Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Road Trip

While compiling the sequences for the "England and Nowhere" book (still not sure about that title) I have become aware of certain gaps, the biggest of which is the absence of many suitable photographs of the M3 motorway and its cutting running through Twyford Down.  Obviously, without that gash being opened up in the landscape, there would be rather less cause to notice how everything converges there. It's rather like the definitive, first bold stroke of paint on a canvas, or that famous jar placed upon a hill in Tennessee*, around which everything else finds itself arranged into meaning. Though I doubt very many people see it that way.

Anyway, it's a crucial element, and I've been meaning to plug that photographic gap, but circumstances and the weather have conspired against me. On Sunday morning, however, it was a beautifully clear spring day, with rain forecast for the afternoon, so we headed out while there was still a chance for a walk and for me to get some shots over the rim of the cutting.

Of course, once you gaze over the brink, you remember why you have so few compelling pictures of the motorway or its cutting. It's just a very busy road, and not terribly exciting to look at... Never mind, I will keep plugging away while (ahem) waiting for some stragglers' feedback on the sequence as it was around Easter time. Somewhere out there are the two images I need to make the whole thing go click.

* Anecdote of the jar, by Wallace Stevens
I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill.

The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around, no longer wild.
The jar was round upon the ground
And tall and of a port in air.

It took dominion everywhere.
The jar was gray and bare.
It did not give of bird or bush,
Like nothing else in Tennessee.


Mike C said...

OK, you just opened the Wallace Stevens jar. Well, sort of. After reading the poem you included in this blog post I immediately thought of an idea for your collage work. Have you guessed it? How about "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" for starters. That actually is one of my favorite poems of Mr. Stevens. I'm imagining the possibilities right now! I also imagine a reply like "If you like it so much, do it yourself!" I wouldn't be offended, being of three minds, like a tree...or something.

Mike C. said...

Interesting thought, Mike. Funnily enough, I recently picked up a used copy of David Hockney's "Blue Guitar" book from 1977, his responses to "The Man with a Blue Guitar". It's a nice little book, but a bit of failure, I think. The intriguing thing about Wallace is the way he addresses the Big Themes and refuses easy assimilation (unlike, say, Eliot, who it is now hard to imagine ever having been considered "difficult"). Those double negatives ("It did not give ... like nothing else") are confusing and very characteristic.

A question: as a Brit, the word "jar" evokes a small to medium sized glass vessel, with a wide top, generally for holding jam or pickles, that sort thing. But I have always presumed Stevens' jar to be ceramic, though, quite possibly holding moonshine liquor (this being Tennessee...). Would that be a typical American response?


Mike C said...

A jar filled with moonshine, once emptied of contents, would possibly have the power to tame the slovenly wilderness in the owner's eyes. So yes, that response fits well with the generalized notion of Tennessee especially in those times. On the other hand, I suspect the jar as a separate entity appeals to the many Americans who find target shooting a worthwhile endeavor - which does not factor in to this at all as they have never heard of Wallace Stevens nor Sylvia Plath's "The Bell Jar."