Poetry Friday: “We clearly saw the world for what it was…”

h1 November 21st, 2008 by eisha

…too brightly shining, circular, unadorned.It’s funny how a little shift in perspective can make the ordinary seem not-so. In preparation for my impending trip to Korea, I got a new camera. Of course I had to road-test it a little to make sure I knew how to use it. And looking at familiar little things around my neighborhood through the LCD screen makes me notice details I would normally tune out — the last scraggly brown leaves on the trees, the odd green color of the railing on the bridge over a little creek, a beer bottle caught against the rocks in the current.

I wonder what Korea will look like to me. The only other time I’ve ever been outside the country (Greece, 1997), I remember how even the most mundane stuff took on a surreal quality because the cultural filter was so different. Billboards, TV, menus, conversations I overheard in shops and on the street… since I couldn’t understand the language, what drew my attention were details of shape and color, sound and movement, facial expressions and gestures. Nuances that would normally be lost since I’d be focused on the meaning of what was being said, if I were even paying attention at all.

That’s the idea that drew me to this poem. I love how well it captures the sensation of the familiar rendered bizarre, as well as the idea that sometimes you need to change your point of view to truly see. Here’s “Waving Goodbye” by Elizabeth Spires:

The world bends us to its purpose.
In the public gardens, we found
a “gazing globe” balanced
on a waist-high pedestal,
a silver ball a foot in circumference,
reflecting sky and ground,
ourselves as we stood above it.
We stared into its depths,
as in a crystal ball,
our faces large and wild,
arms and legs unnaturally small,
as if a spell were on the world,
or, finally, we clearly saw the world
for what it was: too brightly
shining, circular, unadorned.

Please click here to read the rest.

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Holly Cupala is hosting this week’s Poetry Friday Round-up at her blog, Brimstone Soup.

(How much do I love that blog name? A LOT. Seriously, I am so jealous she thought of it and I didn’t. I’m trying to be cool about it here, but I WANT IT. Jules, I think we should steal it. “Seven Impossible Bowls of Brimstone Soup Before Breakfast.” Yes? Yesss. HOLLY, WATCH YOUR BACK. Just sayin’.)

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14 comments to “Poetry Friday: “We clearly saw the world for what it was…””

  1. I have been glued to that “gazing globe,” trying to figure out where the photographer stood – he or she isn’t reflected anywhere in the image. Or am I missing it?

    Hope you have a wonderful trip to Korea, Eisha. I bet you would like to read Alain De Botton’s The Art of Travel – he talks about noticing just the kind of things you mention.


  2. Julie, I know, I can’t figure it out either, unless it’s photoshop. Thanks for the book rec – I’ll look for it.


  3. That is one beautiful and interesting poem. What impresses me is that it’s a hard setup to describe—gazing into a globe that warps everything, and yet she flows the images of it so easily. I like the lack of angst, too. They wave good-bye and step away and what’s left is magical.

    Thrilled you got a new camera, so we can have an Eisha-view of Korea!


  4. That poem is perfect for my mood today. Wrapped up in losing my camera, worrying about my brother, leaving old ways behind… just yeah.

    I’m so glad to hear you got a new camera! And you’re going to Korea! I’m excited for you and I hope to see your photographs soon. Do you have a Flickr page? Please share there! I’m cloudscome.


  5. Have fun and post lots of pix!


  6. eisha, what a great poem: “…brightly/shining, circular, unadorned,” yes! (For me, that was such a perfectly evocative stopping point that I almost wish the subsequent stanzas weren’t there.)

    I haven’t spent much time outside the US myself (brief forays into Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean, plus one week-long trip to Israel on a church trip in the mid-’80s), but that otherworldliness hit me, too, especially when visiting ancient places. I’m excited we’ll be able to see Korea through your eyes — “Oh, the places you’ll go…”


  7. LOVE the photo. Can’t wait for Korea photos!


  8. The last stanza kind of made me tear up.
    We moved to Scotland, and walked away backwards toward our future selves, waving goodbye to the past. We have to turn around to see who we are going to be… and I don’t know who that will be yet. Travel really changes you. I’m so glad you get to go with your honey and see your world a whole new way.


  9. The Wiz and I engaged in some of that world-bending this summer (in more ways than one — when you have a two-year-old, your world’s perpetually warped and wavering in fascinating ways):

    What a great poem. Thank you. It’s new to me. I love the way you described the perspective-changing of travelling abroad.

    And OF COURSE I’m all for the blog name change. Or we could be Seven Impossible Soup Bowls Before Breakfast, but it’s not the same without that magical brimstone.


  10. [head spinning/eyes crossing -- trying too hard to see everything going on in jules's Escher-esque photo]


  11. Thanks, everybody! Yes, yes, I’m gonna set up a flickr page to share pics. I’ll post a link when I get it together. Right now, I’ve gotta pack…

    Ooh, and JES, yes, especially ancient things. When we were in Greece, all those ruins of structures that were described in stories 4000 years old… it just freaked me out. Our country is so YOUNG, you know?

    Jules, that pic is excellent. But yes, we must have the brimstone. Otherwise, it’s just Stone Soup, which is a lovely folktale, but Brimstone gives it that devilish edge. It also smacks of Sting from that bizarre ’80s movie Brimstone and Treacle, which I saw back when Sting’s naked ass was reason enough to watch a movie.


  12. HA. that movie was bad…so bad….even with his naked ass.

    As Alene used to say: Oh, to be Stung!


  13. Eisha, As if Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast isn’t one of the best blog names out there. You even get to have that cute “7-Imp” nickname.

    The photo and the poem and your post all work so well together. It all makes me want to read more poetry. And go to Korea. And maybe get a new digital camera.


  14. It makes me so happy that you like Brimstone Soup. It’s the former title of my YA (which now is in title-limbo-land), but at least it still gets to live on as a blog. I would absolutely have Seven Bowls of Brimstone Soup before breakfast.


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