Monday, September 12, 2005

World Press Photo of the Year

The following poem appeared in today’s Otago Daily Times. I’ve had to quote it in full, because otherwise the point of it wouldn’t be obvious.

World Press Photo of the Year
by Winifred Kavalieris


there were 36,265 entries
over 3,000 photographers
from 113 countries

12 judges agreed
the winning picture
was of an impressively
high standard and represented
the best of international
contemporary photography

this Cibachrome 210x297 mm print
was also awarded first prize
in People of the News category

the photographer used 217 rolls
of Kodak 400 ASA film and
a handheld 35 mm Leica

he said he faced extreme danger
to get this one perfect
photo of a woman

who had just lost
her 8 children
in a massacre

I don’t have any problems with it being regarded as a poem, and I’ve certainly seen and read other poetry that’s just as lacking in metre, rhythm, and interesting language. My comment about it is this, though: this poem can really only make it’s point on the page. Imagine trying to read out ‘36,265 entries’ or ‘Cibachrome 210x297 mm print’. These aren’t lines that would come across aloud. For starters, how do actually say, ‘36,265’ in this instance? Do you say straight numbers, 3, 6, 2, 6, 5 – or do you go for three thousand, two hundred and sixty-five, which is quite a mouthful to get your poem off the ground. The Cibachrome line isn’t any easier to communicate. It’s a visual poem, really, not a verbal one, in my opinion, like those poems that have a shape on the page, and look great – but how do you convey that in speech?

Is there any problem with this? Should poetry only consist of lines that can be spoken aloud? I’m sure there are plenty of people who’d say Of course poems don’t have to be spoken out loud – this isn’t a criterion for poetry, by any means. Yet, when you leave a poem on the page, especially one such as that above, it’s very easy to read it just as a sort of statement; the breaking up of the lines and lack of punctuation are only a pretence that this is a poem in any acceptable format. If we ran it all together, would it make any difference to the point – which is certainly a strong one.

‘There were 36,265 entries, over 3,000 photographers from 113 countries; 12 judges agreed the winning picture was of an impressively high standard and represented the best of international contemporary photography. This Cibachrome 210x297 mm print was also awarded first prize in People of the News category. The photographer used 217 rolls of Kodak 400 ASA film and a handheld 35 mm Leica. He said he faced extreme danger to get this one perfect photo of a woman who had just lost her 8 children in a massacre.’

Now it becomes little more than an effective piece of journalism.
Post a Comment