Contrasting Abstractions: The next phase in my study

The Writer’s Games have ended! I sent in my final story yesterday. Guests have left. The family is busy. I might get a full day to myself. And the sun is out. 😎

Hope and Despair

Last week, inspired by some abstract art books:

and a writing tip from the Shaelin Writes video below, I started a new phase in my study of abstract nouns. Each week I’ll choose two opposing abstract nouns and attempt to create an image representing both. To inspire my work, I’m expanding my research from studying the words, history, and philosophy, to collecting music, paintings, photographs, poems, stories, scientific studies, and anything else I can find that represents the two abstractions, immersing myself for the week.

Using the statement, “Find the despair in hope, and the hope in despair,” I created several filters and tried different techniques. Here is one of the images:

Hope & Despair by Maria L. Berg 2022

Calm & Agitation

This week, expanding on the idea, I am exploring “Find the agitation in calm, and the calm in agitation.” Let’s start with some definitions:
agitate: 1. a. to give motion to b. to move with an irregular, rapid, or violent action 2. to excite and often trouble the mind or feelings of: Disturb 3. to discuss excitedly and earnestly
calm: 1. a period or condition of freedom from storms, high winds, or rough activity of water 2. a state of tranquility: free from agitation, excitement, or disturbance

So what could possibly be the agitation in calm? It depends on the person and situation. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like to lie still for long, so my own thoughts are often the agitation. On the beach, the agitation could be the sand fleas; at the lake, the music from the boats going by, or mowers and chainsaws. The waves themselves are the definition of agitation, though the sound of them hitting the shore may be the calm in agitation.

For today’s images, I noticed light glinting off spiderwebs, and experimented with creating my shapes from that light. It worked! And with the very cool effect of making smaller shapes than the light on the leaves behind the webs.

Agitation in the Calm by Maria L. Berg 2022

dVerse Poets Pub

For today’s Poetics prompt, Lisa challenges us to consider fractals in relation to poetry in subject or form.

Rapid Irregular Movement

agitation nags                               it's tickling                               through the calm
little bits build                      to agitate with malice                      while lying calmly
in the sun                               even after the years                            have passed to
a calming age                             all is distraction                dizzying feelings of ions
commingling                                 I see them                              behind closed lids
and the gate creeks           commensurate to the spots                             gyrating

The Beauty of Dissonance

Beauty by Maria L. Berg 2022

Beauty

Today is the first time in this exciting study of abstract nouns that I’m revisiting a word to study it more deeply. When I first approached beauty on the second day of the A to Z Challenge in April, I found a thorough definition on dictionary.com. My Merriam Webster’s defines it only slightly differently (the quality or aggregate of qualities . . . gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit: Loveliness), so I still have the same questions about inherent beauty and perceived beauty. This morning I thought, if beauty is defined by culture and/or group-think of an era or time-period does it really exist at all?

To start to explore these questions, I turned to philosophy. In the book Does the Center Hold? by Donald Palmer I found an interesting passage about Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-1872)’s thoughts on beauty. He believed that a human being is fundamentally good and from the beginning of the species every human community has aspired, consciously or unconsciously, to achieving: love, truth, beauty, happiness, wisdom, purity, and strength. The book says “among others,” but sticks to that list. Guess which abstractions I’ll be focusing on further 😃. Next month?

This got me thinking about the famous ending from “Ode on a Grecian Urn” by John Keats :

 “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all

                Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

Does that narrow down Feurbach’s list–and my study–to only two abstract nouns? Or only one? And how would I choose? I would think that would include wisdom. If truth and beauty are indeed the same, if I focus all of my images on beauty, will I be making images of truth? Will I eventually look at my beautiful image and see truth equally in the image?

Looking at beauty physically, many people believe symmetry is beautiful, others like asymmetry. Some look at a mole on a face and see a blemish, others see a beauty mark. Looking at beauty mathematically, the artists of the Renaissance believed in the golden ratio. I think of this when I include the curve from my metal mirror in my photos like I did for Value.

Looking back at the images I created for beauty before, I can see what I was going for: the shapes, a geometric representation of flowers and leaves, shows the conflict of the wild beauty of nature and the human desire to tame it. I also see this dichotomy of beauty in the glowing primary colors: yellow (sun and flowers), red (flowers, some berries), blue (water and sky). And the green–a combination and a contrast–a union of blue and yellow contrasting with red, but also representing the leaves that surround the red flowers or berries, the grass that meets the water, the floor to the ceiling of sky.

When I look at those images, I see all of that, but I also don’t see beauty. I think the images may try to do too much. They feel busy. Though the colors and shapes give pleasure to my senses, the images don’t exalt.

How do I want to explore beauty today? This time around I want to look for beauty in simplicity. I think there’s graceful movement in beauty, or beauty in graceful movement.

Looking Forward, Looking Back by Maria L. Berg 2022

dVerse Poets Pub

For today’s Meeting the Bar: Critique and Craft prompt, Björn invites us to explore dissonance in our poetry. I love dissonance, especially the discordant combinations I create in my songs. I guess I haven’t really thought about the poetic tools of linguistic dissonance before. Great prompt!

The Poem

An Unexpected Irritation that Lingers

There is a man in the bushes to my left
He crunches and snaps, rustles and breaks
His every movement is destruction–
I believe he thinks–in the name of clearing,
taming nature to his will

I cannot see him through the thick
rhododendron he stomps and the
Japanese camellia he mangles caught
under the cherry-plum, but I see
the hedge move with a crack and a snap
and I know he has crossed

under the cherry-plum into the
leaf-shadows of this rhododendron
shuffling and crackling the crisp, dry
leaves as irritating and attention hoarding
as a jay or a spotted towhee, but his caw
is much worse than the jay’s screech.

When he finally speaks
the only thing he says is
cut your trees, cut your trees
cut your trees!

Enjoying My Solitude

Solitude by Maria L. Berg 2022

Solitude

This week is the first week of a three week course I’m taking on FutureLearn.com called How to Make a Poem offered through Manchester Metropolitan University. This week’s assigned poem is to collect language by observing an environment in the style of George Perec’s exercise in his essay. “the Street.” As someone who enjoys her solitude: seclusion; state of being and living alone in an area that is remote and unfrequented especially on rainy days, this is a bit of a challenge. The idea is to capture overheard language or signs, menus, etc. Solitude isn’t very conducive to this exercise as described, but the exercise also doesn’t exactly lead to found poetry in the way I understand it.

For today’s images I have two new tools to play with: net lights and printable transparency paper. I think I’ll hang the net lights in the mirrorworld since it’s supposed to rain for about a week. My original idea for the printable transparency paper was to print some of my black and white photos to use with blackout poetry, but I’m also curious how it might work for printing a filter. So many possibilities.

As you can see, I still haven’t been able to fix my printer, but in this case, I like the lines and color stripes.

To Take Dreams verse one by Maria L. Berg 2022

dVerse Poets Pub

It’s Open Link Night at the pub, so I thought I would start try my printable transfer paper as a blackout to “find” poetry.

The Poem

To Take Dreams verse two by Maria L. Berg 2022

To take dreams

some mediate, contain
by providing that
highest provocation
and that dream
of mind from mystery
matter outdone
their equal
these two dreams
that wheel

by symbols at one
and world be else
said key to the dream self
dual one as thumb
as not fruit
converse of is beauty
the dream add
the little soul
the devil
how his counting
on no self objective
them also

found from Rose Windows by Painton Cowen ©1979




The Power to Recognize My Power

Power by Maria L. Berg 2022

Power

Power has a long list of interesting meanings. The idea of having power over a person came up in the definition of Mercy the other day, so my first thoughts this morning went to the evils of authority or influence: fear, torture, corruption. But the main definition of power is ability (power or capacity to do or act physically, mentally, legally, morally, financially, etc.): ability to do or act; capability of doing or accomplishing something. In physics it is work done or energy transferred per unit of time. In math the product obtained by multiplying a quantity by itself one or more times. It is energy, force, or momentum.

Yesterday I started experimenting with two new ideas. First, expanding upon the hinge idea from my door filter, I created a series of filters that I call transformer filters: geometrical designs with sections not completely cut out, but folded. These filters can create many different shapes depending on which sections are “open.” Second, I created a light grid. Using an old aluminum grid from the laser-cutter, I placed a string-light in every fourth square. Combining my new filters with my power grid is like quilting with light.

Energy by Maria L. Berg 2022

dVerse Poets Pub

For today’s Meet the Bar prompt, Björn challenges us to try the Constanza form created by Connie Marcum Wong in 2007. It’s a new form to me and appears quite challenging. Let’s see if I have the power to complete a Constanza.

