Reading as Prowling, Book As Cage

Essay published in The Blue Notebook: Journal for Artists’ Books, Fall 2006

From the essay:

Tyger Tyger burning bright,

In the forests of the night:

What immortal hand or eye,

Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

—William Blake

“Without belaboring all the things I do not know about “The Tyger,” I can’t help but consider the irony of our planets most deadly, destructive beast as imagined in shuddering calligraphy by William Blake. Chinese medicine and aphrodisiacs use tiger parts. Poachers are after their striped fur. Half of the world’s tiger population exists in cages in the United States. Blake’s tiger metaphor of inexplicable human violence inverts itself when we humans became the tiger’s only true predator. We capture and display ourselves, in other words. But then we know this—Blake knew this. It is why he committed “The Tyger” to its cell of paper and pigment. What he couldn’t know, I imagine, is how we might interpret this poem now that tigers are an endangered species. Time confines the book.”

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