.

Still  

“Many eyes go through the meadow,  
but few see the flowers in it” —Ralph Waldo Emerson 

I aim and shoot with fierce alacrity   
As artistry unfurls before my eyes  
In all its charismatic clarity:  
The  gauzy  glint of scudding dragonflies;
A butterfly’s sartorial gaiety  
Caught wafting in kaleidoscopic   skies.  
I wonder at  God’s windfalls  on the wing  
And capture  the euphoria  they  bring.  

I focus on a crocus clad  in dew,  
And snap its  purple  sparkle  in  the  splash    
Of  morning’s titian  prelude to the blue,   
Immortalizing  solar-swathed  panache.  
I revel  in  the  panoramic view  
Of dawn’s ensemble freeze-framed in a flash.  
On  nimbose  days of rayless, grey despair  
Pictorial glory  begs I stop and stare.  

I  gaze on  pollen-peppered  legs of bees  
And sticky flicks of toads’ tongues  trapping  flies;  
The whisker  tips  of  squirrels  in  the eaves  
And ramrod ears of deer seized by surprise;   
Cicadas’  amber husks  on  limbs  of trees,   
A shy moon  on the  rise  as twilight dies.  
I marvel at  the  techno-alchemy  
That  floods  my  thirsty eye with  ecstasy.

Gifts  of  every ilk and every shade  
Scurry,  stalk  and scamper,  sway  and  soar.  
The  feathered,  furred,  and  petaled  scenes portrayed  
Are accolades  to  Eden’s sacred core.   
I  ponder on  celestial  hands that made  
Each  miracle  my lens  draws  to the fore.  
My camera’s  splendor  and its untold worth  
Lie in my  glimpse of  heaven  gracing  earth.  
 

.

.

Exposure

Coiled upon the flinty ground—
     A fiend of scaly skin. 
Goosebumps spread. I hear the sound 
     Of terror pound within 
Just as glamor strikes my eye;
     Its checker-patterned draw 
Is treasure that invokes a sigh—
     My fear begins to thaw. 

Awe melts the fool who saw a ghoul 
     (A horror to abhor) 
When witnessing a graceful jewel 
     Adorning my drab floor. 
The russet eyes and olive head 
     Are flairs of fine design; 
This pretty reptile’s quelled my dread—
     This phobia of mine 

Is laid to long-awaited rest. 
     A garter snake is proof  
That my abode is often blessed 
     From basement to the roof, 
And then beyond to pondlife bliss 
     Where un-kissed caudates dwell; 
Where once upon a croak or hiss 
     I used to run like hell. 

Though remedy is not complete; 
     There is one final battle. 
I’ll know I’ve got this torment beat 
     When unfazed by a rattle… 
But only if my camera zoom 
     Grants the gift of distance, 
And brings me to the beastie’s bloom 
     Sans shivers of resistance.    

.

.

Shots  

a rondeau

I feel the buzz; I crave the gleam
Of stratus cloud and citrus beam.   
My camera simply can’t deny  
The rush in spark of firefly,  
    And cirrus trips in tangerine.  

I’m lifted by lush leas of green,  
The bird, the bud, the beetle’s sheen,  
Is in each fix that hits my eye—
    I feel the buzz.   

I’m up for kicks—I’m ever keen
To hit the phlox and foxglove scene
Neath summer’s glow in sun-drunk sky;  
My click addiction makes me high.      
With every shot that fills my screen—
     I feel the buzz.   

.

.

Susan Jarvis Bryant is a church secretary and poet whose homeland is Kent, England.  She is now an American citizen living on the coastal plains of Texas.  Susan has poetry published in the UK webzine, Lighten Up On Line, The Daily Mail, and Openings (anthologies of poems by Open University Poets).


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30 Responses

  1. Sally Cook

    Susan, I have seen some of your photos, and your enthusiam comes streaming through. Nature is filled with wonders, isn’t it>

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Sally, I love photography and only hope I’ve captured with poetry some of the wonders I’ve captured with my camera. I am never happier than when I’m surrounded by nature. The coastal plains of Texas are a huge inspiration for this budding photographer. I’m a very lucky lady, indeed. Thank you for dropping by and commenting, my friend. Have a lovely weekend.

