serendipitous Collaboration.
Matt: Sounds great!
Note: I’m really, really pleased that this piece by Matt exists. I love the idea that it is somewhere out in the world, and that I will almost certainly never see it in person.