Woven among poetry

A photo exhibit of majestic trees from the poetry book 'Labyrinth.'

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Synchronicity has had a lot to do with the publication of Annette Sandrock’s book of poetry, “Labyrinth.” Like the maze from Greek mythology that Sandrock chose as a title, the evolution of the book has many twists and turns.

A series of fortuitous coincidences led to the book being published in Portugal. While the images accompanying the poems were not chosen intentionally, they came into the picture through a happy accident. These photos are the focus of the solo exhibit at the M.V. Film Center’s Feldman Family Art Space, which hosts a show by a local artist every month.

The exhibit features 11 black-and-white photographs of cropped-off treetops, taken on the island of Crete and manipulated by Sandrock to bring out an anthropomorphic look. She isolated sections of the trimmed treetops and set the stark images against a white background. The photos have the look of sculptural pieces, with the gnarled surface of the wood providing lots of texture, and stubby branches and tendrils reaching out like limbs.

Sandrock, a longtime member of the Cleaveland House Poets group on the Vineyard, was inspired to take the series of photos while she was visiting the Greek isle. At that time, she had no idea that she would be using them to accompany her poetry. However, the fact that the Minotaur of the Greek labyrinth legend came from Crete makes the images powerfully relevant for the book.

“The book uses the word labyrinth as a metaphor for life,” says Sandrock. “Unlike a maze, with a labyrinth you have a definite entrance and exit. In life you enter through birth and through love. The first section is about love. The second is about life in general — being in the thick of it. And the last part is about travel.”

It was while traveling in Portugal that the poet almost literally stumbled upon a publisher for her book.

“I had been wanting to publish a book for a long time,” recalls Sandrock. “I went to Sedona [in Arizona] to try to get a manuscript together. Then I went to Portugal and took it with me. On this little back street I saw a tiny door with a sign on it that read, ‘We don’t make copies!’ I rang the bell and asked, ‘If you don’t make copies, what do you do?’ The woman answered, ‘We publish books.’ I showed her my manuscript, and it turned out that they were expanding and were looking to publish a book in English. They turned out to be really wonderful.”

Originally Sandrock had been thinking of using photographs she had taken around the Vineyard for the book, but as she and the publisher were scrolling through her photos, the publisher asked about the Cretan images, and they both decided that they would be a perfect fit.

“Labyrinth” was published in 2019, and is now registered with the National Library of Portugal. The book is carried in several bookstores in Portugal as well as on Martha’s Vineyard, and the publisher is currently working on translating it into Portuguese.

Meanwhile, the photos have taken on a life of their own. Sandrock has exhibited them at various local libraries, and in a digital show for Pathways Arts.

Sandrock says that she has had a lifelong relationship with trees. “I consider them sentient,” she says. “I’ve always felt a presence from them.” She was inspired by the pruned-down treetops in Crete because, as she explains, “I was looking at one of them, and it struck me that it looked like a character. I played around with the images and the silhouettes that had human characteristics.”

Sandrock prefers not to title her photos. “People have their own imaginations,” she says. “They’ll see what they want to see.”

Photographs by Annette Sandrock from her book of poetry “Labyrinth” will be on display at the Feldman Family Art Space at the M.V. Film Center through Oct. 11. 

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Dancing Tree
By Annette Sandrock

Dancing Tree,
in my mortal eye’s periphery,
do you think you fool me?
I catch every slightest move and subtle dance,
your sinewy limbs clad in rough muslin gray
in constant micro-motion.
You don’t deceive me
as I move under you fawn-quickly,
you above so snail-slow.
I witness you secretly gulping water from the earth,
ravenously filling your insatiable veins
between those drumbeat rain dances,
those two-step snow storms.

You reach your strong hands hungrily into the earth,
spread your gnarly fingers wide in a jazz pose
and roughly scratch the stones and earth aside
to anchor yourself for the next unchoreographed round.
You don’t fool me.
Your nocturnal dance reveals itself
in the knots of your branching,
those wiry morning shoots,
not to mention your peekaboo buds.

Even as a climbing child
I knew you,
was privy to the juices pulsing through you
as I roughly clamored up your trunk,
tore off your tender leaves,
and shaped them into wet whistles.

I see you now, seducer of humans,
lifting yourself and your green decor constantly to the sky
feeding your lifeblood, seeking the light
while exposing yourself to voyeurs
below in your darkened woods.
You struggle to hide from the fickle sun god
whose rays burnish and feed you at once,
but when the cuddling breeze turns amorous,
and the wind caresses you,
you arouse, mate,
and scatter your seed willy-nilly.
You jealously shelter your yet-yellow young,
fearlessly spew them forth
when ruthlessly sawed down.
Uprooted, you bury them beneath you,
nourish them with your rich rot remains.

I know your strengths, your tree-fears,
and your noble generosity.
Your spreading canopy shades shelter-seekers;
you offer your long thick limbs for rest,
short ones for the swings of play.
You appear brave standing in the face of storms,
but you shake and bend to the sounds of thunder,
crack sharply in the lightning’s stream,
and bend submissively to the wind’s forceful breath.
I recognize your silent witnessing of truth.

Perceiving your soul,
my fleeing, fleeting one is smitten,
though you may outlive me by centuries.
I request that last place on your autumnal dance card,to share my final dreamy waltz with you,
and afterwards, to be kept near,
wrapped in your warm arms with earthworms,
safely shaded from all the seeking world
while you pirouette above me.

 

2 COMMENTS

  1. Annette, so nice to read about the synchronicity of finding your publisher in Portugal.
    Of course you knew how to ask, “What DO you do?” and then knew enough to understand the answer.

    Good to read! (And thanks so much for reuniting me with my bandeau rouge from Paris! Grateful

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