Posts Tagged ‘poetry & prose’

Maya Angelou (American Poet)

Posted: April 27, 2009 in creativity



Maya Angelou, born April 4, 1928, is an American poet, memoirist, actress and an important figure in the American Civil Rights Movement. Angelou is known for her series of six autobiographies, starting with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which was nominated for a National Book Award and called her magnum opus. Her volume of poetry, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘Fore I Diiie was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

Angelou recited her poem, “On the Pulse of Morning” at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993. She has been highly honored for her body of work, including being awarded over 30 honorary degrees.

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Posted: March 10, 2009 in creativity

Grief, that

2-headed beast,

I write from within

my own experience

shouting tears

that open up the abyss

of longing

that shut down

the song.


Where is the light

the beacon that

pulses hopeful messages

on a stormy night

You, no longer there

to occupy the hollow

beside me in the bed.

You gentle, soft flesh

presssed against my side,

a leg wrapped round

my thigh.


The pillow,

inconsolably wet

as I remember the soft,

warm mist of your

breath on my face.

Gone now to a graveyard

of memories,

i hug my own skinny arms

willing your face beside me

beside my self

with grief.


[a poem by Helena Wong]




Through the Amy Stein | Photography | Blog I came across the Australian photographer Graham Miller, which is not surprising given that both artists seem to share a fascination for suburbia, its people and cultural accessories as well as the sense of “isolation from community, culture and the environment” (Stein) that seems to pervade much of the suburban emotional landscape here and probably in the US.


Miller’s says in an interview with Stein that his work is strongly influenced by short story writer and poet Raymond Carver. Carver’s work reflects the life of the working class, whose characters often experience isolation, marginalisation, sadness and loss as part of everyday existence. The lives of these ordinary people could be aptly described with Henry David Thoreau‘s idea of living lives of “quiet desperation.” 

This is exactly what Miller’s photos capture and express. And like Carver he does it in a way that the former once described as being “inclined toward brevity and intensity”; Stein calls it befittingly “laconic intensity”. When reflecting on Carver’s work and ultimately on his own Miller talks about “… sketching out the bare outlines of a story with telling details and simple dialogue. He lets the reader’s imagination embellish the rest. His stories are lean but powerful, taking fragments from the lives of regular people and putting a magnifying glass on them for a brief period of time. They are stories of loss, broken relationships and struggle, told in a way that pulls at your gut.” And he mentions that Carver’s stories “are often unresolved, leaving you hanging to try and make sense of what has just taken place or what was about to happen”. 


Miller quotes Carver who in turn quotes V.S. Pritchett’s description of the short story as “something glimpsed from the corner of the eye, in passing. First the glimpse, the glimpse given life, turned into something that will illuminate the moment and just maybe lock it indelibly into the reader’s consciousness.” Carver goes on saying that he very often just catches a brief glimpse of something and a while later then begins to see this hurried image settling into a scene, a stage that he then populates with characters.


That brings me to a critique apparently levelled at both Miller and Stein: that their images are being staged. What’s wrong with that? We go to see plays or movies; in fact, documentaries are right at the almost imperceptible bottom of public taste. We also read fiction as well as non-fiction, without ever complaining about the former being less valuable than the latter because it’s fantasy. But when it comes to taking photos, we somehow have this illusion of ‘truth’ attached to the actual image. The fact is, there’s never been a single photo in the whole history of photography that stood for truth – and that includes every snap we take and every ‘documentary’ image ever shot. Apart from the artificiality of the discriminatory distinction between photographs and the rest of the world of art objects, the differentiation between photos depicting ‘reality’ and those being staged is complete nonsense – they all are a window into the unique world of the photographer, not into whatever reality might exist out there.


Back to Miller’s actual work: Amy Stein’s interview with him, by which my own thoughts about Miller’s work have been inspired, has a lot more to say about the artist. In it Miller talks his appreciation of the “theatricality and artifice” in  Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s work, makes reference to other photographic artists and filmmakers and about why he agrees with Stein that there is some ‘American’ about his own photos. The interview is well worth reading.


I f0und this Carver poem on Miller’s website, which wonderfully describes the subtleties that we can imagine underlieing Miller’s imagery, the dreams and hope in that quiet despair of life …



All these images were taken from Graham Miller’s Suburban Splendour series, and it’s more than worth it having a look at the rest of the series; after all, this is MY subjective selection out of 30 photos. He’s also got two other portfolios: The Performance of Everyday Life and Erick’s Cafe and other stories that are sometimes hilarious but always deeply reflective, meaningful depictions of his take on reality.

