by Tom Pearson ‧ RELEASE DATE: May 15, 2022
The fusion of poetry and art makes this speculative trip through Greek myth a highly memorable experience.
Awards & Accolades
Pearson’s latest collection of poetry explores popular Greek myths and the unexplored spaces between the written word and visual art.
A short excerpt from Ovid’s Metamorphoses is a fitting thematic precipice from which to leap into Pearson’s evocatively described, immersive reimagining of Greek myth—namely Theseus’ pursuit of the Minotaur and the fall of Icarus: “Homesick for homeland, Daedalus despised Crete / And his long exile there, but the sea held him. / ‘Though Minos blocks escape by land or water,’ / Daedalus said, ‘still, the sky is before us, / And that’s the way we’ll go. Minos’ dominion / Does not include the air.’ He turned his thinking / Toward unknown arts, changing the laws of nature.” The many symbols and themes explored within are powerful and work on an almost subliminal level as the reader travels further into the book. The labyrinth, for example, in all of its “winding disorientation,” is an apt metaphor for life—and perception. For some—like the seven young men and seven maidens sacrificed every year—the labyrinth meant a brutal death, but it could also be seen as a sanctuary: “The entrance to the labyrinth was a marvel / Of construction. The middle maze, our playground, / Wrapped around the corners of the palace where / We swept our secrets.” The fall of Icarus, like the Minotaur and the labyrinth, explores several themes: balance, greed, ambition, etc. “Inside a tower of rain’s impressions, seeping / Through stone, drip stalactite instructions and / Plans of escape on waxen wings, feathers / From the birds he loved— / Mineral-rich in remembrance, gathered / In puddles on the floor, only this advice: / A warning not to go too high or low, not to / Touch the sun or sea.”
Pearson’s writing, filled with rich description and striking imagery, suits the subject: “Moving in an arid desert full of bones, / Sinking in a quenchless ocean, felled to bones, / Calcifying in the ruins of our prison palace, / Your maze built of bones.” Additionally, his subtle use of varied sensory descriptors throughout makes the reading experience mesmeric and enveloping. In the following excerpt, Pearson uses sound and smell brilliantly to deepen the power of the sequence: “Putrid peaches rotting on rain-damp ground, / Relishing the squish of their acrid smell while / Ravens caw to each other across the hills of / The Acropolis.” And shortly thereafter: “A deep-throated resonance of the sonic world / Of cicadas and cocks and seagulls, mingling / Their voices through the late morning, go silent / As we pass by.” Pearson’s meticulous choice of words and his innate sense of narrative rhythm—coupled with his sublime use of multimedia art, like Seed of Minos, which features a scorpion in amber; and Gardener's Choice, in which a half-opened milkweed pod is entrapped in some kind of compartment—make for an unarguably unique experience. The strength of this release, however, is also a potential weakness. While the fluid poetry and stunning visual multimedia pieces may resonate powerfully with some readers, the esoteric nature and deep symbolism of the writing may be lost on others.The fusion of poetry and art makes this speculative trip through Greek myth a highly memorable experience.
Pub Date: May 15, 2022
Page Count: 180
Publisher: Independently Published
Review Posted Online: June 23, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022
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A powerful homage to the natural world, from England by way of Canada.
Combining poetic words (somewhat reminiscent of Mary Oliver’s poetry in their passion for the natural world) with truly stunning illustrations, this unusually beautiful book brings to readers the magic and wonder of nature. This is not a book about ecology or habitat; this is a book that encourages readers to revel in, and connect with, the natural world. Focusing on a particular subject, whether it be animal, insect, or plant, each poem (rendered in a variety of forms) delivers a “spell” that can be playful, poignant, or entreating. They are most effective when read aloud (as readers are encouraged to do in the introduction). Gorgeous illustrations accompany the words, both as stand-alone double-page spreads and as spot and full-page illustrations. Each remarkable image exhibits a perfect mastery of design, lively line, and watercolor technique while the sophisticated palette of warms and cools both soothes and surprises. This intense interweaving of words and pictures creates a sense of immersion and interaction—and a sense that the natural world is part of us. A glossary encourages readers to find each named species in the illustrations throughout the book––and to go one step further and bring the book outside, to find the actual subjects in nature. Very much in the spirit of the duo’s magisterial The Lost Words (2018), this companion is significantly smaller than its sprawling companion; at just 6.5 by 4.5 inches when closed, it will easily fit into a backpack or generously sized pocket. “Wonder is needed now more than ever,” Macfarlane writes in the introduction, and this book delivers it.Breathtakingly magical. (Poetry. 6-adult)
Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020
Page Count: 120
Publisher: House of Anansi Press
Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2020
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by John Ransom Phillips ‧ RELEASE DATE: Feb. 21, 2021
An odd but sometimes-moving imagining of the nocturnal thoughts of the presidents of the United States.
A fanciful look at the dreams of U.S. presidents throughout history.
Phillips, a painter and multimedia artist, offers readers a mix of fact and fiction in a book that’s not so much about the inner lives as it is about the sleeping lives of America’s leaders. Working backward from Donald Trump to George Washington (including separate essays for each Grover Cleveland administration), Phillips’ essays imagine each man’s dreams about various subjects, include his childhood, his parents, and sex. Each essay attempts to capture the personality of the president at hand, and some bring in the viewpoints of other people, as in a dialogue between John and Abigail Adams or the musings of Zachary Taylor’s horse, Whitey. The chapter on Gerald Ford has a blank space in lieu of an essay, while Millard Fillmore, who was also not elected to the office of president, gets a full examination. The essays’ focuses aren’t always what one might expect; for example, John F. Kennedy’s essay is about living under the shadow of his father’s ambitions, and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s is about the women in his life. This multimedia coffee-table book is full of the author’s own full-color paintings and illustrations, painted in styles ranging from surreal to abstract, and their effectiveness varies. Mainly, though, this book highlights the challenges of blurring the lines between reality and fantasy. In his quest to enter the presidents’ dreams, Phillips generally gets the history right and does a good job of capturing the essence of many presidential personalities and relationships. However, some of the sexual references can be overly graphic, as can some bodily descriptions, such as one about Cleveland’s testicles. As a result, this book can be unsettling at times. Still, its imaginativeness makes one wonder what the author would have made of the dreams of the current president, who defeated the man who called him “Sleepy Joe.”An odd but sometimes-moving imagining of the nocturnal thoughts of the presidents of the United States.
Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2021
Page Count: 215
Publisher: Black Book
Review Posted Online: June 15, 2021
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