Saturday, 26 January 2013


Inspired by the work of the poet Ted Hughes and the photographer Fay Godwin, my fellow OCA student Dave Whenham (alias Fatherpie) is currently undertaking research into the relationship between words and pictures as part of his photography degree. This is is a subject that has always interested me with poems often having been inspired by photographs, including some of my poems here on the blog (for example the themed sequence 'From the Family Album'). I have embarked on a collaborative project with him whereby I write a poem in response to his photos. This might also provides me with additional inspiration to use when writing the poems for the exercises throughout the course.

   Had I been able to follow a creative arts pathway my two subjects were to have been writing and photography and the interplay between creative disciplines would have been a major part of my studies. Although I have yet to begin an inquiry into collaborative work, I am reminded of writers who work across different media. One writer who springs to mind here is Sylvia Plath. I was introduced to Plath's poetry during my OU studies but was unaware until recently that she was a talented artist as well, as can be seen by following the link. /  

   I'd like to investigate other writers / artists /photographers who work in complementary disciplines either as individuals or as part of a collaborative process so this is a great starting point for me. I rushed off to Amazon to buy a copy of the Hughes/Godwin collaboration 'Elmet' only to balk at the £73.00 price tag. I'll have to save up first. 
   As an aside to my creative writing studies (rather than being the integral part) this project enables me to flirt with the subject while being inspired to write, as well as informing both my writing and my photography. It seems rather one-sided at the moment with me getting the inspiration both to write and research. Not to mention the enjoyment. I hope Dave gets something from it as well.

   It began with him posting this photograph.
   On this occasion Dave gave the image a title 'Flight through the woods' and noted the following:

"the point of view and angle from which it has been taken aim to represent the POV of someone running through the woods, the overhanging branches in their face. The infrared treatment lends a spooky ethereal feel yet the brightness of the image does not necessarily suggest dark deeds ...'

   I think my own interpretation of the photo would have been along similar lines even without the explanation but I do wonder just how much Dave's words influenced my thoughts. Either way I wrote the following poem in response.

Dream State

She is unaware
of the climb from delta to dream-time.
As ancient rhythms rise in the expectant dawn,
unseeing eyes dance Saint Vitus’ dance.
Paroxysmal waves peak,
then trough,
snapping through synapses
and charging through chasms
causing chaos.

Grasping, snatching roots ensnare,
while briars and  brambles bind her tight
to hold her still,
until the panic of the stalled pursuit,
drills out the warning in her head
in vivid infrared. She knows it’s there.
It waits.
She sees.
Her suffocated screams ring silent
through the watching trees.

Oxygen depletes.
As gases group in blueing blood
she rides Krebs cycle to cognition.
Cruising from delta to beta.
At last her screams escape her with a jolt,
that hurls her from doom to the safety
of her room.
The frantic dance comes to an end,
the balm of wakefulness ascends,
and horrors slide away.
To be forgotten in the business
of the day.

   Clearly Dave's explanation had significant influence. Although he indicated that the brightness of the image 'does not necessarily suggest dark deeds'  the use of the words 'spooky' and 'flight' do and it was that suggestion that lingered with me.

   The infrared treatment that Dave describes as giving an 'ethereal' feel to the image actually made me think of dreaming. This, combined with 'spooky' and 'flight' led me towards the experience of being chased in a nightmare.

   I clustered a selection of words and thoughts related to nightmare and was surprised that the result was a collection of words associated with the physiology of dreaming (specifically R.E.M. sleep) and aerobic respiration, the latter being thought to be responsible for that sudden jolt into wakefulness. This enabled me to attempt to retain the mystery of the photograph by being somewhat obscure in my narrative ie R.E.M. described as St.Vitus Dance, riding Krebs Cycle etc.

   I wanted to convey that mute terror of a nightmare, where the dreamer can't make their cries heard until their own scream wakens them, and also the way that dreams are often forgotten despite their intensity.

   I've really enjoyed working in this way and look forward to more collaborative efforts. I'm especially interested to see where Dave goes with it.

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