After having been harassed for 10 weeks by my o’seas family members 😉 to upload my holiday photos onto Flickr, I’ve finally started with the first batch on Italy and the first installment on Germany. That kept me away from blogging, but in the meantime my bellissimo friend Jeanie *) emailed this poem, which is remarkable because it was written by the father of one of the victims of the London bombings in 2005. And it is remarkable because it doesn’t join the usual chorus of hatred against ‘the other side’ but instead, as a expression of true humanness and deep connectedness to all life, appeals for forgiveness.

No Room for Hate.

There is no room within my heart
for revenge, fire or hate
there is no room within my mind
for any thoughts like these.

I cannot find the words to say
just how it is I feel
but I know from deepest hurt
I must forgiveness find.

The hurt that’s been done to us
cuts sore like a knife,
but we must not, repay in kind
what has been done to us.

Instead we must try and find
the way that is so hard,
and reach out our loving hands
to find some friendship now.

There can be no more healing thing
than opening wide our eyes
and seeing that most other folk
are really just like us.

David wrote this poem a year after his step daughter was killed in the London Bombings of 2005.

By David Gould

November 2006

Helena Wong: Poetry

Posted: August 27, 2008 in creativity

My friend Helena, whose qualities I have praised before, is also a great poet. I love her notion of poems as dream catchers, and I have been asking her for years to publish at least some of her work on the Net, but with little success so far … maybe that might change now?

anyway, here are a couple of small examples.

and inspired by walking down near Leura Cascades in the Blue Mountains …

Anthony John Gray

Posted: March 16, 2008 in creativity



Anthony John Gray never had any formal training when he changed his career path from being a British police officer to becoming an artist. I find his work quite fascinating because of its fusion of the surreal with abstract geometry. Apart from giving it a certain Gothic expression, this blend also makes his painting appear aloof and emotionally detached. But the psychedelic coolness of his work, the spacey indifference, does not suggest a certain nonchalance or a lack of approachability; instead most of his paintings seem to convey a level of self-control, indifference bordering on serenity, and unruffled calmness. Gray’s collage-like juxtapositions, which often seem to endow women with power and enigma, fuse structure, lightness and the search for the ultimate freedom into form that emanates from a place beyond subconscious production. In this context, the artist’s own description of his work as “Spiritual Logic” seems to make perfect sense – and so does Gray’s poetry to his works ‘The Magnificent Obsession’ and ‘Liberated Desires’ which I have enclosed below. What makes Gray’s work so special is that its aesthetics is an expression of a quest – the search for meaning as spiritual essence.








When all is bound and hidden
And life’s freedom is forbidden
Seek the universe within
Keep the ethics and the morals in
And you will find you have a Magnificent Obsession. 



Gray said about this series: “Liberated Desires first came in 1979 and it is one of those images that will not go away, you keep trying to perfect it. Seated above yourself, ruler over all things and yet possessing total freedom over choice, absolute personal freedom in your own head, that’s Liberated Desires. Thirty pieces so far, maybe when I find that complete freedom I will stop”.

Conjuring up in your mind is fine
holding it there is altogether different.

From the painting LIBERATED DESIRES No 5.

She said
Crossing the universe is impossible
But I have done it lots of times
And I have never left home.

From the painting LIBERATED DESIRES No 4.

There is no way to escape the night
And whatever landscape betrays you
Be sure your judgement is right
For although I am your past
I am your future too.

From the painting LIBERATED DESIRES No 7.



Dein sünd’ger Mund ist meine Totengruft,
Betäubend ist sein süsser Atemduft,
Denn meine Tugenden entschliefen.
Ich trinke sinnberauscht aus seiner Quelle
Und sinke willenlos in ihre Tiefen,
Verklärten Blickes in die Hölle.

Mein heisser Leib erglüht in seinem Hauch,
Er zittert, wie ein junger Rosenstrauch,
Geküsst vom warmen Maienregen.
– Ich folge Dir ins wilde Land der Sünde
Und pflücke Feuerlilien auf den Wegen,
– Wenn ich die Heimat auch nicht wiederfinde …


Aus mir braust finst’re Tanzmusik,
Meine Seele kracht in tausend Stücken!
Der Teufel holt sich mein Missgeschick
Um es ans brandige Herz zu drücken.

Die Rosen fliegen mir aus dem Haar
Und mein Leben saust nach allen Seiten,
So tanz’ ich schon seit tausend Jahr,
Seit meiner ersten Ewigkeiten.


[Post inspired by Inga]