In this collection of new poems, William Hollis collaborates with fine-art photographer Andrea Baldeck, his wife and his companion in their creative encounters with time, friendship, the tricks of memory, heroes from the past (Keats and Rilke, Liszt and Brahms, Martin Buber and Buddha), and, most of all, with the power of language. While Hollis and Baldeck work independently, the poems and pictures share an emotional unity that heightens the expression of both mediums, and the darkness of his intelligence is relieved by the wit of her vision.
Hollis's work confronts an angry world that whirs out of focus. The past--"a childhood reading National Geographic, / skinny legs dangling over the arm of a chair"--merges with a future that seems increasingly irrelevant, and a television screen broadcasting the colors of war blurs into ancient tablets that merely hint at truth. Moving from the savannahs of central Florida to ancient Chinese villages along the Silk Road, the poems trace a journey peering through doorways, finding refuge in music, comfort in potato and leek soup, and excitement in a dangerous addiction to books.
Aware of swollen knuckles, arthritic fingers, and the fragility of age, the poet is restored by language. Whether words "stumble / over their own intractability or leap briefly / like an awkward egret," or "blend into a soft stirring of pines," they become his armor in the fight against isolation and destruction. Writing against the riptide that pulls him toward despair, Hollis survives by yielding to the artistic process, a countercurrent that delivers him to the safe touch of a woman's hand and to the sanity of birds chatting in the afternoon.
Baldeck's penetrating black-and-white pictures refract the poet himself and readers discover him embellished with foliage, faintly suggested in a smoky mirror, and distorted on both sides of a fish-eye lens. With Dark Encounter in Mid Air, an intimate and mature partnership, Hollis and Baldeck create images in two art forms that allow readers to experience a lifetime "rich with anticipation."
William Hollis, poet, retired teacher, and philanthropist, serves on the boards of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society. He is a benefactor of the Kimmel Center, Inc., a charitable, not-for-profit organization that maintains the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, which operates the Philadelphia Orchestra and its Academy of Music.
Andrea Baldeck is a fine-art photographer whose work has appeared in exhibits at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Washington and Lee University, and the Gallery Holly Snapp in Venice, Italy. Her first book of photographs, The Heart of Haiti, grew out of her work as a volunteer physician at the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Haiti; other books include Talismanic and Touching the Mekong. She serves on the boards of several institutions, including Vassar College and the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia, the largest community-based school of the arts in the United States.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I have just had the immense pleaure of reading 'Dark Encounters in Mid-air and rediscovering the intense poetry of William Hollis. In this new book of poems he has put together early and late memories, adventures and encounters that entice one to re-read them and discover that they are a perfect metaphore for our time. Hollis uses the english language as a painter uses color to make one look closer and closer at a work that seems gentle...at first and then sharpens our awareness of what we see and feel.