I’ve decided to join Dorothee Lang in a social creativity project next month. I realize that it kicks off during National Poetry Month and I *should* be attempting a NaPoWriMo challenge, but I’m in the middle of an intense round of typesetting + book-launching : finishing Folded Word’s spring list. I just don’t have the head space for composing my own poems while working so intimately with other people’s collections.
So yes, I’ve chosen to focus on #The100DayProject instead. I’m calling my personal project #100AmbientMacrographs — “ambient” because I’ll only use available light, “macro” because I’ll be using a 55 mm macro lens, and “graph” because I’ll write one word in calligraphy to accompany the photo. At some point I might try to layer the word onto the photo to make some graphic art, but that will have to wait until the 100 days are over. Gotta keep it simple so I finish the challenge:-)
I’ve been fascinated with macro photography for years, but focusing and getting a tripod to work with my desired subjects never really came together for me. Now I have a Nikon DSLR that has a swivel screen, though, so I can see what I’m composing without looking through my bifocals through the viewfinder. That and my travel tripod that sits low on the ground have me armed and dangerous! I’ll start out at ISO 400 and f22 with stationary subjects, then see where the 100 days take me.
I’m really hoping this is as helpful as my self-portrait project back in 2012. If you want to join in, be sure to use #the100dayproject on Instagram. Pick something artistic you want to practice for 5 minutes a day every day and go for it!
I’m not sure why I can’t stay put — why I always need to be planning the next trip to [insert destination here]. I adore my house on wooded acres, tucked into the hills above a tourist destination. Maybe I caught my grandad’s wanderlust that he caught from his dad’s work on the railroad. Maybe it’s genetics, stemming from the same urge that drove my ancestors to trade one continent for another. But it’s more likely a by-product of moving: having so many loved-ones in such a long string of scattered places. Social media is fine for keeping up with the facts of someone, but it’s no replacement for real-time bonding with someone over a shared meal. Even as a child, my parents made sure we traveled on what little discretionary funds we had to maintain the relationships that were important…relationships I would later rely on after my parents left for Africa.
So it’s no wonder that as an adult I followed their example. And once the internet created the ability to meet and collaborate with strangers-who-become-friends, my string of scattered people became a web that now spans oceans. Since 2009, I’ve made a point of meeting up with writer-friends whenever family-travel brings me into close proximity. I’ve shared pints with Mel Bosworth, toured the Louvre with Dorothee Lang, dined in Beacon Hill with Tim Bridwell, took Yorkshire tea with Samantha Priestley…and New York City? Rose Auslander, Casey Tingle, Elizabeth J. Coleman, Paco Márquez… These meet-ups play a critical role in a key component of my writing life: creative kinship.
Creative kinship is what sparked the idea for my calligraphic treatment of Ben Moeller-Gaa’s haiku. His guidance on what is and isn’t appropriate for English-language haiku crossed-pollinated with my guidance on what is and isn’t reader-friendly book design. Our geeky discussions yielded a unique approach to a frequently mistreated poetic form. My practice of that approach over the course of four haiku poets’ collections has honed my calligraphic skills while giving me wabi-sabi instincts. Now I can’t write haiku to save my life, but I have enough awareness of their spirit to help another haiku/haibun poet, dt.haase, develop two works-in-progress. The only thing that could have beat dining with dt. one night and Ben the next on my latest train journey would have been for the three of us to dine together! Maybe someday…
I’m sure it’s possible to write in seclusion and only share work with faceless entities, but I can’t imagine it’s much fun. Working for a press out of my home, writing at a desk in my home — the internet makes these possible. Having to drive an hour+ to engage with poets in real life, however, sometimes leaves me isolated. The creative kinships I’ve developed over the years have opened up collaborations that have taught me skills I never would have gained on my own. And it’s the endorphins that come from these intense, trusting partnerships that carry me through the long, dark January nights when the roads are too icy to attend Writers Night Out…or Down Cellar Poets…or Boston Bookbuilders…
If you have grown thanks to creative kinships, please share in the comments. How did you meet? Have you ever met in real life? What works of art exist in the world now because of your creative kinships?