Wishing a happy publication day to The Traveler’s Vade Mecum, an anthology where old world meets new.
The original Traveler’s Vade Mecum, published in 1853, contained thousands of telegrams designed to send short, affordable messages while in transit. The document assigned numbers to a charming assortment of potential travel-related queries and scenarios, from “Do You Know Of A Person Going West Soon, Who Would Take A Lady Under His Protection?” to “There Was a Great Want of Civility.”
Using communication advances that Baldwin could only dream of, I approached poets and asked them to write a poem with a title consisting of a telegram I’d chosen for them. Some of those poets recommended others and I chose telegram titles for them, too.”
By crowdsourcing poets to create a digital-age compendium of old-world poetics, Ross has assembled a wide-ranging showcase of what poetry can do: contributors include Bollingen Prize winner Frank Bidart, former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins and Best American Poetry arbiter David Lehman, as well as a new generation of poets like Sandra Beasley, Denise Duhamel, Emily Fragos, and Eva Hooker. The Traveler’s Vade Mecum gives us a glimpse into the habits and social aspects of 19th century America―and shows how we have evolved 163 years later.
Praise for THE TRAVELER’S VADE MECUM:
Essential reading for poetry lovers and experimenters, The Travelers’s Vade Mecum dramatically and wittily expands the notion of the literary prompt.”―Billy Collins, Former United States Poet Laureate
Helen Klein Ross connects poets of today to a clever telegraphic idea from yesterday, and in doing so re-introduces readers to A. C. Baldwin, a 19th century consumer advocate whose vision and persistence impacted the world in unexpected ways.”―Ralph Nader, Father of the modern American consumer movement, author, Founder of the American Museum of Tort Law
To open this eccentric and improbable volume of sixty-six poems by sixty-six contemporary poets responding to sixty-six pre-fabricated statements found in an antique collection for ‘the convenience of persons traveling on business or for pleasure’ is to take an unexpected trip in the company of various and surprising voices: the dead, the missing, the missed, the imagined, and the re-imagined. Ahab and Faust and the murderers of Garcia Lorca show up among the un-famous (but never ordinary) in meditations and tributes, curses and love songs, all originating in ready-made phrases fashioned for expedient use. Keep this book by your bedside and in your kitchen; read it at night and first thing in the morning, savoring its felicitous lines with your first coffee of the day.”―Peg Boyers, Executive Editor of Salmagundi
An anthology needs to be remarkable in its conception, array of authors, and execution. Check. Check. Check. The body of the book is wonderfully arranged―it can be read straight-through or serendipitously. It will feel just right in the hand (and look great on screen).”―Alan Ziegler, Editor, Professor, Director of Pedagogy at Columbia University
In an inspired rediscovery of A. C. Baldwin’s The Traveler’s Vade Mecum, Helen Klein Ross and her poets have magically transformed an obscure 19th century invention into lyrical gold.”―Arthur Molella, Director Emeritus of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History
TALK ABOUT PROMPTS -(STOP)- THE TRAVELER’S VADE MECUM SHOWS INFINITE VARIETY OF POETIC RESPONSE -(STOP)- DIRECT INDIRECT OBLIQUE REMOTE BUT ALL EXCELLENT -(STOP)- HIGHLY RECOMMEND -(START)-”―Daniel Menaker, Former Executive Editor-in-Chief of Random House and author of My Mistake: A Memoir
Please join us on Wednesday, November 2nd, at 6pm at the New York Public Library, in the main Lions branch, 2nd floor Berger Forum, Room 227, for a reading, signing, and celebration. The original book, now preserved in the NYPL, will be displayed at the event.