Critical Breakdown — Delicate Bind

Oi! Hello! and Welcome back to a new installment of the ongoing Critical Breakdown posts, where I will dissect and inspect my most recent picture-poem post, Delicate Bind. I originally commenced this series as a way to aid in the understanding of my poetry, as I realize that most of us are more accustomed to narrative story writing and not poetic form. However, I have found that this is an amazing tool for me as well, to better understand and evaluate my own work. And speaking of poetic form, as you may have noticed, I do not follow a strict structure in my writing, rather opt for a more organic free-flowing verse, more akin to the subjects of my pieces, photos, paintings, drawings, writings–nature in its natural organic state. That is not to say that I don’t include a fair amount of rhythm and balance to the piece– read it like you are standing on a boat at sea, it moves back and forth in short and long bursts, left, right and back again hopefully to land back in the center where it all begins.

Okay, let us bDelicate Bindegin as well! Overall, as you read the poem and look at the image, the emotion that I was hoping to convey, one which has resonated with me for a very long time, is one of seeking approval, of openning myself up, being vulnerable, and then asking to be accepted, nay embraced for that very act. It is the Sally Field “You really like me” plea prior to her actually ever saying “You really like me.”

Unlike some other posts, I did not work on the photo and poem together. In this particular instance, I snapped the photo several weeks earlier. It kept coming back to me, but I had been waiting for the right time to use it, when the right feeling was ready to come out— a feeling of exposure, of vulnerability, of displaying all of oneself and asking only to be loved because of and inspite of it. To me, the leafy plant displays itself in all of its bizarre, ugly, beauty and demands love in return.

The scene:  The scene of this photograph is one of those that I had literally stumbled upon. Prior to  the shot being taken, I had been traipsing the forest chasing the late-day light, hoping to catch a butterfly mid-flight, or a spider hide her eggs, something, anything and everything. But nada. I returned back to the area in front of my place, thinking I’d take a look at the tea tree if there’d be any leaves to collect. What nearly I stepped upon was what you see here. I thought at first it fungus covering the leaves, but I later have come to think it some type of bug nest, although I am still unsure. Either way, I was careful not to touch any part of this plant or its covering. Interestingly, it had grown only on this particular plant species and not on any others.

The photo: As per usual, I took this photo with my Canon PowerShot point-and-shoot camera which I carry with me everywhere I go. I underexposed from the auto-setting by 1 F-stop in low-light using the camera’s macro function. Otherwise, there is not much else to say, other than that the image was processed later in PhotoShop using my usual rudimentary skills to bring-out the fuzzy texture of the growth and adjusted the color to highlight the relevant greens and blues in the leaves of the undergrowth. As a final side-note, I was so glad that I took this photo, as unexpected as the scene was, not only because of how spectacular the scene looks, but also because our dog later came running up behind me to see what I was doing and stepped all over the plant, smashing the large front leaf to the ground. *Sigh.

The poem: I have been working on the overarching theme of this poem for a while as well. It kept sneaking into other poems which I would later spin off on their own. I seem to write that way in general, as I include more feelings than can possibly work in one piece, and then edit out those which do not represent the crux of my mind-state. As a sort-of ode to self-pity, the theme of this poem kept getting excised from other pieces until it finally found a home. Of all of my recent works, it has endured the least amount of pre-writing and re-writing as a single work in and of itself, all fitting neatly onto one notebook page in 3 early versions, with the final version typed out in Word and copied to the blog.  It came somewhat effortlessly compared to my other recent poems, especially when compared to Picture Replete wich took me two weeks to write and still I was unsatisfied with the final result.

Let’s look at the poem, which is written as one long piece rather than in stanzas. However, I will break it up to discuss relevant sections:

In delicate bind
I repine and
steep my blind fears in
effusive resilience
yet weep my fine tears of
elusive brilliance

Throughout the poem, I speak to this paradox of being willfully open despite my own frailty, yet completey aware that I will likey face some rejection. That is the delicate bind that I write of, bind being a dilema but also something that holds me back, traps me. I repine, to feel dejection or discontent (but also to complain) and soak these fears of rejection, these unseeable fears into effusive resilience, that is, a strength that I seemingly pour forth freely…and yet I weep on the inside, despite how strong I appear on the outside. My tears are for an acknowledgment of brilliance that never comes, indeed one that does not exist? It does sound a little self-pitying, no?

my tender dejection
splayed
in hyaline display for your
delayed affection

I use the word tender, again to show my actual delicacy and also the pain the comes from such sadness that I so willing splay in transparent (hyaline) display— that I so willingly show in open view for your affections that don’t come or perhaps come too late.  It is as if the rawer the emotion that I put out (on page, in art, in conversation) the more pain I am exposing myself to when it goes unacknowledged, as it assuredly will, or at least that is how it is percieved. A bit more self-pity, but maybe not one without some warrant?

