Memories of the Phonograph
judge a book by its cover"...unless it has a phonograph on
By Doug Boilesen 2019
of my favorite things to do is to wander through a library and
see what catches my eye. Our local library has shelves where the
staff pick out books, usually by some theme or current event,
and display them so that you see their covers.
Recently on a shelf that was celebrating Colorado
writers was a book of poetry by Jake Adam York titled Abide.
It immediately caught my attention.
A bird is positioned on a turntable
with its beak pointing into the grooves of a record to function
as a stylus.
In the world of art the 'beak'
and other objects have previously been creatively depicted as
ways for sound waves to be seemingly played, e.g., Fred Flintstone
and Woody Woodpecker used bird beaks for their record players
as does EMEK in his 2003 poster "Phono Bird"; Hot Stuff
"The Little Devil" used his 'devil tail' for a stylus,
In the history of sound recording
there is also a connection. When Leon Scott patented his phonautograph
in 1857 (an invention which he would use for the visual study
of sound waves and not the actual reproduction of the voice) Scott
used a "recording bristle from a pig or bird" to scratch
"the surface of the blackened paper to make a visual tracing
of the voice." This was the beginning of the recording of
But the meaningful thing about
this particular discovery for me was inside the cover. On those
pages I found poems that made me want to know more about who York
was and what he was writing about. The Abide poems led
me to investigate his 'project' which was the body of his work.
Inspired by the Civil Rights Memorial he called his project Inspirations
for Air. (2)
Jake Adam York is not a poet
that I had heard of and his untimely death in 2012 at the age
of forty is clearly the loss of an important voice in our world.
David Wojahn said this of York:
"Jake Adam York was the
finest elegist of this generation."
Natasha Trethewey, United States
Poet Laureate, wrote the following:
In his body of work, poems of sheer beauty,
grace, precision of image, and technical skill, we find a profound
intervention into our ongoing conversations about race and social
justice, a bold and necessary challenge to our historical amnesia.
Jake Adam York is one of our most indispensible American poets,
and the presence of his work in the world -- his vision, his
enduring spirit -- is for me, and I think for us all, a guiding
I have added three of York's
works to the PhonoLiterature
section of Phonographia because of their connections with records
However, all of the poems found
in the posthumous collection "Abide" and his 'Project"
should be read and connections with the phonograph are trivial
compared to the subject matter and vision of York's poetry.
But it does make me smile when
I remember that my discovery of Jake Adam York was because of
phonographia and because I judged a book by its cover.
pour des dents d'un blanc
éclatant et saines - Cover
illustration courtesy of Jeroen Diepenmaat ©2005
"Phono Bird" Courtesy of EMEK,
2009, Silk screen, 21" x 31"
poster for Coachella, Empire Polo Field, April 27-29, 2007 Courtesy
Elena Maria Ospina Mejia
Ospina Mejia is a painter, illustrator and cartoonist from Columbia.
Image courtesy of the European Cartoon gallery website.
Print by Pam Wishbow - Fox's
tail is the stylus for the record
Quotes and poetry excerpts courtesy of Crab
Orchard Review and Southern Illinois University Press and the
estate of Jake Adam York ©2014
DBB and Phonographia ©