Welcome to a second post under the Critical Breakdown category, where I will discuss the photo-poem “Sunlit” which I had posted yesterday. It is my intention here to show a little insight into what the image and words mean to me and in turn I hope you the reader will gain a larger perspective of my viewpoint and perhaps can relate mine to their own as well.
First, with this particular piece, I worked on both the photo and the poem simultaneously. I usually try to do this as it creates an artistic experience much greater than simply the sum of parts, although it is not necessary for my work. However, the immediacy of my current emotional state warranted exploring the concept in both image and in the words, each informing the other. Specifically, as a recent immigrant to Brazil, I have had to learn to accommodate new experiences while maintaining emotional contact with friends and family back home in the US. As time has passed, it has become increasingly difficult. I find myself ‘holding on’ to the life of my cultural past (which continues as the ‘present’ for friends living there) and this has led to feelings of disappointment– disappointment which I myself am solely responsible for taking care.
Okay. So, the photo.
Two days prior, in the early hours as the sun had yet to officially rise over the mountained horizon, I found a bee sleeping on a leaf in the forest clearing. I am new to the mountains, and am always surprised to find the mornings so wet, coated in a frost-like mist of condensation. It covers nearly everything, and in this scene, the dew even covers the bee. The bee seemed weighed down by all of the wetness, like it was smothering him. I had started taking some photos, but without direct sunlight, the scene was dark and flat. Additionally, I hadn’t found a good angle to get the right composition of bee and leaf. Eventually, the sun peaked over the ridge, allowing the moment to be lit in a soft yellow atop a bluish background. As the sun warmed the bee, he began to awaken and the condensation on him began to dry. Technically speaking, and without any apologies or excuses, this is not one of my better photographs. It is simply what I was able to capture using my Canon Powershot point and shoot camera. (I’ve talked about the reasons why I use this camera in another post– in essence, it fits in my pocket and is durable for when I am working outside. Also, the lens for my DSLR is fogged). As well, no matter where I stood, it seemed as though I was blocking the sun. Again, this is not to make any excuses, simply to show “behind the curtain” what was involved in getting this photo.
Unfortunately for this shot, the dew had mostly dried from the bee, so the feeling of being ‘encumbered’ by the wetness, as I say in the poem, is lost. I cropped a bit to exclude extraneous leaves, although not much. And while most people seem to prefer photos with colors that ‘pop’, this moment, this morning moment is not about ‘pop’. The sun is low and the colors are subtle– I wanted the viewer to see the coolness in the dew, not to become enamored with the greens or orange-yellows, but rather to sense the ambiguity of the moment. Waking-up is not bright and colorful, it is dreamily tone-less.
As for the poem:
Lining golden the ragged mountain ridge
the early day broke dim
Obscurity of mid-night now passed
the purity in dawn’s light at last
awakens the slumber
from within my lumbering limbs
by remnants of the oppressive darkness
set in coated coalescence
wet on my skin
I am delivered anew this day
as fine-mist dew drops dissipate
in the essence of sunlit
The poem itself is short and succinct– I had received some great positive feedback when my lines are ‘terse’ (thank you…)– and personally, I enjoy writing tightly– it is fun! Also, the feeling for which I am writing about, as well as the allegory of dawn, are not long-drawn out experiences, they are brief and to the point. I will not break this down line by line, rather cover generally what I am alleging. Quickly, as for technique, I wrote this (as I tend to do) from the middle-outward. That is, one of the first words that I had come-up with as a keeper was “coalesce” and it’s variant forms. From there, I worked forward and back until I created the moment that encompasses day break to drying of the dew. The final wording of the first line was completed last. I write initially by pen on paper and had created about 6 or 7 iterations of the poem over the course of the morning and afternoon, in between working on other projects. The end version was finalized on the computer, where I could more easily move words and phrases around.
Dawn and awakening are common themes in my poetry. I don’t use them simply for allegorical passage, though. This poem, as well as my others, are records of my actual experience– literally, the sun was rising and I wrote on what was happening. I saw a heavy dew coating everything– the remnants of last night awaiting to dry in the day’s sun. So, hopefully, the poem can be read as a simple moment in nature. There is also a spiritual aspect to my poetry that I at first was surprised to discover resembles religious imagery. I do not subscribe to any religious affiliations. And yet, my own spiritual journey through discovery in the natural world likely resembles that of other religious paths taken in earnest. I don’t claim to have any answers, I simply write what I sense.
And still for me, it was more than solely a natural poem or a spiritual step. Emotionally, as I struggle to shed the ‘old’ life and adopt a clean, fresh ‘new’ life, free of being disappointed in my expectations of what the ‘old’ life should still provide me, I couldn’t help but notice that this ‘dew’ was like what was still clinging to me of my past. “Obscurity of mid-night now passed, the purity in dawn’s light at last”– the darkness at night obscures a reality, while in dawn’s light you can see clearly. And as the sun had awakened the bee from his sleep in the photo, so too had it awakened me to a new day that I must accept, to a new life that I must accept. ” …remnants of the oppressive darkness, set in coated coalescence, wet on my skin”– the emotional baggage that I carry set as dew that had accumulated throughout the night on me. And as the water droplets dissipate, I am leaving behind completely this emotional disappointment, I am accepting the reality for what it is, I am renewed as a person in this day , no longer one of the past.
I erred when putting the poem’s final version in type, substituting ‘darkness‘ in line 8 for ‘dark‘ which is what I had written originally in my pen drafts. ‘Dark’ was meant to rhyme with ‘stark’ and in my zeal to complete, I hadn’t noted my mistake. I will likely change it or at least will do so when I re-imagine my work at a later date, perhaps to do a photo-poetry book? Right now, everything I do is a work in progress. In fact, all of life is a work in progress. And these poems are what have enabled me to understand that. I had always thought it, but only recently have I felt that to the core.
Perhaps I wrote too much on such a simple photo-poem, you can be the judge. I hope that my discussion has led to some insight, has allowed a clearer reading of the poem, a clearer view of the photo, and a clearer understanding of the power that had encompassed the whole of the moment for me– a several day spread of image, words, and emotions, all culminated to this one post that I can share with you.
How cool is that? That this moment can be shared, that it now becomes so much larger that just a bee on a leaf, a man in his garden, a thought in his mind…
Thanks for reading and PLEASE FEEL FREE to leave any comment or constructive criticism. I love to hear from you all!