a dazzling array
of flawed complexion
sprawled rejection
but always fragile
always frail
always
needing your gale
approval and
pleading the removal
of all doubt
always
in this delicate bind
I pine
without

Paradoxially, as I write here, I do not fear putting my raw emotions on display. This open spread of flaws (a flawed complexion like that of the picture, diseased, but also that what emotions I show are not easy to understand, they are complex), despite how open and ready for criticism it is, remains and always will be fragile.  That I will always be fragile, and when I put myself out there, I really am asking for your approval, your loud gale approval. Yet, once again, I have put myself in this quandary, this predicament of yearning for something which does not come, or fails to sate me.

Indeed, this poem is less about what TRULY happens and more about what, as a sensitve person, I PERCIEVE happens. That no matter how many ‘likes’ or clicks I get, there is always a feeling of not being loved ENOUGH, not getting approval ENOUGH. I know this feeling comes over many artists and writers, but I must say, I believe it has been exacerbated in the FaceBook era. As a society, we are seemingly endlessly looking for more ‘likes’, more ‘clicks’, more acknowledgment for our own existence. But, as I suggest, there is something especially binding about willingly displaying all of your faults and frailties for critical review. And when the chorus dies, there you are, splayed naked and vulnerable with nary a memory of the hand-claps.

A recap: As I’ve read over my explanation, I wonder if I’ve relayed concisely what the photo and poem represent. Perhaps we all feel this way at times, “Hey, look at me! Look at me!” But what happens when we heighten the exposure, when we reveal more and more of our weaknesses, our fears to greater and greater audiences? What happens when the ensuing result is indifference? What if we can no longer hear or believe the congratulations becuase every bit of our lives is ‘liked’? What will happen when I show you not only the beautiful parts of me, but also the ugly? Will you still ‘like’ me then? If my face were covered, like the leaves in the photo, with all of my warts and wrinkles? And what happens to me if the only sound I hear is an apathetic thud?

I guess we shall see how delicate I am afterall.

Thanks as always for following the blog, and especially for all of your feedback and comments that have truly helped me to become a better writer and a better photographer. If you have any questions or bones to pick, please, please don’t hesitate to reply!

Peace, Jason

Critical Breakdown — Delicate Bind.

Delicate Bind


In delicate bind
I repine and
steep my blind fears in
effusive resilience
yet weep my fine tears of
elusive brilliance
my tender dejection
splayed
in hyaline display for your
delayed affection
a dazzling array
of flawed complexion
sprawled rejection
but always fragile
always frail
always
needing your gale
approval and
pleading the removal
of all doubt
always
in this delicate bind
I pine
without

Picture Replete

Visage

Developing under
the quiescent foliate umbra
I’d unfurled viridescent
from the enveloping
cocoon that festooned me
and emersed free
into fulgent mid-day clarity
but exposed
an uncomposed image
And through the eminently empty
aperture vast to seek
a picture replete at last
I peered
to capture what appeared
had been amiss
and has since evinced
the visage
of a new
friend

Critical Breakdown — Percipience

Percipience

The roaring symphony of calls for another installment of Critical Breakdown after our most recent post, Percipience, was unabashedly overwhelming, and I would just like to thank our serious fan base for all of the wonderful support! Without you, this site would simply be another collection of zeroes and ones dispersed over the interwebs. So, allow us to gush no further and get right down to what so many, many of you have been awaiting in bated breath.

The title: Percipience, which means perception.

The image: Easily one of my favorite images that I have photographed so far, this scene was captured last week during one of my frequent expeditions to the National Park here in Petropolis.  Off of the main path through the mountain is a spot that I love to visit. It is open with large rocks jutting from tranquil waters. This particular location is a short distance upriver from there, not along a path, but accessible by traversing the shallow stream. As such, it is much more secluded. As an added bonus, there is a cascade of water directly BEHIND the image taken here. In this particular spot, the only sound that you can hear is the rush of the water echoed through the canyon. And that is exactly what I wrote in my poem journal when during my visit.

