About the Contributors #6

August 19, 2015 § Leave a comment

Moving from the classics to prize-winning contemporary poets: Morri Creech & Steven Brown.

We first published Morri Creech in The Journal of Contemporary Photography. John Wood then invited him to create a collection of poems for two books to be published with the work of Robert ParkeHarrison, Listening to the Earth and The Book of Life (with Shana Parkeharrison). This collection of 20 poems were subsequently published in Field Knowledge (Waywiser Press, 2006), which won the Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize. In 2014, Creech was one of three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

The Music of Farewell

Descending for the last time to the underworld, The soul of Orpheus addresses the audience.

What sense in listening to the sun-shot wind
croon through the autumn branches, once the song
behind the song is finished? Always you listened
with your heads tilted toward the absolute
as if the gods would sing to you, while the long
phrase of my sorrow held your world together,
your world of stripped fields and the ripening fruit
that weighs each thick bough earthward. Everywhere
you turned, the lavish music of farewell
lent consequence to things, so that desire
itself became fulfillment to your ear.
And though the mist that swept the cold laurel
was neither Apollo stroking Daphne’s hair
nor Ceres weeping at the doors of hell,
though nothing I sang could raise Eurydice
up from the mute depths again, note by note,
it makes no difference now for me to say
the gods are silent, or that the world seems less
for what the hours and seasons claim from us.
More than the sounds that set the stones and trees
in place, and that arrange both shade and light,
a sad music ripens in the heart; caught
between oblivion and paradise,
it enters the world as loss, though in such ways
that the cadences of grief resound as praise.



And so God spun the wind to tick time forward.
It teased gold from the leaf, flung spores and seeds.
The beasts’ fur billowed; long-legged shore birds
swung their hunger above a froth of reeds.

The restless trees leaned, bent, all pitch and wring.
Not yet the serpent’s tryst in the grass; not yet
Abel slain in the field, the Lord’s voice calling.
Still, the earth toiled toward its purposes:
the fret
and seethe of larvae started in the mud.
Rain scoured the stone to spill its mineral dust.
Straight rivers cut their convoluted maze.

And as the mouse twitched in the owl’s long gaze
God wept, and wept for the mosquito’s lust
as it rose up toward the heaven of the blood.


Steven Brown is a poet (finalist for the Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize), photography critic, and utopian scholar who writes for some of the world’s leading photographic publishers, including multiple titles for 21st Editions. He was selected as one of the Best New Poets of 2010 and is currently working on his doctoral dissertation at Harvard University.


Tongue, you’ve loosened up the cry
in my head like a bird’s, or like a bird
you’ve tried the touch that a sky
and breath can melody with Xesh.

Bone, it has been worth it, yes?-the breaks
that as a boy reversed the music
of our motion, and taught our body
sincerity of awe with every step
against the universe of fated falls.

Eyes, what have we seen
that wouldn’t stir or bend the brain
of The Architect’s mother,
whose tooth Wrst struck the egg,
the egg that still feels
like wonder in our hands?

let us raise the egg to our lips,
kiss its shell until we’ve broken through
to kiss her wings, her face. Nothing
is exempt from our embrace.

The Angel Oaks

Our fathers called it Heaven. Their fathers,
the Vault. Whatever the vernacular,
all chambers have one. And so the heart?
And so the heart. Our fathers called it
Temple of the Faithful Bones. Their fathers,
Dwelling Place of the Lord.

We call it, ungracefully, the cardiac arrest.
The atrophy and stress of the valves,
the veins’ limp pump and stoppage, or else,
an attack. Our fathers called it failure.
Their fathers, the Fall. Whatever it is,
it breaks apart the wall and vault together.

A thousand thousand bloodless branches
reach but cannot reach. It never was their fault.
Born without simple skin to keep pace
with loneliness and pain, love’s sudden rush,
their end was written from the start.


#6/16: “Toward Omega” and “The Book of Life”

April 23, 2014 § Leave a comment

21st Editions is now celebrating sixteen years of The Art of the Book! In this series of sixteen emails we are sharing with you a chronology of highlights, events and stories from the beginning of our unique publishing endeavor up until now. We hope you enjoy them.

Life is serendipitous. In 1990 or so I found myself at the Saratoga Jazz Festival to see Dave Brubeck and Pat Metheny. They had artisan vendor tents set up and among them was a photographer who’s work I was immediately attracted to. I decided to purchase my very first photograph. It happened to be by Vincent Serbin, who 13 years later, I ended up crossing paths with again and decided to publish, provided that he was able to make all of the prints for the project. He did. John Wood paired Vincent’s photographs with the brilliance of Daniel Westover (poet, professor and literary critic) who constructed a poem for each image, which is a difficult task indeed.


Equally difficult, as always, was the task given to the binder for the collection. He came up with an inventive vellum and patinaed copper binding, which helped to keep the tipped-in silver prints flat. Each patina was different over an underlying stamp. The book and collection are unique to 21ST Editions, as all of our titles are.   


The Book of Life was a sequel to our first book with Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison, Listening to the Earth, and as successful. At the time, the ParkeHarrisons were receiving great acclaim within the circles of contemporary photography critics and collectors. Their shows in New York were close to selling out prior to the openings and we were grateful to have had the opportunity to create this unique set of books with 22 platinum prints.

Equally impressive was the poet, Morri Creech, in his execution of the collection of poems written for the ParkeHarrison’s images. In fact, these poems were subsequently published in Field Knowledge (Waywiser Press, 2006), which won the Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize. In 2014, Creech was one of three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Together, John Wood’s pairing of Morri Creech and the ParkeHarrisons early on helped to set a high standard for 21st Editions that continues today.

from John Wood’s introduction in “Listening to the Earth” with poems by Morri Creech

February 28, 2013 § 2 Comments

Listening to the Earth can be seen as a lament for what man has done to Gaia, the living planet, the Mother of us all; it can be viewed as a sad farewell, a portrait of planetary wreckage and the twilight of humankind. But ParkeHarrison’s genius is that his work can also be seen as a new genesis—the creation of a world, the molding of nature, and the making of sacrifice. He chronicles the preparation and readying of the earth for man, the making of light and wind and rain, a creator’s sowing, pollinating, tilling the earth, and writing the wind’s words into his great book. By this reading of Listening to the Earth, we see not a ruined, destroyed world being listened to for some sound of life by the last man, but the creator himself kneeling down listening to the roaring land he has fashioned. It is here that ParkeHarrison, the sacred metaphysician, suggests the very remedy for the mistakes and horrors that have plagued us and ravaged the planet. Listening to the Earth is a literal prescription for salvation; it tells us exactly what we need to do, exactly what we must do if we are to survive. That ParkeHarrison can fuse both readings into a single work—and that he does it in photograph after photograph—is his most amazing accomplishment. He warns us but gives us hope simultaneously.


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