“Freedom for me is a strict frame, and inside that frame are all the variations possible.”
In a 1971 taped interview, rediscovered in 1991 at the International Center of Photography (New York) archives, Henri Cartier-Bresson talks a bit about his take on his photography. Simple and real. “Yes, yes, yes”, as he says echoing someone else…
“Poetry is the essence of everything, and it’s through deep contact with reality and living fully that you reach poetry. Very often I see photographers cultivating the strangeness or awkwardness of a scene, thinking it is poetry. No. Poetry is two elements which are suddenly conflict — a spark between two elements. But it’s given very seldom, and you can’t look for it. It’s like if you look for inspiration. No, it just comes by enriching yourself and living.”
I started this day by watching a 1965 film about Leonard Cohen (via OpenCulture). A young Leonard Cohen. In the film, Cohen is portrayed mainly as a poet, as a literary man. So that got me going and I started looking on the web about his poems and his quotes and I bumped into plenty of interesting material.
“If you don’t become the ocean, you’ll be seasick everyday.”
At some point in the film, at 20mins into it to be exact, Cohen explains how he got to move to Greece, to Hydra. He says he lived in London at the time. It was winter, it was gloomy, rainy, and he had a cold, when he bumped into the Bank of Greece, the title of which was etched in marble on the building facade. He walked in and the man behind the counter was wearing sunglasses. Leonard felt, and I am quoting him, that this was “the most eloquent protest against the entire landscape.” That was the beginning of his affair with Greece.
Here is a page from the Leonard Cohen Files website, an incredible database, with Leonard’s photos & poems from the island of Hydra (click on image to access the link):
Leonard Cohen Poems & Photos from Hydra
“Reality is one of the possibilities I cannot afford to ignore.”
Mythology, art or science, all dwell in the realm of wonder…
The Birth of the Milky Way, by Peter Paul Rubens
The term Galaxy is an ancient Greek one. It comes from the word milk, since the cluster of celestial material is such that colours the night sky with a white stripe, like a milk splash. What a beautiful image that is…. This image inspired so many more images, wordy, musical or visual, ever since…. This is what I love about wonder and curiosity! It gets imagination going to explore both the magic and the reality out there. It helps our growth with the nutritious elements of knowledge and beauty…
But even the etymology of the terms ‘Galaxy’ and ‘Milky Way’ are poetic. Here is what Wikipedia says on the terms’ provenance:
The word galaxy derives from the Greek term for our own galaxy, galaxias (γαλαξίας, “milky one”), or kyklos (“circle”) galaktikos (“milky”)for its appearance as a lighter colored band in the sky. In Greek mythology, Zeus places his son born by a mortal woman, the infant Heracles, on Hera’s breast while she is asleep so that the baby will drink her divine milk and will thus become immortal. Hera wakes up while breastfeeding and then realizes she is nursing an unknown baby: she pushes the baby away and a jet of her milk sprays the night sky, producing the faint band of light known as the Milky Way.
In the astronomical literature, the capitalized word ‘Galaxy’ is used to refer to our galaxy, the Milky Way, to distinguish it from the billions of other galaxies. The English term Milky Way can be traced back to a story by Chaucer:
“See yonder, lo, the Galaxyë
Which men clepeth the Milky Wey,
For hit is whyt.”
—Geoffrey Chaucer. The House of Fame, c. 1380.
“Beyond happiness or unhappiness, though it is both things, love is intensity; it does not give us eternity but life, that second in which the doors of time and space open just a crack: here is there and now is always.”
The story of ‘Leda and the Swan’ is a Greek myth which is told in many variations.
According to one of them, Leda – a mortal queen, wife of the king of Sparta Tyndareus – was in the forest when Zeus spotted her and wanted to make love to her (or rape her). He transformed himself into a swan and landed next to her. They started playing and he seduced her. On the same night she also lay with her husband.
As a result, Leda ‘hatched’ two eggs, from one egg she bore the twins Castor and Pollux (Polydeuces), the fomer being the son of Tyndareus and mortal, and the other being the son of Zeus and therefore immortal. They are known as the Gemini (‘Twins’), the famous constellation, star sign. Through their love for each other, they both eventually became the immortal-mortals.
From the other egg she bore Clytemnestra, famous for becoming the wife of king Agamemnon, and Helen of Troy. No more is needed to say about the importance of these two women in the narrative of the dawn of the western civilization.
All these mythological- archetypical figures and life circumstances have fuelled the human imagination in the millenia and given such great material for the arts…. Here, I think, are two beautiful examples of this:
A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.
How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?
A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?
“The poet’s mind toils between substance and the void.
Every detail in high and low relief he seeks to perfect, so
that the form, although it may transcend the dictates of
compasses and ruler, shall be the paragon of resemblance to all
shapes and features imitated.”
I have this scene in my head all day… This scene from the film Il Postino, where Massimo Troisi (the Postman) having discovered the ‘metaphor’ in language tries to capture all those things that move him into a sound recorder. That whole film is poetry….