The Block Island Poetry Project

The people at the Poetry Project saw my book and asked to see the pictures bigger.  Here is one of the pictures from the book, called "Cathy's Wave".  It's named for my sister.

I taught at the Block Island Poetry Project last weekend and then I went right home and finished our taxes.  So I got to have one big experience juxtaposed with another.  I had tried to psych myself into doing taxes and not indulge in whining about them.  I tried to say, “Isn’t it nice to be alive while working with taxes - to spend time in this knowable, orderly world?  But we have four different businesses plus our own taxes, and some (all) of my filing systems looked like the back of my closet.  So all of that had to be carefully organized with much ADHD and gnashing of teeth. 

Now the taxes are done and I think it is best to forget them as soon as possible.  I want to focus instead on telling you about the Poetry Project.  I led a session called “Photography and a Creative Life”. 

This is another picture from the book, called "Amy's Wave".  It's for another sister.  The only sister left without a wave is Mary, and she's out in Colorado.  Perhaps she can visit and we'll find a wave together, or if I go there it might have to be a mountain:  "Mary's Mountain."  That would be fine.

I asked people to tell me what was important to them, how they wanted to express their creative instincts.  One woman talked about beauty and where it can be found.  She opened this line of inquiry:  “Do we have to be in a place like Block Island to live our lives in beauty, or can we find it anywhere?”  Another spoke of writing as craft.  She said so many people dash words onto a page because there is a kind of truth that comes from blurting things out.  But she wants to find the exact center, and so she works hard on her writing.  She lets it refine and emerge, and she discovers both words and a deeper understanding.  A man said he used to be afraid to expose himself, but when his father died, he was no longer willing to wait.  He wants to be as authentic as possible and to experience that from others.  A woman came with her beautiful young daughter.  This child paid much closer attention than I would have expected, and when she was tired, she leaned into her mother and played with her mother’s long hair.  One man was a little bit quiet in the workshop and like so many quiet people has so much to say.  When we were out taking pictures, he used my long telephoto lens and got a good picture of swans bursting unexpectedly into flight.  Happiness.

This picture is called "Back Splash."  It's also in the book.

Each person generously spoke about his or her own life and aspirations.  Each person’s world and work and way of being was different, and each person’s story was so big.

The mother said, “I thought we were going to talk about photography, and we are, but this is about so much more than photography!”  I found myself saying, “Photography is about so much more than photography.”  

On the last night, Coleman Barks (a poet), David Darling (a cellist), John de Kadt (a drummer) and Zuleikha (a story-telling dancer) performed some poems adapted from Rumi.  I have known these poems for years but I never saw them dancing.  Zuleikha could swing her hips and I could see a cow.  She could raise her shoulders and I could see a parrot. (That cow, for example, would eat grass all day and worry about it all night.  It forgot that the grass would grow again and would always be there in the morning.)  I have also worried that I would run out of things to say.  But now, I will remember that woman’s bottom swaying while she happily, busily, munched the new grass, and I will laugh and believe that life will continue to grow for me also.                                                                                          

I was convinced again about the special power of seeing.  It helps me know things more deeply and use what I learn in my life.  It can show things before words come in to make up philosophies and arguments.  No one has ever looked at my pictures and said, “But that’s against my religion.”  I like that very much.      

I want to spend time on this, to explore the ways that pictures show what words can’t say, and the ways that pictures and words can work together to tell a better story. 

This is a puzzle I've been working on all week.  I took the color out because I wanted the gulls to blend into the ocean.  I'm not really satisfied yet.  I want to convey  a feeling about birds and waves coming from the same wind.  I want them to look like each other, or to look like they derive from each other, or derive together from the same source. 

There are many ways to know about this picture.  One is to count the birds for tax purposes.  There are 18 birds, and X% of that is what?  This is just what I need.  Another is to write a story about them.  Another is to evaluate... it's a little light, the contrast could be greater but then you'd see the birds more clearly and do you want that or not?  The wave coming through is "effective" or else it's "distracting."  Another way is to know by seeing and just be with it and not put anything else on top of it.  That way you can have your experience and I can have mine.  It can do what is needed in both of our lives, and both can be true. 


PS.  I am going to work to make an eBook out of the content from the workshop.  I’ve never done that before and I’m sure I’ll be telling you about it.

PPS.  This picture is called, “I Want That.”  One seagull is attempting to take a fish from the other.  I think it is appropriate for taxes.