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Visual Verse: Art in Nature with Symbiotic Verse    by John Parkinson order for
Visual Verse
by John Parkinson
Order:  USA  Can
Synergy, 2006 (2006)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

On the back cover of this remarkable coffee table book we're told that Visual Verse 'marries the splendor of the natural world with the glory of the written word.' Inside, spectacular landscape photographs are paired with poems - six of the author's plus nineteen by well known poets from William Shakespeare and Robert Service to the 11th century Tibetan Milarepa. These are followed by a lovely collection of nature photography, after which the author gives a fascinating and thoughtful commentary on the making of the images he paired with poetry.

I enjoyed Parkinson's Ah! Autumn, accompanied by photos of russet leaves reflected in all their glory on a lake. I also liked his Unique Pebbles and the picture of a series of very different - in color, size and texture - pebbles on a beach. Service's Heart o' the North is touching and the wilderness picture that goes with it gives me itchy feet. I'd never read Corinne Roosevelt Robinson's The Path That Led to Nowhere before and was very glad of the opportunity to savor it now, along with an enticing image of a Fall forest pathway. The five pictures that accompany the hymn For the Beauty of the Earth at the end of the book are simply inspirational.

I've always liked the notion of verse/image combinations, which I first encountered in old Chinese scroll paintings. The pairings in Visual Verse are well chosen to stimulate and reinforce each other's imagery (as a minor caveat, I would have appreciated a more detailed indication of locations for all the photos). Sergeant Joyce Kilmer's lines in Trees (quoted in the book) perhaps sums up the whole collection best: 'Poems are made by fools like me, / But only God can make a tree.'

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