Julia & Jane interview: Life Lessons


The Looms of Enitharmon

The Looms of Enitharmon

Transcript 13 /  pt. 1

from an interview with Julia Ferari by Jane Noyes, at the David Walters gallery February 7


Jane: Tell me how you met Dan again. I think you’ve told me but my memory is poor.


Julia: I was living in Boston. Writing poetry. And I saw an ad in the Real Paper, that is one of Boston’s alternative papers and it said “Print Your Own Poetry.” I think it appeared more than once, before I called up. And So I said, “Oh, that sounds interesting. That’s what I want to do.” It was an odd ad. I think it was very simple and had a phone number. So I thought about it for a day and then I called up. I got this person on the phone, very casual, talking to me. And instead of me asking questions: what do you do, etc. he started interviewing me. So I, being an Aquarian, thought this was a great opportunity to start something new. But I always had to start something new on new moons and looking at my calendar and it was almost a full moon so I said, “I’ll see you in two weeks!” And Dan’s like, ‘what?’ I said, “Yeah, I’ll see you in two weeks.” I didn’t tell him why. Time goes by, time goes by. And I suddenly said to myself, Oh My Goodness, I gotta remember to go do that! So, I looked in the Real Paper and the ad was gone and I looked everywhere and I couldn’t find it anywhere in my notes. And then I looked in my pencil bag and I found it in there, a two inch by two inch piece of paper that has in soft pencil the phone number and it was practically worn away. It was so worn away I was thinking, Oh My God, I could barely read it. And I called and it was the right number. I always think about it, the fact that I came that close to not having my life go in that direction and it became my entire life direction. It was a life lesson… life and destiny…. you get opportunities, but if you don’t take those opportunities your life doesn’t go in those directions. It’s not about fate as much as it is a combination of fate and your ability to make choices and just seize opportunities—but also to recognize them.


Jane: Right, right. And yet in retrospect you can look back on all that near-missed stuff and think well it was all part of the process. Wow. So what happened next?


Julia: Well I went to the shop and Dan had put me to work right away, immediately. Putting away type. No walk around, look, talk… like we would do in our shop in the later years, just talk to people. And of course people weren’t necessarily coming to work but even I think if people came to work we would talk for a while. But he put me to work immediately. ‘Do this…this is how you do it.’ (Laughing)


Jane: The ad had said, ‘Print Your Own Poems’… I mean if I read that I would think I was going to go and this guy is going to show me how to do it. It’s not going to be me working, putting away type. Did that take you by surprise?


Julia: Well, it was an arrangement. You didn’t pay, you came as an apprentice. So you worked for the privilege of getting to do things on your own eventually.


Jane: Did you learn that through speaking with him in the first interview?


Julia: I think so.


Jane: Okay. So it wasn’t suddenly just getting a bunch of work to do.


Julia: Right. But yeah, he says, “This is type and you have to learn about type. And the best thing to do is to put type away. And here it is.” (Laughing) I think I put type away for months and months and months and months. Probably because I didn’t mind doing but also because Dan told me at one point… he would test me to see if I could set type… because when you’re putting type away you have a wooden case. (People collected these for knick-knacks for a while.) So you have to memorize where all the letters go and find the boxes, so when you’re setting type you’re doing the reverse of when you’re putting it away, so technically you are learning when you’re putting away type. It’s best, as opposed to memorizing some piece of paper. And I think at one point after a period of time… I think I was a willing person putting type away, but then he was like, okay set some type. So I set some type and I’m somewhat dyslexic I think, so I set it all backwards.


Jane: It’s kind of a backwards process anyway…


Julia: It is backwards, but you can set type backwards too. Depending on what end of the stick you start at. Just like you start writing left to right. If you started in the stick on the opposite side it would be reversed. And I did that. I set this whole thing in reverse. And Dan goes, Oh! Back to putting away type. (Laughing)


But I stayed. I didn’t leave. And there were many people! Dan said at one point there were like 70 people that came to the shop… lots and lots of people.


Jane: You mean, to do that? So they had all responded to this ad?


Julia: Yeah!


Jane: Oh that’s very interesting. Wow. And so?


