Sunday, August 21, 2011

Los Molinos poet brings together "a chorus of voices"


"I like to take pictures at dawn and dusk," Stephani Schaefer writes, "in rain and fog, where what you see and what you feel changes with the changing light." Such images "go looking for words." She eventually picked five. "The five chosen make a portrait of my neighborhood, from Josephine Street to the back road I wander daily with camera and notebook."

The first photograph chosen lends itself to the cover and the title. "Fog and Woodsmoke: Behind the Image" ($14.95 in paperback from Lost Hills Books,, or in Barnes and Noble Nook Book e-book) brings together the work of almost three dozen writers. They offer poetry and prose poems, some previously published, most freshly written for the project. You'll find familiar names here, including Rob Davidson, Sally Allen McNall, Lara Gularte, Patricia Wellingham-Jones, Schaefer herself, and more. (The book would be useful for creative writing workshops and writing prompts are available from the publisher.)

Each of the photographs, including a cross tied to a tree as a roadside memorial, trees full of blackbirds at dusk, a flooded road, and an "end of pavement" sign shrouded in mist, suggests some mystery, some deeper story ripe for imagining, and Schaefer's arrangement of the pieces is superb. The reader is enthralled. The poems are a kind of many-voiced commentary on the five images; they point out small details not seen at first and offer surprises on almost every page.

"Dreams are fragile as a spider's web," writes Nancy Paddock about the cover image, "blundered into by moonlight, / the pattern torn, threads drifting" ("In the Dark of Morning"). "Outside the fog grows dark as any sea," writes Bruce Henricksen. "It parts from time to time to show / the ancient starlight--worlds beyond / worlds, the layers of time / beyond need" ("Solitude").

Alan Catlin's "Still Life with Dead Zone" is a series of haibun ("two prose poems linked by a haiku"). The poet muses on the image of fog and woodsmoke: "Nothing moving but the smoke. The haze. The strange rings of the overhead street lights. // Dead air with black / smoke; impossible / to breathe. // Smoke from the burning thatched huts. ... A naked baby, sitting amid the wreckage, screaming."


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