Saturday, March 15, 2014

Photography & Poetry

Last Tuesday, I went into the city to go to a cool reading called Photography & Poetry. Now that I'm not in school anymore for the time being, and no one is forcing me to read a book of poetry per week and write one poem per week, I've been trying to make more of an effort to push myself to read more and write more and especially attend more readings. One of my biggest college regrets was not going to more readings on campus, and I forreal don't want that to become one of the biggest regret of my twenties, so off to readings I've been going. It's always kind of intimidating, the thought of entering a room full of writers to hear even better writers read, and the thought of potentially speaking to some baller poet - forget about it. But I always always always feel so happy after a reading and excited to get home and try to write something new, so whenever I'm feeling doubtful I remember that.

This particular reading was pretty cool because it wasn't just a poetry reading - it was also a photography exhibit. This cool photographer Lauren Henkin had the idea to pair three photographers with three poets. The photographers would sent three of their photographs to the poets, who would write a poem inspired by each of the photographs. As someone who likes to dabble in other arts and mediums when writing becomes way too difficult, this was something I could totally get on board with. Though I missed the first two readings in the series because I am the worst, I was glad to make it to this final one, featuring the poems of Lynn Melnick and the photography of Ashley Stohl. Lynn's poetry was painful and strong, focusing a lot on the past and growing up in LA. Ashley Stohl, also from LA, takes a lot of photographs of the young skateboarders who take over the LA beaches. What I really loved was that the poetry inspired by the photographs, was very loosely inspired by them. There weren't poems about skateboarders or watching boys from afar, but rather the poetry and photographs both relayed this sense of how initial experiences with men and boys influenced the art of each artist, which Ashley Stohl explained as the primary similarity she saw between her and Lynn's work. I'm always skeptical about poetry inspired by other arts because of the possibility of too literal a translation, but this collaboration helped me see that a lot of great poetry can be written with the right approach to a painting, or photograph or sketch, and now it's something I really want to try!

All of the photos in this post are by Ashley Stohl, from her "Skate or Die" collection and below is one of my favorite poems by Lynn Melnick that wasn't a part of this collaboration but which is still really great. Have you been to any interest readings or art shows lately?

Everybody In!
by Lynn Melnick

It’s not much of a lie to say I hate the outdoors.
Something about discomfort.

But it’s a lie when I say that I don’t, spitting
on my arm to rub off the layers, what failed to wash.

Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t,
but if I were asked again I’d say, Let’s skip

the hot drive down, the mockingbird, the digging,
cold coffee with radical strangers, fellow Americans,

wrong-headed love, dunes, rocks, retro round eyewear,
nudity, big ideas, destitute children,

overwhelming stucco suburbs, dubious rafts,
cold waiting, makeshift dinners, communal bathrooms,

piles of quarters, and all the lying.
I spent one hundred dollars on a camera that would document this.

Is there a California I don’t know about?
Smaller, I finished a day floating after everyone left the pool.

There was barking and laughter. I can’t tread water,
but I can master flotation to save myself.

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