Prayer For The Morning Headlines

Photographer Adrianna Amari pairs her haunting pictures of Baltimore cemeteries with poems by antiwar activist Daniel Berrigan

Work in Progress

September 02, 2007|By NICK MADIGAN

Adrianna Amari is a pianist, photographer, psychologist, peacenik and poet. Now, the faculty member with the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine has assembled a book of poetry by Daniel Berrigan, the longtime antiwar activist who was convicted of burning draft records in the celebrated "Catonsville Nine" case. She placed the highly evocative poems side-by-side with dozens of haunting photographs of cemeteries that she had taken during the decade before she lost her vision as a result of an aneurysm. The combined works of Berrigan, 86, and Amari, 42, will appear in the book, Prayer for the Morning Headlines, to be published Oct. 9 by Apprentice House.

THE CEMETERIES' ALLURE --I was never a photographer before this. I stumbled on these cemeteries in the middle of the night, and they were beautiful. So I got a camera - it was a $30 camera from Rite-Aid - and went back in daylight to document them. Then I took them to a one-hour photo shop and when I got them back, oooh, I was hooked. I upgraded to a Leica, although it was still a point-and-shoot.

UNPOLISHED PROCESS --The hours that I spent on photography were the hours I spent in a cemetery waiting for the light to change, for a bird to fly over, or going out when there was a storm coming, or shooting until I thought I'd caught the gesture of an arm. I either got it or I didn't get it. I've never cropped a photo. My process is the looking and the seeing; I didn't do anything technically.

ON JOINING FORCES --I'd looked for years for words to go with my pictures of cemeteries. I didn't know if I was going to pair them with my own poetry or with more local poetry. I was finding this theme - life, death, reverence. When I met Berrigan, I just felt thrilled to meet him. I showed him some of my photographs, and I said, "I think these photographs and these poems go together." A couple of days later, he spoke at a church, and we talked and he said, "Of course, you can use any poems I've written that you think would be appropriate."

SORTING, MATCHING --It's an abstract book, in a lot of ways, and very reverent in tone. I read everything he ever wrote or published, and then I looked at every photograph I'd taken for 10 years. I had thousands and thousands of photographs, so I went through them and picked out my favorites, and then I picked some that I would never have shown anybody but they went with a particular poem - when I would read a particular poem, that image would leap out at me. So basically I was finding these pairs.

EDITING --My artistic input into this book is more as an editor, in that I've selected all this work. There are so many choices based on just colors and themes. The first word of the first poem is "Listen." It's laying out for the reader in the beginning to listen to all these voices and these lives that are lost.

THEMES --There is homage through all of it, and respect, and memory. It goes through reflections on death. It gets much more personal with Dan's poetry, and then memories move through Christian compassion and social justice. It goes to a real outcry against the things that take people and what a profound loss that is. It's not just a number.

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