The Poetry Cure


The Poetry Cure (2008) 38X50 inches. Collage on paper.

This piece reconstructs two different “prescriptive” sources: Robert Haven Schauffler’s’ The Poetry Cure and Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat. The Poetry Cure is a humorous anthology of poems organized by ailment (“Mental Cocktails & Spiritual Pick-Me-Ups,”  “Stimulants for a Faint Heart” etc.) published by Dodd, Mead and Company (1932).


The compilation includes work by several poets who use three full names, with many of the first names being Harold, William or Marjorie.  Amusingly, the book begins with a chapter called “Directions: Read Well Before Using.”  William Butler Yeats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Robinson Jeffers provide the lion’s share of remedies, but there are many more by the notorious poet, Unknown.  One of my favorite entries is the two-line gem by William Allingham called Solitude, which inspired Braille Drawing I.

The other component of my drawing is the ornamental border provided by the Random House (1947) facsimilie 1859 edition of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyamedited by Louis Untermeyer. When I discovered this book at the St. Vincent de Paul thrift shop in downtown Eugene, I thought I’d hit gold (i.e. a rare and valuable book). It turns out to be a very available book–I have found two more copies at local second hand bookstores–all under $4. The edition really does look (OK it looked) very impressive, with loads of color illustrations in the Persian miniature style, the original introduction by Edward FitzGerald, and the original imprint page date 1958.

The Rubaiyat is, of course, an early and  notorious example of the prescriptive text, originally written as four line poems (rubayyat) by the 11th Century by Persian mathematician Omar of Khayyam. The key message: live–because nothing else in certain!

For a concise, illustrated history of the Rubaiyat’s English language editions, see the exhibition The Persian Sensation at

I am a librarian and artist living in Eugene, Oregon — where it is often damp and always green.