Echo

  

Blair Mathews - poetry
Bruce Murray - paintings
$12

If the Whole Body Dies by Robert Skloot

This title from Parallel Press is the product of an artistic collaboration between two former UW–Madison professors and administrators. In Echo, the poetry by Blair Mathews and the paintings by Bruce Murray perform a call-and-response across the pages, each piece enhancing and illuminating the other. The result is an elegant collection of language and image that exposes the human condition like snow melting after deep winter.

The poetry and illustrations in Echo are divided into two sections, Unspoken and Floating World. The collection features full-page color paintings which Bruce Murray based on Japanese artist Hiroshige’s work. This style of painting is based on  Japanese woodblock prints, with vivid colors, seasonal themes, and beautifully rendered landscapes. Blair Mathews’ poetry is composed in a style of extended haiku.

Blair Mathews started writing poetry in Green Bay’s Perkins Park (named for his grandfather) in the early 60s when “a well of feelings broke.” His first book, Moments, was published by Wisconsin House Publishing Company in 1973. Other poems have appeared in Wisconsin People and Ideas, published by the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters. He has participated in art/poetry collaborations with artists in Madison, Wisconsin, and Sedona, Arizona.

For Bruce Murray, painting offers the opportunity to revisit places of natural beauty and to represent the work of nineteenth-century Japanese woodblock print artists. Artistic collaboration with Blair Mathews opened doors through which he came to understand his work in fresh and unexpected ways. Murray believes the juxtaposition of images and verse reinforces the quest for a deeper understanding of both.

Blair Mathews and Bruce Murray began collaborating in the 70s, when they were administrators at the University of Wisconsin–Madison; Mathews as an Associate Dean of Student Academic Affairs in the College of Letters & Science, and Murray as departmental chair and Assistant Dean of Academic Students Affairs in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. After a chance meeting at the farmers’ market they agreed to explore the melding of their art and poetry.

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