Monday, December 22, 2008

Show or Tell

I'm somewhat confused by what I did here the other day. I posted a haiku that seemed illustrative of a photo I had taken. I felt so proud of joining illustrations with haiku that I did it again. And again. And again.

Then the question of show/tell rose again and I began to doubt my actions. Do the illustrations add to the poems or do they invalidate the reader's vision and impose mine? The Japanese masters sometimes accompanied haiku with brush stroke ink drawings; suggestive material rather than the graphic items used with mine. The question again, do the photographs tell?

Sometimes it seems necessary to connect a graphic with a poem. A friend told me how he and his wife, a painter, would sometimes picnic at out-of-the-way places; afterward she would paint and he would compose poems. Many times, he said, the painting and the poem seemed to belong together; they were expressions of the same experience embodied in different media.

I know what he meant. It happens for me, sometimes, when I'm moved to write a response to a work of art. If the artwork touches me, resonates with me, satisfying things can happen. Often the two seem to work better in each other's presence: what would this poem be without the sculpture?


and filled with self-assurance,
she combs her hair.

She sits amorphous
with the innocent guise of a child.
A woman’s shape is still obscured
in the thickness of her waist,
the solidity of her unformed hips,
the soft fat on her rib cage.

Affirmation of femininity
is already evident in the energies
flowing through arms and hair,
the slow twist of the torso.
There is grace in the curve of her neck;
in her thighs, the promise of power.

Oh, could we but capture
that timeless innocence forever,
hold it in bronze.

(both poem and image are copyrighted to the respective artists)

Well, I guess that answers no question. Maybe there is no answer. Maybe the question is often irrelevant.

It just goes to show ...

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