Julia: Well he said it was mostly women. Because it was the seventies, the late seventies, and women were coming into their own, wanting to learn how to do things, and this was an interesting thing that people wanted to learn. And he said to me one time, (it was a big building in a part of Charlestown on the Summerville border), and he said he was walking out one time with a woman as she was leaving and they had passed the old wooden freight elevator that was open and some guy was in there, a couple people, going up and they’re talking, and Dan hears them as he’s walking past saying, “Wow, that guy… he has a different woman every week!” (Laughing)


But eventually two people stuck. Mark Olsen and myself. We continued to come back. Most people would come in, work for a while, and then leave. And do something else; it wasn’t for them. But there were two of us that stayed. That was interesting… when I first met Dan, I would say I was definitely not attracted to him. (Laughing) He had a beard down to the middle of his chest. Sort of reddish brown hair and his hair was down to his shoulders. He looked very furry. Mountain man. He had a very Celtic build. Not a real super slender person… muscular, average height, lots of curly reddish-brown hair. So he wasn’t my type, but I worked there! And was just learning how to do things. And actually we irritated each other at first, too.


Jane: Huh! So in other words he told you at some point that you had irritated him?


Julia: I could just tell. I would do something and he would growl.


Jane: And yet you stuck with it!


Julia: Well… I worked there from October in 1977 and was setting type, helping with making books and stuff like that, right up until April I was still working as an apprentice. And then at one point, it was very cold in Dan’s shop by the way… the walls in the shop in Charleston was made up of boards… you could see through the cracks. It was up on the second or third floor, I forget. And it was just an old wood frame building. When the wind would blow, if there was a storm or something, it would blow water through the cracks. I remember Dan getting some of his books damaged at one point and him being upset about it. It was cold. I don’t like the cold very much so I would wear extra layers, so I had like two pairs of long underwear, two pairs of pants, a regular pair of pants and a larger pair of pants over that, and many layers of shirts.


Jane: Well, I can see why! That’s almost colder than just… I mean you were in this building that didn’t have sunlight to bring in extra heat.


Julia: I mean, it had windows but I think it was on the North side.


Jane: That just feels cold…and the work you’re doing is generally pretty stationary. Either standing or sitting as you’re doing all this sorting, but nothing to keep your legs moving.


Julia: Yeah, my hands were cold. But I had enough layers on… I built up my body heat. April came, and Dan shaved off his beard. And of course it was April so I wasn’t wearing all these layers. And I shed my layers. And our story is, we suddenly noticed each other!


Jane: Did he cut his hair too?


Julia: Yes!


Jane: Oh! Was this kind of an annual thing?


Julia: The shaving of his beard was annual, yeah.


Jane: Come spring…kind of like shearing a sheep…


Julia: Yeah! And there was a face under there. And I thought, ‘Wow. Attractive man…’ (laughing) so yeah, that was good, interesting, and another stage of our getting to know each other. I stayed working in the shop, so I was really an apprentice before I had the relationship with Dan. So. I think we were in that shop for four years, Mark and myself and Dan.


Jane: How long had Dan been there before you?


Julia: Boy, I don’t know exactly. I think a couple of years, a year and a half to a couple of years. Because there were a lot of things pinned up on the walls. There were layers of time on the walls, so it had to have been at least a year or more. Every time someone would pull a proof of a print they would just pin it on the wall. Someone came once and did an interview and they had a camera that made everything look like it was some kind of storm, because all the things on the wall, suddenly you could see them all.


Jane: Like a fisheye lens?


Julia: Yeah! It was; it was a fisheye lens. We would look at that and think ‘Wow look at all the stuff on the walls, is that what it looks like?’


Jane: Do you have the pictures still?


Julia: Oh, boy. I don’t know. Not that I have seen at all lately. I think that was in an article somewhere. So we would have to dig it up. That’s an interesting thought, a picture of the building on Sherman Street. It was 7 Sherman Street in Boston. Yeah that’s a good question! I wonder what happened to that, because it was before the Internet, of course.


Jane: Yeah! What I do is keep things even if I don’t know what I’m going to do with them. Maybe I’m afraid that I’ll forget. And then when you come upon them its an amazing experience… puts you back in that place.


