Gift

I was reminded recently (by this incredible book) how much I enjoy Paul Cézanne’s landscapes. I was talking with a friend about this last night.

This morning a favorite magazine published my poem Gift, accompanied by a Cézanne sketch I’d never seen before. Synchronicity is strange and occasionally delightful.

Pairing visual and written art is one of those unsung editorial skills. (The Hopper’s editors are, in my experience, very good at these pairings. I also love the work in this issue of High Desert Journal.) It’s something writers often have nothing to do with; in no publication yet have I had any say. I get to look forward to finding it out on publication day. It’s the first, slantwise look at how my text resonates with someone who is not me.

Of course, I pair my own writing and photography all the time. I mostly can’t articulate how I make these pairings; they just feel right. So I’ll try, today.

What does this picture, which is titled Saturation Point, have to do with Gift?

Saturation Point happened just a few days ago, with no poem in mind at all; certainly not one I wrote (I think) a year ago. But I didn’t pick it at random. I thought about the poem and I looked at it on the page, and I thought about photos I’d made that have the same feeling, and this photo surfaced.

It’s not the physical subject matter. It’s not the consonants, getting spikier as the poem does. The Hopper did a much more accurate job matching both those things.

It’s the most important words in the second line, maybe—generous and common—that make the connection.

Maybe it’s the poem’s title. This picture came from a brilliantly blue and gold moment in a storm-filled day, and it was seeing that brilliance come pouring through black-and-white that felt gifted to me—somehow more personally revelatory than the (incredible) actual colors of that horse-chestnut tree and the stormlight that cherished it.

I should offer a third reason here, because I like to do things in threes.

I will leave that—and this short Gift—to you, instead.

Thoughts? Questions? Stories to share?

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