Today, crossing the scrap of Clapham Common
right by the tube entrance, this unappealing piece
with scanty grass and grubby benches shat upon
by crows and pigeons, I remember again a lanky,
windswept woman and glimpse the fading shape
of brassy wings. Here is where I’d often see her,
comfortably hunkered on one of these greasy seats
or stalking towards them, all flying silver mane
and lamentable, flapping coat, happy to hang out
alone or with the old homeless guys who favoured
this draughty and neglected corner of the common,
facing the statue of Temperance and Providence
from a safe distance. I used to stare, imagining wide-
eyed and shy the fabulous mechanics of her mind.
The British novelist Angela Carter died 25 years ago – such mixed feelings in remembering an amazing writer who died too young, and a time when we had great hopes for post-Cold-War peace and democratisation.
Angela Carter: official website and another lovely site with new publications, events and discussion. Statue of Temperance and Providence on Clapham Common, 1884.
Back in October I started posting poetic epigrams with my photos at Instagram, and every few weeks since then, I’ve re-posted them here. This past week, the turn of the calendar fast approaching with its promise of new beginnings, I made the decision to broaden the scope of my 9-year-old Woodrat photoblog from just haiku, and to start cross-posting my Instagram stuff there as a matter of course. I’ve also back-posted all the photos since mid-December, when I last shared a compendium on Via Negativa. So please go look, and bookmark or subscribe to the photoblog if you like. (You can also, obviously, follow me on Instagram or on Flickr, where the photos are mirrored, and/or look for the auto-posts at Twitter or Facebook. And I’ve added the link to the Links drop-down menu in the Via Negativa header.)
There are some really good photographers on Instagram, and I like feeling a part of a community there, but I also like owning my own content and being a responsible netizen. Instagram is first and foremost a cellphone app built on proprietary software, part of a movement by software developers to replace the town square of the world-wide web with private shopping malls, essentially. Not only can one not post to Instagram from the web interface, but no live web links are permitted in any caption or comment. It also bothers me that there’s no way to edit a published caption, to add alt text to make images accessible to the visually handicapped, or to export and save one’s content from the site.
So my decision to re-purpose the old photoblog into a home for these posts is in part a political decision. But it’s also a practical one: I’d like to continue the epigrammatic series for a while, and I know myself well enough to realize that if I tie it to the growth of a more aesthetically pleasing space, I’m more likely to keep it up, just as having a dedicated blog for my Morning Porch tweets has kept that microblogging project going for years. And whereas Morning Porch posts are based on my daily porch-sitting, Woodrat photoblog posts emerge from daily walks (though not typically on the same day the photo was taken). There’s a pleasing symmetry to that.
The latest batch of iPhone photos and epigrams from my Instagram feed (by way of Flickr). Here in the northeast, late autumn has to be the most under-appreciated time of year, but as I hope at least a few of these snapshots suggest, it does have a kind of sombre beauty.
I’ve taken to walking all the way down and back up the mile-and-a-half-long Plummer’s Hollow Road every day now, and what’s curious is that, despite having walked this road many thousands of times in my life, I still notice two or three new things every time. You can see a lot just by looking, as Yogi Berra supposedly said. Of course, most of what I see are trees. And many observations don’t make good photos — but a few do. And by the time I get back to the house, sometimes I’ve thought up a caption as well.
My castle has a moat
bordered by weeping willows
and filled with tears.
Great blue herons pattern the sky
with dinosaur wings.
They land and line the bank,
erect and still as meditating monks
in grey-blue robes, no longer
prehistoric but eternal.
Happiness holds my hand as, slowly,
we walk to raise the drawbridge.
I have a hand-me-down iPhone 4S and an Instagram account linked to Flickr, and so I’ve been amusing myself with poetic one-liners. It started with a particularly antisocial woodchuck, who (unusually for his species) has a den in the middle of the forest.