I am currently reading a series of photographic poems that I quite like and recommend:
Sarah O’Brien’s debut book, the National Poetry Series–winning Catch Light, takes photography as its ostensible subject and vocabulary. Photography, importantly, and not photographs—these are generally not ekphrastic works, and the one that seems most like a description of an actual photo, “A Salgado Photograph,” is, for my money, among the least interesting offerings in this otherwise wonderful book. No, if these poems are about photography, they are about its process, its way of seeing, and how it provides us with the metaphors with which to frame our perceptions. As such, the poems back away from any pat imagism and hurl us into a much more complex and beautiful world, one where the boundary between immanent materiality and transcendent ineffability is blurred beyond recognition. Ultimately, the book amounts to an extended meditation on the power of art, in both its literary and its visual species, and does so with great intelligence and what, in contrast to the book’s often-scientific bent, might be called warmth.
Using “hurled” to describe the experience of reading Catch Light perhaps connotes too strong—too heavy, too strong-armed—an effect. In these poems O’Brien achieves a voice capacious enough to handle varied registers, including the aesthetic and scientific registers at the heart of the photographic lexicon, while balancing that capaciousness with a peculiar and subtle kind of precision—crystalline, but not brittle; fluid, but not loose. Like the light that the poet tells us “gets in everywhere,” O’Brien’s poetry reminds one of Heraclitus’s famous elucidation of change (or history, or time) as the impossibility of stepping in the same river twice. It’s an idea the poet at times takes up directly:
The hand writes a name on the river. What the river cannot hold:
but it is holding light, holding
the tremor of a fingertip, loose and moving. There is a woman
who writes this same name on the river every morning.
Her god lives in the river and this prayer, a kind
of touch disturbs
in the photograph once
you’re told it’s a name, you read it, you can read the water now
finger trailing ink and continuing follows
(- Andy Frazee)
Strangely I met a fellow photography-indulgent being today and we ended up talking about – coincidences of coincidences- Sarah, apertures, night photography, and learning about crystalline images. Poetry and photography – maybe one day I will combine on a book together with you, Beansprouts (lets figure out how to include cooking recipes and jurisprudence…)
I am also re-reading a series of lectures by one of my favourite writers, Roland Barthes. I have been reading his book, Discourses on Love for years (no kidding) and it is one of my favourite books of all time (also gives me the fondest memories). If you have not read it yet, I really recommend his seminary series (if that is how you would term it) – Death of the Author and other articles.
But Discourses of Love is still my favourite, of course.
“La nouvelle critique was flavour of the month, much like its culinary counterpart, nouvelle cuisine, albeit more of a mouthful. Critics-cum-thinkers such as Barthes himself – who was equally at home at the lofty Collège de France or down the trendy Le Palace nightclub – achieved bona fide celebrity status. Their works often became bestsellers in spite of their demanding and iconoclastic nature. Soon, NME journalists were peppering their articles with arcane references to Baudrillard while Scritti Politti dedicated a postmodern ditty to Jacques Derrida. The whole movement seemed as provocative, and indeed exciting, as Brigitte Bardot in her slinky, sex kitten heyday. Its defining moment was the publication of a racy little number called “The Death of the Author”.
As if mimicking one of its central themes, Roland Barthes’s article first featured in an American journal in 1967: the original (an English translation of a French text) was thus, in effect, already a copy. With a nice sense of historical timing, it appeared in the critic’s homeland in the quasi-insurrectionary context of the 1968 student protests. As it was only anthologised much later (first in Image-Music-Text in 1977 and then in The Rustle of Language in 1984), the essay was photocopied and distributed samizdat-fashion on campuses all over the world, which enhanced its subversive appeal.” – The Guardian
On an indulgent note, look at this adorable rocking horse necklace I found!
I’m in love with it, and it now goes into my ‘whimsical jewellery’ collection which currently includes mini lime popsicles, musical notes, lots of cupcakes, sweet jam and teacups.
I had a lovely, wonderful day. I really love talking books with people, for that way I get to listen to their little epiphanies, and slowly learn about new list/dreams to add to my life too. Did you bring a book to read with you on your journey, Beansprouts?