I Heard God Talking to Me
William Edmondson and His Stone Carvings
By Elizabeth Spires
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), Hardcover, 9780374335281, 64pp.)
Publication Date: January 20, 2009
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One night in the early 1930s, William Edmondson, the son of former slaves and a janitor in Nashville, Tennessee, heard God speaking to him. And so he began to carve – tombstones, birdbaths, and stylized human figures, whose spirits seemed to emerge fully formed from the stone. Soon Edmondson’s talents caught the eye of prominent members of the art world, and in 1937 he became the first black artist to have a solo exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.Here, in twenty-three free-verse poems, award-winning poet Elizabeth Spires gives voice to Edmondson and his creations, which tell their individual stories with wit and passion. With stunning photographs, including ten archival masterpieces by Louise Dahl-Wolfe and Edward Weston, this is a compelling portrait of a truly original American artist.
ELIZABETH SPIRES, the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award, is the author of six poetry collections for adults, and the children’s book The Mouse of Amherst. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland.
“The larger questions—what is it that art, in various media, can show us—appeal to a broad audience, on beyond our fascination with this one artist.” —Chicago Tribune
“Simple and powerful.” —The New York Observer“A beautiful book.”—The Charlotte Observer
“Spires has presented readers with a delightful glimpse into the life and work of a relative unknown. This is a special book.” —STARRED, School Library Journal
“Spires . . . has crafted a memorable tribute to an important artist through words dexterously pulled from stone.” —BookPage
“A veritable treasure.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Will encourage both youth and adult readers to explore the rich interplay between poetry and art.” —Booklist
“Though the concept is sophisticated as well as imaginative, Spires’ eloquent verses are certainly accessible to young readers, and they’re effective blends of the concrete and the imaginative; while playfulness predominates in the poetry as art, there’s a sense of wonder and a vivid respect for the artist that underpins the humor.” —Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“A Beautiful book pairing Spires’ poems with photos of the self-taught sculptor who became the first black artist to have a solo show at the Museum of Modern Art.” —St. Petersburg Times