Cracks and Bridges (symbols)

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Julie H, Jun 17, 2017.

  1. Tell me what that means to you, Supriyo. I'm a communicator and I don't know what it's communicating. How does a glacier knock a cupboard and why would it?

    I can understand all of Van Dyke Park's lyrics in the Beach Boy's "Surf's Up" song than I do in those four lines, but that song's melody gives it more creative credence. I couldn't hear most of Park's lyrics and had to read them online.

    Also I don't read poems. Not my medium of communication for obvious reasons. What I see of poetry writing is pretty much word scatting like jazz improvisational singers except the words used usually have no connection to any ideas or emotions because words project a literal meaning where musical sound is more soulful.

    And there isn't enough data to prove EVERYONE knows of Octavio Paz.
  2. Tim, one thing we need to understand is that poems don't come with user manuals. Also, the poet expanding proses on his own poem is like the comedian explaining his joke, that defeats the purpose of the joke. May be, I can give you some hints to make out a meaning for yourself. Glacier, desert, barren lands --> connect that to the last word of the last line, 'dead'. Now read the whole thing again.

    We may find ourselves comfortable in our home with a cupboard full of belongings (food?) and a soft bed, but we are all slowly and inevitably moving towards our demise. The desert and glacier may be allegorical to death, crack in the tea cup has a similar connotation. Just substitute it for wrinkles in the skin, the first sign of disease ... the first 'crack' in us opening up the road to the ultimate death. This is what I know because I read the poem before in it's entirety, and most people I think will come up with a similar interpretation. Here is a link to the whole poem if you want to read: As I Walked Out One Evening

    However, I think these four lines can stand on their own too. Glacier and desert can be symbolic of adventure, exploration into unknown territories, while the cupboard and bed could be indicative of the house, one's familiar world. Knocking and sighing may suggest that the two worlds are not that far apart. A small stimulus, like a crack in the teapot can trigger the poet's (or artist's) imagination, opening up a lane to the unexplored territories of thought, the land of the dead. That is my interpretation. I don't think you will find that anywhere. Please note, this is not evidence of ambiguity, as the four lines taken in the context of the whole poem does point towards the first interpretation.

    Words don't always have to have a literal meaning, thats an assumption you are making. In literature, words are often symbolic, as photo elements can be symbolic. Thats what the recent threads in the Philosophy forum are discussing.
    DavidTriplett likes this.
  3. I read the whole Auden poem.

    Makes sense at the beginning until the colon mark after the line "I heard a lover sing under an arc of the railway" after that the single quote suggests the listener/author is interpreting the song's meaning on how love will last compared too...(name your large Earthly topographic formation and place for hyperbolic effect...i.e until China and Africa meet, etc., etc.)...

    ...where it then meanders to further the idea of "How do I love thee, let me count the ways"...diatribe until I get down to point where the author has somehow switched to first person telling the lover to plunge their hands into water up to their wrist. What's that have to do with how much do I love thee? And then it abruptly jumps to the part that was quoted in this thread about glaciers knock cupboards, deserts sigh in the bed (SIGH?!) REALLY?! How does that fit in with loving someone forever or is the author still talking about the lover's song. I don't know, I'm lost on the meandering and drifting of the way this guy writes poems. It's infuriating!

    What does this have to do with philosophy and photography?! Nothing has communicated this in the entire thread.

    Words always are first interpreted literally until there is contrast in the meaning and rhythm created on whether it switches from literal to lyrical, or mystical, or fantastical. You have to make that obvious and not meander and drift about talking gibberish.

    That's scat singing and that author is to scat singing as Raymond Burr is to pole vaulting.
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2017
  4. One kind of crack I like is the wisecrack, though I'm not sure I've ever photographed one. (Might be an interesting theme for No Words!)


    Above are two masters. I loosely use them, however, for their symbolic value, given the scope of the thread.

    I appreciate the importance and greatness of symbolism throughout much literature and art. But one of the things about symbolism is how easily it can be overplayed and overinterpreted. I think a lot of important artists have used symbolism effectively and I also think a whole bunch of writers have written painfully about them.

    So the wisecrackers are here to remind me not to take myself and not to take symbolism too seriously, especially to the point where it ruins the symbolism itself.

