I am into my third season of taking photographs from my windows for an ongoing project. Yep! N.K. and a camera. Well, a smartphone with a camera app, if we want to get technical. Never thought I’d see the day I could take a snapshot that didn’t look like a slow look at a fast race, but it’s happened. The idea is to write poems inspired by these photos.
At first, I concerned myself with wide angle landscapes. But there are only so any vistas one can photograph, no matter how many windows one has, and only so
many things one can say about them.
Then something happened during the photo editing process. I began to crop photos for better composition and found myself zeroing in on the most minute details—a single flower, sunlight seen through a tangle of branches—and I discovered an entirely new layer of emotion to tap.
It’s that way with poems, too. We can speak of love or truth or beauty or their opposites on a grand scale, or we can hone our focus down to a single detail. Instead of mourning the death of a grand passion, we might study a single tear. Technical skills being equal, which has the greater impact? Which will be more memorable? Who knows? But the resulting works will certainly be unique.
What does this mean to you? Poets or story writers, look at your broad-themed works and consider what single detail might give you a fresh observation or perspective. Consider it a bit of creative recycling if you must, but give it a try.
For my part, I’m hoping that using both approaches will yield a dynamic poetry/photography collection worth the extra effort.
N.K. Wagner is the publisher and executive editor of Page & Spine.