So a funny thing happened earlier tonight. I took part in a Zoom poetry reading. This call took the place of an actual reading that was supposed to happen here last month up by me in Connecticut. But plans change, as we all know, and the best any of us can do is make lemonade from the lemons life sometimes throws our way.
The last time I took part in a poetry reading was about 25 years ago, in a little Rockland County coffeehouse called Caffeine Jones. It's a funny thought now, isn't it, the idea of people gathering together in a dark room as breath becomes words? I admit, I was a little nervous going into the call (but only a little). But the more I listened to the other poets read their work, I realized that vulnerability is all part of being an artist. How else can we truly let the world in, if we aren't willing to lay ourselves bare?
The idea behind the canceled exhibit was "ekphrasis," which basically means to write about art. The poem I read tonight was inspired by a painting called "Old Red Barn," by local artist Kris Lynch. Certainly, I was in good company among my fellow poets and artists. After so many work-related video meetings, this Zoom call, where art was the order of the day, was a welcome change of pace, indeed. Plus, after several photography posts in a row, getting the chance to share a bit of poetry is also a nice change of pace.
And on that note, I hope you like my poem, "New Tenants."
For several years now, I've taken pride in my growing abilities as a self-taught photographer. I've especially enjoyed my unexpected journey as a street photographer. I've come to believe that documenting random moments on the streets of New York City constitutes a kind of on-the-fly journalism that often shows the city and its people at their best when they're simply being themselves. In documenting these random moments and faces, I've slowly come to understand that the act of observation itself is a powerful tool in the way we perceive and even shape the world around us, even as the world seeks to contain and define us. New York City is celebrated for its towering, implacable facades. I myself have documented plenty of these concrete giants over the years. But there's something to be said about missing the forest for the trees, as it were. and all it took was a pandemic for me to realize what I was missing.
It should go without saying that by staying at home, we are helping to keep our friends, our neighbors, and yes, ourselves, safe. As someone who used to commute almost five hours a day, I am thankful for the extra time I can now spend with my family. With this extra time at home has come a newfound appreciation for my home itself. Well, not so much my home as where I've chosen to live out my days (at least for now). And that includes the plants growing around the perimeter of my house. In the "old" days, before the coronavirus, in my daily rush to the train station every morning and my rush to join my family for dinner every night, it was easy to overlook the hostas growing in our front yard. But since the world shut down, I find myself becoming more introspective, and more thoughtful in general about the world around me.
Like observing (and enjoying) the way the afternoon sun transforms the hostas. When the sunlight hits the plants a certain way, the leaves glow. And, lately, I've been photographing them a lot. (I've become a street photographer without the street, after all.) Over the last several days, I feel that I've finally come to understand the unexpected beauty of these sturdy plants. I've also come to understand that there's more to the world than a city skyline. Sometimes, there's beauty at our feet, too. This is a journalism of a different sort, this careful documentation of the natural, observable world.
As for this photo, I'm not usually one for minimalism in my work, but I appreciate the simplicity of this image. And who can't use a bit of simplicity right about now?
Documenting the world in words and photos.