THE VISUAL DEPICTION OF A POEM

I was looking forward to this exercise!   It asked me to choose a poem that resonated with me and then to interpret it through photographs.  This spoke to me as a wonderful way to awaken my dormant creativity and have some fun. It was getting away from the theory side with its head scratching complexities and mind numbing concepts and asking me to actually do some practical photography.  What could possibly go wrong?

I felt on safe ground and basked in the light of a project that I could relax with and enjoy.  I then looked for ideas and inspiration in the work that other OCA students had done in answer to this exercise and I looked at potential poems that inspired me and the problems began!  The choice of poem was not as easy as I had thought it would be.  I am naturally attracted to poems that have clear and descriptive content, that use real and solid concepts and subjects that I can relate to and resonate with. I have several of these in mind and I started to think how I might illustrate them to meet the Exercise brief. Here is an example.

Until I find you, I will be dating the ocean and its breeze
Until you find me, flirt with every cycle of the moon as you breathe
Until I am ready for you, I will be kissing the sun good morning and good evening
Until you are ready for me, make love to the seven seas but tell them you will be leaving
Until I hold you, I will be burying my sorrow in the wet sand
Until you hold me, don’t let the winds take away all your strengths
Until I see you naked with all your wounds and gifts, I will be counting raindrops till we meet
Until you see me naked with all my wounds and gifts, wait for me by the sea and when I am ready I shall arrive, this time I will be free

Jessica Semaan

Immediately a problem arose!  This poem, in common with others I am considering, uses clear imagery in order to paint its pictures.  If I was to use that same imagery in my photographs I would be guilty of not being creative enough and of being too descriptive,  of taking the imagery too literally.  The Exercise brief asks me not to attempt to describe the poem but instead to give a sense of the feeling of the poem and the essence it exudes.  The stated aim of the exercise is to encourage me to ‘develop metaphorical and visceral interpretations rather than obvious and literal ones, to give a sense of something rather than a record of it‘.  In effect, this poem and others I am considering is already illustrating itself through the clear imagery that it uses.  I cannot get beyond the idea of illustrating this poem with images of the sea, sun, sand, moon, raindrops and winds that are already there in the poem and which will therefore already be in the minds of readers.  I have no idea how to express this poem in other ways.

While considering the images themselves I have turned to the work of fellow students who have provided illustrative imagery in response to the Exercises and Assignment for the Narrative section and I immediately came up against other problems.  In some instances, tutor feedback warns of using imagery that is hackneyed or trite, imagery that I had thought was both novel and inventive!   In others, I cannot feel empathy with the  imagery used, finding it hard too relate to the significance and meaning of the images in relation to the text.  These are pitfalls that I feel I must avoid at all costs.  I also need to ensure that the series of images fit the tone and timbre of the poem and also that the images form a visually cohesive and compatible series with each other.  What a minefield!  All of a sudden I seem to have left the calm and carefree sunlight of the valley and am battling gravity as I labour uphill into the clinging and obscuring mist and cloud of the mountains.  

Why am I writing this?  Partly because it is a record of my current learning processes and therefore appropriate for the log and also partly in the hope that through the writing process the clouds will part and some clarity will result.  Another reason for writing is to put off the moment when I have to actually commit to a course of action and complete the exercise!  Clearly, I need to find some way of taking this all less seriously and instead trying to have fun, to see it as part of a journey rather than an end goal that I have to get right.  So what ideas can I come up with to move things forward?  

To make progress I have rejected the other options and have made the decision to go with this poem. I have also decided to use some of the imagery in the poem as inspiration for my choice of accompanying photographs. The sense that I get from the poem is of the writer’s deep connection with the natural world, its ebbs and flows and its energies.  He or she (the writer’s identity is not revealed) is using their deep connection with the elements of the natural world as a surrogate for their absent lover and is suggesting that their lover-to-be does the same until they are together.  The relationship that each would have with the natural elements would keep them free from the complications of entanglements with other lovers.  

I therefore chose to illustrate the poem with images that drew on the natural world whilst also suggesting a sense of isolation.  I also attempted to ensure that some of the images showed an element of warmth and intimacy in their loneliness to suggest that they depicted a relationship albeit not a human – human one.  The results are given below.

—   o0o   —

UNTIL I FIND YOU

1-1-5

Until I find you,

I will be dating the ocean and its breeze

 

1-1

Until you find me,

flirt with every cycle of the moon as you breathe

 

1-1-8

 Until I am ready for you,

I will be kissing the sun good morning and good evening

 

1-1-10
Until you are ready for me,

make love to the seven seas but tell them you will be leaving

 

1-1-6

Until I hold you,

I will be burying my sorrow in the wet sand

 

1-1-2

Until you hold me,

don’t let the winds take away all your strengths

 

1-1-3
Until I see you naked with all your wounds and gifts,

I will be counting raindrops till we meet

 

IMG_9379
Until you see me naked with all my wounds and gifts,

wait for me by the sea

 

1-1-7

And when I am ready I shall arrive,

this time I will be free

Jessica Semaan

———-     o0o     ———-

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