Regular readers of this blog will know that the natural beauty of our world is a constant source of inspiration to me and today I am showing you what lies behind the way my photographs and poems are shared together.
It all began during a week’s Summer School at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry, Queen’s University Belfast, and my visit to the Linen Hall Library in July 2007.
Images and Reflections, both as book and exhibition, was one of the landmarks of the Linen Hall Library’s Open Door Millennium Festival and also marked the opening of the Library’s extended premises. It brought together vivid photographs of the Ulster of the last century with powerful contemporary writing by many of the province’s leading literary figures.
Seamus Heaney selected a photograph from the 1930s of a threshing scene that fitted perfectly with his poem Threshing Day. Michael Longley chose a photograph of a towpath of the early 1900s to accompany his poem In Memory of My Parents. Brian Keenan selected an old photograph of children at a cottage in Glenoe and created the poem Album to sit alongside it. Gerald Dawe immediately decided on a photograph of an emigrant family leaving Derry in the 1930s and knew that was the image he wanted to write a poem for.
Gerald was leading our poetry workshop on writing poems for and from photographs as part of the Summer School. He told us that the photograph of the emigrant family leaving Derry was pinned to a board above his writing desk for months and he enjoyed spending time with it, growing familiar with the faces inside the photograph and when the Linen Hall Library asked him if they could have a poem for the exhibition he approached it from within the image and wrote it in the mother’s voice. It is a beautiful poem called Snap, symbolising both the idea of a snapshot and the being snapped away from a life they knew.
The poem has since been included in his Selected Poems (published in 2012).
Prior to my week in Belfast my photography and my writing had been separate interests and I rarely brought the two together. Since then I’ve written poems to accompany photographs from a variety of angles and taken photographs to accompany existing poems. I will always be grateful to Gerry for sharing his insights during his wonderful workshop.
Images and Reflections is a book I treasure to this day and it continues to inspire me. It is available from the Linen Hall Library and from Amazon.
Wishing you a blessed Sunday and a peaceful week ahead,
with love from Xenia xxx
Photographs by Xenia Tran, edited in lr.
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