Two Lenses — Four Europes
poems and images by Jim & Carol McCord
During their many travels to countries in Europe, Jim and Carol McCord have seen and responded to the world around them through two different lenses—Jim through the lens of emotive wordsmithing and Carol through the lens of striking visual imagery. In this beautiful collection of poems and photographs from their travels in England, France, Greece, and Spain, the two lenses come together in one seamless offering of artistic expression.
PHOTOGRAPHY / Subjects & Themes / Regional
ISBN: 978-1-947067-63-9 (print; softcover; perfect bound)
ISBN: 978-1-947067-71-4 (Collector's Edition; print; hardcover with dust jacket)
Released January 2019; Copyright 2019
Jim McCord is an emeritus professor of English literature whose poems have appeared in a variety of journals and three books.
Carol McCord is a lifelong hiker and former yoga instructor. Her photographs have been selected for exhibitions and publications in the United States and abroad.
Two Lenses – Four Europes explores the rich intersections of nature, art, religion, and culture through a keen observer/visitor’s eye. I would be hard put to say whether the poems annotate the photographs or the photographs illustrate the poems, not only because they work so well together, but also because each poem and each photograph feels complete in itself. While many of the poems purvey vivid images, the photographs often sing with a wordless poetry of their own. In the end, though, the book is something more than the sum of its parts. I was left wishing to inhabit the landscapes shown, yet the dwellers depicted seem to forfeit some critical element of awareness and self-consciousness to their immersion. So perhaps the artist is best situated after all to appreciate and celebrate what is most beautiful, sacred, and real in the world. Some of the poems are funny (imagine Don Quixote tilting at wind turbines), others are gently, cleverly ironic, but most are seriously contemplative in the face of human striving and mortality. We see images in space evoking untold stories; memory and thought dissolving into subtle feeling. As I made my way through, I felt prompted to ask some unanswerable questions: What is Being? What is transcendence? Might they be the same?
“A truly beautiful book and an extraordinary collaboration between poet and photographer. (To this one must add the designer / publisher.) The layout and the unfolding of poems and images of four different countries in Europe is stunningly effective, especially given the welcome, portable size of the volume. It is a pleasure to turn each page. The variations are like a visual danc —but one that provides a depth of insight and a range of reflections that illuminate the history, culture, and present day of each country. It is a testament to friendship as well as love of place, and the words, photos, and visual music reward me with a never-failing richness as I re-read and re-view. A highly recommended delight.”
“This is a lovely collection of poems and photos of and about landscapes, scenes, and objects, both natural and artistic, with twenty-five pairs of keyed verbal and visual pieces for each place—England, France, Greece, and Spain. Evidently collected over many years of travel (and reflection), they span and show us fields, flowers, trees, rivers, lakes, hills and mountains, churches, (and ruined church buildings), pagan temples and fragments of mythology, country homes, and on and on. Mostly taken in gentle morning or evening light, Carol's photos very rarely depict people, but Jim's poems are constantly in dialogue with the lives and character of the people who once inhabited or still do inhabit the various locales in the pictures. Jim's "dialogues" with these individuals are quiet, understated, and deeply sensitive. The language is relaxed and colloquial—no straining after dramatic effect—rather, something like warm, thoughtful conversations with friends, living or dead. There are allusions to various poets, from Milton to Wordsworth, from Lorca to Yannos Ritsos, but these are less "artistic" references than invocations of a brotherhood (and sisterhood) of far-flung kin. Beautifully produced and printed, Two Lenses—Four Europes offers exquisite, but utterly unaffected glimpses of an incredibly dense and rich environment.”
“This splendid book is the culmination of an ongoing collaborative project of Jim and Carol McCord. It has been their practice of many years to travel abroad to places off track from the madding crowd, to leave the familiar home place for the restorative exhilaration that new and unknown venues can inspire. Making discoveries is at the heart of their project. Jim’s poems and Carol’s photographs, presented on facing and alternating pages, beguile us with switching codes of representation. Is it the mind’s eye or the eye’s mind that we are experiencing as we read/look and look/read? At first, of course, it is just the pleasures of pictures and texts. And what pleasures they are, sightseeing with the McCords through otherwise unseen, unhurried moments in England, France, Greece and Spain. Reveries abound as Jim holds his breath and Carol steadies her camera at the enduring remains of Europe’s fragile, fraught histories framed by Nature’s abundance.
“Poems and photographs release their meanings at different paces, words slowly unraveling, photos all at once. The eye beholds, the mind muses, both absorbed in flickering thoughts, each lens focused in apprehension of the world. The distinct sensibilities of these two artists merge in this book with a new and affecting result, appreciated separately, but even more so together. In many instances, the words and images speak to each other, sometimes directly, in other pairings obliquely, leaving us to build a bridge across, and thereby join the McCords in this wonderful book.”
“Jim and Carol McCord’s new book of poems and photographic images is both powerful and meaningful. The McCords offer the gifts of sight and sound juxtaposed and comingled, enabling us to discover—in the hardness of stone (dolmens, cliff edges, church walls, gravestones) and the softness of clouds (Grasmere), flowering plants (the early blooming azalea, monkshood, red cyclamen, iris), marshes (‘Moon Flowers at Brauron‘) and grassy hills (‘Yorkshire Dales’—how to comprehend human-made and natural landscapes in the North of England, the South of France, Greece and Spain.
“In shadow and light, in brittle dryness and bone chilling dampness—in the intense clarity of a ‘cold . . . so cold you can’t / feel the coldness of it – / when your fingers are like /limbs of a tree sheathed in ice’—and in the warm air of a ‘Sunrise rich as rose garnet,’ Carol McCord’s exact and evocative photographs together with the passion and balance of the written word in Jim McCord’s poems, show us in their rhythms, textures, tones and colors a way to observe and contemplate the meanings of space and place, both domestic and wild. In poem after poem, one photo-portrait after another, with our senses now fully engaged, we find that our eyes can see without distortion, our ears can hear without confusion, our minds can move without restriction.
“An intense exploration of the relationship of the self and the world beyond it, Two Lenses—Four Europes, presents to its readers a potent and persuasive example of what biologist René Dubos once called an ‘increased awareness of the interdependence between human beings and their total environment’ A reading and viewing experience can offer nothing better.”
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