Photographs by Jason Stemple
I love working with my son Jason on books. His photos are so strong, so powerful, that their very existence pushes me to write poems to match them. When we were completing COLOR ME A RHYME, and my husband and I were visiting Jason and his then girlfriend (now wife) in Colorado, I spent some time looking through his books of slides. Gorgeous vista after gorgeous vista greeted me. I was especially taken with some from a trip through the deserts in Arizona and Utah. I knew there was a book there–but what was it?
At first I tried an anthology, reading vast amounts of poetry by other folk and trying to connect their words with his images. I must have spent four months on that. There was an Emily Dickinson poem about a horizon and a Karen Swenson and … but the poems were either too sophisticated for a children’s book, or too abstract, or only tangentially about landscape and horizon. If I wanted those gorgeous images in a book, I would have to write the poems myself.
One of our earliest ideas was that we would identify the landscapes so, for the first time in one of our books, we say where the pictures come from–Arizona, Utah, Colorado, North Carolina, Florida, and elsewhere. And Jason proceeded to take more photos, including a trip to Scotland which produced some of the most dynamic pictures in the book. In the end, I realized the photographs were all rural pictures and yet I knew that horizons exist in the city, too. So, as Jason drove east from the mountains of Colorado to his new home in Charleston, South Carolina, he shot some city scapes. I chose that final picture some time in the summer of 2001, well before 9/ll made us wary of tall buildings outlined against the sky.
It was one of FamilyFun‘s Best Board, Pop-up, and Poetry Books in December, 2002.
What reviewers have said:
- “Count on a poet to find more than one way of looking at a picture. Photographer Jason Stemple … provides images redolent with mystery. … The words and images combinations are powerful. …” — Chicago Tribune
- “Immediately one can see the educational appeal, as students can mimic the format using their own writing and art.” — Library Media Connection
- “Taking in all horizons from city streets to mountains, this book contains beautiful photographs and short poems that are thoughtful and inspiring.” — ALMA Book Review Committee, Baltimore, MD
- “A horizon is a place where the earth seems to meet the sky, and this book is a place where striking visions meet poetry that complements them. Each horizon captured by Jason Stemple is unique. His gorgeous color photos capture dunes in Arizona, a reservoir in Massachusetts, Florida swamplands,the coast of Scotland, and more.
Most striking are sunrise and sunset shots with beautiful blues, purples, tangerines, yellows, and pinks. We see the natural world, hints of ancient civilization, and even skyscrapers. The photos give us things to contemplate visually, while Stemple’s mother, revered author Jane Yolen, provides much to ponder with 14 poems written to accompany the photos.” — Journal Inquirer, Manchester, CT
- “Elegant photos of natural horizons created by mountains, skylines, deserts and other manmade and natural areas. The stunning photos are accompanied by poems which are simple and spare with the theme of horizons. A note from the author defines horizons in 2 ways: as the line where earth and sky appear to meet and 2. the limits of a person’s experience or knowledge. The areas where the photos were taken are identified, a nice touch. Not essential, but a worthy poetry shelf addition. “–Highlands Regional Library Cooperative Book Evaluation Program (New Jersey)
- “Fourteen poem–small musings on nature and the horizon in pictures taken by the author’s son in many places in the world. Not for every student, but great for the reader who likes to dig, and for classwork, sharing, starting a poetry project. Yolen’s words and Stemple’s photographs are a fine combination.”–Omaha Public Schools Library Media Center Materials Selection Committee (Nebraska)
- “In A Note From the Author, Yolen speaks of the different meanings of horizons and hopes, for the reader, that “these photographs and poems will stretch your horizons.” The reflections on photographs of horizons from different parts of the world certainly do that.”–Yellow Brick Road
- “The sun is an odd period/ Over the horizon’s long sentence./ I cannot read it. My tongue stumbles:/ Sand, sun, stone./ The desert is a different language/ from my own.” The grammar of the dessert may be difficult to diagram, but Yolen does so beautifully as the language of poetry seems to be her native tongue. In fourteen poems, Yolen explores the thoughts and questions that surface when one faces that mighty (and sometimes delicate) “line where earth and sky appear to meet.” Like the La Garita Mountains she senses were cut by a great artist with perfecting scissors, Yolen’s poems are precisely crafted with each word falling poignantly into place. Her words are grounded in readability, but rise indefinitely with possibility, thus making Yolen’s poems accessible to both beginning and advanced readers. Each of Yolen’s poems is superimposed onto one of Stemple’s full-color panoramic photographs of “earth and sky,” thus making Horizons a captivating vista for enjoying the art of poetry and the natural environment that often inspires it.”—University of Minnesota