Five days ago, Hurricane Katrina, possibly the biggest storm to hit the United States during recorded history, slammed into the territory along the Gulf Coast, hitting New Orleans almost directly. Only nine days before that, my family and I were in New Orleans ourselves so I could attend the annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists. While in the city, we suffered through the heat and humidity, but we always enjoyed New Orleans, especially the food. I'm sure over one thousand delicious crayfish made up our meals over the course of the three days we were in the city.
The city, however, is a bit more personal to us. New Orleans is the birthplace of my paternal grandfather, George Huth (a man I seem almost to be named after). New Orleans was also the city where our Huths first entered the country, from the Alsatian countryside of France. Three generations of my family called New Orleans home, and even in my lifetime my family would visit New Orleans to visit family. New Orleans is something of a home to me, a magical place I was always honored to be connected to.
All of this made the shock of the storm, the horror of the destruction, a little more personal to us, even though we stayed in the French Quarter, a part of the city that experienced little damage, especially when compared to the rest of the city. So tonight, I used my broad pens to create something that would memorialize Hurricane Katrina's destruction of my city, and what I came up with was a mandala-like typoglyph.
The heavy ink caused the paper I used to buckle a little. And this buckling createe a radiating series of shadows, shallow channels of darkness. These spokes leading out from the center of this piece help to point out that the damage to New Orleans was only part of the damage caused by this storm, which also destroyed other sections of New Orleans and parts of Mississippi and Alabama. (Actually, A.A. Berry, one of the recipients of this mailing lives in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, a city we drove through on our way to and from New Orleans a couple of weeks ago, and a city that bore some of the brunt of Katrina.)
This visual poem is actually a single word, which readers might just be able to read if they start at the circumference of the circle and read to its center point. But I've twisted the letters just as the storm twisted the buildings, people, and nature in its path.
[Uncharacteristically, I did not mail out this piece right after creating it. I had originally intended to fold the piece and slip it into booklet envelopes I had brought to Caroga Lake. After creating the poem, however, I decided to buy some large white envelopes, so I wouldn't have to fold the poem and mar its appearance. For this reason, this issue of qbdp went out about a week late.]
The recipients of "The City of New Orleans, August 29, 2005" (qbdp # 94) were
1/8 Ruth and Marvin Sackner
2/8 Bob Grumman
3/8 Roy Arenella
4/8 Ruud Janssen
5/8 Mick Boyle
6/8 A.A. Berry
7/8 RF Côté
un violon d’ingres