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 begin 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
yet weep my fine tears of
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
in hyaline display for your
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
but always fragile
needing your gale
pleading the removal
of all doubt
in this delicate bind
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!
Critical Breakdown — Delicate Bind.