object lesson

Last October, I went to stay for a week at Carry Farm, in Argyll, to think about my writing. I took BOB the dog with me, but was otherwise alone. I walked by the sea every day, I did a little knitting, a little embroidery, and a lot of thinking. Some of the poems I’ve recently started sharing began life in the notes I took during this week – including my poem about Scots words for disabled walking, and another which I’ll publish here tomorrow, which is about an object I found on the beach near Carry Farm.

This is that object. I won’t say all that much about it, except that when I found it, I had no idea what it was, and it filled me with many questions. I had no internet or phone connection at the farm, and I couldn’t start poking about online. So instead, I just sat with the object for most of one day, examining it carefully, wondering about its origin and function. It was a very interesting experience exploring what I knew were just assumptions from a position of complete ignorance. But of course, later that evening – when I walked out to a place where there was a signal, and spoke to Tom – I asked him to do some searching for me – which of course turned out to be a laughably impossible process, based as it was on my description of the object and my misplaced ideas about it. The poem I ended up writing is as much about how the spirit of enquiry can be stymied by presumption as it is about the object itself.

I love looking at this object for many reasons, and it now sits in front of me on my desk. Knowing I was going to reproduce my poem about it here, I felt it would be useful for you to see the object too. So a few days ago I asked Tom if he’d photograph it for me.

“What do you want me to show?” he asked

“I’m interested in its lines,” I said, “its flaws. The way that it holds light.”

The images Tom’s created have really blown me away!

In fact, it is fair to say that his photographs have taken my thinking about the object to another place entirely

The intention was for the photographs to illustrate my words, but – as is often the case when Tom and I work together – the images become their own thing, as much as part of the collaboration.

So I thought I’d show you Tom’s photographic studies of the object separately, before my poem.

In fact, I now feel I need to write another poem about these images . . . to accompany my first poem!

Surely the best thing about collaboration is the way that it can enable the creative process to expand exponentially, unexpectedly?

A poem tomorrow, then.