From the Stacks: Please Plant This Book

The Walter Havighurst Special Collections is home to over 65,000 volumes, manuscripts and archives. Some of the volumes are rare, some are unique; all are special in some way. All of us who work in Special Collections develop attachments to certain books in the collections, for a variety of reasons; perhaps because of an elaborate cover, or because of memories that a book triggers, or because of the provenance of a particular volume. The reasons are as varied as the individuals who work here.

One of my favorites is a small volume of poetry by an author that I discovered in late 1971. Richard Brautigan was a poet, short story writer and novelist with a unique imagination. The Dictionary of Literary Biography wrote that "Brautigan is commonly seen as the bridge between the Beat Movement of the 1950s and the youth revolution of the 1960s." I had discovered some Brautigan books on a friend’s bookshelf and soon had read most of his published work. I was excited when I found Please Plant This Book in Special Collections many years ago because this was one book of his that I had not read. It is a collection of eight poems, each written on a seed packet filled with seeds. It was published in 1968 with a note on the back cover that states: “THIS BOOK IS FREE. Permission is granted to reprint this book by anyone as long as it is not sold.” Some of the author’s thoughts about this publication are expressed in the poem on the package of Shasta Daisy seeds.

SHASTA DAISY

I pray that in thirty years passing
that flowers and vegetables will
water the Twenty-First Century
with their voices telling that they
were once a book turned by loving
hands into life.

The text of this book can now be found easily on the web, with interactive sites displaying the individual poems, but in the 1970’s this volume was difficult to track down. It is nice to be able to see the book in its original format. Other poems/seeds in this volume are: Squash, Sweet Alyssum Royal Carpet, Parsley, Lettuce, California Native Flowers, Carrots and Calendula. Some printings of this book have planting instructions on the reverse side of the seed package. Our copy does not.

Please peruse our new website, or check the Library’s catalog, to explore the collections of the Walter Havighurst Special Collections. Perhaps there is something here that will capture your imagination.