Almanac of Quiet Days: Poems
by Lois Parker Edstrom
Photography by Emily Gibson
50 poems ~ 50 photographs
Format: 8” x 10” Perfect Bound
Price: $21.00
Publisher: Cyberwit
ISBN: 978-93-90601-98-1
To Order:

Reviewed by Michael Escoubas

In 1962 Willie Nelson wrote and sang a poignant lyric entitled “Darkness on the
Face of the Earth.” As I listened to the song on Sirius XM, channel 59, I couldn’t
help linking Nelson’s words to Almanac of Quiet Days, a superb collaboration
between poet Lois Parker Edstrom and photographer Emily Gibson. Nelson’s song
touched my heart with the felt despair of losing the one he loved. However, Nel-
son sees no path out of his darkness. No redemptive spark lives in his dim world.

Counter the above observations with Gibson’s book dedication to:

        “The Creator of all things bright and beautiful,
       who inspires words of wisdom and wonder.”

For Edstrom and Gibson:

       Each day comes wrapped in choices
       tied with the twine of possibilities.
       Tug a frayed edge, your life
       tumbles out.

Style and Appearance

The book is attractively appointed in an 8” x 10” format with photography and
poems arranged in juxtaposition. The paper is of the highest quality glossy stock
imparting class and distinctiveness to the perfect-bound volume. Having spent my
life working in the commercial printing industry, I have seen few books that rival
Almanac of Quiet Days in terms of quality workmanship. This is a book I proudly
display on my coffee table.

When Visual Art and Poetry Work In Relationship

Willa Cather (1873-1947), the great early 20th century journalist-novelist once

       “Art is a matter of enjoyment through the five senses. Unless you can see
       the beauty all around you everywhere, and enjoy it, you can never compre-
       hend art.”

I have no idea if either Edstrom or Gibson are familiar with Cather’s dictum or
not. But I do believe that both understand Cather’s sentiment. Through a series of
50 stunning photographs, Gibson places her audience up close and personal with
life. Edstrom’s poetry completes and complements each picture.

Gibson arrests my attention with a photo of a ladybug atop a cluster of golden
raspberries. I see the crevices on the globules as the insect makes its way among

Edstrom responds with “Autumn Gold”:

       It is said,
       a ladybug
       is a symbol
       of good luck.

       I say,
       golden raspberries
       in October
       prove it.

We note here Edstrom and Gibson’s affinity for the senses: color, movement,
fragrance captured in a moment anointed with honey-gold.

Edstrom and Gibson see beauty all around them. Throughout the collection
simplicity speaks forth in powerful ways. “Art in the Hen House,” features a
perfect egg, nestled on a bed of straw:

       No desire to crack this egg.

       No need to be nourished
       beyond the grace found here.

       Follow the curve
       of the perfect oval,

       The pristine whiteness,
       the clean nest of straw.

       Simplicity speaks
       the language of simplicity

Almanac appeals to me on many levels. Growing up on Illinois farms and working
the land is my background. My family raised dogs, cats, and ponies. We bottle-fed
lambs too weak to nurse, milked a generous Jersey cow which gave us rich milk
and thick cream. My brothers and I explored woodlands, hunted mushrooms,
fished, built treehouses, and enjoyed the measured seasonal changes. Through it
all we grew to love the beauty, coupled with the hardships, of each season. Ed-
strom and Gibson’s work returns me to those wonderful days.

“Winter Art” responds to a barren landscape of red sky, scraggily trees bereft of
leaves, where “Sodden leaves clump along roadsides / and bunch in porch cor-
ners.” // I leave it to the reader to appreciate, as did I, Edstrom’s response to her
imagined friend who asks, What is it that you find beautiful?

In “Grasshopper as Art,” Gibson captures a grasshopper atop a dandelion seed-
head. The picture is stunning. Edstrom responds in part, “It is poised to leap into
future adventures / making music on the way. // The balance of the poem is a sur-
prise. I never guessed the poet would take me where she did.

“Tree House” is about belonging. No better way for a kid to figure things out than
to “Settle into the sturdy arms / of a black walnut tree.”//

“Gathering Sweetness” features a baby wrapped in a pink quilt, touching the
aging, slightly wrinkled hand of her Grandmother. In this poem, “Love buzzes
around the room.”

       It hovers over and around
       the rocking chair, bounces
       from note to note of a lullaby,
       enters into prayers and between
       clasped fingers—a powerful bridge
       linking generations.

Light Illuminates the Path of Darkness

Earlier I commented on Willie Nelson’s, “Darkness on the Face of the Earth.” In
working my way through Almanac, I was struck by the prevalence of light in these
pictures and poems. I found this refreshing for the times in which we live. Edstrom
and Gibson do not immerse themselves in negativism. They have nothing to do
with fault-finding our leaders or blaming others if times are bad. They are, how-
ever, keenly aware of the human condition. That is, they appreciate that people
seek instinctively for light. Within that seeking both artists exhibit a mature realism.

Edstrom’s poem “Perfectionism” is about a dish of pears, rouged red, gathered in a
bowl placed on a tablecloth bearing the colors of autumn:

       They aren’t perfect.
       They don’t need to be.

       See how the light
       embellishes the shape

       of the pear, overriding
       any blemish.

       Can’t you taste the sweet
       flesh, goodness dripping

       down your chin? I say,
       perfection is boring

       and agree with Voltaire:
       perfect is the enemy of good.

When art and poetry come together, the fruit of wisdom is born from the womb
of experience. Such is the enduring gift of Almanac of Quiet Days.


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