Critical Breakdown — Wheatfield

Critical Breakdown — Wheatfield.

Hello! Welcome back to another installment of Critical Breakdown. It’s been quite some time since I last wrote for these pages, so let me review for a moment what this is all about. On this page, I will dissect one of my recent photo-poem posts so that you, the reader, can better understand what is behind the piece. I have found that not only is this a good forum to help explain what a poem means (because let’s face it, not all poems are crystal clear) but it also helps ME to become a better poet. By analyizing my own work, I learn from my own mistakes and successes. So, here we go!

First, some background. I had recently traveled from my adopted home in Brazil to the US to see family, most of whom live in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where I was born and raised. While there, I visited aunts and uncles, grandparents, and my dad who lives in a very rural area on a farm. I also visited the cemetery where his father, my Grandpa, is buried, which is located in a farming area called Weaverland, just like our last name, Weaver. Although it was good to see my dad, there is too much distance between us to ever have a meaningful relationship. It’s as if we have become strangers– strangers with nothing in common but history.

Also, as if by providence, while talking with my best friend Joe about what he learned about his own family on an Ancestry website, he suggested that I check it out as well. I had always been told that the Weavers kept few oral and even fewer writtWheaten records. What a surprise then, to discover, that not only is there a well-documented geneology for the Weaver (nee Weber) clan, but that I am a direct descendant of a Hans Johann Anton Weber who came from Zurich, Switzerland to settle and farm an area of Pennsylvania, today known as Weaverland.

The Photo:

I snapped this photo of a wheatfield at my Dad’s home, on a farm in rural PA. Although he is not a farmer himself, he did grow up on a farm as a child, and today lives in an area surrounded by large expances of cropfields, very similar to neighboring Weaverland.  The entire area is so serene and beautiful. I never much appreciated the simplicity of the region when I was younger. My only desire was to leave. My Dad never understood why I “read so much all the time” and why I wanted to perhaps someday be a teacher or an artist.  And so it was, the first seeds of distance that grew between us. Living 5,000 miles away in another hemisphere, I imagine it would be difficult for there to ever be more.

The photo itself is simple and straightforward, taken with my Canon Elf pocket camera, manual setting to underexpose, macro setting for close-up on the wheat sheaths. I did minimal work in Photoshop on this image, correcting a bit for the washed out sky that is common in Pennsylvania. I also corrected some for brightness, contrast, and saturation, being careful to keep this image true to how I saw the field with my eyes and in my mind. All digital photography needs work in photoshop, just like old fashioned prints were worked on in a lab with chemicals. The camera is just a tool, and digital software helps to improve the shortcomings of that tool.

The poem:
As catharsis, I had wanted to write this poem about my relationship with my dad. The starkness between us was haunting me, and by writing of it, usually I can move on, get over or see differently my feelings. As I went through the photos of my trip, I remembered the wheatfield image that I snapped at his home. All the while, I could not help shake this sensation that I had finally discovered my family roots. For the first time in my life, I felt that where I had grown up– Lancaster County– was truly a part of me. Like it or not, leave it or not, my people had lived there since the boat landed in Philadelphia in 1717. It was as though the very soil is in my blood. In truly biologic terms, it is.

Father and son
have labored upon this land
for generations; that
first clan whose
name was our very own
had plowed and sown
these same fertile fields
that yielded unto them-all
the corn and wheat and feed–
that they could need
as they toiled and sweat, together
well into the muggy-wet summer nights,
and shivered near death, together
by the darkest of early winter dawns.

 

Since my Grandpa Weaver had been a farmer, I realized, that all generations of Weber/Weavers (in the 10 generations of our family, the name had changed at some point in time) before him had in all likelliness been farmers as well, all up to my Dad and then me.  Me, then, being the first to leave the area. Those fields that I passed in the car as I drove to visit family, were the same fields that my ancestors worked for hundreds of years. They lived, worked, and subsisted on that land, in the hot of Pennsylvania summers and in the frozen depths of its winters. They worked to live and lived to work, and in the end, they survived it all.

And so, for the purpose of this poem, the first stanza represents the land and the the history of my family.

But not us–not you and me.
We never learned the language of father and son,
we never worked side-by-side,
we never tried
to speak
one-to-one, never tried to hear and now
the years are gone
and we are
strangers
who say nothing.

