Kelly Belmonte and Tom Darin Liskey Pair Poems and Photographs
More than a year ago, I was pulled into a Facebook conversation between Belmonte and Liskey. They had been talking for some time about a collaborative effort. Belmonte is a poet, blogger, and management consultant specializing in nonprofit organizational development. Liskey is a poet, author, photographer and photojournalist. If you read Belmonte’s poems and study Liskey’s photographs, a collaborative effort is a no-brainer.
At the time, they were talking the basics of collaboration: what to include and exclude, how large a work, what publishing venues should be explored, layout and design, and related questions. Fascinated, I listened and offered only a word or two. The collaborators had this project well in hand.
Other than encouragement, my contribution to Transit was a short foreword. This is part of what I wrote: “Kelly’s poems are like photographs, words depicting the camera’s eye and the photographer’s heart. Tom’s photographs are like poems, capturing life with shaded black and white images. Even aware they were working on a joint project didn’t prepare me for the experience of the final result.”
Reading and seeing the published volume brought two immediate and seemingly contradictory responses. Read these poems, and examine the photographs they’re paired with, and you’re struck by a sense of stillness. Time stops, ceasing its constant drumbeat. Simultaneously, and I’m not quite sure how this happens, the poems and photographs evoke a sense of motion. Something is happening here; something’s at work, living and breathing and almost pulsating, even in the midst of stillness.
Imagine a scene of a young woman, sitting in what seems to be a church pew. The perspective is from behind, so you don’t see her face. She’s holding what appears to be a hymnal, and the impression is that she’s singing from it. The blurred background shows a few people standing but not singing, with lighted windows behind them. (Light is a critical element in many of the photographs and the poems.) The blurred background implies motion; the young woman seated in the pew implies stillness, even as she holds the hymnal. This is Belmonte’s poem:
What I gave up for Lent
I’m not even Catholic.
but this year everyone is
catholic (small c),
letting go ideas, things,
gods (small g).
I could not decide
what to let go for Lent,
so it was decided for me:
Facile faith, believing
that success means blessed,
that a rut is a kind of wisdom,
that close equals intimate.
I would give that up and more
to keep feeling
this song in my chest,
the sun on my face.
Belmonte has been writing poetry since her teen years. Her poems have been published in Atlas Poetica, Relief Journal, AltarWork, Open: Journal of Arts & Literature, and Ruminate, among others, and included in various anthologies. She’s also published two chapbooks, Three Ways of Searching and Spare Buttons.
Liskey has more than 20 years of international journalism and business experience. His fiction, nonfiction, and poetry have been published in literary magazines, both in the United State and abroad. He’s published This Side of the River, a collection of four connected stories, and The Bridesmaid, a novella.
The 22 poems and photographs of Transit collectively move the heart and stir the soul. You hear and sing the songs, smell the candles, see the light come through clear and stained glass, and watch people engage and respond to what nourishes their lives. And ours.
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
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