The Sun on the Muddy Library Tour visits Sunderland Library on March 30 at 2 p.m.
Reminder Publishing submitted photo

SUNDERLAND — Puddle pictures, toothbrush poems and library songs, the Sun on the Muddy Library Tour, a unique multi-media event, arrives at the Sunderland Library on Saturday, March 30.

Led by musician and poet Jim Armenti and photographer Dave Madeloni, the event began as a book, Sun on the Muddy, a collection of poems inspired by paintings. Armenti couldn’t play gigs during Covid, had a lot of extra time, so began writing a poem a day, a response to a friend’s daily painting of a common object, such as a toothbrush. Eight hundred poems later, Armenti ran into a friend, Dan Lombardo, at the town transfer station.

Lombardo organized Armenti’s poems into a memoir in three subjects. Armenti, already well known as a member of the Lonesome Brothers, a local band, wrote poems about growing up in Concord, raising his children, playing music and horsing around with friends. Armenti’s free verses, which lack the rhyming schemes of his song lyrics, often consider how we come to think about common objects.

“I tend to philosophize about things,” Armenti said. “There’s questioning poems about the way we perceive things. That’s always an underlying theme, how we come to think about things the way we think about them.”

Lombardo approached Levellers Press, an Amherst publisher, about producing the collection — but the paintings that inspired Armenti didn’t work in the book. The musician saw Madeloni’s puddle pictures and found them intriguing. Madeloni posted his images, reflections on water captured with a cellphone, on Facebook. Fascinated by the surreal qualities achievable with reflected light, Madeloni, a teacher, began submitting his puddle pictures to art galleries.

The images reminded Armenti of illustrations for old fairy tales, haunting, suggestive of otherworldly mysteries. The images often don’t dovetail with the accompanying poem, as far as the subject, but Madeloni enjoyed matching poems to puddle pictures.

“I get really low to the water and try to get the reflection of what’s behind the water,” Madeloni said. “It could be a person walking by, a dog, a bicycle. Then I discovered some of the pictures are kind of dystopian. They can be pretty, but … also have some sort of narrative to it, a person going by or a bicycle.”

The release party for the book was held in December 2022 at The Parlor in Amherst, with over 70 people attending. Since then, the trio have taken their show to over many libraries in the Connecticut River valley. Sunderland will be the ninth performance.

Each library show is different. Madeloni plays one of his videos and explains his photographic technique. The book includes 60 poems. Armenti reads a poem or two, chosen at random, followed by another video. Armenti then plays library songs from a disc he recorded about 10 years ago. The CD was recorded as a fundraiser for the new library in Westhampton, where Armenti lives.

The CD includes the well-loved title tune, The “Great Pumpkin Roll,” about a town where they roll pumpkins down the hill. The song asks, “What is a town when there’s no one around? What is a life? But a great pumpkin roll.” Armenti plays a library song or two at each library event, the part of the show Madeloni really enjoys.

“What’s interesting about those songs is that they are library and book related,” Madeloni said. “They’re amazing. One of the reasons I love doing these events is that I get to hear Jim play those songs live. They’re great [and] the shows are a lot of fun.”

Sunderland Library Director Katherine Umstot appreciates the show and how the project connects readers and viewers of a place.

“Dave’s photographs focus on local images of nature,” Umstot said. “Jim’s music does the same thing, very locally inspired about connecting with the community and nature. It is a natural fit for them together.”

The event, Sun on the Muddy, will begin at 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 30 at the Sunderland Public Library. Copies of the book will be available for purchase.