      Reply
  2. Karyn Cook

    Thank you for expressing in rhyme my cherished hobby of freezing in time the many wonders of God’s
    creation with my camera. I have new words to learn for sure, but you have beautifully defined it! It’s great therapy during these troubled times.
    Happy Christmas

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Karyn, you are a girl after my own heart! I’m with you all the way on the ‘therapy’ front. Whenever I’m feeling low, a date with Mother Nature with my camera in tow has my spirits lifted in no time. The technology we have at our fingertips today makes it so easy to capture beautiful images and enjoy the results of our endeavors there and then. I lose all sense of time when I’m engrossed in the moment. I got a dreadful sunburn trying to photograph a painted bunting… I thought I was standing there for five minutes; it turned out to be forty-five! Thank you very much for dropping by. A very Happy Christmas to you, too. I also hope we are headed for a better and brighter 2021… if not, I’ll have to invest in more photography and poetry time. 🙂

      Reply
  3. Sally Cook

    Dear Karyn and Susan –
    Karyn, somewhere along the line I think you and I must be related; ( as our surnames are the same.)
    But, though we share a name and a love of nature, there is one thing onwhich we diffe. That is, you consider photography an art (which it often is ), it is definitly is.not or should not be considered therapy. Art is not therapy ! It may function as such at time, but that is only a secondary or tertiary benefit. Those who consider it as such are only skimming the surface. Art is ART.
    Susan, I just want to recommend to yoiu some of Emily Dickinson’s poems on nature. Your “buzz” comments reminded me of her. Though she wrote every day about everything, and had a life filled with problems, I am sure she never considered it as such.
    There — off the soapbox. What are your thoughts?

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you for your engaging comment, Sally. I am not overly familiar with Emily Dickinson and feel I should read much more before replying, but, with limited knowledge, here goes:

      Having read a few of her nature poems, I can see why my “buzz” poem reminds you of her. She obviously has an immense love of the outdoors and offers Mother Nature a unique eye which brings her color and intrigue to life. Although our style differs, I believe I may have the same heart as Emily Dickinson when it comes to viewing God’s green earth and all creatures bright and beautiful. I particularly like:

      Nature Rarer Uses Yellow

      Nature rarer uses yellow
      Than another hue;
      Saves she all of that for sunsets,–
      Prodigal of blue,

      Spending scarlet like a woman,
      Yellow she affords
      Only scantly and selectly,
      Like a lover’s words.

      I like Dickinson’s use of personification, and I like the way she uses aspects of nature to tap into her own emotions. Her writing intrigues me, and I will read further. I am sorry to say, the only poem of hers I’m familiar with is “Because I could not stop for Death” which I admire.

      I am interested in your observation; “Art is not therapy! It may function as such at times, but that is only a secondary or tertiary benefit. Those who consider it as such are only skimming the surface. Art is ART”. I hope you don’t mind me answering.

      I believe art has many facets and many functions. As Dr. Salemi pointed out just recently, “It’s not the job of poets to change the world”, together with Auden’s words, “Poetry makes nothing happen.” For me, this attitude towards any form of art is liberating for the creator and the observer. For me, art should never be molded to fit ideals and created for the purpose of changing the world. For me, “Poetry makes nothing happen” is a license to write with abandon and without fear of responsibility and consequence. I believe that brings a certain truth to words that readers tap into with their own perceptions.

      That is where the “therapy” comes in. I have read many a raw poem with an outrageous take on the world, and it’s helped me through tough times. I’ve read many a serene, soothing, uplifting poem that has done the same. But, the minute one expects it to “make something happen” and starts imposing rules and regulations, it removes all freedom from the piece… it removes all enjoyment for those bringing something of themselves to the work, and it pigeon holes the artist. That is probably why analyzing the meaning of poetry, or any art for that matter, is not my strong point. I know what it means to me, but I’m reluctant to tell the world what they should think about the piece.

      Nature, however, is my therapy. It’s my dopamine. To capture aspects of its beauty on camera and look at it (just like Wordsworth recalled those jocund daffodils to his mind’s eye) makes me feel a whole lot happier in this troubled world.

      Thanks again, Sally. I hope you have a lovely weekend.

