TO ABSTRACT: by Sarah Miller


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A visual art and poetry collaboration that delves into Eastern philosophy, the power of nature and the human capacity for connection.

Sarah Miller, a material artist who works in chalk and water on slate, and Doehring, a poet, have put together a visually arresting book that marries the written word with the inherent abstraction of art. Miller’s looping, calligraphic images evoke the Eastern idea of infinite death and rebirth, as opposed to the Western concept of linear time. Her use of colored classroom chalk also suggests that the education system in the Western world may not adequately address other, perhaps more enlightened, modes of thought. In “The Void,” the authors explain a key concept in their work: “If the viewer considers the void as a galaxy, a great empty space which becomes animated through the marks created by the artist—an entirely new perspective opens. There is no foreground or background rather all the elements in the composition are equal players.” In his accompanying poems, Doehring also explores the ways in which nature and the human mind participate in creating new perspectives. In his introduction, he writes that his poems employ “vivid, yet concise words often without prepositions, conjunctions or pronouns,” which for him help to penetrate the veil of form in order to reach abstraction, thus “balancing the world of form and formlessness.” The most successful poems here may surprise readers with their strange images and associations: “lips like the sun” or the “smoking of a thousand forests.” Often, however, Doehring relies on hackneyed tropes: Lines such as “girl walking darkness / memories raw silent / reflecting empty scars / waves forever howling / skies echo heal” don’t show readers anything new. The first few pages of art and poems may spark readers’ interest in Miller’s and Doehring’s quest for the infinite, but over time, these pairings may start to wear thin.

At its best, a heartfelt, lovely collection of creative expressions that touches upon the universe’s greatest mysteries. 

Pub Date: Nov. 2nd, 2013
ISBN: 978-0615911670
Page count: 104pp
Publisher: East/West Publishing
Program: Kirkus Indie
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