Choose a photograph to work with – one which is unfamiliar to you, and which interests you and piques your curiosity in some way. There are no constraints on what kind of photograph you choose, but it must have been taken before you were born, and must have no direct personal associations for you – so you can’t, for example, choose something from a family album.
Look closely at the photograph for at least 5-10 minutes. Consider what you know and don’t know about the image, and what it is that attracts you to it. Stay curious, and be attentive. Hypothesise, speculate, notice. Set the photograph aside for a few days, then repeat this process. Feel free to make notes and to search out contextualising information about the photograph, but in addition to looking, not instead of it.
Then write a poem in response to the photograph that builds on (but does not make explicit) this experience of it. Your aim should be to write a poem that would surprise and interest the photograph, rather than telling it what it already knows. In particular:
avoid describing or paraphrasing the photograph, or otherwise trying to translate it into words;
steer clear of any reference to photographs or photography in the poem;
take care to avoid clichés and easy conclusions about the past.
Kerry Hines was the IIML’s first PhD student, and was recently awarded her doctorate for her thesis After the fact: poems, photographs, and regenerating histories. Kerry will present work from her project at the last Writers on Mondays session for the year at 12.15pm, Monday 8 October at the City Gallery, Wellington (note venue).
Working with an archive of nineteenth-centure photographs, Kerry Hines has written a compelling collection of poems that bring together text and image, fact and imagination; raising the question of how we look at and imagine our history. Kerry will discuss the archive and its creator, outline the origins and development of the work, and present a selection of the poems and photographs which form part of her creative writing PhD thesis. Chaired by Roger Blackley.