an excerpt from The Book of Haiku
thus not all. Not even the majority of all but the minority.
Not counting schools, where one has to,
and the poets themselves,
there might be two people per thousand.
but one also likes chicken soup with noodles,
one likes compliments and the color blue,
one likes an old scarf,
one likes having the upper hand,
one likes stroking a dog.
but what is poetry.
Many shaky answers
have been given to this question.
But I don’t know and don’t know and hold on to it
like to a sustaining railing.
- Wislawa Szymborska [translated by Regina Grol]
with mustered musement and merriment, a dispensation: at its most elemental, photography serves to reify that which the photographer deems worthy. to make a photograph is to assert value, and it is this assertion of value, in the form of a representation, that is, first and foremost, (re)iterated through dissemination. Instagram facilitates both acts: the taking and the trajectory, framing both as, as simple and as swift and as seamless as swiping a few onscreen buttons. and, unlike other models of making [a pro camera, being an artist, etc] and shaking [a book, the newspaper, a gallery or museum for example] that may by convention be bound by cost, time, purpose, profession, skill, education, social standing and/or experience, Instagram offers a relatively unencumbered mechanism to readily participate in a radically differing vista: the quotidian. to peruse a nexus of Instagram connections and to contribute your own photographs to that well, is to play a part in the real time accumulation, a steadying (re)valuation, of some of what gets us, singularly and together, through each day: friends, family, pets, places and food; something beautiful, something funny, something seen, and something done. it is in this way that the common practice of judging the relative merit of an individual photograph falls flat in the face of the Instagram interface. for the import of Instagram is in the very fact of each photograph having been produced and of the near-instantaneous shared profusion of countless such photographs across a network of exchange in which the legal tender is ♥ and minds [ie comments] and the reward, irregardless of the likes, is a reinforced sense of identification. every photograph a shiver not unlike your own.
i quit every other day and the other days i don’t even bother. i should’ve been a poet or a painter, or even smarter, taken those automotive repair classes in high school or got a good job at the shipyard like everyone else. maybe i should’ve went to a vocational cooking school, or better pestered my mother into buying me an electric guitar when i was twelve so i could’ve run away at fifteen to a southern california suburb to star in an angry punk rock band. instead what i’ve got are cameras, film, a darkroom i can’t afford, chemicals and paper. yet even with these riches i scarcely manage to fit any one thing worth your whiles to the confines of the material, never mind the unending erosion, for better or worse, of my very own wiles. it’s a feeble medium and it’s not keen to forgive. on my best days i think to tell the world important things, but let’s be honest, i cannot. it doesn’t work that way. it’s the cameras that do the telling and the most they ever tell me is what i’m in need of knowing. i scratch out the bits and pieces i remember and do what i can to smuggle them out to you. i try my best. i try to guess where you’ll be. i try to pronounce the languages you might speak. i try to carry on the mannerisms that might make your mind. i don’t know. the cameras don’t care what they do. the cameras don’t need to be used. there are long lonely days when i think the cameras are just fine by themselves as if maybe i should’ve been somebody else. like what i should’ve been is a clerk, a conductor, an electrician. some kind of catalyst. pure and invisible.
There is light. We neither see nor touch it.
In its empty clarities rests
what we touch and see.
I see with my fingertips
what my eyes touch:
shadows, the world.
With shadows I draw worlds,
I scatter worlds with shadows.
I hear the light beat on the other side.
Friedlander won’t admit an influence, offering a good pot of beans as inspiration enough and my father always said you weren’t really poor until you drank off the soup and cooked the beans again. I make these every few weeks.
