They say a girl never forgets her first time and that seems to be as true with regards to mail art as anything else. The first person to ever send me anything via the network was Richard Canard and as far as I can tell he isn’t even officially a member, which, in retrospect, is somehow perfectly apropos. Here was someone whose distinctively quirky email introduction seemed to be filled with the typographic noise of some incompatible platform (or a keyboard version of asemic writing), who claimed to be from the state of “Illusion,” and who now, alarmingly, had my home address. I’d hardly been a member at IUOMA for more than twenty-four hours. Was I really going to have to tell my husband, “Darling, should you happen to see someone on the front stoop with pinwheel eyes and a hatchet, don’t be surprised. He’s just a mail-artist.”?
Fortunately, in this case at least, I was able to override my overactive imagination with a tincture of good sense (about all I usually possess at any given time) and as it turned out Richard has quickly become not only my first but one of my most cherished correspondents.
(richard's mail art takes up a familiar place, watching
the world go by from the kitchen window)
In the relatively short time we’ve been exchanging mail, I’ve learned to approach a piece by Richard the way you approach a cat, which is to say, you don’t approach it at all. You wait for it to come to you. You let it sit and be itself for as long as it wants, until such time as it decides to jump down and saunter over to rub itself against your shins. At that point you may unobtrusively lower a hand just in case it decides you’re worthy of a second pass, brushing its whiskers against your fingers. There you both leave it for the time being and retreat into yourselves to assess the experience.
A Richard Canard piece is not a dog, all paws and hot wet tongue. You don’t play tug of war with it. It doesn’t bring you a ball to throw. That's not to say that dogs aren't great, that dogs don't have their day in mail-art, same as iguanas and muskrats. It's just that mail-art from Richard Canard is a different sort of animal. You don’t hurry a Richard Canard piece. It reveals itself obliquely, it expresses its message of sly wisdom, if it thinks you deserving of it, at tangents.
Sometimes as long as week or two will pass and I’ll be reading something totally unrelated and one of Richard’s lines will come back to me. A line which was all but inscrutable to me when I first read it will suddenly stand revealed, or an aphorism whose meaning I’d thought was perfectly clear the first time will become illuminated in an entirely new context.
Like a haiku, also traditionally written in Japanese in a single line, these lines of Richard’s—Canardisms, as I like to think of them—are a condensed crystallization of thought and expression so perfectly suited to the postcard format you figure Basho would have thought of it himself and circulated his poems on them if postcards, not to mention mailmen, had existed in 17th century Japan.
Thank you Richard, should you be reading this, for expanding my notion of what mail-art is and can be. I hope you enjoy my first Richard Canard-inspired piece, which has probably already found its way to you in the state of Illusion as I write these words. You were my first and in many ways you’re still the best! ;)
set out for it) *
*Please note if Richard Canard's mail art were an actual
cat you wouldn't want to feed it milk. Most cats, after
weaning, are lactose intolerant. No cats or mail art
were harmed in the composing of this blog post.