    The recent threads focus on certain things as symbols. We could focus on almost anything, so there's nothing inherently special about bridges, cracks, mouths, gates, clocks, shoes, or roads. (Well, of course, they're all special. Everyone and everything is special. But I digress.) We could discuss fingers, clouds, smiles, tears, cigars, trains, tunnels, cups, daggers, the moon and the stars. (I think at least half of those could be sexual symbols.) I think what we're doing is focusing our attention in a certain way on a given object, which will almost always include cultural influences as well as individual ones.

    We can wax poetically on the photographic meaning of pretty much anything that appears in a photograph, if and when we want to do so.

    I do feel we've given short shrift to bridges.

    I love Bridge Over Troubled Water, in part in spite of but mostly because of the fact that it's so obvious and so unabashedly sappy. Similar sentiments with a similar melody could not have been put together by many people to make it such an iconic song. Simon and Garfunkel were that good. They could pull it off and remain authentic in doing so.

    Contrast this to their other "bridge" song, The 59th Street Bridge Song, affectionately known as Feelin' Groovy. Not a bridge in sight in the lyrics themselves. But we've got lampposts and flowers which could keep our symbolically-occupied minds atwitter for quite some time! Maybe the next thread . . .

    The humility of Feelin' Groovy is something worth keeping in mind. I think it's more within reach for most creators than that Bridge Over Troubled Water.

    Language is symbolic. I'm intrigued and swayed by the idea that words are at least if not more about their use than their meanings. They are more fluid than fixed. And I think the same can be said for symbols. We can write theses on the meanings of various symbols. But it's their use that brings them alive.

    You know how, sometimes, when you're with a grieving friend, it's better not to say much and just be there, to listen and even just to breathe together and share space. Well, I think the same can be true of symbols. At a certain point, the talk undermines them and they just have to be allowed to live and breathe and be lived with.

    An author's or photographer's attempt to deeply interpret their own symbols, to me, is a recipe for disaster. It often winds up undermining otherwise good work.
  5. Fred, are the references to Jackie Mason and Henny Youngman in regard to my Raymond Burr is to pole vaulting crack?

    I heard that on a Johnny Carson rerun several days ago where it was quoted by Arnold Schwarzenegger in a mid '80's roast as a jab at his acting ability. The second one he said was even funnier where he said Arnold waiting for an Oscar was like leaving the porch light on for Jimmy Hoffa. I lost it after hearing that.

    BTW what does symbolism have to do with philosophy? I get it for photography. Objects have alternate meanings as symbols.
  6. I hadn't yet read Julie's original post, so I didn't see the stanza that was taken out of context until just now. For me, understanding and relating to that stanza took reading the entire poem, which made it much more accessible and coherent. No, I'm not going to explain it, but I thought all of us should have the benefit of the entire poem, without which the few lines are impotent.

    As I Walked Out One Evening

    W. H. Auden, 1907 - 1973

    As I walked out one evening,
    Walking down Bristol Street,
    The crowds upon the pavement
    Were fields of harvest wheat.

    And down by the brimming river
    I heard a lover sing
    Under an arch of the railway:
    ‘Love has no ending.

    ‘I’ll love you, dear, I’ll love you
    Till China and Africa meet,
    And the river jumps over the mountain
    And the salmon sing in the street,

    ‘I’ll love you till the ocean
    Is folded and hung up to dry
    And the seven stars go squawking
    Like geese about the sky.

    ‘The years shall run like rabbits,
    For in my arms I hold
    The Flower of the Ages,
    And the first love of the world.'

    But all the clocks in the city
    Began to whirr and chime:
    ‘O let not Time deceive you,
    You cannot conquer Time.

    ‘In the burrows of the Nightmare
    Where Justice naked is,
    Time watches from the shadow
    And coughs when you would kiss.

    ‘In headaches and in worry
    Vaguely life leaks away,
    And Time will have his fancy
    To-morrow or to-day.

    ‘Into many a green valley
    Drifts the appalling snow;
    Time breaks the threaded dances
    And the diver’s brilliant bow.

    ‘O plunge your hands in water,
    Plunge them in up to the wrist;
    Stare, stare in the basin
    And wonder what you’ve missed.

    ‘The glacier knocks in the cupboard,
    The desert sighs in the bed,
    And the crack in the tea-cup opens
    A lane to the land of the dead.

    ‘Where the beggars raffle the banknotes
    And the Giant is enchanting to Jack,
    And the Lily-white Boy is a Roarer,
    And Jill goes down on her back.

