I have always enjoyed writing. At school I remember having bits and pieces published in the school magazine and winning the senior poetry writing competition. In later years I dabbled in short story writing and then occasional pieces of journalism. Editors like people who can supply photographs and words – it saves them having to employ two separate parties to pull a story together. Over the years I have supplied images for books and magazines and photojournalism pieces for publications at home and abroad. For the last ten years I have been a regular photojournalist contributor to the North American publication Celtic Life International and I am used to juxtaposing photographs and words.
It has spilled over into my love of poetry and the genre that is often referred to as photopoetry now fascinates me. Again, it sits comfortably with my university studies. I have a Masters degree in Semiotics – the science of signs and how we interpret the world and everything in it. Everything stands for – or represents – something else, and that is why my street photography invites you to look into the image and not just at it. There is a story that can unfold if you look for it.
Marianna Armata is a Polish-born Canadian and multi-award-winning photographer of international acclaim. She is also a graphic designer and I first stumbled across her images in 2012 on an online photography site and was amazed at how she interpreted the world visually. In return, she took an interest in my wildlife photography and writing. It began with an exchange of comments about our respective images, then it became an exchange of ideas here and there and eventually it was the occasional chat by video link.
During 2020, as Covid-19 forced us all into varying degrees of lockdown, Marianna embarked on a project photographing droplets of coloured milk as they fell and splashed. The result was a series of stunning images that had a surreal, otherworldly feel to them. She invited me to add words to her work. I wrote a series of short, thought-provoking poems to accompany the images. The result was a small book titled Macro Aliens. Launched late in 2020, it was a modest success and made us realise that the combination of photographs and poetry gave rise to something that was more than just the sum of its parts.
Early in 2021, we continued to explore creative ideas in our own isolated ways. Marianna was capturing more amazing images and I was concentrating on writing. As we continued to communicate, once again we realised that whatever ideas we explored individually, the other person added to the creative process. The meshing of ideas gave rise to new and better ideas. This was the beginning of a process of entanglement – one in which the warp and weft collectively generated the tapestry.
Throughout the Covid pandemic we were hearing more and more stories of people suffering from mental health issues associated with fear and isolation. There was talk also of how some individuals would find it hard to readjust when the pandemic began to ebb, and restrictions were lifted. That prompted us to consider if there was a way we could use our talents to raise awareness of mental health issues and raise funds for a mental health charity. From our different sides of the Atlantic we hit upon the idea of a more adventurous photography and poetry book that would bridge the ocean and raise funds on both sides of the pond: Marianna would provide all the photographs and design the layout and I would write the accompanying poetry.
As we considered images and words, it was a particular photo of tree roots crawling in a tangled mass over a hard landscape that made us consider how we all live in a process of entanglement. From this idea the transatlantic Poetry of Entanglement project was born. We are all part of a much larger world, and we interact in various ways with the people and things in it. It is that process of entanglement that gives meaning to our lives and helps us to interpret the world around us. Thinking about that made us realise that mental health issues are not peculiar to any one nation but rather they are a product of being human and we all have issues of one form or another. Acknowledging the need to reach out, to engage, to demonstrate the tangible benefits of entanglement, Marianna and I decided that all proceeds from the sale of the book – and a complementary calendar – would be distributed equally between two mental health charities: the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) and the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA)
Poetry of Entanglement is not specifically about addressing mental health issues; it is beyond our ability to attempt to deal with matters of such a specialist and complex nature. Poetry of Entanglement is a combination of images and words that invites us to consider our relationship with the natural world and how seasonal changes evoke different emotions within us. Beyond that it seeks to make us ponder who we are, how we are affected by the memories we carry, what makes us special and how we are all connected in life’s rich tapestry. As I look back over my life, I realise that all the things that give rise to who I am and what I do are interconnected.
by Tom Langlands
Our monthly flash theme for January is New Year, New Hobbies.
Are you taking up a new hobby, interest or project this year? If so, we’d love you to tell us about it. Our special focus this month is on photography as a new project, so please either send us a recent photograph you’ve taken as part of a new photography hobby, or send us a flash submission (350 words or less) telling us about your new hobby or venture with an accompanying photo. The flash submission can take the form of a poem, short memoir, anecdote or story, but MUST be accompanied by a relevant photo.
Entries are free and close at midnight on January 31st and we’ll choose our favourites from the submissions in early February. The winner will receive a copy of the Poetry of Entanglement book produced by our January bloggers, Tom Langlands and Marianna Armatta, and the runner-up will receive a Poetry Of Entanglement calendar.