      Reply
  4. Joseph S. Salemi

    All three poems are excellent, Susan, but I especially like the first (“Still”). It is packed with absolutely luscious imagery, and the vocabulary is like a treasure chest of rare gems. These four lines show the work of a masterly hand:

    I gaze on pollen-peppered legs of bees
    And sticky flicks of toads’ tongues trapping flies;
    The whisker tips of squirrels in the eaves
    And ramrod ears of deer seized by surprise…

    “Pollen-peppered” for the legs of bees is both apt and arresting, while the metaphor of “ramrod ears” to depict startled deer is perfectly crafted. And the diction in the rest of the poem: “charismatic,” “scudding,” “sartorial,” “titian,” “solar-swathed,” “nimbose,” “techno-alchemy”… you have pulled out all the stops, and it works. The Plain Language Police of the free-verse workshops would tear their hair out in rage if they read this piece.

    In addition, the poem expresses genuine ecstasy, euphoria, and exaltation, but without tedious philosophical abstractions or moralizing.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Joe, what better praise could there be than; “The Plain Language Police of the free-verse workshops would tear their hair out in rage if they read this piece.”

      I love photography and poetry and to be able to express my passion for both and have my carefully chosen words acknowledged in such a wonderful comment has made my afternoon. Thank you very much!

      Reply
  5. Jeff Eardley

    Susan, every time I read your poetry, I learn at least three new words. This time it is “alacrity,” “nimbose’” and “titian.” I love all these which I will be re-reading in the coming days as our nation, particularly your ex-part of the world, slips into a more sinister lockdown which has now devastated the Christmas plans of millions. Thank you, star poet, from one of your biggest fans.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Thank you, Jeff. I’m glad you’re embracing a few of my favourite words. “Titian” is the color of a beautiful cat that once graced me with his presence. “Alacrity” is an absolute must when it comes to photography on the coastal plains of Texas, and “nibose” is my new treasure. I had no idea that this snazzy little adjective existed until I explored the realms of nimbus clouds, and this little gem exposed itself! Enough of my weirdness!

      I am hopping mad over the draconian measures in the UK. My brother and sister-in-law bought Langdale Lakes in Lincoln just before Covid hit, and now their livelihood is in jeopardy. My brother will also have to wait to see his favourite sister – a dreadful predicament to be in. My son and his wife live in Munich, and now he will have to wait to see his favourite mother – even worse!

      I hope your Christmas doesn’t suffer dreadfully, Jeff, and wish you and your family all the very best under these dire circumstances.

      Reply
      • Jeff Eardley

        Susan, I have checked out Langdale Lakes. We will be taking our motorhome there in the New Year. It looks fabulous. I was a bit intrigued as to how many mothers your son has if you are the favourite ha ha. Best wishes, roll on 2021.

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Jeff, my brother will be very happy to see you! Samuel has one mum – just me… how can I fail to be his favourite? 😉

  6. Margaret Coats

    As Joseph Salemi has run off with the vocabulary comments on “Still,” let me give the composition ones. Each of the first three stanzas is a complete, well-crafted photo, beginning with “I aim,” “I focus,” “I gaze,” and concluding with a satisfaction sentence that seems to draw both writer and reader on to the next picture. The summary fourth stanza scrolls through what you’ve accomplished the way an envoi completes a ballade. Its final sentence is an uplifting end to the whole.

    “Exposure” reminds me of every school year’s first lesson on the four kinds of poisonous snakes that live in Florida. It was worthwhile, as I encountered two of them at close range, including a rattler, which I certainly recommend you keep at a safe distance in the zoom lens! Nature is certainly therapy to you, and you are a talented nature poet to make these creatures so attractive as they are here.

    In “Shots,” I love the “phlox and foxglove” as a triumph of internal rhyme. It makes “focus on a crocus” seem tame.

    XOXO and Merry Christmas!

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Dear Margaret, thank you so very much for reading and appreciating all I strove to do with this set of poems. I’m thrilled you spotted my “phlox/ foxglove” effort. I will admit to smiling when I wrote this – just like a bad comedian laughs at his own jokes, I will confess to doing the same with my poetry.

