- Love Poems From Vermont: Reflections on an Inner and Outer State, by Jon Meyer, Brilliant Light Publishing, 130 pages. $35.
Jon Meyer released Love Poems From Vermont: Reflections on an Inner and Outer State late last year, well before Valentine's Day. But gifting his book could serve as a romantic gesture toward, well, anyone you care about. Especially if that person happens to adore the state of Vermont. Meyer himself is even more expansive, dedicating the book "For all those who love and for all those who will love."
Love Poems is a collection of just that — verses that Meyer selected from more than 400 he penned between 2003 and 2019. Each consists of just five lines, a form he calls "short, post attention span poetry." And each illustrates, as the subtitle suggests, inner and outer states of Vermont's environment.
Meyer's volume differs from other Vermont-phile collections in its pairing of verse and images. He composed a poem first, then searched for a suitable setting to photograph that would reflect or complement the words. Meyer writes that he took "thousands" of photographs over 16 years to find his matching pairs. He is evidently as patient as he is prolific.
Love Poems is distinguished in another way: by an extremely broad use of the pronoun you — or rather, You. Meyer always capitalizes the word and places it first in a line. Right up front, he explains that "You" can be "everyone, anyone, everything (including Vermont)." "You" might be someone whom you, the reader, "greatly love[s] or those who need help," or a personal beloved or ... "beyond beyond all of these."
In other words, You can interpret these poems just about any way You want to.
Meyer does include his own annotation for each poem and photo pairing, however. For example, with his first poem, "You Sent Your White Horse," he notes that the white horse "has symbolized the balance of wisdom and power, as well as purity, and more..." After searching high and low for the aptly colored animal, Meyer exults that he finally found one right down the road from his house. Here's the poem:
You sent your white horse
To carry me away my beloved...
Where I go doesn't matter anymore
As long as
You are the destination
Meyer is a romantic, and some of his poems are a bit treacly. Others are more philosophical, almost Zen-like, and convey a longing for or appreciation of nature, such as "The Quiet in Here":
How can we get
To the quiet in here?
The quiet is there
We just have to ignore
The noise around it
That poem appears with a photograph of a beckoning mountain trail near Ludlow.
Meyer's quest for images led him on many adventures around Vermont, and his stories about some of these are mini treasures for the reader, as well. Out of context, the poem "Bloodhound" seems kind of sexy:
You made me the bloodhound,
Gave me a sniff of
Your garment, then
Sent me on a wild search
The photo depicts said dog, nose to the grass, in front of a summery riot of nasturtiums. Meyer tells us in the annotation that Northeast Kingdom resident Lisa Robinson offers the services of her bloodhound, Redford, to help people find lost pets. He calls her "one of Vermont's great unsung heroes."
Viewed apart from the accompanying poetry or prose, Meyer's photographs comprise a nature-focused tour of the state — from well-tended gardens to remote mountain trails to glittering lakes to the green forests that give Vermont its name. There are gorgeous images of the sky at all times of day and night. And Meyer turned his lens on Vermont in every season.
All but one of the photos are unpeopled, though human presence is implied in pictures of farmsteads, church steeples and sailboats. Meyer acknowledges in his introduction that Vermont is not unspoiled; the state has its share of "strip malls and suburban sprawl." But his distancing from all the noise is intentional.
"I have focused on [Vermont's] broader ability to inspire inner thoughts, inner sounds, art, and poetry," Meyer writes. "This poetry adventure has deepened my love for Vermont and its ability to make one marvel externally while reflecting inwardly."