Poetry: David Annwn
Calligraphy and Illustration: Thomas Ingmire
San Francisco, CA 2014
11 x 10.25 inches, 32 pages
Early in 2013 David Annwn sent me images of the St. John’s Fragment. The fragment, written in Greek, is the earliest known writing of the New Testament. It was found on the Egyptian market in 1920 and translated into English in 1934. It is now on permanent display at the Rylands Library in England. David was wondering if I would be interested in making a calligraphic response to the work. About the fragment he wrote: “the St John's fragment has an attractive appearance. In terms of meanings, I like the emphasis on not killing and the finding of no fault. I like the woven appearance of the codex & scribed letters. It's as though, we're at a doorway, humans poised at a door where everything, all the hate/death-wish stuff can still turn back. It speaks to me about human interaction & finding ways away from violence if we don't listen to the crowd. That this is the earliest surviving piece of the Gospels is pretty mind-blowing too.”
I looked at the work for at least a year, but never was able to make a response. I wrote to David one day about this and asked if he had made any poetic responses to the fragment. In fact he had written two poems, but had not sent them because he was unconvinced about the first poem in particular. He felt like with his second poem he was onto something. For me the poems put the fragment in a new light, and I began to explore possible interpretations that included David’s poetry and images from the fragment.
David’s poem, Against the Odds, describes the fragment, what it looks like, what it might mean, and the mystery of it even existing today. David added comments on the meaning, for him, of this fragment today. "There is a moment in all human interaction where we can turn away from hatred and hard words. We get to choose how to use that short space.."
The book is now part of the HMML collection at Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota