Framing the Garden in Photo and Poetry
Gardeners and photographers have in common a reverence for “frame.” Gardeners prune to get the right view through a bush to another plant, a stone, a gate. The photographer crops a photo to change the focus. When a poet collaborates to hone to the essence of a garden, a beautiful book of poetry and photos of a large garden results: Though a Garden Gate.
The photographer and landscape designer of his own garden is Vincent Covello who is well-known as a risk and crisis consultant. The poet is Charlotte Mandel who has received widespread recognition as a poet from New Jersey who recently retired from teaching poetry writing at Barnard College Center for Research on Women.
Mandel issues “A guided invitation to a garden path” in one of her poems. The book is a leisurely stroll through a carefully designed ten-acre garden landscape that catches the frames of a Chinese Garden and gate, dark wood torii gates, standing stones at sunrise, falling water, a Japanese fountain and the reflections of oak leaves in a pond. The seasons kaleidoscope through poetry and photos of the flowering cherry in its “breeze-sent dance,” the vernal equinox’s “report on summer’s evolving designs,” how October acts like a season’s traffic signal, and the first footsteps in snow through an aging gate garden waits through winter with the animals in their burrows. The book captures both the joy and wabi sabi of gardening.
In the middle of this collaboration, the poet and photographer stop at “Enclave –”
Later afternoon, a cloisonné tray
will be brought with two
crystal stemmed glasses
of dark red dubonnet
and on other days
a golden sherry
This is where the gardener rests after “assiduous caretaking – lift dig prune weed” and the poet gets to raise her glass to the twilight and assemble the spirit that comes close to the end of the collection:
Let the garden teach patience
in changes of earth, water, rock, wind,
the play of wills by a gardener
who has gazed at starved ground,
a straggle of brush and skeletal trees,
and said, “Let there be this.”
We gardeners know the hard work of arranging, rearranging, cutting, digging – creating garden frames that lift us out of the ordinary into transformation into quiet beauty. This book may well serve as an inspiration to other poet-gardeners like me to revere our work from the sky blue morning glory in August heat to the quiet winter garden in repose. It did that for me.
Through a Garden Gate, a collaboration of photographs by Vincent Covello and poet Charlotte Mandel, (WordTech Communications, 2015). 57 pages of poetry and color photographs. Available at Amazon for $20.
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Tricia Knoll is an Oregon poet with two books in print – Ocean’s Laughter (Aldrich Press 2016) and Urban Wild (Finishing Line Press 2014). Website: triciaknoll.com