Photographs With Poetry from the Poetry Circle and Photography Club of St Marys
By Jennifer Thorpe
When Cameron Porteous invited members of local photography club St. Marys Clicks to submit black and white photos based on the word “Stone,” he wasn’t sure what to expect. When the photographers submitted 150 photos, he knew his work had just begun. Narrowing the collection down to a more manageable number of 50 photos, he then offered them to the St. Marys Poetry Circle, inviting the poets to write a poem based on one of the images, asking only that they choose a photo that inspired them. “It was a novel idea,” said Poetry Circle President Ione Grover. “It was very exciting. Everyone was very enthusiastic.”
Porteous had been thinking about a way to present poets after receiving a suggestion from Alizon Sharun to bring poetry to the Gallery. But how? Recalling English poet Ted Hughes’ “The Remains Of Elmet,” a publication of Hughes’ poems and the photographs of Fay Godwin, Porteous decided to present an exhibit of local photographers and poets that could also be published in book form.
After months of work, the St. Marys Station Gallery opened the exhibit and released the publication “STONE” on Friday, February 22nd to a standing-room only crowd. The publication, a first for the Gallery, was a bit of a gamble, but the Gallery Exhibition Partnership with the Town of St. Marys and local businesses Peak Select Realty Inc. and McDonald’s Independent made this new venture possible. Thanking the sponsors and Ontario-based publisher Sylvia De Jong, Porteous was pleased to announce that after an initial printing of 150 copies, he had to bump the order up to 300 once pre-sales orders were in.
Featuring thirty-nine photographs with poems, many of the local artists are being exhibited and published for the first time, including Catherine Glanville whose poems “If The Falls Had Eyes” (photo by Mike Rumble) and “Retaining Wall” (photo by Bonnie Machado) appear in the collection. “The town’s so amazing,” she said, when asked about her inspiration for stone-inspired poems.
Visitors to the exhibit will recognize many local landmarks, but not necessarily at first as each photo offers new perspective or detail. Capturing images from rivers and fields, old barns and historic buildings, cemeteries and streets, the photographers successfully combine the ordinary and the extraordinary in their work.
Applying their own creative vision and voice, the poets add a compelling and interesting perspective to the photos. There is a generous appreciation for the ancient and traditional craft of stonemasonry, the history and lives lived or observed by stone-built structures, and the endurance of stone. Poets Paul Stevens and George Allan Tucker do a particularly fine job interpreting the images of photographers Diana McQuirk, Julie Phillips, Becky Turner and Mike Rumble.
Poetry Circle President Ione Grover explores the contrast between time-worn exteriors and enduring transformative inner beauty in her poems “Survivors” (photo by Darlene McBride) and “Better Days” (photo by Becky Turner). And Sylvia Bosgra’s three poems on Loss (photos by Diana McQuirk and Julie Robson) are small, ponderable gems.
But the poets also write the unexpected. Alizon Sharun subtly questions early settlement and Confederation-making in “That Stone Just Fell” (photo by D.K. Campbell) and “Grand Trunk Jig” (photo by Mike Rumble). Calls for social justice in Fay Hiscock’s “The Stone Angel Speaks” (photo by Herman Veenendaal) and in young Hannah Everett’s poem “Through The Surface” (photo by Darlene McBride) unite stone images with modern day issues.
John A. Cull’s poem “Stoned” (photo by Becky Turner) particularly delighted Porteous with its completely different approach in poem and imagery. And, responding to elements of film noir in Darlene McBride’s photo, Maggie Whitcroft’s “Pillars of Stone” adds a surprising element of horror.
“Would this work?” Porteous asked, after acknowledging the exhibit’s sponsors. “Well, you’re all here. It worked! Thank you so very much for attending and being part of this amazing exhibition.”
“Stone” will run until April 5th at the St. Marys Station Gallery, and the publication is available for purchase at the Gallery for $20. Please visit https://stmarysstationgallery.ca for more information or find them on Facebook at @StMarysStationGallery.