The Poem

Recognizing Power

When moon’s aglow and murders caw
and streetlights burn in amber rows
the night excites and passion grows

the city girls sing la-dee-da
to walking beats of clicking heels
a destination soon reveals

with hips that swing a tra-la-la
manipulating lookers on
but don’t get close or they’ll be gone

a magic power there–ta-da!
distracts the eye while coins are palmed
and every protestation calmed

their laughter echos, ha ha ha!
where shadows imprint eyelids closed
be careful dancing when you’ve dozed

When moon’s aglow and murders caw
the city girls sing la-dee-da
with hips that swing a tra-la-la
a magic power there–ta-da!
their laughter echoes, ha ha ha!

To the Nth Power by Maria L. Berg 2022




Oh, What Two Little Letters Can Do

Happiness by Maria L. Berg 2022

Happiness

This morning I was wondering, how is happiness different from other abstract nouns I’ve explored: comfort, joy, or delight? Then I looked up the definition and there they all were: good fortune; pleasure; contentment; joy: delighted, pleased, or glad. So luck was in there too.

Though one can be happy about a singular result–a bit of luck, a pleasurable experience, a hummingbird hovering in sunlight–I think happiness as something internalized, attained through acceptance, appreciation and gratitude. Not the kind of happiness found through the rose-colored glasses of denial and ignorance, but through awe, wonder, and curiosity.

The Declaration of Independence declares that we have been endowed by our Creator to pursue happiness, but the men who composed that document would have had very different ideas of happiness than I do, than almost anyone living has today, I would think. And they didn’t say we have the right to attain happiness, to spend every day in happiness, but the right to pursue it. The first definition of pursue at dictionary.com is “to follow in order to overtake, capture, kill, etc.” I hope that’s not what they meant.

Sunday’s experiment with additive text, got me thinking about lettering and generating text, so, I put some letters in the mirrorworld. Starting with an “A” made it clear to me that when the bokeh flips, it flips upside down and backwards.

Realization Generation by Maria L. Berg 2022
Generating Laughter by Maria L. Berg 2022

dVerse Poets Pub

Today’s prompt is to write a food poem. Misky invites us to play with our food and lick our fingers. The prompt made me want to go play in the garden. My favorite meal is one I’ve freshly picked. It brings me so much happiness to grow my food.

Unexpected Harvest by Maria L. Berg 2022

The Poem

How My Garden Grows

Impressed by the determined kale’s
waving green leaves that persisted,
refusing to perish through
the long, recurring winter
towering over the weeds,
with my shovel and garden gloves,
I attack and turn the soil, finding
roots and rocks where I had planted
just last year, and also finding
something very strange
a mystery appeared

Every year I dig up old nails
or a little plastic toy
but this I can’t identify
tossing my gloves in the wheelbarrow
filled with fir cones and weeds
I turn it and turn it
inspecting it in every way
careful not to cut my dirty fingers
I think of lighting hitting
a beach, making glass of sand
but this is dirt and no lightning
has struck and it was buried.

At first I feared it was a curse
this dirty, sharp-edged glass
figure, but after cleaning
off its outer coat it brings to mind
a little gardener, laboring
hunched over carrying
a heavy load, a bountiful harvest
what luck to discover
such a good omen
as I begin to sow
maybe his sharp points
will ward off bunnies
and curious dark-eyed
juncos and crows,
leaving those tasty kale leaves
whole to flourish

Sad Birdman in the Kale by Maria L. Berg 2022

Making Delight

Delight by Maria L. Berg 2022

Delight

This study of abstract nouns through abstract photography brings me extreme pleasure and satisfaction. To capture that delight today, I used my favorite fuzzy fabric as a backdrop, my favorite spiral filter, and used the camera flash in the mirrorworld. Some of the results were surprising and delightful.

Delightful by Maria L. Berg 2022

For Cinco de Mayo at dVerse Poets Pub we’re writing cinquains developed by Adelaide Crapsey. Laura challenges us to write either a cinq-cinquain, or a cinquain chain / crown cinquain. Either way it’s five cinquains which follow the syllabic pattern 2-4-6-8-2.

The Poem

Delight Cycle

giddy
awakening
to possibility
hot shower shoulders dripping with
delight

delight
so fresh and new
smelling of minty dew
tears and scratches to get through this
foul mood

foul mood
coating the day
before I can hang the
yellow and orange polk-a-dot
fabric

fabric
of my joy life
rug for meditation
cape for solar-being costume
background

background
sifting bright lights
providing fun textures
inspiring surprises; smiling
giddy

Bravely Facing This Stage of Grief

Bravery by Maria L. Berg 2022

Bravery

What is bravery? Courage. What is courage? Bravery. I love this stuff. It is a quality of mind or spirit that allows a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear. Other than military imagery of facing the enemy and facing death, what does bravery look like? How do I capture a quality of mind or spirit in an abstract photograph? What is the shape of fighting through fear, striving for acceptance through grief: running toward something instead of staying frozen in stasis or running away? I haven’t played with my footprint filters in a while. Maybe, I can do something with them.

