Self-Portraits (And Poets)

There's this gorgeous photo of Brenda Coultas on the back of her book, A Handmade Museum. She's sitting at a picnic table behind a little white house and she's surrounded by animals. There's a dog on the picnic table, a dog on her lap, and I think there's a cat behind her. There's a stoic, solemn expression on her face that is just lovely. It's a gorgeous photo, really. And it's a gorgeous book. Coultas is one of my dearest poets, up there with Lisa Jarnot, Juliana Spahr, and Bhanu Kapil. (And, oh gosh, how I love them for many more reasons than I could ever list in just one post!)

Anyway, this little photo shoot reminded me of that photo of Coultas, in some ways. Not that I would be so bold as to compare my writing to her writing or even my photography to the photographer who captured that stunning photo that now proudly presides on the back cover her book. But, there's a quality about the photos that is similar: a solitude, a solemness, an embracing of our domesticated furry friends, and a well-loved weathering about our surroundings.

I searched and searched for the photo of Coultas online and came up short. Rats! However, I did find the image here but it's a pretty bad reproduction. (At least you can see what I'm referencing.) You can also take a peek at this gorgeous image of her to get a sense of that same melancholy strength that prevails in the earlier photo. I just LOVE that solemness, that storm looming just outside the composition of the photo while a simple grounding tethers us to the poet and her gaze. Somehow we trust her. We trust her as if she is promising, "I believe what I've written. I want you to believe it too."

My goodness! I think it's time I finish my poetry manuscript and move on to the beginnings of a brand new book. Could it finally be time to finish? Dear friends, how do you know when you're done with a creative project--because you finally wrap it up or because you have the impulse to start something new?


  1. Wow. You make such beautiful photographs. I really like your delicate style. And your polaroids! Both the transfers and the regular. Very very beautiful.
    I will check out the poets you write of. I don't read much poetry - time to broaden my horizon :)

  2. Beautiful pics! But then again, I didn't expect anything less from you. :)

    Thanks for the poetry recommendations in this post. I pride myself on being well read, but I have never heard of the poets you mentioned. I'll have to check them out.

    I usually know when I'm done with a creative project - it's just a feeling I get. I can't really describe it. It's a lot like love - I know it when I experience it. :)

  3. These are so lovely, Katrina! :)

  4. these are some of the best pictures you've posted so far. They're beautiful and ghostly. Or I should say "hauntingly beautiful". You've surely succeeded with these. My favourite so far. ooooh how I wish I could have selfportraits like such.

  5. love the photographs so much.

  6. I love that series. Beautiful pictures and a beautiful subject ;)

  7. Okay, you made me look up A Handmade Museum to satisfy my curiosity re: the photo. Lo and behold if amazon doesn't have the back cover avail to view on their "search inside" feature. Whew, now I can sleep. I'm currently and slowly working my way through a book on Neruda but I've added Ms Coultas to my list of must reads.

    Great pics, btw, and I like yours even better.

  8. ah....

    when are you done... trust your gut. ask and then just sit and wait for the answer. for me it just sort of dawns on me after lots of staring :) maybe with poetry it's after a lot of reading???

  9. i love the photos--they at feel like poetry, guazy and half revealing the writer but waiting for the reader to open into them. thanks.

  10. Yes, I'm in agreement with those before me, these are beautiful photographs.

  11. Exquisite pics, so dreamy...

  12. christine: thank you! such kind words.

    leslie: thank you, thank you. and yes the poets i mentioned are amazing. i'd recommend spahr's "thisconnectionofeveryonewithlungs", and kapil's "the vertical interrogation of strangers", and coultas' "a handmade museum" and jarnot's "ring of fire". so good!

    erin: thank you, dear woman.

    esti: "hauntingly beautiful" i love it! so kind of you to say that. and you could definitely have self-portraits like this. or if we are ever in the same city then i will take them for you!

    shari: thank you. and thanks for visiting.

    jurgen: thank you.

    cheryl: hooray! i'm glad coultas made it to your list. you might like some of the others i listed in response to leslie too.

    lisa: yes, trust the gut. and i think for me it's a process of editing and editing which might be the same as your looking and looking. and i think it's also about permission to leave some parts seemingly unfinished or with rough edges too.

    mansuetude: what a generous comment. i love that you think these photos look like poetry. and especially the "half-revealing" concept. thank you for this insight.

    gracia: thank you so much.

    dear friends: your comments are insightful, generous, and delighting. thank you for this.

  13. mary-laure: i think you posted that comment just as i was responding to the others! thank you for your kind words. perhaps i long to be dreamy!

  14. Shauna8/14/2008

    so dear to me.

    so dear.


Thank you for your comments, friends. I like to think we are creating a dialogue in this space--building a virtual community.