But Jason, you ask, if there is such a beautiful waterfall right behind you, why did you take this photo instead? Aha! You have stumbled upon the first clue toward the meaning of the poem and all of those fancy words that I chose.  During the incubating period for Percipience, I had had more than one enounter with “the future” in my daily happenings. Anytime a word or concept arises repeatedly, I pay close attention. Once was during a phone call to an old friend in the States. He had been talking about a problem that he was having, and in the process of telling me, he essentially outlined the solution to the problem as well. He knew the answer to the problem, though he had yet to see it. The second moment occurred while reading a chapter from the Modern Day Epic blog, which has, btw, had a huge impact on my writing perspective* (hint number 2: perspective). There was a third moment of seeing into the future, which occurred while taking this photo. After resting here from the long hike up, I turned from the waterfall and with great clarity realized that the stream formed a path to the future– that is, the rush of water from the waterfall would eventually make its way downstream along a predictable path.  There it was, the future, and it lay there before my eyes. Upon seeing this, I couldn’t help but think that my past, the mountain, the struggle, was officially behind me and I was peering into and experiencing my own future.

The photograph: As shot with my Canon PowerShot digital point and shoot, the original image came out predictably desaturated, overly dark in some areas, while overly “hot” in others. I shot using normal daylight settings, 200 ISO, underexposed by 2/3 stop, handheld, with no manual control for focus, aperture or shutterspeed– simply what the camera would do on its own. I processed the image in PhotoShop, using layers to bring out the depth of clarity and color spectrum. Because the image is forest in back and water in front, I worked on both halves separately, something that I am new to doing.

The poem: Percipience is likely the most complex poem that I have written to date– it was probably a little complex to read as well! It certainly was a difficult writing experience as I believe that in just the short time of writing the blog, my skills are improving and as such, I am pushing myself to tackle more complex layers of writing. This was the first time that I wrote an outline for what I wanted to include in addition to the other several pages of fits and starts, words, definitions, thoughts, and nondiscernable scribbles.

The poem itself is written as to describe the incredibly beautiful natural scene of a waterfall that leads to a stilled basin and then further to a small brook that I had encountered on my hike . For whatever brief moment in all historical time, I was a part of this scene, took in its waters and reflected on its magnificence.  In a greater sense, though, Percipience relates to my own personal journey toward enlightenment, to perceiving the paths in front of me.  Perhaps it is my age, or that I have struggled for so long to create myself as the type of person that I’d like to be, as to why this seems to be a recurring theme in my works.  My other poems speak mostly to finding renewal, though, whereas Percipience relays the pivot from past to future. Structurally, the poem is written in 3 parts or verses, and the second verse portrays this pivot, the literal and figurative turn from the path taken to the paths ahead .  Here is the poem in its current final state, always subject to change because all of life is just a work in progress. Let’s break down the verses and see.

Near peaked
ancient high-land
Omniscience cascaded and
pooled serene
sienna- jade green
in a shallow bowl
rolling conjoint a
seamless stream
of incipient
percipience

As you may notice, the first verse is written in the past tense—omniscience (all knowing), in the form of water, had cascaded and pooled. This verse represents the past, where the birth of perception or knowledge (incipient meaning beginning to come into being) occurs. Water is the source of all known life, and I imply here the idea that perhaps water holds secrets to our existence beyond its physical proponents. This verse also represents my own personal past, the mountain that I had climbed that day, as well as my lifelong struggle for clarity. So, not only does the first verse represent the ancient past, as a birthplace or a garden of Eden if you will, with water being the metaphor used throughout as a carrier of this perception, but it is also my own personal past.

Unlike many of my other pieces where I am the protagonist throughout an experience, in Percipience, though, I am only present in the second verse. The first verse is water, creation, the basis and beginning of all life, the garden, the physical earthliness, the peak of my hike and struggle, the preparation for the experience.

I approach
parched
and there in bare-chested repose
eyes closed
I dip rough cupped-hands
in the current alit to drink-in
each succulent sip held to brink in
my recipient dry-lipped mouth
token to a thirst for ken
unquenchable

The second verse represents the present and therefore is written in the present tense—I approach and dip my hands into the current (again the water, but also meaning now).  This verse is man, singular, me, who drinks in the water of the first verse. Here is where I describe the pivot. The present is the pivot between what has past and what is yet to come, from singular man to plural, from unknowing to knowing. Also, I am continuing to describe the actual event. Yes, I did cup my hands and drink in the cool mountain water, and yes, as shown in the photo, I did turn away (pivot) from the waterfall (past) and focus my gaze downstream, into the divergent and convergent paths of the future. I was indeed parched, quite literally, from hiking, but also figuratively. I am thirsty for insight and ready to drink in the ken or the range of perception, understanding and knowledge. Metaphorically, I represent myself as a sort of Adam or Eve where I am my own first man or woman to happen upon the garden that is mine to take in, to eat of the apple, to drink of the water, to inhale to the fullest what has been offered to me. Where verse one is preparation, verse two is action. It is man as a connection between earth and knowledge, it is conscious awakening, it is life in a present state of experience; it is the pivot  from unknowing to perception, from past to future, waterfall to stream; it his humanness, it is the experience.

