Poets come in many forms, and though New York-based photographer Aaron Stern makes his living shooting editorial work for major magazines, his personal works, published in books like Horizon Avenue and We Live Behind the Moon Sometimes, reveal a poet's sensibility, blending haunting images and melancholic poetry by a variety American poets in a seamless way. His images address the themes of love and loss beautifully, and Stern's poetry-heavy summer recommendations show the debt his photographic eye owes to his deep engagement with reading. (A great lesson for all visual artists, in our opinion.)
All images by Aaron Stern
WILD IS THE WIND
Wild Is The Wind is Carl Phillip’s latest book of poems released earlier this year. Assuming he took the name from the David Bowie song. One of my favorites from Bowie. Carl is a friend and I’m a big fan of his work. But I’m not the only one that is into his work, he’s one of America’s best living poets at the moment. Recently when I bought an older book of his at NY’s great Three Lives bookstore they told me they cant keep his books on the shelves. Nice to hear that people are buying that much poetry.
Carl and I are collaborating on a new book called Pacific Peace Piece. It’ll be our second project together.
CITY OF THIEVES
This guy doesn’t me to shill for him. Benioff wrote one of the best post 9/11 books which Spike Lee made into a superb movie with Ed Norton - The 25th Hour. I read that and When the Nines Roll Over before City of Thieves. Guess I saved the best for last because I really loved it. I’m a sucker for WWII underdog stories and this one has it all. Surprised it hasn’t been made into a movie. Great summer read. If that wasn’t enough to convince you to pick up one of his books maybe being the co-creator of HBO’s Game of Thrones will.
Even on his deathbed Heaney didn’t disappoint. In a text to his wife he wrote to her, “don’t be afraid.” Oh and he wrote it in Latin - Noli Timere. Need I say more? One of my favorite poets and Human Chain was my favorite of his books. I’ve read it multiple times and consistently go back to it. No doubt I’ll read it again over the summer.
TOGETHER AND BY OURSELVES
Bring on the tears. And laughs. This is Alex’s second book and it is very good. Alex is an 80s Baby like myself and I think his sensibility for being such really shows in his work. A fellow New Yorker too. I keep coming back to this book. Especially the poem, You Were Blond Once.
You were blond once. Handsome.
And the streets kept their names, and that restaurant closed
and I found the right film when I needed nothing.
Christopher J. Johnson
This is Christopher’s first book and it does what anyone would want their first to do. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico but he is from Madison, Wisconsin. Coincidentally I went to UW Madison and we lived pretty close to one another without knowing.
I felt a bit of influence from Walt Whitman in Christopher’s book. First poet I read growing up so naturally I was drawn to &Luckier.
From And what of it
Let me lease a single bed on some lost continent
&let me sleep, smoke& practice drawing.
let me tinker w/ botany or watch building
—invent calendars which include
lines you sleep thru so the weeks seem to move
—let there be days I don’t think of you.
PLAY IT AS IT LAYS
This book doesn’t need a review or introduction from me. It’s a classic but I never read it until recently. While it is fifty years old, Play It As It Lays really resonated with me. I spend a good amount of time in LA. I finished this book on a recent trip out there and it still felt current.