And today’s entries

About the two entries earlier, In a Dark Time and Someone to Watch Over Me:

Today I spent part of the day at the Route 66 State Park, a park dedicated to the heritage and history of the famous coast-to-coast Route 66 highway.

I met my first deer of the season, and was able to get relatively close for a photo, stopping when they started getting concerned. I am more than a little partial to this photo, and feel the photo/poem is one of my best pairings yet.

As soon as I took the second photo, the Gershwin song “Someone to Watch over Me”, started playing in my mind, and I used this song as the ‘poem’ for the picture. After I posted it tonight, I was struck how both the photo and the song can have two different interpretations.

The first interpretation, the more traditional one, is that the person saying the words of the song wants to find someone to love and be loved in return. There’s lonliness in the song, reflected in the picture of the solitary bike rider, and in the words I’m a little lamb who’s lost in the woods. The photographer’s perspective then becomes one of the watcher – the person the protagonist wants to meet, to love. The mood is melancholy, but expectant.

However, in the second interpretation of both song and photo, the view is much darker, better reflected in a B & W version of the picture. In this view, the protagonist is afraid, lost, wanting to be protected as much as loved. With the lines Won’t you tell him please to put on some speed? Follow my lead, oh how I need Someone to watch over me!, does the singer want the person to hurry up because they want to find true love? Or because they’re afraid something else is out there, something frightening, intimidating, and unknown. In this case, the perspective of the photographer could either represent the person who protects, or the thing to be protected from.

(I’m also adding writing to these posts that reflects some of my inner deliberations when finding the poem to go with the photograph.)


In a Dark Time

In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;
I hear my echo in the echoing wood–
A lord of nature weeping to a tree,
I live between the heron and the wren,
Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.

What’s madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance? The day’s on fire!
I know the purity of pure despair,
My shadow pinned against a sweating wall,
That place among the rocks–is it a cave,
Or winding path? The edge is what I have.

A steady storm of correspondences!
A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon,
And in broad day the midnight come again!
A man goes far to find out what he is–
Death of the self in a long, tearless night,
All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.

Dark,dark my light, and darker my desire.
My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,
Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?
A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.
The mind enters itself, and God the mind,
And one is One, free in the tearing wind.

Theodore Roethke


Inner Dialog about use of poem

:You can’t use this poem. It’s the name of Loren’s weblog.

:But it’s the perfect poem for the photograph.

:In a Dark Time is the name of Loren’s weblog.

:In a Dark Time is the name of the poem.

:Which came first – the poem or the weblog.

:The poem.

:No, no, no! Which did you discover first? The weblog or the poem?

:Oh. <pause> But he likes deer.

:Oh. <pause> Okay, then. But what if he doesn’t like the photo?

:Tough cookies.


Something different

Tonight, something different. Two postings, with a photo in each. Both photos of the same bridge, taken at the same time, but from slightly different perspectives. One is black & white, the other in color.

Each photograph is paired with a poem with completely different subjects: one is about catching a fish, the other traveling the open road. However, each poem reflects a single moment in time and a revelation.

No secrets tonight.

Or are there?

Photography Writing

Expect Nothing

Expect nothing. Live frugally
On surprise.
become a stranger
To need of pity
Or, if compassion be freely
Given out
Take only enough
Stop short of urge to plead
Then purge away the need.

Wish for nothing larger
Than your own small heart
Or greater than a star;
Tame wild disappointment
With caress unmoved and cold
Make of it a parka
For your soul.

Discover the reason why
So tiny human midget
Exists at all
So scared unwise
But expect nothing. Live frugally
On surprise.

Alice Walker, “Expect Nothing”



On Poetry and Pictures

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

The rest of us watch from beyond the fence
as the woman moves with her jagged stride
into her pain as if into a slow race.
We see her body in motion
but hear no sounds, or we hear
sounds but no language; or we know
it is not a language we know
yet. We can see her clearly
but for her it is running in black smoke.
The cluster of cells in her swelling
like porridge boiling, and bursting,
like grapes, we think. Or we think of
explosions in mud; but we know nothing.
All around us the trees
and the grasses light up with forgiveness,
so green and at this time
of the year healthy.
We would like to call something
out to her. Some form of cheering.
There is pain but no arrival at anything.

Margaret Atwood, “The Rest”


I started pairing my photographs with poems I found on the Internet as a way of playing with the mood of the photograph, and to discover new poems and new poets. It is fast becoming a favorite hobby, and is very effective at relieving stress, anger, and sadness. (Which is why I found myself spending a lot of time with it the last few weeks.)

I’ll look at a photograph and write down my first impressions of it: what it means to me, why I like it or not, and what I was trying to say with it when I took it. From this, I’ll gather select keywords and use these to search for a poem at a site, such as Plagiarist or the Academy of American Poets. I’ll wander about through the results until finding the poem that best connects.

For instance, the Margaret Atwood poem was, fortuitously, in the list that resulted when I searched for the keywords for the photo of the fence. Since I had recently been exposed to her work, hers was one of the first I read, and it felt right for the picture.

When searching for poems for my second photograph, below, another Atwood poem appeared, which clearly demonstrates something. When I find out what it is, I’ll let you know. Regardless, I fell in love with this poem and it was the perfect one for the photograph.

Now, if people ask, “What does the photograph mean?”, I can answer, “Read the poem”. If they ask, “What does the poem mean?”, I’ll answer, “Look at the photograph.” I no longer have to explain myself, and can hold my inner thoughts secret, in plain view.

I would like to watch you sleeping,
which may not happen.
I would like to watch you,
sleeping. I would like to sleep
with you, to enter
your sleep as its smooth dark wave
slides over my head

and walk with you through that lucent
wavering forest of bluegreen leaves
with its watery sun & three moons
towards the cave where you must descend,
towards your worst fear

I would like to give you the silver
branch, the small white flower, the one
word that will protect you
from the grief at the center
of your dream, from the grief
at the center I would like to follow
you up the long stairway
again & become
the boat that would row you back
carefully, a flame
in two cupped hands
to where your body lies
beside me, and as you enter
it as easily as breathing in

I would like to be the air
that inhabits you for a moment
only. I would like to be that unnoticed
& that necessary.

Margaret Atwood, “Variation on the Word Sleep”