Ahead
erudite prescience awaits
welling down stoned-water ways
stippled in the resplendent
panoptical perspicuity
where all that we’d ever known
and have yet to know
in perpetuity
will be elucidated
all imminent paths
illuminated

This third and final verse represents the future as well as perpetuity or the everlasting. As such, it is written in the future tense by using will be. However, the erudite prescience awaits (erudite being learned, and prescience being foresight or foreknowledge of events)  is written in present tense, in that it is always there awaiting our awareness–signifying that the future is available to us in the present.  The natural scene as I saw it that day and as viewed in the photo depicts the water flowing downstream along predestined paths until a vanishing point, forever. The protagonist is no longer directly spoken of in this verse, having been replaced by insight, by the paths. Here, singular man dissolves into erudite prescience that we, in a shared plural, will someday possess. It is symbolically learned by drinking of the waters and holding them in (by way of a token from the second verse). Foreknowledge is waiting for us, carried down the future waterways, available to our opened eyes to see it in all of its panoptical perspicuity (wide-viewed clarity).  And when we are perceptive, when we are percipient, we will see all of our choices, all of our paths in front of us.  All knowledge will be elucidated or explained. The third verse, then is the knowledge, the foresight of our future;  it is a plural we to be understood as our shared insight; it is the streams of water shown in the photo, the streams of percipience; it is the consequence of the preparation and action of verses one and two.

*******

I had neglected to mention a third moment of future-sensing that I had experienced this week while percolating this poem. It occurred when I had recalled a dream that I’d had years prior about pushing a boat upstream, my feet stuck in the mud, knowing that one day I would be able to ride the boat back downstream. It was as if the dream had foretold the basis for this poem and for the whole mountain excursion wherein the photo and poem were created. Was it prescience?

The percipient reader may notice another literary metaphor embedded in this poem that follows the same pattern of ordered occurrence, that which I won’t go into here. I will simply leave it to the imagination. I must leave SOME mystery!  If you think you have seen something MORE, please don’t ruin it for the others. It will be our secret.

I truly hope that you have enjoyed this post, and that of the original Percipience post as well, without all the fussy meanings and metaphor talk. Just look into the reflective light of the photograph and read the words, allowing them to roll from your tongue, bubbling and flowing like the cascading stoned-waters. And perhaps you too will get a glimpse of prescient panoptic perspicuity.

And as always, please feel free to comment or question. I would love to hear if you found a similar or differing interpretation to the work or if it touched you in any form or shape.

~Peace, Jason

Thanks to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary for all of the supplied definitions in italics.

Percipience

Percipience

Near peaked
ancient high-land
Omniscience cascaded and
pooled serene
sienna- jade green
in a shallow bowl
rolling conjoint a
seamless stream
of incipient
percipience

I approach
parched
and there in bare-chested repose
eyes closed
I dip rough cupped-hands
in the current alit to drink-in
each succulent sip held to brink in
my recipient dry-lipped mouth
token to a thirst for ken
unquenchable

Ahead
erudite prescience awaits
welling down stoned-water ways
stippled in the resplendent
panoptical perspicuity
where all that we’d ever known
and have yet to know
in perpetuity
will be elucidated
all imminent paths
illuminated

Critical Breakdown — Polished Moon

Polished Moon

Hello and welcome back to another Critical Breakdown post, wherein I will discuss the methodology and meaning behind my most recent photo-poem, Polished Moon. It is important to note the title, as I will refer back to it later when discussing the poem itself.  As someone reminded me recently, a poem (and a photo) can mean many things to many people, so if there is a meaning that you, the viewer, have taken away from this piece, then I have done my job. If you felt something, anything, then we connected. However, I did have some ideas of my own while creating this particular piece, so let’s start first with the photograph.

There is a very surreal quality to this photo, likely for several reasons. First, we are not accustomed to visually seeing photographs of night scenes, by moonlight, in a forest. That’s because it is dark. And scary. Second, I processed the image in PhotoShop moreso than I usuall do for most images. It was simply a matter of trying to get the image to appear out of darkness. Third, the evening really WAS surreal! The air was fresh, the moon large and bright, and all of the forest had come alive. It was akin to hearing a poem in progress, moonlit words sliding off surfaces just waiting to be collected.

