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 combat flower print a respite the soldier someone’s son the war photographer seeing like a mother
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.