It happens this way …
In their author’s questionnaire, Unsolicited Press, the publisher of my next poetry collection, asked a number of engaging questions. For example:
What’s your favorite punctuation mark? (Question mark).
What book were you supposed to read in high school, but never did? (I was a good Catholic girl in a Catholic high school and read everything assigned!).
What inanimate object would you thank in your acknowledgments?
It took me a few seconds to answer to that one. Then, the obvious: my Sony digital camera. Since I only have a “dumb” clamshell phone, I rely on the Sony to be my companion as I walk the garden each morning and evening or go on trips near or far. In fact, I panic if I arrive somewhere special and don’t have the camera with me.
Some people think taking photos detracts from the experience of a moment. On the contrary, it helps me focus. The sun filtering through a red maple and splashing pink begonias in a hanging basket, the feral cat sitting in a pot of jasmine, the varied blues of crashing waves off the California coast: I photograph, therefore I am.
I used my experience with a camera in a poem about one of my favorite poets, Wislawa Szymborska. She was a Polish writer who lived through the brutal Nazi occupation of her native country during World War II and then four decades of Stalinist Communism. The reward for such brave perseverance? The Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1996.
Her poems are witty, subtly subversive, and intellectually delightful. She once remarked, … the word ‘why’ is the most important word in any language on earth, and probably also in the languages of other galaxies … . She, too, likes question marks!
In her Pulitzer Prize acceptance speech, Szymborska proclaimed, “Whatever else you might think of this world, it is astonishing.” For a woman who lived through so many challenges under oppressive regimes and risked imprisonment for her writing, that is an astonishing statement. And it’s this world that my camera yearns to capture.
For lovers of poetry who would like to read how my camera focuses on Szymborska, check out “An Amateur Photographer Reads Szymborska’s ‘No Title Required’,” published in Open: Journal of Arts and Letters. The poem will also appear in A Penchant for Masquerades, my next collection.
If you’d like to read the Szymborska poem that inspired mine, click here.