L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 38

I received my early reviewer’s copy of L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 38 that I won from Library Thing today and the first illustration shows a girl running toward a giant monster, its mouth open, dripping saliva over jagged, pointy teeth. She looks brave. But it’s also incredibly brave just to share a poem, or stand up and read to an audience. It’s brave to get out of bed, get dressed and face another day of grief and loss which is the prompt for today’s Poetics at dVerse Poets Pub. Lisa challenges us to choose one or more of Kubler-Ross’ stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) to write about, in relation to our, or another’s, current state of being.

Running Toward by Maria L. Berg 2022

The Poem

So many years wavering

Is it a betrayal,
this acceptance?
It feels like I’ve given
up on something
by acknowledging
this reality.

Though I knew
it wasn’t possible
that this was temporary,
only a way-station
in Purgatory,
it felt like wrapping
myself in a soft, warm
blanket–that false hope–
I could wake up
in from this nightmare.

If I only learned my lesson
or did the right thing here,
I could have it all back again
and you–not the mean dream
you, rejecting me over
and over, making me
so sad that I don’t
sleep anymore, but
the real you, I’m
electrically attracted
to will wrap me in that
warm, soft blanket
and hold me tight,
your stubble poking
my cheek and my neck.

It’s so hard to accept
reality’s betrayal
and yet, I feel
calm promise
knowing that
nothing I do or say
can fix this.
This is my day
to stay in:
this moment
is mine to lose.

Reflecting on How to Continue the Abstract Adventure

My Theme

For my theme this year, I chose abstract nouns which are words for things that aren’t perceived by the senses, and can’t be physically measured. They are ideas, qualities, or states rather than concrete objects. I chose this theme because I combine the A to Z Challenge with National Poetry Writing Month and abstract nouns are the breath of life for poetry. Two–love and beauty–have kept poets busy through the ages.

I really enjoyed this theme. It kept me inspired every day. My attempts to express these concepts as abstract photographs led me to try new techniques:

  • using clear fishing line in my filters to create floating shapes
  • more detailed wire work
  • a light curtain as background
  • over-exposure
  • using the camera’s built in effects in the mirrorworld
  • opening the blinds to let the outside into the mirrorwold
  • light-painting with a flashlight for still and moving bokeh at the same time

and create fun new bokeh filters. My favorites:

  • spiral
  • loop
  • squirrel
  • roller skate

I also enjoyed diving into the definitions of these abstract nouns and discovering how many of them had circular definitions: What is comfort? Solace. What is solace? Comfort. I found I would like to explore many of them further.

Tales of Adventure by Maria L. Berg 2022

The A to Z Community

I want to thank everyone who came by to read my posts. I appreciated all the likes and comments. There were a lot of really fun themes this year and posts that I enjoyed reading. I especially enjoyed:

It’s fun to look at what everyone’s thinking about and exploring. If you are looking over the month of my work as a whole, I would love to know: Which of my images was your favorite? Which of my poems was your favorite?

Opening Doors by Maria L. Berg 2022

May Photo Challenge

I enjoyed my daily exploration of abstract nouns so much, I want to keep doing it. There’s so much more to explore and think about with each of the abstract nouns I looked at in April, I could repeat that calendar over and over, but there are also so many more abstract nouns to explore. I created a new calendar for this month, including homographs for Sundays like last month. Though I won’t be posting every day, I will be taking pictures and writing poems each day focused on these abstract nouns. I may return to April’s nouns in June.

Starting today, my focus returns to my main priority of finishing novels. Yesterday, I was thinking about how I can bring the same passion and daily feeling of accomplishment I feel with photography and poetry to my daily novel writing. I wrote in my journal:

“What if I approach each scene as an exploration of an abstract noun? How would I explore –adventure (for example)–in my scene today? How would my POV character encounter–adventure–in this setting? Or express –adventure– to another character? How would he show–adventure– on his face/ with his body language? How would she perceive the world in this moment through–adventure?”