Rinse a pound of white beans, great northern or navy don’t matter, and soak in water overnight. In the morning drain the beans and put them in a stockpot along with a large diced white onion, a minced clove of garlic, 2 bay leaves, and a ham bone. Fill the pot with water a few inches above the beans and tie together a handful of parsley and as many sprigs of thyme as you can find and set in on top. Bring the pot to boil on high heat and carefully skim off any foam and scum that forms up on the surface, then turn the heat down low and half-way cover with a lid. Simmer the beans slow for two or three hours – what you want is just the perception of bubbling. From time to time skim off any more scum that might rise to the surface and then give the pot a good stir. Once the beans are cooked through remove what’s left of the tied up herbs and the ham bone and stir in salt and pepper to taste. Should you have any leftover ham, cut that up and add that to the pot too and simmer another twenty minutes and then the beans will be done. Best if you wait a day or two to let everything marry. Invite friends over; the beans are fine with toasted bread and baked squash. Freezes well.
Clarence John Laughlin organizes a lifetime of work — an excerpt:
GROUP A: STILL LIFES
This group, the earliest on which I worked, was begun in 1935. I started with no formal training at all as a painter or photographer, but with some background as a writer, and a vast background as a reader. Although this group originated in a desire to develop further an interest in composition (incited by the discovery of certain art magazines in the 1930s) it eventually became involved in an urge to see how far my feelings about objects could become projected through the camera; and in the discovery of objects which could become the clues to changes in the nature of American culture. Thus, here, as in much of my work, there is a progression from the semi-abstract to the poetic.
GROUP J: THE IMAGES OF THE LOST
Group J deals with the people rejected by our society; it is the first group primarily devoted to human beings. But the people were very seldom photographed where they were actually found. Instead, a difficult method was used: a special background was selected for each person (often from places discovered previously) with the intention of making the background work, not only in terms of design, but in terms of a subtle revelation of the overall social situation of the person. The people themselves were not used as models — they were not posed — nor were they used as “sociological documents.” The attempt was to treat them as individual human beings. The overall composition was determined carefully on the ground glass. But the exposure was not made till each person seemed to reveal himself by some spontaneous gesture or expression.
GROUP Q: NEW ANATOMIES
In this comparatively small group, which began in 1951, I have tried to show that the camera can explore the plastic potentialities of the human body in just as real a sense as, for instance, Picasso has done in some marvelous drawings where he makes use of numerous kinds of distortion in recreating the body; although in these photos distortion is not the method actually used. Nevertheless we are presented with visions of the body which it would be impossible for the physical eye directly to see. The pictures go completely beyond the kind of “recording” function usually assigned to the camera, and instead of giving us the results of direct vision, give us far more — the hyper-real vision created by the inner eye in man — the poetic, desiring, and dreaming eye. Because of this, the erotic element becomes all the more intense. But due to the puritanical code dominating this country till recently, none of these pictures have ever been published or exhibited before. The basic quotation for this series is from Hart Crane: “New thresholds, new anatomies!” And the last half of this quotation is, literally, the subject for this group.
GROUP S: THE MAGIC OF THE OBJECT
It should be pointed out that Group S is the only one of the many groups I worked on which is entirely devoted to so-called commonplace objects. In this group I try to show how the photographer, like the painter and poet, can release a level of meaning from the most ordinary objects, which has nothing to do with their naturalistic meaning. The photographer, of course, does this through intensely personal vision (just as is true of the painter and the poet) and when this happens, what the photographer is really dealing with is what the human mind has projected into the object: the secret language of inanimate objects, the hidden images of man’s hopes and joys, his dreams and desires, by which he makes more human the inhuman world around him. Although most of these pictures use the “found” object, all the objects are, in a deeper sense, “well arranged,” that is, lighting, composition, and other factors have been used, both consciously and compulsively, to make more manifest the hidden meanings these objects have for the sensibility of the photographer. But, aside from all this, many of the objects in these pictures can be truly, considered part of the iconography of our time.
to plot those places
where i last remember you
time and time again
your feelings, your experiences, your ideas are an auspicious, even admirable place to begin, just know when you’ve finally reached an end none of that should matter anymore. what there will be is something you’ve never seen before and what that will be is the very thing you did not even know you most needed.
