Sunday, August 30, 2015

Visibility:Ten Miles

I was quite taken with this artistic creation that my friend's husband made. It's a book stand piled high with real books that can be easily removed from any one of the 8 shelves. It is sturdy and makes really good use of a small space to display some 50 books. I was sold and ordered one. So creative! 

“Visibility: Ten Miles” is a collaboration of poetry and photography between Sharon Chmielarz, poet, and Ken Smith, photographer. Both of them are well acquainted with the prairie having been raised or are residents of the Dakotas. Most of the photos were taken in North Dakota but there are also scenes from South Dakota, Minnesota, and Nebraska. 

Sharon Chmielarz is the author of nine poetry books and three children’s books. A link to her collection .

The tone for the book was set in the beginning with this quote.
“Trees were so rare in that country, and they had to make such a hard fight to grow, that we used to feel anxious about them and visit them as if they were precious.” 

-Willa Cather, My Antonia

The photos and poems included in this book are not only grasslands but also the unusual only insiders have seen. The images come from two angles, what the eye sees and what the heart responds to. The title suggests the ability on the prairie to see in distances of miles, not of city blocks or minutes. It also suggests something more lies ahead, which is unseen. And that is what this book brings to the reader–what might be unseen or unremembered or not yet imagined to the eye.

A writer friend gifted me with “Visibilty: Ten Miles”. She knew that with my love of poetry and photography I would appreciate a book of this caliber. And indeed I have enjoyed the photographs and poet’s words that echo each other depicting the stark beauty of the American prairie landscape. Both poems and photos complete each other yet focus on different themes.

I was surprised to learn in some of the reviews read that Smith and Chmielarz did not work together on the creation of the individual poems and photographs that “matched.” They did not set out to illustrate each other’s work. Rather, when they met it was to discuss and share their own work from and about the prairie and then chose the pieces that would represent the prairie in its complexity. The lean poems coupled with the stark black and white photographs produce a duet of image and word that is plaintive, pure and true. "The Sun is Square: Farmer's Proverbs" reads next to a waving sunset that winks below a surf of clouds.
In “Watching Two Crows Circle” the poet writes about hunger and the photographer answers with a picture of corn, of sustenance.

The meeting of these two artists have provided the right amount of desire and the right amount of satisfaction in this collection of photography and poetry. It is a book to savor and invites readers to stop, pause and find a part of themselves within the lines of the poems and photographs.

1 comment:

  1. You always "find" the best books. Or they "find" you. I seriously need to make a list of all the books you recommend that I know, beyond doubt, that I would love. This sounds like a perfect one for my prairie heart.