Monday, January 19, 2009

A Bit of Poetry

A few weeks ago I was listening to the radio programme, 'Fresh Air', as seems to be my habit these days as I prepare the daily evening feast. On this particular occasion, Terry Gross was interviewing Pulitzer prize winning poet, W. S. Merwin. I had never heard of him before, although that is saying very little as I do not tend to read a great deal of poetry, and certainly have a poor knowledge of contemporary poets. But there was something about him that I connected with. These days I try to pay attention to such feelings, as they can lead to very interesting discoveries. Merwin has a new collection of poems out called 'The Shadow of Sirius' which he read from and spoke about. His latest work delves into the world of memory and mortality, having lost both his parents in fairly quick succession and since that was the subject of my 'Family Matters' project I felt it was important for me to read these works. The book is a beautiful object in itself. It is, as a note in the back states "set in Verdigris typeface, and printed on archival quality paper", heavy and solid to the touch. Instead of giving you my opinion of the poems, I post a couple here for you to read. If they resonate with you, I recommend picking up a copy of this book yourself.

A Likeness

Almost to your birthday and as I
am getting dressed alone in the house
a button falls off and once I find 
a needle with an eye big enough
for me to try to thread it
and at last have sewed the button on
I open an old picture of you
who always did such things by magic
one photograph found after you died
of you at twenty
beautiful in a way
I would never see
for that was nine years 
before I was born
but the picture has
faded suddenly
spots have marred it
maybe it is past repair
I have only what I remember

A Momentary Creed

I believe in the ordinary day
that is here at this moment and is me

I do not see it going its own way
but I never saw how it came to me

it extends beyond whatever I may
think I know and all that is real to me

it is the present that it bears away
where has it gone when it has gone from me

there is no place I know outside today
except for the unknown all around me

the only presence that appears to stay
everything that I call mine it lent me

even the way that I believe the day
for as long as it is here and is me.

If you are interested, listen to the interview here.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Study In What It Means To Be Human

Everyone has a story to tell. And I think its important to listen to those stories. There is something amazing about sharing a part of yourself, your history, especially when you consider the amount of courage it may have taken. It enriches our own lives, and can teach us a thing or two about humankind. It can bring us back into touch with our surroundings, the world, and out of ourselves which we can too often get enveloped in. There are a number of projects that I have become aware of recently that I think are worth checking out.

The first one is the StoryCorps project. You can hear this on NPR every Thursday morning on Morning Edition or online. At the heart of this project is a simple but wonderful idea about two people who are important to one another connecting through the act of conversation, often by the retelling of a significant event or memory. These conversations  are recorded in mobile booths dotted about the USA (anyone can sign up and participate) and are archived at the Library of Congress. Sometimes the stories are horrifying, other times funny or touching, but they always leave me with a sense of a fuller understanding for the world. As the founder of the project Dave Isay writes.......

'By listening closely to one another, we can help illuminate the true character of
 this nation reminding us all just how precious each day can be and how truly great 
 it is to be alive.' 

 This I Believe is an idea that dates back from a 1950's radio programme created by journalist and public Edmund R Murrow during the time of the Cold War, and a feeling that there was a loss of spiritual values in America. The intent was in Murrow's words 'to point to the common meeting grounds of beliefs, which is the essence of brotherhood and the floor of our civilization.' Public figures such as Eleanor Roosevelt, and Harry Truman gave millions of daily radio listeners hope and inspiration through their brief essays of personal philosophies, and guiding principles. Three or four years ago, Jay Allison resurrected the idea for our modern times, and invited both celebrities, well known figures, and the general public at large to write short statements of beliefs to share on the air with others. The idea this time round was not to necessarily create  the sense of one shared belief, but rather to create a respect for many the diverse philosophies and beliefs out there in the world. I love this idea. I am intending this week to write my own essay. I think by doing this it can help focus in on what is important to you, and can be a springboard for jumping into new territory, or just reaffirm that you are on the right track. From time to time I like to spend time writing things like this, it can help get those creatives juices flowing. Throughout my art schooling I've been asked to write  things such as personal manifestos, dreams and goals in life (no dream or aspiration is too big or ridiculous). It opens your mind to all sorts of possibilities. So I will post mine in the coming days.....