    ‘O look, look in the mirror,
    O look in your distress:
    Life remains a blessing
    Although you cannot bless.

    ‘O stand, stand at the window
    As the tears scald and start;
    You shall love your crooked neighbour
    With your crooked heart.'

    It was late, late in the evening,
    The lovers they were gone;
    The clocks had ceased their chiming,
    And the deep river ran on.
  7. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    there's very little difference between a song and a poem. done well, they are both god's gift to the ear
  8. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    a fanny that quotes socrates?
  9. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    bridges pacify, no? is there any point in photographing something as benign as a bridge?

    i loved your S&G references, long time no hear. the words bridge and street made me think of Bobby Womack's phenomenal "across 110th street"
  10. Pacify? I don't know. I like to think of the transitional aspect of bridges. Think about what a musical bridge does. I mean, I suppose it inspires reflection but it's usually moving me toward a chorus or a climax. In that sense, a bridge can look ahead.
    I did a series with Andy a while back under the Little Brown Bridge in Fairfax, just north of SF. Something I was going to say in the post with S&G is that I think some things and some symbols can be used as incidental rather than main elements and work. They can help tell a story or create a space.
    michaellinder and Norman 202 like this.
  11. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    that's uncanny. i was just about to answer my own question by referring to Jeff Spirer's remarkable photo of the GG bridge that he shot in blue. if he's still tuned in…

    julie laments the lack of adjectives in this forum but i'm going to say your photo is special
  12. I take it the bridge in Fred's image symbolizes a roof over Andy's head.

    Or am I not getting the meaning of bridges as symbols?

  13. Always true, as you have demonstrated with your examples. Thank you for showing the negative side, the danger, of forced meaning.

    The segments of the poem(s) were the choice of the editors of The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images.
  14. That every part of the content of a picture must be fully understood and handled with care — and the difficulty of achieving that in a meaningful way — is why good art, as well as good poetry is so very hard to do.

    Here is Andy Goldsworthy talking about the making of his sculptures:

    ... it is a space that I am trying to understand. I am not just trying to understand a rock as if it has been delivered to my studio. I have to understand why it is there and the time it has spent there, the way it has effected that place. It is a window into processes that have gone on and around that rock, or leaf or stick. Those are the things I am trying to learn about. That is why I work with the materials in the place where they have come from — at their source. When I work with a leaf I am working with the sun and the rain and the growth of the tree, the space of the tree, the shadow of the tree. It is not just three inches of leaf; it is the growth and process that I am interested in.

    [ ... ]

    ... I have found and worked with red in many countries and talked of it as the earth's vein — a description confirmed by the realization that the earth and stone are red because of their iron content which is also why our blood is red.

    The beauty of the red is its connection to life — underwritten by fragility, pain and violence — words that I would have to use in describing beauty itself. This sense of life draws me to nature, but with it also comes an equally strong sense of death. I cannot walk for before seeing something dead and decaying. Uprooted trees, fallen rocks, landslides, flood damage ... A grip on beauty is necessary for me to feel and make sense of its underlying precariousness. So many of my sculptures are within a hair's breadth of failure. I often see works — a balanced column of rocks, stacked icicles — looking stronger with each piece that is added, but also know that each addition takes it closer to the edge of collapse. Some of my most memorable works have been made in this way, and some of my worst failures could have produced some great pieces. Beauty does not avoid difficulty but hovers dangerously above it — like walking on thin ice.​

    Here is just one of Goldsworthy's cracks (the cover of one of his books). Find a zillion more if you like, via Google Image.

    Here is a bridge by Goldsworthy.

    Poets handle every single word with extreme care. They leave them out as much as leave them in, because of all the meanings they are freighted with ... "looking stronger with each piece that is added, but also know that each addition takes it closer to the edge of collapse," ... "within a hair's breadth of failure." That is how good artists of all kinds work.
  15. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    here's what dylan thomas said about people who quote poetry without ever listening to it

    they're wankers
  16. I think, adding color to a picture takes it within a hairs breath of failure. Many of my photos have been salvaged by converting to BW. Preserving colors in a photo requires paying attention to every detail with an added dimensionality. It's one of the hardest things I have encountered.
  17. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    that doesn't explain how slap-dash artists make it or how artists become unfashionable or make use of political, social or cultural trends, does it?
  18. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    nothing is word perfect

Share This Page