Updated: May 21
After a lifetime of believing in the supremacy of the photograph, in its perfect reductive elegance, the vast self-righteousness of the word taunted me...
The Altering Eye: A Photographic Memory, is the result of that reckoning. For a year, the last of an MFA in Creative Writing & Publishing Arts at the University of Baltimore, almost everything has been about the writing. Of course, real life would intervene occasionally, like when my last child graduated from High School and decided to live 10,000 miles away in Australia (he assures me it wasn't because he wanted to get away from me...) or when my partner of five years left right after Halloween with the dog (I'm sure it had nothing to do with me becoming a witch long before then...) Or when we became prisoners in our homes because of a pandemic that was foretold in palatable contagion films; we shuddered and gasped but never quite believed it could happen to us.
It is from this place of quiet horror that I finished writing, revising, editing, and designing a book that explores the links between photography and memory. I brought out the exiled photographs and the book became a multi-faceted telling of half-forgotten histories.
Now, in this maddened state of anticipation, for both the arrival of the book and for the uncertainty of the future, I look back on the last four years of my face-off with writing; I open journals, notebooks, sketch books and find my shy attempts to interpret being.
One writing exercise entailed taking Pablo Neruda's playful poetic inquiries in The Book of Questions to write our own.
To give you an idea, the book is composed of 316 poem-questions such as:
Tell me, is the rose naked
or is that her only dress?
When the convict ponders the light
is it the same light that shines on you?
Is there anything in the world sadder
than a train standing in the rain?
Do we learn kindness
or the mask of kindness?
These are my questions (the last stanza in Spanish):
When it rains in the Amazon
does life extend for another second?
Does hail feel pain
when it melts after the storm?
When the world ends
will the oceans turn vermillion?
Are tears reluctant to die
when they fall?
When trees flaunt their nakedness in public
should they be prosecuted?
When trees shed their leaves
do they grow snakes?
When leaves paint the town red
do they end up in someone's bed?
Are leaves falling
tremors in the force?
Are constellations armies of gods
Does plutonium despair
because it can form critical mass?
Is delirium the scent of rain
in the Sahara?
Did the French create the croissant
to spite the gods?
Did Zeus punish an unwilling nymph
by transforming her into an aardvark?
Does a cougar pretend to be a puma
when it hunts?
Can a dominatrix whip an orchid
Are coupled oscillations
Por qué hay siempre un canto
en un alboroto?
Si un murciélago se estrella contra la luna
es porque está borracho?
Es un déjà vu la incarnación
de un amor?
Si tu boca tocase la mía
crearíamos un terremoto en la India?