This second stanza, then, when read on its own makes no mention of the field or history, signifies the particular relationship between my Dad and me.  Some of my earliest and most impressionable memories of me and my Dad were those of an uncomfortableness. Likely it had much to do with my being gay, because even as a child, I was soft, a sissy. Probably more than anything, this unease settled between us like the damp in a basement. It is not a one-sided slight, either. There were times when I was made to feel “weak”– and yet, always aware of myself, I was worried about appearing “weak” and projected those feelings onto him.

Additionally, I make specific use of “language,” “speak,” “hear,” and “say” since ours unquestionably lacks all normal communication. I noticed this most during my trip home. Each time one of us would try to talk, there was a break in communication between us. Also, in the second line, I say “we never worked side-by-side”– a hint to the fathers and sons from the first stanza, our forefathers who had worked the land together. We, in a sense, had no land to tend.

Yet if ever it were again, Dad–
if we could be those pioneers, together
a father and son,
I would–
and I’d plow and sow and labor the land
until my hands grew sore
and we’d yield more from this fertile field
than corn and wheat and crops to feed,
through summer’s heat and winter’s cold
we would work
and we would grow
old, together.

Three is a magical number in art and writing– and I use it to full effect in this poem. It is in the 3rd stanza that I tie the 1st and 2nd together and sort of bring it back full circle by repeating the lines of the first one.  But instead of ancestral “father and son” who “labor, plow and sow the fertile fields” it is my dad and I. And instead of the field labor merely producing crops to feed (and survive), our work would “yield more,” it would yield a  relationship, one where instead of being estranged, we would “grow old, together” like how I imagine all those other fathers and sons did, working the farms until they died. Of note, I speak to my Dad directly in the first line of this stanza– as though I’m having a one-on-one conversation– something which we don’t do other than to talk about the weather. One final point: While I refer to my Dad as “Dad”– in the poem, I make reference to ‘fathers and sons’– this is not by accident. I think, in all due respect, my Dad and I have never been a ‘father and son’ and furthermore, there is this desire on my own part, beyond having merely a better connection to my Dad, but to also experience that traditional type of parent-child relationship.

And there is a bit more to this last stanza than wanting a chance to do it again. In fact, I’m not really saying “If I could do it all again…”– because, no, likely I would still want to leave to see the world. But I do have this nostalgic sense for the past– for a more simple time, when we could connect to the earth and just work to live, live to work without all this fuss of the modern world. No, I would not change what I did in this life if I could. BUT if I could somehow live the life of my forefathers, say, my great-great-great-great-great-great-great Grandfather Johann who travelled across the globe in search of a better life, I would. Heck, I guess I already have.

There is much I have not covered. The symbolism of a wheatfield? Sowing the seeds and tending the soils of a good relationship? Wheat as a sustinence?  Perhaps there is some insight YOU the reader have, something that you saw as an outsider that I missed, nay something that would be impossible for me to see? Please, please offer any critical and/or substantial feedback you may have. Did the poem work for you? Did the piece as a whole work? Did it fall flat? No emotion? You just didn’t get it? You don’t like wheat?

As ever, thanks much for taking the time to read. You make me a better person. ~peace, Jason

By Jason Weaver, 2013

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Critcal Breakdown– Fractured: Of this, we are

Welcome to a new edition in the Critical Breakdown section of my blog. If you’ve read other pieces in my Breakdown pages, this installment will be familiar to you. If you’re new to these pages, then let me briefly explain. Here I will go into a detailed explanation of a phot0-poem recently posted to the LoveMore Studio blog.  I’ll discuss the meaning behind a particular piece, both photograph and poem, and also my method to achieve the final result. In this case, I will write a critical breakdown of the photo-poem Fractured: Of this, we are. I felt this particular piece warranted an in depth explanation since the meaning behind it is likely not obvious to many, and the relation of the poem to the photo may not be clear at first.

As is often the case, I’d like to discuss the photograph first. Likely, because our internet world is such a visual place, most glances at my post were probably because of the photo. And in black and white, this particular photo is striking. I took this photo about a week ago while hiking in my favorite park, Parque Nacional da Serra dos Órgãos, here in my hometown, Petropolis, in Rio de Janerio, Brazil. I don’t come to this particular spot often, as I have found other spots that are more off the trail than this, but whenever I do, I just can’t resist snapping a few shots of this beautiful, serene, majestic cascade.

