I'm excited to share the cover of my forthcoming poetry book, I Say the Sky, which will officially be out in January!
When the press first started to work on the cover, they came up with some beautiful designs, but their designs were all abstract. It was important to me that the cover be figurative; the book is very much about grounding in the actual, physical world. I thought it might be nice to have an image of a flower, which reaches to the sky and to the light.
The images of flowers the press suggested didn't feel quite right to me. And then one day, working on an unrelated presentation, I came upon a botanical drawing of a grape hyacinth. I loved the close, reverent attention to the plant; I loved that you could see the whole flower—not only the stem and the leaves and the flower reaching up, but also the bulb and the roots stretching down into the earth. For plants, like humans, can only reach up if we also root down.
I did a little research and I found the illustrator, milly acharya (she preferred not to capitalize her name). A professional botanical illustrator, acharya had, I learned, unfortunately passed away a few years ago, but the executor of her art estate and I had a lovely correspondence, and she generously granted the permission.
I also did a bit of research: when talking or writing about her work, acharya placed her work in the history of botanical illustration, which was often used to identify plants for medicinal and healing purposes; that seems fitting.
She said of her own process: “A plant looks much more alive, and vital and vigorous if I paint it while it's still flourishing. The flower is part of the whole, it's just as important to indicate how dense the foliage is because the plant's leaves are as important as the flower.” I love that; what a beautiful vision of flourishing, and how important to acknowledge the importance of every part of life. I'm sad I didn't get to meet acharya but am so glad to be able to use her art.
I gave the image to the designers at my press, imagining they'd place the image next to the title, but instead they came back with a design that threaded the text through the image. Upon reflection, this seemed just right.
The journey of growth and life is not always easy, and the poems, like the cover, reflect this. Living takes some force and energy. But whatever struggles we are facing, inward or outward, whatever social or environmental challenges there are, we, like the plants, can keep digging down towards stability and reaching toward the sky. The cover also suggests this is an interconnected journey. We all are interdependent: plants, minerals, water, people, language, ideas, actions.
Similarly every stage of making a book–from writing the first versions to revising them to putting them into a manuscript to working with editors and with designers to develop a cover–is also an interconnected journey. Each stage means entering into relationship: paying attention and refining a vision in a process of growth, of sharing, and communicating.
Thank you for being part of this journey! I hope that each of us— poets and artists, parents, grandparents, and friends, doctors and citizens—can, whatever we engage in, pay close, reverent attention, share our passion and process, and in doing so inspire others to do the same.
I Say the Sky is now available for pre-order. I’m so excited to publish this book, and I would be delighted if you’d order a copy now; pre-orders really help build momentum!
Here are two short poems from the book that the image on the cover speaks to:
wrapped in your own
paper-thin gold; your roots
shoot earthward; your top
stretches to the sun: bulb
full as birdsong.
On the Shortest Day of the Year
Even if there is only the smallest door
made of stone,
with no handle,
put all your weight into it:
it opens onto the wide expanse
of where you’ve never been—
groundless, blue, and untranslatable,
and there—just at the edge of your vision—
a single purple flower, rooting down.
Do leave me a comment. I love to hear from you!
Next week, I’ll let you know about some free poetry opportunities I’ll be offering soon.