Arriving From Always: Writings on Friendship, Loss and Looking

COP Restrepo by Tim Hetherington

We have a fantastic group of volunteers working together on making this retreat happen. One of these talented individuals happens to be Pamela Hart, who is working very hard on putting together an anthology of different poems and writings that will be given to the participants of the retreat.

Pamela has generously provided me with a poem she composed to share with all of the blog readers, which is based on a photograph from Tim Hetherington’s book INFIDEL.

The Photograph of a Sleeping Soldier
        After Tim Hetherington

By Pamela Hart

No pillowcase or quilt
    his mouth partly open his dark

brow, that scab
    near his elbow, he isn’t

wearing a shirt the setting
    could be summer camp a cabin

how the mattress fills the frame
    composing the shot

the light outlining rib cage
    a vein near the pillow’s edge

must have been
    difficult to catch it

the soldier’s arm
    crosses his chest

is that a puff of air stuttering
    the blanket fringe

there’s sleep not

flower print a respite
    the soldier someone’s son

the war photographer seeing
    like a mother


Pamela Hart

THERE’S A LINE in William Carlos Williams’ love poem, Asphodel, That Greeny Flower, that has always haunted the journalist in me. “It is difficult to get the news from poems yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.” Poetry can seem frivolous when the daily news is compelling – the economy, the wars, the drought in Somalia. But without poetry, without art, our lives would certainly be deficient.  A poem, like a photograph, requires attention to see and hear what’s on the page. But you won’t find writings here about “closure.”  I don’t know that one ever truly moves on or forgets – especially those who make images. What you will encounter are poems and writings on friendship, on loss and on looking.

I hope the anthology creates space for what Seamus Heaney calls “the double-take of feeling” to contemplate our deeper emotions.  Perhaps these poems, written by a range of poets, will also bestow on you the gift of time as you savor them. Hart Crane, a poet who caught light in the steel cables of the Brooklyn Bridge, understood this pause, writing, “…the hundredth of a second caught so precisely that the motion is continued from the picture indefinitely: the moment made eternal.”

Still, I can’t help but wonder what purpose poetry can serve for you who have observed and photographed moments of extreme beauty and exquisite misery. Your work shoves you right into an overflow of the visual. Poetry, however, requires dawdling in mystery. Poems are meant to be read, and then read again, out loud. And even so, there’s inscrutability as language leaps from one image to another. Permission is therefore granted to be confused, to be lost in language.

During my reading and research, I thought a great deal about Tim Hetherington, in whose memory the retreat is being held. I feel as if I know him a bit through his images, including the photographs from his various books, the movie RESTREPO and his other short films. Tim Hetherington would appreciate poetry’s role in the act of observation.

“Arriving from always, you’ll go away everywhere,” the French poet Arthur Rimbaud writes. This seems as good a way as any to think about Tim, as well as about your work as photographers, and its impact, so I borrowed it as my title…just as you have borrowed the visible, the seen, sometimes the unseen, so that we all might look.

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