Julia: Yeah! I haven’t seen it for (if it exists) I haven’t seen it for thirty years. I just remember seeing it then and being aware of it. People often come to the shop and take pictures.


Jane: Maybe it’s deep in a box just sitting in there all preserved.


Julia: It could be! I think I need some apprentices to help me go through my archives, because there are archives.


Jane: Put them to work in a cold building! (laughing) Tell them to wear lots of layers and grow their hair.


Julia: (laughing) Yes! I did a little bit of archive work in 2012 right within a few months after Dan died because I knew where some of the archives were, so I just went out and did it before it got cold because its a space that’s not heated and I found a poem that Dan had written back in 1978. So if I met him in 1977 and we really got to know each other in 1978… I found a poem that he wrote to me and he was very mysterious… He would write a poem and handset it and then print it right there and then. It was just sort of right at the point where we were falling for each other but it’s sort of this tentative thing as well. And the poem, when I found it, it was almost as if it were appropriate for that moment in time — of him telling me about my life in front of me, as it was at that moment in time when he wrote it. In other words, it was appropriate in a whole new way in 2012, to me, alone… being spoken to from this person, as appropriate as when he first wrote it. He didn’t sign it as his name. It was “Death Chants” he wrote as the signature. But it’s D. C. I knew that was ‘Dan Carr’. “Death Chants” wrote “City of Night”* which was this poem about a meadow, and the life in front of you and it was a poem that was speaking to someone… I think he was speaking to me. Because I remember when I read that poem when I was working in the shop… but part of me was kind of incredulous. I don’t think anyone had written me a poem before. He just printed it, he wrote it, and it was there in the shop when I came in. It was very subtle. He said something like, ‘Oh I just printed this…’ And I read it and I remember at the time thinking, ‘Is this to me?’ But he was the kind of guy that would never say, ‘this is to you.’ He didn’t put himself on the line, he was subtle. And I didn’t catch subtlety very well; “Death Chants… what’s that?” This twenty-something year old girl is thinking, ‘I don’t get it!’ (laughing)


Jane: Did you actually ask that?


Julia: I don’t think so, I was trying to absorb it silently.


With a well and a meadow
There was a moment of silence in twilight
There is a rain in my heart
And my sky answers
If someone told you, say tomorrow
Change your world
Change your past
A thousand winds in the forest
A season of flowers
Covers the earth
Where they broke thru to fresh ground



Jane: Did he show you other work, lay things out for you to happen by and see?


Julia: He was always doing something, always doing something. But this one… part of me knew that was to me, but I didn’t think it was possible. He was way more subtle and sophisticated than I was. But now, looking at it I remember that moment in the shop, I remember him writing it. I remember me thinking, ‘Oh! Is this to me?’ And then reading it… it was about this moment in time and space, asking whether this life was going to unfold together, and the life in general, hinting at together, but talking about the life… what’s in the future, is it this or is it this? So I’m reading this poem thirty years later, and it’s written to me again, taking about the future and the life unfolding. And it was just astonishing. I’ve always believed in the possibility of more than one dimension of time and space. And I felt like this poem was written then, had its own meaning then, but at the same time was meant to come forward in time to 2012 and, speak to me then. That was actually completely possible… out of the realm of the normal, but it was real in its own way. It spoke to me! There’s Dan speaking to me telling me about the future. It was astonishing, actually, it just shook me.


Jane: I bet it did! And yet its interesting because you talk about how important paper is in your lives together… the scrap of paper that you had taken the number from the newspaper, wrote it on another paper, put it aside, almost couldn’t find it, but there it was, and how you weren’t even sure that that number was the number… but you took the chance and it was. And that’s that whole thing with fate. It came back. You can go all sorts of places with me… all these letters… its not just letters as I think of them, I just toss them off on the page. But all that goes into letters in that three-dimensional form, and sorting them and putting them into order and putting them into meaning. Paper is sort of this ethereal thing… it doesn’t really last.
from an interview with Julia Ferari by Jane Noyes, at the David Walters gallery February 7, 2014


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