There are books we receive that are meant to be savored and revisited, books whose content reveals more with each reading. Small Craft Warning, an engaging collection of 20 small poems and 20 miniature paintings, is such a book.
Representing a first-time collaboration between two respected Chestertown artists—poet Meredith Davies Hadaway and painter Marcy Dunn Ramsey, Small Craft Warning grew out of the artists’ love for and close observation of the Chester River, beside which they live and work. The interplay of light, sky, and weather on the river’s ever-changing surface has given them an endless palette of images and emotional correspondences from which to draw inspiration and make meaning.
Safe home, soft bed, warm coffee—
the sameness of every day, precious
and slippery as the river.
The idea for the book germinated over several years (and many lunchtime discussions) during which the two artists came to appreciate how much their work paralleled each other in the way they see the world. While they both traditionally work larger scale, in longer narrative poems and full-size oil paintings, their vision for this project was to celebrate the river they love through small moments, captured in easy-to-understand Haiku-esque poems and small gemlike images. “We wanted the book to be small,” explains Hadaway, “not just because of the miniature theme, but because we wanted it to be accessible at every level.”
Indeed, though one can easily breeze through this deceptively simple book in one sitting, the true rewards come through reading it again and again. What they say about good things coming in small packages holds true here. There are magical points of connection between Ramsey’s lush images and Hadaway’s spare poems that somehow enlarge them both and offer the attentive reader something close to a revelatory experience. Ramsey has spoken of her art making as trying to capture “a small slice of the sublime.” This could be said of Small Craft Warning as well, which invites us to immerse ourselves in the infinitely varied qualities of the Chester River as well as the ebb and flow of life itself.
Between the light beyond us
and the gray we face, bright
edges of tenderness.
Those interested can purchase a copy of Small Craft Warning, published by Chester River Press, while they enjoy Marcy Ramsey’s work at the MassoniArt High Street Gallery in Chestertown during the month of December. A reception for the launch of the book, hosted by Carla Massoni, will take place at the High Street gallery on December 15, from 5-7 pm, when the artists will be available to sign their book. It is also available through amazon.com and at the following stores: Twigs and Teacups, The Bookplate, and The Finishing Touch in Chestertown; Flying Cloud Booksellers in Easton; and Chesapeake Trading Company in St. Michaels.
Deidra Lyngard has spent most of her professional career in the communications and graphic design fields, working primarily for nonprofit art and educational institutions. She lives in Tunis Mills and is a working poet (Deidra Greenleaf Allan) with publications in print and online journals. In 2001 she was selected by former US Poet Laureate Robert Hass as the poet laureate for Montgomery County (PA). Her poetry blog can be found here.