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My World: A Poem and A Photo

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
John,

A great idea to be inspired by pictures and poetry. Tell me how, and in what order, each came to be.

Asher
 

John Wolf

New member
Hi Asher,

I purposely did not elaborate in the initial post because I wanted it to stand on its own. But happy to share with you.

This is one of many poem/photo combinations that I undertook as a project all last winter. I wanted to put poems with some of my own favorite photographs. The pictures already existed.

I would spend some quiet time, open myself, comtemplate a photo for a while, and then write about it. I'm usually a controlled writer, but this was a very free-form process--whatever struck me about the picture would become the seed of the poem, which unfolded from there. It's a technique I got from American poet William Stafford, although he used it on his surroundings and not on photographs. Most of they poems emerged with religious/spiritual themes.

The project grew out of my ongoing frustration with the challenge photographs face in transcending their subject matter. What I sought to avoid is an obvious 1-to-1 relationship between poem and picture.

I've got quite a few of these pairs. Judging from the lack of response to the post this presentation does not resonate much with others. But that's OK. It was one of the deepest creative experience I've ever had.

John
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
John,

I have an immediate interest in the pairing of photography with poetry. That way one might be able to expand on the experience of both of them by focusing our wandering in ways cross referenced by both. So I see the potential and I also like the color of the background of the text.

Still I'd have thought that a simple statement like "Hope is prayer!" or if "I were to contemplate..."

(although these are not meant, in any way, to be substitutes to your poem), then everyone would be able to read you two works together. Your poem, not having a recognizable meter and rhyme, (at least to me), is harder and moreover the possible meanings seem far more complicated than my simplistic offerings. So as a result, there may be a tendency to skip both the poem and the picture.
I would spend some quiet time, open myself, comtemplate a photo for a while, and then write about it. I'm usually a controlled writer, but this was a very free-form process--whatever struck me about the picture would become the seed of the poem, which unfolded from there. It's a technique I got from American poet William Stafford, although he used it on his surroundings and not on photographs. Most of the poems emerged with religious/spiritual themes.
What do you mean by "freeform"? Is that lack of rhyme, rhythm, meter or even controlling ideas? Do you have a poem of his as an example of this kind of free form you are using?


The project grew out of my ongoing frustration with the challenge photographs face in transcending their subject matter.
[I myself admit to enjoying when a picture moves beyond that location and specifics to apply in some higher way to human values we can all relate to. That transcendence is indeed a valuable quality of some pictures. But,] why should the photograph need to transcend their subjects. It would seem rather a narrow view of things. Can't what we see things as valuable in their own right, just as we see them through the camera? Why the need to transcend at all?

What I sought to avoid is an obvious 1-to-1 relationship between poem and picture.

Judging from the lack of response to the post this presentation does not resonate much with others.
John,

Let me assure you that lack of interest is only one possible reason for lack of response. Much more important is the discomfort folk have in discussing something that may be beyond immediate reach, comprehension and entertainment. I myself have a fear that I'll underrate a great poem, just because I lack the background in work like that, despite my general appreciation of poetry and the arts. No one wants to be exposed as a luddite. OTOH, some may be confidant enough to have dismissed your work for one reason or another.

I, myself was taken back by the white text on gray, as it's a little hard to read. Also, not understanding completely your reference to the Islamic call for prayers, I didn't know whether it had a meaning I liked or would despise as bigoted. So "freeform" has costs.







It was one of the deepest creative experience I've ever had.

John
 
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fahim mohammed

Active member
John, I have read your post yesterday/today a number of times.
Both with a mixture of interest and curiosity. I am not a poet by any stretch of the imagination!
But I do enjoy poetry. Same goes for photography. And a combination of both too.

I do not subscribe to the idea that a photograph has to stand on its own. It might or it might not.
The reference to the call to prayers got my attention as soon as I read your poem. I think I understand what you are trying to say. Then I looked at the photo. I tried to pair it. Muezzin or the priest?

It could very well be a mosque, but in my mind, I do not think it is. More like a temple. A religious place. But I could be terribly wrong. A normal occurrence with me; being wrong.

I believe the words and the image complement one another gently and nicely.

Responses to posts here at OPF are, ....thinking...thinking for the appropriate word/s..., not given in haste; and this quite often can make for long periods of introspection.

Thank you for sharing.

Best regards.
 