I read that we’re all made of the same stuff: atoms, molecules and chemical compounds. That literally this could be that and that will become this. When they say all is one, they aren’t being kind. I know dead birds are a cliche, but figuratively it was on my doorstep and not many come knocking. When fitting energy to fate, and fate to phenomena, constellations are our only consolation.
made for a recent exchange for The Postcard Collective
– for Silvia Natalia Rivera
I don’t know why they would make me love a dream I had, many years back,
containing a dream of yours
– your skull appeared to me
And it had an exalted presence;
it didn’t look at me — it looked at you.
And it drew near my skull, and I looked at you.
And when you were looking at me, my skull appeared to you;
it didn’t look at you.
It looked at me.
In the exalted night,
someone looked on;
and I dreamed your dream
– beneath a soundless rain,
you hid within your skull,
and I hid within you.
right hand: polophony
left hand: stewardesses
top row: typewriter
Kevin Slavin on how augmented reality research is too sight determined and not focused enough on what makes matter mean. Seeing is, in deed if not more, [yes i'm saying it] only the tip of an iceberg.
Art is not arbitrary. A fine painting is not there by accident; it is not arrived at by chance. We are sensitive to tonalities.
The smallest modification of tonality affects structure. Some things have to be rather large, but elegance is the presentation of things in their minimum dimensions.
- Frederick Sommer, from General Aesthetics, 1979
Twenty feet of wood lies on a sawhorse.
Fourteen feet of wood is now on the sawhorse,
while the other six feet is on the floor
in various sizes, like two feet or one foot, etc.
An eight-foot square section of floor
is covered with the linoleum paste.
One-foot tiles are fastened to it.
I like the trowel moving paste like molasses on marble.
Fifty feet of quarter-inch black wire with two light bulbs
is attached to the top of the wall
and hangs down and makes a pile on the floor.
Plug it in.
A twelve-foot by five-foot wall board is painted
flat peach all over with a roller.
Fittings of galvanized pipe are put together,
making nothing real but pipe fittings put together.
- Jim Dine
Richard Hugo grew up in the same small dark rundown towns as me, skirting the Puget Sound, humid and dank and mold ridden mud rainy. Every direction is blocked by an impassable wall of hundred foot pines cast green black upon hills, the sky a mass of low chilled clouds dropped ceiling overhead, and always in the distance, should the sky feel generous, sublime views of glacier hard mountains. Unless you should chance out over the ocean, gray flat and ineffable, it was a landscape without horizons.
There may be no more beautiful place to see or explore. Yet growing up there, the shape of that place manifested internally, discretely: economic hardship, stifling family secrets, deprivations and depressions, a festering sense of failure. Hugo, like myself, was eventually able to move on and out. Asked to teach poetry in Montana and then Iowa, he was able to find other views, a wider sky. Still he could never shake the narrow readings of the Sound. The hope of the hopeless a tight knot to undo.
Hugo talks about writing and then reads his poem Degrees of Gray in Philipsburg
Adam Gottschalk gives an extraordinary reading of the same poem, Degrees of Gray in Philipsburg
There was foot bridge near my work in Shinagawa that spanned an industrial canal flowing off from Tokyo bay. I’d wait there if I was early, nursing a can of Kirin from the convenience store and peering into the deep black water, soothed by the silver spines skipping across cresting waves of current.
One day as I approached the bridge I saw a young salaryman intently watching the water lost to his thoughts. The weird thing was that he was leaning against the opposite rail of the bridge from where I always stood. I remember thinking, why would he do that? It wasn’t as beautiful that direction, just a view of the factories, of the docks.
The moment I settled into my familiar place facing the bay, the light and space spread vista before me, I immediately realized what I previously never cared to noticed. I always looked to where the water was coming from, to where it had been, just as my thoughts are often on the things that have gone before, on what had already happened, on all that I’d done.
So I turned toward the other side, walked over to see how things might look from a perspective focused on the future, to place my weight on the far railing and gaze upon a current that was going somewhere, to imagine all that might still be done.
I couldn’t take it for more than a few seconds. Honestly, watching all that water flow out from me made me nauseous.