This month, I’m going to play with this idea in my morning pages, replacing –adventure– with each of my abstract nouns each day and see how it affects my scenes. Hopefully it will give my novel writing that same sense of discovery, exploration, and wonder I find in my photographs.

Adventure by Maria L. Berg

Adventure

So on to this next adventure, full of exciting risks and hazards, daily daring into unusual undertakings. What does adventure look like today? I want to see what my new door filter I created for yesterday’s “close” images looks like in the mirrorworld, and revisit my squirrel while continuing to practice light painting with a flashlight in the mirrorworld.

I also took a real adventure to the library to pick up the copy of Refuse to Be Done: How to Write and Rewrite and Novel in Three Drafts by Matt Bell that I’ve had on hold since they ordered it. I’m excited to dive in.

dVerse Poets Pub

Today’s prompt for Quadrille #151 is “static.” Static, it turns out, is a homograph with all sorts of great meanings. To end today’s adventure, I’ll attempt to condense it all down to exactly forty-four words.

Staring at the Static

a screen full
of snow hissing
hush, mesmerizing
smelling of soap and ash
rough and jagged
out of touch
off the dial
dissonance
untuned
to the
frequencies
of the immovable
missing today’s
adventure
of the shadow
or another
not getting through
because
static clings

Open to the Unknown by Maria L. Berg 2022

Library Thing Early Reviewers

LibraryThing Early Reviewers

I joined Library Thing when I created an author page for Gator McBumpypants Hears a Scary Noise. They have a selection of books each month that you can choose from to potentially win in exchange for review. In all these years I have never won, but they recently revamped their system. This month I won two e-books to review: One Thousand Good Answers by Sarah Herrin and Rocking Change: Changing the World through Changing Ourselves by Karl Ernst.

It appears that their new system paid attention to Experience Writing because the first book is blackout poetry which I created examples of and talked about in my post Blackout Poetry Art Day (though I also created a Pinterest collection of blackout poetry), and the theme this year is about creating good habits, to create positive change as I laid out in A Year of Finishing Novels: The first tiny steps. So whether or not I like computer algorithms as part of my life, this one appears to be positive: getting the right books to the right person. I’m excited to review them (look for my reviews over the next couple weeks).

Because I was happily surprised by the selections given to me to review, I added them to my Library Thing library today and saw that I hadn’t added the last Gator McBumpypants book to my page, nor had I ever added any tags to my books. I know I got discouraged by a few people’s responses to my work, but that shouldn’t have stopped me.

It is a truly sad human condition that a bad review can take attention away from the joy on a child’s face when she read the book, or the child that asked if alligators really lived in the lake, giving me the opportunity to talk about the joy of imagination. Or the fact that my books are in my elementary school library. Those are huge successes. I shouldn’t have let the adult judgement get to me. The books weren’t meant for mean, judgy people.

I still have the workings of the book I started in New Orleans when I went back for The Rubber Maids reunion. The trip was an emotional roller-coaster, and when I got back, I went through some major life changes, so my ideas for Gator’s story kept changing. However, looking back at everything I did, this spring might be time to flesh that story out, and create a new Gator McBumpypants for my young niece who is getting close to learning to read.

I want to thank Library Thing for making me feel this way today. Hope is so important and hard to find.

Light and Shadow: Janus words and a shadow sonnet

Shadow faces on the wall. Profiles created from bending wired ribbon.
Shadows in Profile by Maria L. Berg 2021

Today is a special poetry day for me. David at The Skeptic’s Kaddish wrote a response poem to one of my poems. It’s a beautiful pairing. Go check it out. And Laura presented a fun challenge at dVerse Poets Pub yesterday that I will tackle today.

Laura’s challenge is to write a Shadow Sonnet. This form, created by Amera M. Andersen, uses a traditional sonnet form and repeats the same word at the beginning and end of each line. I thought this would be a great opportunity to play with the opposites nature of Janus words. This should be fun. I took some liberties with rhyme so I could play with Janus words for my light and shadow.

Rock Rocking on the Overlook

Buckle up and hold on as hearts buckle
Overlook faults drawing lines overlooked
dust settles, defining edges to dust
Go pull the hooks that hold the seams then go

left after each one took a share then left
wearing a symbol that succumbs to wear
Let it show you know that time’s but let
Peer through keyholes while stealth is your peer

Bound down the road of hope before you’re bound
Weather hurtles before harsher weather
out in the sun, soaked shadows will hide out
tempered by warm light, dousing hot tempers

Rocking the balance back with stacks of rocks
Off you go the moment something feels off