“Poetry is a very dangerous word,” said Tom Waits in 1975, adding later: “I don’t like the stigma that comes with being called a poet - so I call what I’m doing an improvisational adventure or an inebriational travelogue.” Despite having issues in the past with the “very misused” word, however, Waits has embraced the format for many years, be it in song lyrics, through readings, or, most recently, while performing a Lawrence Ferlinghetti poem. Next march, we can officially label Waits a “poet,” though, as the great singer-songwriter has teamed up with journalist Michael O’Brien for a book about homelessness featuring photography by O’Brien alongside poems by Waits.
According to University of Texas Press (via The Eyeball Kid), Waits and O’Brien’s 184-page book, Hard Ground, seeks to create “a portrait of homelessness that impels us to look into the eyes of people who live ‘on the hard ground’ and recognize our common humanity.”
Letting words and images communicate on their own terms, rather than merely illustrate each other, ‘Hard Ground’ transcends documentary and presents independent, yet powerfully complementary views of the trials of homelessness and the resilience of people who survive on the streets.
Sample pages of portraits from the book, which also includes interviews by O’Brien, can be seen here (http://www.utexas.edu/utpress/pops/popobrhar.html#spreads) and pre-orders are currently being taken at Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Hard-Ground-Tom-Waits/dp/029272649X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1290457819&sr=1-1-spell).