The Photo: Technically speaking, I took the photo with my trusty Canon Powershot SD1400 IS–yes, it is a digital pocket camera. I use this camera for all my shots because it has a nice macro lens and it is easy to carry in my pocket wherever I go. It has many, many limitations, including adequate light metering capabilities and focus adjustment to name but two. But I just can’t see myself lugging around my DSLR in a place where some people can’t afford to buy shoes.

Fractured_LoveMore StudioIn this scene, since the light at this location is tricky with the sun above the shadowed cover, I heavily underexposed. This allowed for a handheld esposure and created the slight misting effect which is what I had aimed for.  However, I did not want total misting as has become common in waterfall shots. I had wanted some simple blurring while retaining a natural feel to the scene. I adjusted the photo in PhotoShop CS4, shifting the image to black and white since the image as-shot was very monochromatic. Even though the shot was underexposed, I’m unsure how the darkness appeared at the top of the photo, since it was not there in the other photos of this series. Ultimately, it was this darkness at the top of the frame, where the mist appears to fall from nothingness, that made the photo appropriate for this poem.

As I worked the poem, I jotted down some observations in my poetry notebook regarding the image. The visual space is broken into three distinct sections: the upper secton, which is misty, still, and calm, like a distant memory. The middle, where the water hits the rock plateau is jarring and bold, crashing. And the lower portion is the drop, the descent into the darkness below. This photo has movement, from nothingness into light and back into nothingness. From still, to crash, to drop. From top to middle to bottom. From a beginning to an end. Seeing the waterfall in black and white helps to center our attention on the quality of the light mixed with the water. We achieve heightened emotion by removing color and asking our brains to percieve a common subject in a ‘different light’.

The Poem: Structurally, I took great pains to “fit” the poem into the blog space next to the photo which I placed on the left of the page. Normally, I post the photo first and allow the poem to run later. But in this case, it was very necessary to align the text of the poem with the photograph.  The poem is written in 3 stanzas, each part coinciding with corresponding section of the photograph.

I write my poems in a poetry journal, which is separate from my journal journal where I write my thoughts of the day. In my poetry journal, at the start of each new poem, I jot down words or themes that have come to me over the past several days. In this particular case, I already had the photograph from which I was inspired in mind. That made it easier. I wanted this poem to be harsh or critical, maybe about war or an angry god, cancer or apostasy. In total, I filled 8 sides of notebook paper with ideas and ruminations, with the final 3 pages my final revisions. I revise repeatedly in the notebook pages to get the right balance, rhythm and rhyme, but I always end up doing my last revision in the blog post upload page on the computer right before I hit ‘publish’.  In the end, it was an article which I read about how oil production from shale using hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” in my birth state Pennsylvania is causing untold sickness and disease in both humans and animals alike that gave me the final overrall theme of this poem: Our desctruction of the planet is our own demise.

So, the first stanza. Remember, as related to the photo, this section is to be light and misty, still and calm. It is where the water begins, from nothingness (at the top of the visual space) as it moves into the light (leading down into the center of the photo). The first stanza is nature, it is the creation of us, me and you,  from nature.

Of this, dawn’s primal mist
where pristine waters run far
an effervescent essence lit
by kiss of the distant sun
we are –captured in an instant
born of silt and stone

(Out) of this….out of the mist, this primordial soup of a world before man–that is how the poem begins, and that is how we begin. I imply that we were created at the moment that the sun lit up the primordial mist, that we arose from the same materials as the water and the rocks and the silted earth.  It is here that we were pure. This part of the poem is to be light and airy, just like the top portion of the image. It is this section of the poem that is most like my other poems about nature, and I did not want the ready to suspect that anything would be different from those other works.

The second stanza, however, as juxtaposed agains the photo, is where the misted water crashed onto the rocks across the center of the picure. It is meant to be jarring. I did not want the reader to be aware where this poem was headed, and so this stanza represents the ‘fracture’ –in the poem itself– as well as the ‘fracture’ in hydraulic fracturing, where tons of chemicals along with clean drinking water are injected into shale below the earth to extract petroleum. This is what ‘fracking’ is– it is destructive and offensive, and I had hoped this stanza to relay that, both by what I say and the overall tone and rhythm.

