How to be a Poet (to remind myself)

Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill-more of each
than you have-inspiration
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity…

Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensional life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.

Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.”

Wendell Berry

The American landscape photographer Guy Tal quoted this in part up on his Facebook page a couple of weeks ago.  I love the work of Guy Tal and his writings.  Photography comes across as being very meditative for him.

somewhere near kinlochewe

Somewhere near the A’ Ghairbhe, Torridon


The poem got me thinking, as it resonates so strongly for me.  But, at the same time there is a part if me that thinks “easier said than done”.  I’m writing this on my mobile phone in an acoustically deafening sports hall as my lad does indoor rugby training.  Every squeak of shoes on the sports hall floor, every blast of the coaches’ whistles, every bounce of someone sitting down hard on the bench jars me to my very core.  I want to explode.

There is always that internal discourse going on to put the phone down, turn off Twitter, stop looking at blogs.  How though, as someone more introvert than extrovert, do you learn, evolve and improve without the stimulus and feedback of those you find on line (and occasionally meet in real life!)?

I honestly don’t think that we can escape technology and it’s “progress”, but we can enjoy those quieter moments when they present themselves.  A couple of weeks ago I was away in Torridon, North West Scotland, on a workshop led by David Ward.   Nothing gave me greater pleasure than to lie in the snow, in the dampened silence, and look upon a scene and drink it in.  I didn’t always take a photograph – somethings don’t always transpose well I feel. (Sitting beside a roaring log fire, gazing into the flames and drinking a reasonable malt also gives me great pleasure I should add.)

What I have learnt, in retrospect, from being on the workshop, is that it is the quieter more intimate image and not the bigger classic landscape that gives me the most pleasure.  The subtlety of observation in the detail versus the need to get it all in – though there is enjoyment in taking them, there is just not as much.  No doubt I will post some of the classic landscapes I took on here in due course, but it will be the detailed images that will give me the most pleasure when I share them.

With photography it’s the quiet moments that it creates that are as much a part of my photographic practice as taking an exposure and pressing the cable release.  Moments of quiet in this hectic always on, always available, always contactable world, are valuable  and we should appreciate them when those moments present themselves.

Rydal Cave, The Lake District

Rydal Cave, The Lake District


What is it about photography that you like and what does photography do for you?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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