John Wolf

New member
Asher and Fahim,

Thank you for your thoughtful and detailed responses. Pairing pictures and poems is new to me and I'm working though how I can execute it better. I really appreciate you taking the time to respond.

What do you mean by "freeform"? Is that lack of rhyme, rhythm, meter or even controlling ideas? Do you have a poem of his as an example of this kind of free form you are using?
By "freeform" I'm not referring to the poem's form, but the creative process. To me it means with little internal editing, letting the mind roam through the photo and concepts, and writing without evaluation. I'm usually more analytical, but wanted to be more open with this project. It occured to me that this so-called "freeform" approach is what I use to take pictures, so I should try it for writing as well.

But, why should the photograph need to transcend their subjects. It would seem rather a narrow view of things. Can't what we see things as valuable in their own right, just as we see them through the camera? Why the need to transcend at all?
I'm also a fan of "the thing itself" genre of photography. It's not either/or for me. But sometimes we want to go beyond sense objects and explore broader truths.

If I had published the photograph by itself, there may have been comments about subject, location, composition, etc., but that likely would been the extent of it. There would have been little suggestion of the nature of worship or of our spiritual limitations as souls in physical bodies.

I also enjoy metaphor, which was actually the essence of the project; how can a poem and picture act as door or window to something else?

I, myself was taken back by the white text on gray, as it's a little hard to read.
Any suggestions? I tried white, and the type is very clear, but the whole thing seems too stark. I like the warmth of the gray. Part of the issue is the jpeg compression. It looks fine in Illustrator and in print. Really not sure what to do about this and would welcome you thoughts on an alternative presentation. I know that on a blog or web site it works well if I use html type rather than type embedded in a jpeg.

Also, not understanding completely your reference to the Islamic call for prayers, I didn't know whether it had a meaning I liked or would despise as bigoted. So "freeform" has costs.
Certainly nothing against Islam. A wonderful faith, in my view. Especially Sufism.

That reference gets to the heart of the meaning of the poem for me. We worship the best we can with the limited capabilities we are given as human beings. Hands and feet, voice, mud and stone. Crude compared to what we can only imagine the Divine must be. Nonetheless, they are noble expressions of longing and love and devotion that arise from a hidden, primordial place within us ("dawn fragments of memory rising").

Let me assure you that lack of interest is only one possible reason for lack of response.
Thanks for that reminder. I know you're right.

I have an immediate interest in the pairing of photography with poetry.
Care to share any examples?

John
 

Jean Henderson

New member
Hi John,

As one who has been absent from the forum for a while, I have just come back a few minutes ago. Welcome to OPF! Yours is the first thread I went to after posting in the same area.

Sometimes I can be a bit "free form" in the way I respond to things so let me give you another take on your first post. First I saw words; then the birds, then the structure. [Keep in mind, for whatever it might be worth to anyone else, that I am what I refer to as a recovering Catholic. I search not for denomination, but for an active faith community whose members support a variety of its members' spiritual expressions.]

I went to the words first because I more immediately "understood" what the picture suggested, but had to read the words to get at what you were about here. Now, when I came to the line, "Still, we do what we can to praise," my mind went on it's own track. Without going further in the words -- or the photo -- I made a connection with your ideas.

Why? because, for me, and I can only speak of me here, my photography is a meditative expression of praise to the Creator whom I believe was gracious enough to endow me with the gift to see; the hardware with which to do it; and, the software with which to share it with others. So I immediately connected with the architect's desire to praise God, the effort which he put into it -- and the effortlessness of the birds' praise! The architect designs buildings and sees them to completion; I make photographs and prints; and, your words suggest to me that you make photographs from some similar stance -- correct me if I'm wrong.

To continue with your words, then, yes, we praise and worship in the best way we can as individuals existing within community. And, yes, it is an unanswered mystery how it all comes to be in photography for me. Whoda thunk it???

Hope this helps you out in some way.

Can you share another example of your pairings?

Jean
 

John Wolf

New member
Hi Jean,

Sorry about the delayed response. And thanks for sharing your thoughts on the poem and photo, as well as your own artistic intentions.

I very much relate to photography as a meditative experience. Nice to hear you've found an approach that expresses your inner values. I think that's the key to making this hobby meaningful and lasting.

I've got many other pairings of poems and photos, but will let this one ripen (or spoil) for a while before posting another.

John
 
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