A couple years ago, I shared some images and poems on this site from a collaboration with photographer Tom Darin Liskey. Finally, after all that time and a good amount of back and forth, Amazon delivered this solid hold-in-my-hands print copy of our for-real book:
By way of background and rationale, I’ll share an excerpt from the Contributors’ Notes at the back of the book:
For years, Tom and I have been talking about collaborating on a project such as this one. I’ve admired Tom’s artistry – both as a photographer and as a writer – since the first time my eyes clapped on his portrait photography. Stark, candid, provocative, the images moved me to want to engage with humanity on a deeper level. I had used his photography as prompts for poetry and also to illustrate my writings on a number of occasions.
In January of 2020, not knowing what the year would bring, Tom dropped me a Facebook message, “how about a joint project: your poetry and my black and white photography?” Of course! We decided I would use a selection of his photographs (of his choosing) as prompts for writing, and a couple months later, we were off and running. That’s right… a couple months later, in mid-March 2020, I penned the first of these poems. The last was written just over a year ago, in June 2020. As I sit here now and reflect on what was happening in those months, I can only characterize the timing as providential.
Like many poets, I turned to my craft to try and sort things out. I was grateful for this project to have a way of coping and processing. In some of the poems, the references are very clear, but in other places, it’s more of an undercurrent. Tom’s selection of images for this collaboration was inspired. With few exceptions, the order of the images and poems in this collection is the order in which the photographs were provided and the poems were written.
After the flurry of writing over 20 poems (plus a few others that didn’t make the cut), it became clear that thematically this was about something bigger than a time-bound crisis. The narrative for me felt like something with movement and destination. It was probably that first image of the bus that started me down that path. For me, the entire collection is summed up in these lines from the first poem:
This bus, man, / it does not represent Hope. / It is Hope.
So it is with hope that Tom and I invite you to join us on this journey, because the collaboration continues with you. I hope you enjoy the ride.