I Heard God Talking to Me

I Heard God Talking to Me

William Edmonson and His Stone Carvings

By Elizabeth Spires

Farrar Straus Giroux, Hardcover, 9780374335281, 56pp.

Publication Date: January 20, 2009


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.

About the Author
Elizabeth Spires is the author of five volumes of poetry. She lives with her husband and daughter in Baltimore, Maryland, where she teaches at Goucher College.

Praise For I Heard God Talking to Me

“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