      I love your snake story. We have one poisonous snake in the UK – an adder which is far from deadly. When I moved to Texas, Mike had to inform me of all the deadly snakes, spiders and insects (killer bees) I might encounter. I was in a state of constant fear. I did my housework in leather boots with insect repellent in the waistband of my jeans cocked and ready to blast! I’ve come a long way since then. LOL

      Thank you very much for your support, appreciation, attention to detail and the insight you offer. Here’s wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas from me and Mike. xx

      Reply
  7. C.B. Anderson

    I once said to a photographer friend of mine, “Don’t point that device at anything unless you intend to kill it,” to which she replied, “Nothing comes alive until it is photographed.” I think I said what I said because I knew so many persons obsessed with taking snapshots of everything they encountered, but now I think she might have had the right side of it. There is something arresting about a well-composed, well-framed frozen image. I love the nature photos that appear on my computer screen just before I log in.

    All three poems were indeed excellent, for exactly the reasons cited by Joseph Salemi. I would only add that, in the first two poems especially, the interlocking phrases and clauses informing the narratives create a complex but utterly lucid train of thought and image. In other words, each of these poems is a seamless whole, a universe unto itself, the likes of which I have rarely read. Not in style, tone or subject matter, but in complete mastery of expression, these poems rival Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress”, Arnold’s “Dover Beach” and the best of Joseph S. Salemi.

    If I have a single quibble, it is this: I do not like the alacrity/clarity/gaiety rhyme in the first poem. All that rhymes here are the “-ty” syllables at the end of each word. End rhymes should occur on a stressed syllable, and in, say, “alacrity” only the “-lac-” syllable is stressed, though it’s true the “-ty” syllable is promoted to a lightly stressed syllable due to its proximity to the preceding unstressed “-ri-” and to its position in an iambic line. A perfect rhyme for “clarity” would be “charity” or “disparity.” For “gaiety” we have “laity” and a scant few other words. For “alacrity” we have an assonance rhyme of “sacristy.” Note that at the end of the third stanza you take advantage of the promotion of the final syllable and rhyme “alchemy” with “ecstasy,” or “-my” with “-sy.” This is much the better way to go, in my opinion. The alacrity/clarity/gaiety sequence is what I would call pseudo-rhyme. And this is part of my own theory of rhyme, to which I religiously adhere in my own writing, but I don’t expect anyone else to be bound by these rules, but a wise rhymer should at least take these cautions under advisement.

    Just as a special treat relating to still photography, I give you this with my highest recommendation:

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      C.B., you have rendered me speechless (a very rare thing). I can only say, thank you very much, sir!

      Reply
      • C.B. Anderson

        And you are very much welcome. But how did you like that abstract photographic art of that guy from Maine?

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        C.B., I love this guy from Maine. I can completely relate to his words. I know exactly how he feels when he searches for the beauty in places others don’t see it. I do that… the skin of a snake, the eye of an alligator, the tongue of a toad (oops, I’m beginning to sound like one of Macbeth’s witches). His enthusiasm is contagious and he almost had me seeing the wonder of rusty automobiles… but, I then asked myself whether I would have one of his works hanging on my wall. The answer is absolutely not! I’m going to stick to my dragonflies and hummingbirds. I did, however, love the film and thank you for it. The guy from Maine and me have an awful lot in common – our passion for photography and the “beauty” (whatever that may mean to each of us) in our finds.

  8. Sally Cook

    Dear Susan –
    Your poems certainly were among your best, and of course I enjoyed them ! But I still say art is not therapy. Of course it moves, pleases, sometimes thrills the veiwer, but there is no medical application to it, except that it adds to our peace of mind. That is wonderful, of course, but we must at least try to understand what we are doing or have done. And like Joseph S., I do dearly love the bit about “pollen-peppered legs of bees.”
    I received yours and Mike’s card – Merry Christmas to you both, George and hopefullly Cora.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Dear Sally,
      Thank you very much for this. I’m pleased you love my bees’ knees.

      Just to clarify things on the “therapy” front. Maybe I shouldn’t have embraced this word and I’m still considering that possibility. I was, however, using it in the context of “any act, task, program, etc., that relieves tension” (Webster’s College Dictionary, 2010). Reading, writing and nature photography do that for me – writing poetry especially.

