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cover parks eyes with winge
cover, Eyes With Winged Thoughts © Gordon Parks / Courtesy of Atria Books

It’s a privilege to have Gordon Parks’ meditation on being alive.   His wonderment of creation and of a high creator as a guiding force is expressed in words and pictures – to begin.  Not sticking to the Biblical translation of Genesis, Parks conjures up his own meaning of beginnings.  The accompanying image shows a moon like a yellow half pie, suspended in a black sky; it hangs over a vermilion firmament; from below linear sheafs blossom with pale yellow buds, reaching for the brighter moon.

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© Gordon Parks / Courtesy of Atria Books

Like the filmmaker and screenwriter he was, Parks moves from the broad abstraction of creation to a close-up of his personal becoming.  Written in 2005, a year before he died at age 93, Parks looks back on nine decades of hopes, dreams, nightmares and struggles.  Love and faith instilled by his parents gave him a sense of worth above and beyond skin color.  They gave him a sense of “can do”.  In a tribute to his mother, the poem “THE FINAL HOURS” faces a sepia photo of a dying woman with her hand lifting out of the covers.

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© Gordon Parks / Courtesy of Atria Books

Throughout the book, Parks uses hands as a motif – the back of an open hand touches the top edge of a photo next to the story of the martyred Martin Luther King. And opposite the poem “NO APPOLOGIES”, a brown hand is either reaching or sinking in a sea of red water.

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© Gordon Parks / Courtesy of Atria Books
  
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© Gordon Parks / Courtesy of Atria Books
  

Eyes with Winged Thoughts see flying birds appearing in photos next to poems about the passage of time.  He also says:  “Time smiled, touched my shoulder, and told me things I’d never heard before.  Now and then certain wonders of the universe descend carefully from the Maker’s hands and, one by one, fall into a chosen space to blot out emptiness.”

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© Gordon Parks / Courtesy of Atria Books

But there is humor too.  About aging, Parks says, “Recently my memory is slippery, like an eel.  The spectacles that were missing this morning were kind enough to turn up on my head.”  He says,  “Funny, things I forget are often more significant than the things I remember.”

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© Gordon Parks / Courtesy of Atria Books

In keeping with his activist and photojournalist lifestyle, Parks writes and shows photos of soldiers silhouetted in battle, guns in hands, either fleeing or attacking in Iraq.  He sees America as a wounded eagle.  Then using a portrait of an Asian woman in despair, looking at her empty hands, he laments the destructive power of the last great Tsunami.  Yet, one can tell Parks is a musician by the cadence of his lines and the codas of his distress.

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© Gordon Parks / Courtesy of Atria Books
   
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© Gordon Parks / Courtesy of Atria Books
   
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© Gordon Parks / Courtesy of Atria Books

Measured throughout the book Parks speaks of love and hope.  He is an optimist.  He says, “Despite the turmoil, anguish and despair disrupting the planet we inherited, there is something good I choose to sing about.  That something lies within us, patiently waiting – beneath us, above us and around us.”

This is a slender book, only 128 pages, but it speaks volumes.



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helen Winston

04-06-2008

A very poetic evocation of Parks emotion filled photos.

Phyllis Golding

12-06-2008

Very well written comprehensive article. I knew Gordon Parks when I was a staff member of Life eb esoabik ub tge 50s and admired him greatly. I hope to read the book.

Carolyn Steinberg

22-06-2008

This is an elegant and poetic book review about a book of the same ilk, and what a great way to present the review! By intermingling the review and the images, the viewer can absorb both with maximum effect. Thank you!
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