Neal Sehgal is an artist in the broadest sense of the word. He’s a writer, a visual artist, a musician, a photographer and a movie maker. And he’s a poet. He works across an array of media and platforms—canvas, page, screen, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, SoundCloud, Vimeo, Spotify and more. Perhaps he should rightfully be called a creator, for that’s what he does—he creates things, rather beautiful and haunting things.
In Kiss the Earth, Sehgal combines poetry and photographs. These are not so much poems illustrated by photographs or photographs further understood by poems, but individual and related works in and of themselves. The poems serve as kinds of photographs and the photographs stand as poems, mixing so as to become indistinguishable from one another.
This poetry/photography is about change and landscape, self-reflection and the natural world, relationships and searching for the divine. It’s an arresting collection of what might be considered cultural, natural, and spiritual artifacts, each inviting engagement and assimilation. What we are finally led to is a consideration of truth and beauty.
The poems and photographs are deliberately left untitled; the poems are all written in lower-case letters.
but beneath the rubble of nostalgia,
not all will remain in decay.
a time untouched by gravity
will resurrect a fertile chapter
of a new narrative
written in virgin hymns
yet to be bellowed,
yet to be hummed.
Sehgal received a B.A. in psychology and an M.A. in education. He’s an initiated member of Phi Beta Kappa. He’s previously published Rise: Images and Words (2016).
Kiss the Earth is a collection of poetry and photographs, to be sure, but it is something more. It challenges us to break the borders of what we consider art and creativity, and it allows us to discover that those borders are far more porous than we realized. And then it takes us on a journey.
How to Read a Poem uses images like the mouse, the hive, the switch (from the Billy Collins poem)—to guide readers into new ways of understanding poems. Anthology included.
“I require all our incoming poetry students—in the MFA I direct—to buy and read this book.”
—Jeanetta Calhoun Mish