This scene is in front of my place from the front “patio” (for lack of a better term). As for my equipment, as I’ve mentioned previously in other Critical Breakdowns, I am using a Canon PowerShot point-and-shoot camera, in this case, mounted to a tripod. Compared to a DSLR, the amount of manaul control I have over the photographing process is severly limited. Essentially, I set it for a long exposure (about 2 seconds) with ISO 100 and metered the white-balance against the moon. Of course, I used the self-timer to avoid shake, and also manually set the flash to go off. Finally, since there is no manual focus, I set the focus for infinity.

The original shot came out dark (as expected) and very desaturated. But that was quite necessary, because a longer exposure would have made the moon appear too bright and fuzzy, and would have left the dark sky grainy. I’ve made that mistake a hundred times already. The flash allowed for lighting the leaves in the foreground. Using PhotoShop, I lightened the image and brought out the golden colors in the highlights and the blue-ish tones in the shadows. It certainly wasn’t as easy as it sounds, as I went back again and again to get just the right balance of dark and light, blue and gold, detail and blur. What I wanted was mood, and I think I achieved it.

But what mood was I going for? And does it match the poem? Before we look at the poem, let me say that I recently have made a couple of new friends, my first new friends in ages. I’d forgotten how exciting it is to make new friends, and I’d forgotten how exciting it is to be excited. I felt CONNECTED, and alive, just like being in the forest under the moon where I not only took the photo, but also where I began writing the emotional foundation for the poem. Once again, my emotions, the photo, and the poem inform each other in the creation this piece.

Okay, the poem.

The Polished Moon
with the full of its immense
ringed luminescense
rises intense and presses upon me
a honey-scented specter
bathed
in the moonlit spectrum

Notice, that I write “The Polished Moon” using “The” and capitalizing the ‘P’ and ‘M’ of  ‘Polished Moon’. Keep this in mind along with what I had previously noted, the title of the poem itself, Polished Moon.  I will explain that in a moment. As for the specter, I am essentially referring to the moon’s essence itself which has cast this golden glow upon us, nay pressed upon me, physically. At once, this poem is simply about a beautiful moment of existence under the shine of the moon. But I am also describing the physical thrill within in me of finding new friends, new connections to the world. As such I’ve added a sexual–sensual quality to the experience, of being touched physcically–by the moon, and by the connection.

I pause
pulsing
aflush in ripened pleasure
rigored beams of illuminate streams
suffuce my salted-skin
in the juice of its dangling fruits
plucked loose of present
tense
and plumped
of vigor existent
I burst

In both the 2nd and 3rd passages, I use an erotic imagery to describe the sensualness not only of the moon, but in the physicality of making new friends, of being connected, not only to people, but, in this case, to the moon and the scene itself. I am not merely transported emotionally, or spiritually, but physically as well. I tingle, I am excited.  This moment has been building up and in the end, I am overcome with the experience. Time transcends the present moment, as do my senses. My salted (matured, but never too old to gain in new excite) skin, suffuced, bathed in the juices of dangling fruits, those which are hanging there ready to be grabbed, meant to be enjoyed, provided to me by the light of the moon. These fruits are also words, words to the poem, words that tease me and excite me, words to the Polished Moon itself. The moon has been showering me with words to the poem, and I pause, awash in the poetry-making as it comes to a climax.

Once filled of promised possibility
pent then spilled
flow in culminant thrill
I soak in drunken glow
savoring the fine
cumulate seductions of
the Polished Moon

This promised possibility of my artistic endeavors, my writing, of my humanity, which has been inside of me for so long has finally been realesed. In this case, I have been seduced on many levels–by the surrreal scene under the night moon, by the thrills of  making connections, by the writing and the reading of the words, over and over that finally have formed this poem, by the thrill of thrill in and of itself….As in sexual pleasure, the seductions are a majority part of the experience.  And upon the grand fullfulment, there is a an after-glow of satisfaction.  And for me, the entire experience has been one of “cumulate seductions of the Polished Moon” again capitalized. For it has been the creation of the  Polished Moon photo-poem itself that is the final layer of meaning.  Making this photo-poem was a seduction of words and images, the thrill of plucking words, of teasing out the golds and blues in the photo, the climax of bringing it all together in one final push, and the satisfaction in what had been created, the release of all emotion.

And so, dear reader, any and all innuendo is purposeful. But hopefully not cheaply so. I honestly meant that the entire of my emotions, the entire of the moonlit scene where I sat to write and then later studied in photograph, where I existed in this sensual surrealness, the entire of the creation process, and in turn the end result was a physcial excitement, a beautiful total experience of mind, spirit and body– of art, of love, and of nature.  I will leave with that. I could go on, those of you who know me, know that, but I won’t. Please, please feel free to comment or question. I’d love to hear if what I explained could be felt in the piece.

As always, peace.

Jason