I am moved by Lady Percy 's expression of love. CLICK HERE - see if you agree.
Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
responses, apologies. I hold posts to 300 words* having found less is better than more.
I re-comment on comments and re-re-re-comment on re-re-comments.
* One exception: short stories.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Lines like these

I wondered first if a hard-edged photo would draw me into one of the untitled sonnets*. And if so which photo would do this best. But that was too preconceived. Flicking backwards and forwards I could see it didn’t work. The more I dabbled the more the text and the illustrations diverged, having different jobs to do.

But there was a link, wasn’t there? The closest analogy consisted of two strata – a dozen strata apart – in a geological cross-section. Two thick lines locked together in time, faintly paralleling each other’s peaks and troughs. Which wasn’t at all surprising given that the authors live in different countries, are of different genders and were working in different media.

One thing’s certain. These are not illustrated sonnets in a book – a gruesome doomed idea whereby the flexibility of language is pinned down for ever in a set of images. Overlaps of meaning and beauty must appear random (as here), two sets of footprints an hour apart on a wet beach, two walkers with different priorities.

I tried to decide where complementarity worked best and when I’d done I realised I’d arrived in second place. On page 5 a bleak shoreline includes a single gull and accompanies:

Poised upon this vantage point or that, you
Can expect to see only to the edge
Of what you count as true. And there, an age
Away, breaks a sea…

Turn to the book’s cover and I see Lucy got there first. There’s also an irony. Lucy writes poems and Joe never stirs without a camera. No doubt two “others” walked along that same beach, but leaving no tracks.

*Handbook for Explorers. Poems by Joe Hyam, photos by Lucy Kempton. No, it isn’t musical but there’s more of that tomorrow.


  1. When it was first suggested that Lucy "illustrate" my sonnets, I had some misgivings. Poetry should supply its own images and they should suffice. What won me over to the idea from the start was the way Lucy's photographs complemented rather than attempted to repeat the content of the poems. It is perhaps this divergence, which puzzles you while it has always, since Lucy first put her photographs alongside the sonnets on Compasses, been a source of great satisfaction to me.

    It is I think because Lucy is both a poet and a photographer that she grasped from the start that dull repetition was not what was wanted in this venture. Now that I see, for the first time, the poems and photographs in print side by side rather than on a screen I am, though for my own part modest about its success, convinced that the formula works. The photographs are not mere illustrations but complementary images striking their own resonances. They have a life in their own right and, I like to think, judiciously placed, "talk" to the poems as the poems "talk" to them.

  2. There is music in poetry, LdP, just not the kind played with musical instruments. Likewise, there can be poetry in photography, only written on the heart rather than on a page.

    I have seen and heard both variations in my lifetime, sometimes here; often at Lucy's and Joe's blogs.

    What you've written today, while not musical, verges on the poetic, and I'm glad I had the opportunity to read it.

  3. seed The music of poetry and the poetry of photography! That is something to think about....I have very much enjoyed this post and the comments that followed. Really looking forward to seeing the book now.
    Also, Che Faro sensa Euridyce is now etched on my consciousness through the incredible video of Janet Baker. Thanks for mentioning that araia.

  4. Interesting discussion, LdP. I'm glad you chimed in, Plutarch, for I felt exactly what you describe here, and when I first read yours and Lucy's posts. And Crow's words about 'music in poetry' and 'poetry in photography' - well said! Congratulations again to both poets!

    Now I must get my hands on that book!

  5. Thanks LdP, and others and for your purchase of it, which is much appreciated.

    As I think I've said, I'd doubtless do it differently in some ways. It was nevertheless a joy to go back and look again at it, with, at times, that 'hey, this isn't bad...' feeling.

  6. Plutarch: I didn't want to pretend I'd arrived at some pat conclusions: I hoped that the process of arriving would say something useful. I've had further thoughts. Seeing the sequences of sonnets and of photos each as single entities - as if both blogs had been interlaced, each with a long-standing awareness of the other. Obviously this has to do with my knowing something of both authors but why not? You mention "talking" to each other and that works. But there is no insistence. In the end the reader creates the links.

    The Crow: My apology at the end of the post had to do with the vow I took after slitting the throat of Works Well. I felt I needed to do something worthwhile and decided music would impose that kind of discipline. Commenting on this book was like taking half a day off, but I needed to explain this. I much appreciate your seeing things in a slightly different light.

    Lucas: I too enjoyed the comments since they are - I suppose - a mutual celebration of the two people who've influenced me most in this weird backwater of blogging I find myself in.

    But on a personal note, having introduced someone to Janet Baker's passionate Che Faro justifies starting Tone Deaf in the first place. Years ago I posted a sonnet about her but never mind about that; it's far more important you've heard her sing.

    M-L: I've only one criticism of the book: it doesn't photograph well. Perhaps you'll overcome that.

    Lucy: The eternal desire for revision. I know it well.