blackbirdonline journalFall 2014  Vol. 13 No. 2

Prints & Poems

David Freed & Charles Wright
     Six Poems
     Yard Journal
     Two Poems Broadsides & Variant

David Freed
     Drawings & Etchings of Charles Wright

Charles Wright
     Improvisations on David Freed


David Freed and Charles Wright met when they were students at the University of Iowa pursuing MFA degrees in the early 1960s—Wright in poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and Freed in visual arts, studying under legendary printmaker Mauricio Lasansky. Freed notes that they lived in the same building and, in fact, shared the same sheetrock wall and plumbing. They both received Fulbright grants in 1963, with Freed continuing the study of printmaking at the Royal College of Art in London and Wright working on poetry in Italy, where they met over the Christmas holidays. This meeting led to the creation of “Six Poems.”

Six Poems, 1963
 Six Poems, 1963
 Poems by Charles Wright
 Six etchings by David Freed
 Artist book
 8 x 6 x ¼ in.

The etchings by Freed engage the subject matter of the six poems by Wright in a way that is typical of how Freed, with Wright’s support, has over time used Wright’s poems in his work. He takes poems that Wright has finished and creates images that complement the poems but which are not direct illustrations.

A generous budget for supplies and projects accompanied Freed’s grant, and he used part of this budget to produce the book. Freed was able to make use of the presses and technicians at the Royal College to combine letterpress type with his etchings in an edition of twenty for “Six Poems.”

Yard Journal, 1985
 Yard Journal, 1985
 Poems by Charles Wright
 Six etchings by David Freed
 Artist book
 10 x 12 x ¾ in.

Freed and Wright stayed in touch over the years and reconnected more directly when Wright moved to Charlottesville to teach at the University of Virginia, as Freed was already established in Richmond and on the faculty of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts.

In 1985, Freed produced the second of their two books, using Wright’s poem “Yard Journal” to create seven images with color intaglio and relief text and printed under the rubric of the Laurel Press.

Yard Journal, 1985
 Yard Journal title page

Broadsides of the poems “An Ordinary Afternoon in Charlottesville” and “East of the Blue Ridge Our Tombs Are in the Dove’s Throat,” printed in the 1990s, also use this method. The Laurel Press derives its name from the address of Freed’s studio on Laurel Street in Richmond.

Published here are reproductions of these images as well as images of several portrait prints of Wright that Freed has created over the past twenty years. Completing the presentation is Wright’s short essay, “Improvisations on David Freed,” that originally appeared in the catalogue, David Freed: Printmaker, that was issued in connection with a 2001 retrospective of Freed’s work at VCU’s Anderson Gallery.

“East of the Blue Ridge, Our Tombs Are in the Dove’s Throat” & “An Ordinary Afternoon in Charlottesville,” ca. 1996
 East of the Blue Ridge, Our Tombs Are in the Dove’s Throat &
 An Ordinary Afternoon in Charlottesville, 1996
 Poems by Charles Wright
 Color intaglio and relief by David Freed
 15 x 40 in.

Other work by David Freed appears across this issue of Blackbird. Levis Remembered includes portraits of Larry Levis, “A Conversation with Richard Carlyon” reproduces a drawing of Carlyon, and Freed himself is represented in his contributor’s notes by a self-portrait rather than a photograph.

The work by David Freed appears courtesy of Reynolds Gallery in Richmond, and Charles Wright’s poems appear with the permission of the author and of Farrar, Strauss and Giroux. Wright’s poem “A Sudden Storm” appeared as “Storm” in Grave of the Right Hand (Wesleyan University Press, 1970). “Yard Journal” was published in Zone Journals (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1988), and “An Ordinary Afternoon in Charlottesville” and “East of the Blue Ridge, Our Tombs Are in the Dove’s Throat” were published in in Chickamauga (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1995).

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