Tag Archives: photography

A Photograph of Poets

A Photograph of Poets

A photograph of poets. Scrolling down a page on my computer screen, I was surprised to find it. I smiled to see them. They posed, looking very aware of the photographer and camera, each of them sculpted by their own vision. Good to see them in one room together. Later, I learned the photograph was taken in the office of the publisher, Faber and Faber, 24, Russell Square, in Bloomsbury, near the British Museum, London, on the twenty third of June, 1960. It would have been interesting to hear their conversation, before and after the photograph session. But it was not recorded, not even in memoir. But there they are, in black and white, from left to right, Louis MacNeice, Ted Hughes, T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden, Stephen Spender. All of them smart, dressed for the city. T.S. Eliot looks eldest, Ted Hughes the youngest. All of them famous. Fame is rare for poets. What they wrote will endure. It will provide literary work for college lectures, seminars, tutorials, essays, examination questions, professor’s papers. And there will always be the few, the small circle, who read poetry for pleasure. I wonder what they would make of what happened to their art, what present poets have done to it? Critics as well as poets, they would have a lot to say. More interesting to ponder, what would they create if they still lived to write? They launched their works on the same river. They listened for words in the wind. To let them go, they had to. And when the photographer was satisfied with his photograph, T.S. Eliot, as the host, may have said: “Goodbye, all of you. Thank you for coming. Goodbye, Louis. Goodbye, Ted. Goodbye, Wynstan. Goodbye, Stephen.” And maybe they would have said to him: “Goodbye, Tom. See you soon. Goodbye. Goodbye.”
And taking different directions, they would have been soon lost in London.
T.S. Eliot, alone in his office, may then have had a cup of tea, thinking to himself: “Well, that went well.”

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Photographing Clouds

Photographing Clouds

Photographing clouds,
trying to capture the luminous lines.
One way to spend a September afternoon.
He thought he really needed a telescopic lens.
You can forget the sun can heal until it shines.

Later, sat solo on a stool,
the folk club floor at his feet,
not there on show as a fool,
but to sing his songs to anyone
who came in off the street.
He had found his place, he was sure,
singing to his solitary strings,
like every troubadour that had gone before.

He thought of the people he’d seen in his life,
must have been crowds and crowds,
glad he’d spent the afternoon
photographing clouds.

The Weasel and the Woodpecker

                                  The Weasel and the Woodpecker

A weasel flew on the back of a woodpecker.
It is true. It said on the news.
If that can happen, anything can.
An amateur photographer captured the event
in a photograph.
If that can happen, anything wrong
could turn out right.
Yes, a weasel sat on the back of a woodpecker,
clung to its feathers,
while the woodpecker was in flight.

A Proper Gander

                                             A Proper Gander

He had a proper gander
to tell truth from slander,
but found only twisted wire
in a broken mirror.

His thoughts too apt to wander
to have a proper gander,
too loudly spoke the liar,
cold words made him shiver.

It was one dim December,
on a long road to see his doctor,
he looked up to discover,
a branch, thin and crooked,
blown by a recent wind
to hang high in the air,
caught on a telegraph wire,
trapped like a piece of abstract art
to admit he could admire,
unintended, created by chance,
by wind, branch and wire.
Looked now a fixed structure.
To remove it would require,
a man on a ladder.
It stood out on his walk,
looked odd, surreal,
a case of accidental art,
worth a photograph,
but he had no camera.
Maybe a concerned house owner
would warn the council,
tell them the branch caught in the wire
could be a public danger.
It might get blown down
by the next strong wind
and strike a resident or stranger,
or hit a car or house window,
and recommend they send a fire engine,
to take the branch down from the wire
by a fireman on a ladder.
Still it remains, a transitory work of art,
looked like a novel cover
or a shot from a film,
suggested something about capture,
failed freedom, isolation,
a near escape from prison,
the rags left behind by war.
It was worth another gander,
but left him cold, unsure.

 

Yeti

                                                Yeti

It’s all right. I will tell no one.
I’ll just take a few photographs,
then I’ll be gone.
Never thought I’d find you, but I did.
You never left a mark, you never hid.
Now there you are,
with some of your tribe, it seems.
How could I describe
what rarely flickers forth in dreams?
Sat protectively, outside your cave,
more like tall, thin apes
with rough skin scraggy with black hairs
than bears you look.
I can tell you have no language,
only seldom muttered sounds,
no link to hang a hook,
as you gaze out over the snow silenced,
Himalayan roof.
I had to come, I had to try to find you.
Never expected I would find proof.
Thank you for being, remaining still,
for the beauty of the sight,
you were worth my frozen tongue,
the threat of fall and frost bite.
They only ever speak of the yeti,
as if there was only ever one,
the last remnant of a race, perhaps,
that long ago has gone.
But there you sit, behind you,
members of more than one family.
You are obviously the head, the chief.
The others look guarded by you,
you they trust, in you they have belief.
A few stump up, turn back, lower their heads,
retreat into the black blanket
of the low roofed cave mouth.
You stay with the others, alert.
Your eyes look one way,
yet see north, west, east, south.
No one would believe these photographs I take.
They would inspire only sneers, laughs.
They would say they are fake.
They would say they are of human actors in ape coats,
photographed in winter in the mountains, somewhere.
It does not matter. I do not care.
I would not want them to believe they are genuine.
I do not want them to find you.
There. I’ve taken my last photograph.
When they think of you,
I prefer that they keep saying: What if?
I will go now, head back down the mountain,
and leave you to remain a myth.

Precarious Piano Player

Precarious Piano Player

Precarious piano player,
playing her piano
on the edge of a cliff,
her spine straight and stiff.
Wonder how she got there.
She does not seem to care,
with her head in the clouds,
ocean wind in her hair.
Alarmed enough to laugh,
I saw her in a photograph.
Perhaps the scene was staged,
I thought, as water
sluiced through the plug hole
in the bath.