Also worth taking a look at is One in 8 Million on the NY Times Website, videos of  the people and characters in New York City.

I have one final recommendation for you, whilst we are on the subject of listening, and the human capacity for goodness even when it feels all hope may be lost, which is to watch the German film 'The Lives Of Others'. You will be glad you did.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A winter day

It's treacherous in Warwick, wise that is. There is a nasty ice storm in progress which began last night, and doesn't show any signs of letting up. I am marooned inside my house for the day, and happily so, for it looks bleak and uninviting outside. The world outside my door has turned into a giant ice-rink for which I have no skates, and certainly no balance for. So I gaze upon this grey winter scape from my studio window, watching an increasing amount of ice build itself upon the branches of trees, and ice crystals form like a blanket across the lawn. An ice storm is something to behold. It can be a majestic sight when there are blue skies, and sun to transform the ice into dazzling jewels. But as I discovered last year, it is much more dangerous than a heavy snow storm. It can reek havoc, bringing down utility cables, and giant tree limbs, the weight of the ice too much to hold. Already this morning I have witnessed such an's not a pretty sight. The poor lilac trees are bowing under the weight, and look like they could snap at any moment. The pear tree looks under a similar strain. I heard on the radio this morning that great swathes of trees have come down upstate, in Syracuse. It puts me in mind of the hurricane we experienced in the south of England in October 1987. Everywhere you went trees were laid down across the roads, once densely wooded areas thinned out to unrecognisable states. Such is mother nature, I suppose, she will do as she wants. I understand from the UK news that Britain has also been feeling on the chilly side after being hit with some of the coldest weather in a couple of decades. I came across these images on the Guardian Newspaper website (always a great source of information, and cultural interest).

Snow blankets fields in Kuttlehume, Cheshire, UK

Livestock Shelter From The Snow, Sittingbourne, Kent, UK

This particular image reminds me greatly of Paul Caponigro's wonderful image 'Running White Deer', something to do with the same framing, and backdrop of trees. Caponigro, a student of the great Minor White, is a photographer of great beauty, and eloquence. His muse is the landscape, mainly the New England landscape, but also that of Ireland, and Britain too. When you spend time with his work you begin to sense more than just the landscape itself but something spiritual, or mystical. You feel his connection with what he is photographing. Most recently he has been making still lifes, which also radiate this luminescence I see in his other work. I am intrigued by his studies of water and ice, and as they seem pertinent to my thoughts of winterness today I thought I would add these for you to look at.

Running White Deer, Wicklow, Ireland, 1967

 Frosted Window, Ipswich, Massachusetts, 1961

  River Ice, Newton, Massachusetts, 1960

Leaf in Ice, Nahant, Massachusetts, 1958

I have met Paul Caponigro. It was during my time at the Maine Photographic Workshops, or more specifically, Rockport College. I had been fortunate enough to have my image chosen to grace the front of the invitation postcards for the end of semester exhibition (along with Arduina Palanca, who coincidently is now married to Caponigro's son, John Paul). One day as I was leaving the offices of the school, a man sitting on the steps by the entrance who I'd seen around but didn't know, told me how much he liked my image. Not knowing who this man was, I quickly thanked him and went on my way. I later discovered that it was none other than the master himself, Paul Caponigro. A missed opportunity if ever there was one.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Happy and Creative New Year

My apologies for my non communication over the past several weeks. What can I say, tis the season and all that....or rather, it was.  Now that we have entered into a new year, I feel I should start as I mean to go on, determinedly, and creatively. I am excited to discover what 2009 will bring forth. Happy New Year one and all. More tomorrow I promise, but for now I leave you with a couple of quiet reflective images from my plant series.........