A book of “Painterly” photography illuminated by poetry.
An ode to the ethereal wonder of mist, this spectacular collaboration is comprised of exquisite images from photographer Russell J. Young accompanied by nuanced poems from seven esteemed Oregon poets. With soft, pale breath, the mist casts an undeniable veil of silence wherever it reaches — from the glassy face of a pond ot the concrete underbelly of a bridge to the towering shoulders of a pine forest. These mist-clad Oregon landscapes and urban moments, along with their poetic responses, evoke the whisper of stillness. This book binds together poetry and photography in a relationship in which one is not excluded from the other, but rather both are met and bound and emerge as a new wholeness — a wholeness seeking that which is hidden in the mist and that which is revealed: silence, memory, breath.
In the Mist Photographer: Russell J. Young
In the Mist Introduction
“As the truest society approaches always nearer to solitude, so the most excellent speech finally falls into Silence. Silence is audible to all men, at all times, and in all places. . . . Silence is the universal refuge.”
—Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack
This book is an artists’ collaboration of word and image, quietly multiplying further expression of the profound and fertile silence that Thoreau suggests is, ultimately, the deepest philosophy. Seeking the company of silence, photographer Russell Young spent over 10 years capturing the light and movement of these fleeting landscapes.
Young and the poets of this volume approach the ineffable silences of mist-filled landscapes, places where air and water co-mingle. It is in the mist that the diaphanous veil between silence and sound, death and being, beauty and knowledge, seem most porous, where the possibility of silence and revelation draw near. In Young’s captivating photographs, the water-saturated air itself suggests a quiet introspection; a re-hydration of the self.
Margaret Chula, Cindy Williams Gutiérrez, Diane Holland, Andrea Hollander, Donna Prinzmetal, Penelope Scambly Schott, and Oregon Poet Laureate Paulann Petersen express as much in the silence between their words as with the words themselves, creating delicate containers of the beauty and mystery of a landscape touched by the Pacific Northwest’s rain-softened atmosphere. The lyric poems offer a momentary promise of a lifting of the mist or the nourishing enveloping of a deep fog—in landscape and in the self.
Each of the poems stirs in us the experience of mist and silence, evoking breath, memory, death, story, transition, and mystery–that which Prinzmetal observes is “half-hidden to us,” both visually and emotionally. What Holland describes as “a shimmer of mist . . . a thin indigo line,” Gutiérrez identifies as the “marmoreal breath of the world.” For Chula the mist soothes memory and lays to rest, temporarily, “the fear left behind.”
Working together as a long-standing writing group known as The Portland Pearls, the poets collaborated with Young to respond to and draw inspiration from his evocative photographs. As in the intricate margins of a medieval illuminated manuscript, the words do not “explain” the images, nor do the images “illustrate” the poetry. Instead, in a centuries-old tradition of word and image, the photographs and poetry of this collection amplify each other and invite us as readers and viewers to enter into a near-sacred space.
It is no surprise that Thoreau, one of America’s great nature writers, sought the nexus of landscape, literature, and silence. So too do the photographs and poems of this book offer their spare gestures: our own self speaks to us through these images and poems of insight and heart, leaving room to bring forth our own breath, memory, or experience. Our encounters here within this book can awaken our own receptivity when next we wake to a mist-filled morning. The reader is invited into this space of reflection, a place of mystery captured by Young’s precision, a place where, as Petersen writes:
Silence has opened
its wide bloom.
Meg Roland Professor of English,