Sunday, March 27, 2011

Writing Prompt #1: Worth a Thousand Words

Aaron Siskind, San Luis Potosi 16, 1961

"[t]he Photograph does not call up the past . . . [t]he effect it produces upon me is not to restore what has been abolished (by time, by distance) but to attest that what I see has indeed existed"

— Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida

"People take pictures of the summer / Just in case someone thought they had missed it / Just to prove that it really existed   // People take pictures of each other / And the moment to last them forever / Of the time when they mattered to someone"

— the Kinks, "People Take Pictures of Each Other" (view here)

Proverbially, a picture is worth a thousand words, and while I'm not going to ask you to write that many, for your first prompt, I'd like you to respond poetically to photography.  Pick one, or maybe two photographs — preferably ones that are one the web, because I want you to include it with your poem — and spend a little time meditating upon them, free from distraction, then start writing down your impressions.

Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Hartford, 1980

Is there are story being told here?  Are there small details that we need to be reminded of?  What do you see in this photograph that no one else would see?  What does it remind you of?  How would you describe the qualities, the textures, the colors of this image?  What sort of rhythm does it have?  If you choose two photos, what sort of relationship or dialogue might exist between them?  Is this a personal picture?  If so, what feelings does it stir in you?  Why is it important?  If it's not a personal photo, then invent a personal connection.

Helen Levitt, New York, NY, 1971

Jot down your initial impressions, then start crafting them into a first draft of your poem.   Take a little time away from the photo (maybe a day or so) then come back and see what you have to add or subtract.  Post your finished poem along with your image(s) (preferably embedded into the thread) to Blackboard before Friday's class, and we can spend a little time talking about them after the day's workshops.

[ note: you shouldn't write about the photos I've posted here.  They're simply intended to give you a few ideas in terms of the sorts of images you might want to choose: a portrait, a scene, an abstract image, etc. ]

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