Five-second fables

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If it walks like a duck, but leaves purple footprints, what then?

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“My wish,” said the shipwrecked man to the genie, “is for a lifetime’s supply of lamps!”

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The spider gazes at the dried basswood fruits and & is possessed by an Idea. She feels it stirring in her lower abdomen.

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Without the constraints of tradition, there would be no culture, no art, no beauty! Or so we like to imagine, shaking our little green bells.

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Only a savage would dance for no reason, making up new moves with every step.

12 Comments


  1. Ach, these are wonderful. My favorite is the basswood one, but it’s a close contest. Sign me up as a bell-ringer who aspires to be a savage.

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  2. The shipwrecked man is a genius. I think there’s a bit of that in this post, too: Albert Szent-Gyorgyi reckoned it was discovery, but genius isn’t far removed.

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  3. They’re beautiful, but they’re like comments on the natural world. Yet the photographs are not ‘out there,’ something distinct and separate from the photographer any more than the words are. They’re both manifestations of one consciousness, one set of eyes, literal and metaphorical. They are both constructing the world according to the poet/photographer’s vision. See, I would say God is man-made; yet the opposite viewpoint is that God is a glimpse into a wholly other divine reality of which we are a part of but also separate from.

    In your photopoesis pieces, if I may call them that, a term I use for my own work, the photopoem, there is a sense of deified Nature as an ‘other’ whose divine reality we ‘glimpse into’ and can capture with the camera’s eye, and the poems become markers, comments on that immanence or transcendence or whatever it may be.

    The poems are like delicate entry ways [please note the simile, which is not saying is so don’t take umbrage]. Like dancing inspiration. Only the images in the photographs are produced through a technology and an aesthetic that is wholly of human consciousness, one isn’t more neocortex and the other more nature, if that makes any sense.

    If you’ve followed me so far, and obviously I could write reams on this since people are doing it all over the NET, what I would be curious about is how you would describe your creative process when you create a photograph and a short poem… a line of poetry, a few images, they’re kept deliberately simple and clear… and how you deal with the “configured eye” that I’m talking about when I say that the photographs are as ‘constructed’ as the poems are.

    Even as I ask this, I hope that I’m not misread, misinterpreted as has been happening in past comment threads to the point where I thought it best if I remained silent. I’m even unsure if I should delete this rather than post it…

    I’m only asking you to consciously comment on your artistic process, if you want to, you don’t have to, some people don’t like to talk about sex either, preferring to just ‘do’ it, and not whether you agree or disagree with me particularly…

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  4. No lit-crit from me, Dave! These are a delightful synthesis of the visual & the verbal & I hope you put together many more. There’s a book in these excellent little combos.

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  5. Dale – Thanks! I’m surprised you didn’t react more strenuously to my (totally unfair) swipe at tradition, though.

    pohanginapete – To me, genius inheres in places (situations, combinations of chance occurences) rather than in the mind.

    I can’t take full credit for that line about the shipwrecked man. My friend Crystal Dave, who sometimes comments here, for years liked to start conversations in bars and coffee shops by saying, “I’m a genie. You have three wishes. What do wish for?” And he said he never once met someone who replied, “I wish for unlimited wishes.” It’s amazing how easily we accept artificial limitations to the imagination! (Which I suppose is the real point of #4.)

    Hi Brenda – These questions don’t annoy me, they simply bore me. I don’t understand the point of such analysis – if anything, it seems counterproductive. If I analyse how I’m doing what I’m doing, I risk bringing to the surface a process that is best left to work in its own way. All I need to know is what kind of attention to pay to things, how much sleep and exercise to get, and similar such practical matters.

    Thanks, Dick. I do think about a book sometimes…

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  6. It wasn’t lit crit at all. It was simply asking about the consciousness behind the consciousness, that’s all. Your answer graciously accepted.

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  7. On my long walk grocery shopping today I thought about all this. No, I abandoned a PhD program in English Lit in my 20s because I couldn’t stand the lit crit. And I realized that few of the best writers have PhDs in Eng Lit; if they do, it’s in other disciplines. Lit Crit kills creativity quicker than a bush fire in a drought. I wouldn’t go there if I were you ever.

    But I do understand, if dimly, that some people have an intellectual bent, and it’s not something they willed on themselves, it’s just there. Some people, and I have no idea why, can move into a realm of ideas, and talk at another level – beyond talking about things, or about other people. A greater self-consciousness. Grappling with reality on a more dense and deeper level. Who knows. I was only trying to see if you had some thought on what you do, that’s all. I don’t think the questions of anyone who’s curious about the deeper levels of creativity ought to be dismissed as boring, but then that’s just me. And I do recognize, finally and after many years, that I have an intellect and that it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

    Nor do I doubt one instant that the Buddha had a deep and probing intellect, or Jesus, or Socrates.

    I refuse to believe that this level of complexity of mind that evolution has given us ought to be dismissed as inconsequential.

    That’s me. I would never have called what you said boring, but, umm, yeah, it kinda was a boring and rote response.

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  8. Oh dear. I guess I really could’ve left off the first two sentences of my response without affecting my meaning any. I apologize.

    I think I understand the theorizing impulse, because I have it myself. But I would dispute that abstract theory represents a deeper or more complex questioning of reality. Quite the opposite: a kind of disenchantment seems to be at work. I don’t want to hear about a writer’s “creative process”; I want to hear what time she gets up in the morning, or what she takes with her when she goes for a walk. I want to hear about the lemon tree in her garden.* What other people would consider boring, nitty-gritty details are matters of absorbing interest to me. (And they do of course represent a form of literary criticism, albeit one that went out of fashion over half a century ago.)

    *Miguel Hernandez, a quote I’ve often repeated here: “The lemon tree in my garden is a bigger influence on my work than all the poets together.”

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  9. These make me want to sneak into the shadows between leaves.

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  10. Dave, still, after all these years, I rebel against the anti-intellectual tendencies of movements like Zen, or the only in things, not ideas of beautiful poets like Williams Carlos Williams. Inclusive, not exclusive more my motto. It’s not that I find the ideas generated by, more relevant than the saying the simplicity of, but both are approaches to meaning, understanding. And all aspects are inspiring.

    His name is escaping me at the moment, one of the few books of lit crit I kept, a 20th c lit critic, anyway he said something to the effect that:

    an artist creates a work of art but doesn’t thereby generate its meaning

    To limit the rich possibilities by taking a decided anti-intellectual stance seems to me to be ultimately limiting, both to the reader (who afterall does a type of ‘writing’ while reading, did a post on this once) and to the extensive ripples that can radiate out from a work of art.

    But we all need to take a position, to commit to something, a path, a career, a relationship, a way of exploring the world, and I know that, and respect it, only personally I’m not of the anti-intellectual school.

    The lemon tree can be both the lemon tree, if I can ever truly know it either personally or in someone else’s writing, as well as a metaphor for many other processes of thought and creativity that are, well, exciting too.

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  11. it’s so fun. what you see when you look at these images. do you ever stop thinking?

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