River Roll: American River Names
Concertina album binding holds collection of vintage postcards featuring American river scenes, situated to create a continuous horizon line throughout the 8 foot span. Book cloth pages with mylar sleeves also feature transparencies of text listings and hydrography diagrams. A lower sewn pocket confines paper strips with hand calligraphy of passages on rivers from the I Ching. 32 pages, 6″x 4″ closed. The colophon reads:
Dedicated to our Native American forbears, their wisdom of the waters, and the Pecatonica, my hometown river in Darlington, Wisconsin, touted on a prized postcard as “the most crooked river in the world”.
This homage is a roll call of favorite river names, most of which retain the fluid, syllabic chant of the languages of native peoples. While selecting names from old geography texts or state maps, it occurred to me that rivers names are the most enduring and widespread cultural legacy of native peoples. Invaders achieving conquest via inland waterways eventually destroyed almost everything else. But the poetic names remain. They appear here on transparent overlays, a diagonal glide ordered geographically from the Columbia in the Pacific northwest to the Kissimmee in Florida — Bonnie O’Connell
Photos by Larry Gawell