Built of blood and bone
we are fractured– and choked
as we drill and we spill
and suffocate on its distillate
in an endless frenzy of
of butylated mutilation

From the first stanza, I carried over the concept of ‘born of silt and stone’  into the ‘built of blood and bone’  in the second stanza to show that we ARE of this earth, and that we too, are fractured in this process.  It is a transition, from pristine nature to damaged nature. I had wanted to include a list of the chemicals that are used in fracking that have found their way into people’s drinking water– and into our food supply, since most fracking takes place under farmlands all across the U.S.– chemicals like benzene, xylene, propane, toluene, arsenic, silenium, acetene, strontium, sulfates, chloride, methane– but they just didn’t seem to fit, and so I settled with simply naming ‘butane’ as in the line ‘butylated mutilation’.

The third and final stanza is the drop from the crash, corresponding to the movement from the middle to the lower portion in the photo (and into darkness at the bottom of the frame) as the water, now defiled, spills ‘until blackness takes hold’ into nothingness once more.

And with oil-slicked seas afire
about the knees of our
dire existence, we are
defiled by disease that rakes
our bodies and souls until
blackness takes hold–

Of this, we cease to be.

One of the neat consequences of all the chemicals used in fracking is that you can actually light water on fire! Since fracking uses hydraulic pressure to force the petroleum out of the rock below, often times, the chemicals are forced into peoples drinking wells and rivers and streams. Once you get this stuff in your drinking water you’ll never be able to drink from it again. These chemicals are flammable, so water from contaminated wells can be light on fire.  In the poem, I mention oil-slicked seas of fire, the fire being what I just explained, and with the BP oil spill in the Caribbean still fresh in my mind, I couldn’t help but conjure up an image of oil-slicked seas.

The ‘seas about the knees’ is a quick reference to rising waters due to global climate change. There have already been some island countries that have had to abandon their homelands in search of higher land. They have become climate refugees. And the mention of disease here specifically to me refers to my aunt who is suffering through a second bout of cancer. The types of cancers that she faces are so extreme, I can’t help but wonder if it’s because she had lived very near to the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania when there was massive radiation leakage in March, 1979. Related or not, our earth is diseased and now our bodies are diseased. To think that our spirit or soul is unaffected by the atrocities that we do to our home, our water, our food…well, I think otherwise.

I end the poem with ‘Of this, we cease to be’ — I repeat back from the first line of the poem, when all life was hopeful and new ‘Of this…we are…born of silt and stone …we are built of blood and bone’  and then continued in the body ‘…we are fractured…we are defiled’  and finally…’Of this we cease to be’ becaue, quite literally, we are all of this. We are the good, we are the bad. We are born of this and we will die of this. The title of the poem was originally to be just “Of this, we are”  and then later I changed it to “Fractured” but each of these separately didn’t seem to tell the whole story. I combined the two into “Fractured: Of this, we are” which I feel really sums it all up. We ARE of all of this, and we ARE fractured.

Review: Well, how did I do? With both the original photo-poem and with my explanation? Did I leave anything out? Did I overexplain? Did I bore you to oily-tears? Personally, I know my poems can be a little heavy. Really, I’m working on it. And I know that as far as poetic skill goes, I’m just a beginner. But honestly, I think my more recent works have shown improvement. My next task it to work on making my poems less about general feelings or ideas and more about specific emotions that the audience can relate to more immediately.

Please, please feel free to offer me any feedback, advice, criticism– whatever! I am always looking to grow and learn so any words of wisdom would be major help. And as always, thanks for reading my blog. Peace~ Jason

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.

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.

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

Sunlit — Critical Breakdown

Sunlit — Critical Breakdown.

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.

Sunlit

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
yet encumbered
by remnants of the oppressive darkness
set in coated coalescence
wet on my skin
stark
and aquiver
I am delivered anew this day
as fine-mist dew drops dissipate
in the essence of sunlit
rejuvenescence

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 passedthe 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 coalescencewet 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!

~Peace, Jason