Thursday, April 03, 2014

One for Sorrow, Two for Joy: Poetic Inspiration

Photo by Miri Dunn, used with permission.
I follow Miri on Google+ and saw this arresting photograph she posted yesterday. To caption the photo, she wrote, "One crow, sorrow; two crow, joy." The line resonated with me, and I asked her where it came from, or if it was something she had written. She told me it was from an old nursery rhyme.

The photo and the phrase really spoke to me and I wrote the poem in response.

One Crow Sorrow; Two Crows, Joy
(for Miri Dunn)

The light slants low across the water.
Shadows stretch the tree trunks long. Soon
darkness will hoard the last spark of bright.
A magpie's feathers flash purple and blue
like a bruise, like dusk, like the tumbling river.
Bare branches burst to life in a call of crows
until the sky cracks open and the sound
falls up. The night is made of beating wings, stars
clever eyes blinking, blinking against the black.

--LJ Cohen, April 2, 2014

Part of the pull of writing poetry for me, is writing in response to another piece of art. It was a long time before I knew there was a word for that: ekphrasis. For many years, I have had the image in my mind of crows roosting in the trees at sunset, but it took seeing this marvelous photograph (it looks like a woodcut!) to craft that image into a poem.

When I showed it to Miri, she linked me to another ekphrastic work: a song, "One for sorrow, two for joy" by indie artist, Christophe Curtis. It is a moody, atmospheric piece, that evokes the sense of crows.

So many ways to express the emotions triggered from a single source of inspiration; in this case an old nursery rhyme, discovered through a photograph.

Happy Poetry Month!

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