      The word “bibliotherapy” is a favorite of mine. According to Diodorus Siculus in his work “Bibliotheca Historica” – above the library entrance belonging to King Ramses II of Egypt, was the inscription “the house of healing for the soul” (the oldest known library motto in the world). The word “bibliotherapy” has been in use since 1916. Perhaps the modern understanding of the word “therapy” has been taken over by the medical and psychiatric professions. I certainly didn’t mean to suggest that art cures any ills and it certainly shouldn’t be created with that in mind… but, there are many aspects to art, and I would rather read and write poetry to relieve anxiety than take a sedative. Writing political poetry stops me moaning, and may even have saved my marriage (lol)… is that “therapy”? Maybe. 🙂

      With much gratitude for your inspiration and fine eye.

      Reply
  9. Sally Cook

    Dear Susan –
    We must remember that we come from different influences, different cultures. Also, the Egyptian information you provide is very interesting. And of course a creative act is a wonderful thing; not only for the creator but, when successful, also the audience. And you have hit your stride in spades! Therapy, to me, has become a PC catch word; an excuse.
    I believe I’ve told you before I am no intellectual; just someone with a creative spark. We have so much in common, perhaps we should just drop the therapy thing. I can’t stand the word, but what’s in a name? In any case we are probably speaking about similar things, but using different languages.
    After all, it’s Christmas, when love is everything.

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Sally, my lovely friend, I agree. I, like you, hate it when words become PC catch words. I didn’t think of it that way, but how can I write that (from now unmentionable) word without thinking of how much it irks you. It’s now a non-word. I will just say that poetry and photography are my “joy”, and I wish you plenty of that in this tough world. Love IS everything… with love, Susan

      Reply
  10. C.B. Anderson

    Therapy schmerapy, Sally. We have aromatherapy and other such dubious nostrums, so why can we not have art therapy? I do not mean to diminish the authentic purpose and value of art (as a principal member of the science/art/religion triad), but I think that every human capacity admits of multiple uses and usages. You are right: Art is not not therapy; but at times it may become therapy for a host of ills. Science, Art and Religion are all methods of discovering, determining and enhancing meaning, and what is life without meaning?

    Reply
    • Sally Cook

      Well, to me, Susan, that sounds much more rewarding. I think if more people (poets iincluded) leaned more to the joy of it and less to the “I am a victim” side of things) we would have a better world, and I am 100% sure you agree. Please have a joyous Christmas !

      Reply
    • Sally Cook

      CB –
      If there were no mish mash of “therapies” in this culture, then there would be no therapists of various stripes, no therapy recipients, and no bureauacry of Therapy Overseerers to guide or more likely direct poor unsuspecting souls into the maze of victimization . When I broke a big bone a couple years ago I welcomed actual physical therapy because it accomplished a necessary medical task.
      I did not appreciate or accept offers of free group therapy goers over the years. Like cultists, or as cultists, they were always recruiting. They were always of one mind, a sick mind, and in reality their prime purpose was to find out your “secrets” so they could add them to the gossip chain.
      Glad to see you agree that art is not therapy, though apparently it has become so in our society.

      Reply
  11. Joseph S. Salemi

    The word “therapy” took on its bad connotations in the 1960s, when all sorts of idiotic frauds like “Primal Scream” therapy and “Group” therapy began to sprout up like mushrooms everywhere in our deracinated culture. In English the original word was used in strictly medical contexts for any routinized procedure for aiding a patient during his convalescence (like exercise therapy for a healing limb, or massage therapy for tightened muscles).

    The original Greek “therapeia” simply meant the service performed for you by a non-slave functionary (like getting your hair cut at the barber’s, or being served a meal by a waiter).

    Reply
    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Joe, this is educational and very interesting. I was going to add, I cannot believe one word could cause such angst… and then I came to my senses. We live in the 21st century where language has been tortured, twisted and turned to suit every political agenda going. I will never look at the word “therapy” with such a glib disregard again.

      Reply
    • Sally Cook

      Dear Joe –
      Thank you for the information regarding that annoying word “therapy.”
      Right now, I am longing for some hair “therapy” and some dining “therapy.”
      Do you think we will ever get to live our own lives again? I shudder to think what the next four years may bring!
      Still, at this time of year we value our good friends even more, and I say Merry Christmas to you!S

      Reply
      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Merry Christmas to you and Bob! And all best wishes for the coming New Year.

  12. Cynthia Erlandson

    “…my glimpse of heaven gracing earth.” A lovely expression, Susan, of what, I believe, we are all (usually subconsciously) always looking for. “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made….” (Romans 1: 20)

    Reply

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