I discerned, as I thought, beyond the picture,
Through the picture, a something white, uncertain,
Something more of the depths….
— Robert Frost, “For Once, Then Something”
Although we grew up “discussing our ideas about art, literature, philosophy, and life with each other,” as Alexandra (my sister and Kyoudai Press coeditor) wrote recently, this book is our first collaboration. We’ve been working on producing it for over a year, but the creative part of the collaboration was almost magically simple. The initial idea of pairing photographs and poems was Alexandra’s. Already envisioning the making of a book, I suggested a series.
Alexandra lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, while I’m based in New York, so we sent each other a selection of work via email from which we picked what we liked best. Her photographs were landscapes, both apocalyptic and redemptive, taken on long hikes through the wilderness areas around Santa Fe. These chimed remarkably well with the imagery in my work, even though our sources of inspiration were often very different. For the collection I also wrote one new poem (inspired in part by a film I had seen about Cistercian monks in Algeria, Of Gods and Men) which I gave the slightly off-kilter title “Last Things.”
The photographs and lyrics form an interlocking, refractive series, which, like dissonant music, harmonizes but never completely resolves. Ultimately, as the “Double Arrow” cover image suggests, the book is about signs and our divergent ways of reading them: the ways in which we impose meaning, literally and figuratively, on the world; the ways in which meaning eludes us; and the fleeting yet perhaps real possibility of transcendence.