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.
Omniscience cascaded and
sienna- jade green
in a shallow bowl
rolling conjoint a
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.
and there in bare-chested repose
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
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.
erudite prescience awaits
welling down stoned-water ways
stippled in the resplendent
where all that we’d ever known
and have yet to know
will be elucidated
all imminent paths
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.
Thanks to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary for all of the supplied definitions in italics.