Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Cold Enough to Cry

It's not that cold here today, but it could be, and has been. No, I am quoting from the poem "Snow, the Lane Home," by Angie Macri, up now in her feature at Escape Into Life. Don't worry, you won't stay cold. The seasons change in her poems, and in the photos by Mahbubur Rahman, which also offer a different geography and terrain, other waters.

The sky is a diffuse cloudy blue-gray here today, and the tall wheat-colored prairie grasses in the ditches are coated with frost. But it's above freezing, and tomorrow it'll go into the 40s, and I may take a long walk into town to the post office to mail a letter to Switzerland. I give myself reasons.

Today I'm still thinking about that desire in us, as writers or as visual artists, to let the work speak for itself. We don't want to have to explain or interpret. But in what ways can we help listeners at a reading, or viewers at an opening or "art talk," perceive the offered works? What little bit of context will ready the hearer for the poem? Or what interesting question can get a viewer looking more closely at a painting or photograph, or seeing something s/he didn't see before?

Is your first impression here of one tree, or of two? Is this a new tree growing from the roots of the old, dead tree? Or is this a young, vibrant tree that sucked up what the old tree needed, killing it? What is it about the rest of the photograph that provides evidence to support you in either impression? Or a third impression?

These are the kinds of simple, natural questions that I like to ask about what I am seeing. It doesn't bother me if someone thinks I am simple, as I know myself to have a side-by-side sophisticated awareness of various things, or the ability to research what I don't know, etc. It doesn't bother me if the photographer turns out to be more interested in how he manipulated light or color, or if the painter is more interested in texture and composition. When I write a poem, I, too, am aware of some formal things going on that are essentially invisible to many readers. As they should be!

But truly, if I look at two trunks in the foreground, I am going to ask the simplest questions about what I am seeing, and wonder why the artist pursued that particular subject matter. My simple questions will cause me to pay attention, look closely, and start to see new things.

I see here a road somewhat traveled. I imagine I will keep walking and won't sit down on that bench.


Ruth said...

A very interesting set of thoughts.

I have found that often a brief intro to a poem contributes much to the hearing of the reading of it. It's not that the listener/reader is inept or insensitive to the nuance and meaning. But our minds have to get rolling and ready. I think of it as tilling the ground for the seed to be planted.

Lovely images and post!

Kathleen said...

Thanks, Ruth, and I agree!

Andrea (Andee) Beltran said...

It's important for us all to take the time and just observe and ask questions. Thank you for the reminder. Love the perspective on the tree most.

Kathleen said...

Andee, thanks so much!

Hannah Stephenson said...

I love artist talks and process notes. It breathes new life and angles into work, for me.

When I read poems, I like to talk about what caused them. I also like to talk about ideas that repeat throughout the work I've chosen to read, and also "real life" stuff (my own) around the poems. That's what I love to hear others share.

And so-called "simple" questions are so important to understanding art/everything.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Great questions to continue pondering.

Thanks for the link to Angie's work and for featuring it on EIL. She rocks!

Kathleen said...

I love process or origin notes, too, hearing them or sharing them.

nene said...

I see a tree converting from past life to new life and the colorsm highlighted to the wishes of the author of this pic.
I see a wooden bench in the snow that has seen different seasons and whose comfort has allowed many a pensive mind contemplate their existence and the beauty of what they see from this vantage.
I appreciate what you as a visionary, Kathleen, see as an artist, a writer, a teacher who wishes to share.
I do not have formally trained artists eyes nor formally trained writers skills but I do appreciate those that do.

Kathleen said...

Nene, nice to hear from you, and thank you for your comments. I, too, like to learn from the formally trained and also from those open and looking, and I often learn more about a poem, painting, or Bible story "from the mouths of babes," as they say!