Selenography, by Joshua Marie Wilkinson with polaroids by Tim Rutili

Selenography, by Joshua Marie Wilkinson with polaroids by Tim Rutili


by Joshua Marie Wilkinson
Polaroids by Tim Rutili
(103 pages/Sidebrow Books, San Francisco 2010)
ISBN-13: 978-0-9814975-2-5

If you have ever listened late at night to the sound of a river murmuring over rocks, or been somewhere very remote and heard wind moving through pines, you know the uncanny feeling that you are hearing a language that remains just at the periphery of sense. If that restless murmuring were translated into words and images, it would be Selenography, a new book by Joshua Marie Wilkinson, with Polaroids by Tim Rutili.

Selenography has a tidal energy comparable to those natural forces that only exist when in a state of motion: river, wind, coriolis. Ideas bloom out of spare lines that somehow contain more reverberations of meaning than seem possible in so few words. In a sense, these poems contain embedded information in the same way haiku do, except that Wilkinson’s poems don’t hold still with that self-contained, restrained delicacy, but detonate on the page:

a curse has
all the ingredients
to be legendary if its
children make
on their forearms for drawings
of what the curse
itself might do
nobody visits the sewn-up hole
in the ceiling with flashlights

Tim Rutili, a musician and filmmaker, creates an almost backroads-film-noir harmonic with thumb-printed, fuzzed-out, Polaroid images that hone-in on emotion via their fugue-like haze. Unlike pictures we usually take– to document places or events in a way that is instantly recognizable to others– Rutili’s photos capture the fragments of consciousness that actually make up real experience: red party balloons in someone’s shabby living room, rearing white, plastic horses at what appears to be a truck stop, a dog behind a chain link fence in front of an abandoned church. Rutili is documenting mood, indicating the commonality of spontaneous glimpses of meaning, of how objects and places seem inhabited by a mystical quality that comes and goes at will:

there is no love without
strangers in the street
with their murmuring
like wires
a knock at the
a chalk line to cross says the boy
with the trapdoor in his eye

Together, Wilkinson’s verse and Rutili’s images offer a kind of portal into a landscape most of us only experience in dreams, where language is effortlessly made of light and dirt and focus and movement and feeling, and the only limits are how deep you are willing to go.