Monday, July 15, 2013

My Mother's Photographs

Tonight I unzipped and uploaded some more scans of the slides my mother took in the Fifties and Sixties. I love the effect in this shot of my sister at our place caused, I guess, by sunlight on the lens. It was nice that she was wearing a long red spring coat, so you can pick her out of the green expanses. And it looks like the trees are all leaning toward her protectively,
She is a widow, now, and her four daughters all live in the town where she does, and 12 of her grandchildren do, too. And the youngest of her sons. Three other sons live elsewhere. Quite a family! And quite a time, our last half of the Twentieth Century.

For tonight's poem, let's have one by the Canadian painter and poet Lawren Harris (1885-1970)  who did his work largely in the other half of the Century from my sister, who was born in 1939, (She was a premature baby and was saved from that eye problem  (I think it is called retrolental fibroplasia) caused by two much oxygen given to newborns by the fact that at Ellis Hospital in Schenectady, all the incububators were in use by preemies who needed them worse that she did. Still, before she came home, my mother had time to knit her an outfit, blanket, sweater, hat and booties of soft peach colored yarn. Later, her husband had it framed and it hangs in her home.)

Oops, back to Lawren Harris! He worked very hard at  modernizing his painting, and achieved striking results. He was also interested in what we now call Modern Poetry. I had heard of the Group of Seven, Canadian painters who banded together to promote a more modern style, but I didn't know their names. Harris was a founder of that group. In addition to the stark Lake Superior paintings for which he is known, he painted and wrote poetry about the urban life he knew. The source for this poem is Lawren Harris in the Ward; his urban poetry and paintings, edited by Gregory Betts. The poem is on page 32.

Look at All of Us

Here, look at me
Going along my little way --
Here, look at you
Going along yours --
There, look at you-him and you-her,
And me-her and me-him
Going along theirs --
Each knowing what he knows
Or not knowing --
But each
Dragging one foot along
Behind the other
Up hill,
Or down hill,
Or along the gutters --
Look at all of us --
Take a long look.

Modern as this poet was, notice that he still begins each line with a Capital Letter, uses commas and dashes and ends with a period. I find that it is very hard for me to think of capitalizing the first letter of each line of one of my poems. I also like to punctuate in the regular way, and bring things to a stop now and then with a nice, definite, period. I also like to break poems up into stanzas and I often prefer stanzas that have the same number of lines throughout the poem. I think many of these preferences are unconscious, and not really based on anything that has been carefully thought about. I also don't like poems with short lines at the end; they look to me unbalanced, as if they could tip over. I think it pays to examine these unconscious, or semi-conscious biases, and see if new ways can improve our poems. And I've preached enough tonight, here in the still-unfolding Twenty-First Century.  Good night!

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