Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Delta Deep Down (copy)

Jane Rule Burdine, a native of Mississippi and currently living in Taylors, has a muse. This muse is moody though. She can produce breathe-stealing humidity and angry storms one minute and then sing of soft foggy bogs and fluffy kudzu gardens the next. For over 40 years of nurturing this muse, Burdine realizes she can never be tamed; although, the muse has made an effort to sit still for pictures.

The book, Delta Deep Down, is Burdine's portrait of her muse, the Delta. Over 100 photographs covering the early 1970s to present will haunt, delight and mist over readers' eyes. As one opens the cover of the book revealing a rich-brown, freshly plowed earth, they suspect the contents to be forth right. On the last pages appears blue sky with fat white clouds. The interior of the book reveals not just the land in between earth and sky but heaven on earth.

An introduction by Steve Yarbrough stops readers from jumping straight into Burdine's collection. He teases us as he relates stories of a Delta he remembered as a kid growing up in Indianola. From a woman on page 27 that looks like his childhood corrector named Johnnie to a "shack" on page 72 whom the occupant calls home, we follow his story by glimpsing briefly at the pictures on the corresponding pages. Yarbrough brings uniqueness to introducing Burdine's work with this approach.

Following the introduction is a poem titled "Home" by William Alexander Percy. It appeared as the fifth stanza in "In New York" stemming from a bout of homesickness by the poet. The last sentence reads, "And, when the marvelous wide evenings come, Across the molten river one can see, The misty willow-green of Arcady. And then—the summer stars…I will go home."

The first official photograph of the book is perfect to open the collection. The picture was taken from the inside of a building looking out a window without glass or sashes. Through the wide opening we see moist plowed ground, some telephone poles and horse-hair sky. It is a reinforcement of the book itself mirroring the front and back covers talked about in previous paragraphs.

My favorite shots in the collection consist of people. One of them portrays a family either returning from or going to their fishing hole. Older daughter is forging ahead with all the cane poles slung over her shoulder while mother holds granddaughter's pudgy hand and father brings up the rear carrying with what I hope to be a mess of fish. The sky is blue and the gravel is yellow on a perfect Saturday afternoon.

4 comments: