the colour of our lives

poetry • celebration • faith • nature • humanity • imperfections • glory

Archive for the tag “prose”

spider time

I first saw her after catching a glimpse of her golden web, hanging between she-oak trees in the late afternoon sun as I cycled home from work.

OrbSpiders

Golden orb–weaving spiders

With no camera, and the comfortable domestic pleasures of Friday evening enticing me on, I didn’t stop to have a closer look. Of course the memory of a golden-webbed spider large enough to be seen while travelling, looking back, and from several metres away, was sufficient motivation to return to take photographs.

She is a Golden Orb Weaver, Nephila edulis, apparently widespread in Australia, especially Western Australia where this photograph was taken (in the urban bushland of Kings Park in Perth). Unfortunately the morning light, or perhaps the aging of the web, has lost the golden sparkle which originally caught my attention. Apparently the ‘edulis‘ part of her name means that the spider herself is edible; she is at least a mouthful, with a body length of 3-4 cm.

Just below and to the left of the mess of her food waste in the web, mainly insect exoskeletons, her male partner can be seen.

The link to information has some more astonishing photographs, including one of a small bird caught in the web and being consumed by a female Golden Orb Weaver.

P.S. Geek note – the photo was taken with a Sony compact, can’t remember the model. I used to have the same sort of thing in Olympus. All my photos on this blog are taken with one or other.

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too much happiness

So here’s a moment, a short rant, of self-justification; a defence of my gravity towards melancholy, by highlighting the benefits of life in lugubrious shadows.

It has been a tendency of mine to adhere to the notion that creativity springs from suffering, particularly suffering of the internal, angst-filled type which, legend would have it, stereotypically characterises the artistic temperament. Circumstantial evidence would support this claim; poetry which is joyful is often, unfortunately, sugary and dissatisfying, the stuff of greeting cards and similar inspirational art; many find darker writing truer to experience; less trite, more courageous.

The problem with happiness, I lately suspect, is that it makes us less discerning. A general feeling of joy is contagious; it stifles our inner critic, rendering us temperate, tolerant and positive. These are, unquestionably, admirable qualities but it seems they do not necessarily lead to artistic polish: the poem which is never right until it is perfectly phrased, the photograph microscopically cropped. In this context, temperance and tolerance do not care about excellence.

So, the long, dark nights have their purpose. What remains is the invisibly fine line between exploiting the depressive or angry state, and pursuing it.

P.S. I was very much hoping to use the word “lugubrious” somewhere in there, even if I have overstretched its meaning somewhat.

why?

[updated since first posted]

In case anyone was wondering, this is not a poem; more of a manifesto. I’m likely to change my mind about it sometime. One reason it’s not a poem is that poems about poetry have a large cringe quotient for me.

  • I reckon poetry is about richness of ideas and language; each new poem says something new, in a new way.
  • I’m inspired by the christian gospel, and the character of God
  • I’m also inspired by nature and human relationships, and the most fertile ground is in the interplay between humanity and God, or nature and God, or even all three. (Not too say that all of my poetry necessarily deals with any of this.)
  • So, for me, poetry needs to have something fresh to say about these issues, stated with language which is beautiful, powerful, humorous, surprising, lyrical, and – well, stuff like that. This isn’t a poem, remember; I can say “stuff”.
  • (The whinge.) Much of what gets classified as Christian poetry these days does not fulfil the previous criterion; see here, and here; it’s not hard to find (maybe someone will add me to a list like this eventually). I may as well add another semi-whinge or two while I’m at it. First, I have been known to have a bone or two to pick with churches, and some of my stuff reflects that history. Second, as far as I know, contemporary churches have not been particularly supportive of artistic expression other than some types of music (although this is not a universal criticism as events like the Mandorla Art Prize and projects such as Transpositions demonstrate).
  • So, at least in part, this blog exists to attempt to show, if only to myself, that creativity and christian faith can coexist. Time will tell if it does; and, of course, it won’t do it alone. If you look hard enough, you can find a few like-minded souls: try Leaf Litter, Studio or unfoldingpaper (all on the blogroll or weblinked in the widget bar at right)
  • There’s also photography on this blog. For this I focus on the ‘natural’ world. What I haven’t done (yet), and what YiChing Lin does wonderfully with more urban images with her linked photography and poetry blogs, is to create some synergy between the two forms. I need to find more blogs that do this and think about whether some sort of poetry-photography cross-fertilisation suits this blog too.

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on reading poetry

So why read poetry? As I read through The Best of Australian Poems 2010, there were many poems I simply didn’t like or understand. It occurred to me that I was reading for a specific purpose; rather than to appreciate different voices for their own particular qualities, I was really only browsing through the poems, looking for something in particular. My moment of minor serendipity also revealed that the objects of my search were voices that resonated with my own. No doubt I could learn much from most of the poems published in this compilation; their fresh use of language and creative juxtaposition of ideas were impressive, and may eventually find their way into my own writing. Not all of these poems made more than a cerebral impression, though. What I wanted to be was moved or touched in some way; this was easier for the poets to do if they moved into territory which was familiar to me. Many poets may already be doing this, but unless I found the language accessible, the impact was lost. Of course it may be that if I had worked a little harder on a particular poem, or persisted with multiple readings, the message would penetrate deeper; that I would feel the poet’s heart of they would touch mine. In that sense I am a lazy reader of poems; first impressions count. So, no matter how excellent. unless a poem spoke to me of matters of the heart or faith, I did not find myself enjoying it. This is not to say that the poems I did relate to lacked beauty and elegance of language, or were any less rich than any other; simply expressed, if I didn’t get it, I didn’t enjoy it.

The compilation did introduce me to the wonderful poetry of Anne Elvey, who is a poet, researcher and theologian. For me, her poems spoke to that which is deeply important to the human experience with simple beauty and power. Her WordPress blog contains or links to samples of her poetry and haiku or tanka.

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