I think it was somewhere during the timeframe between 2005 and 2007 I attended a two or three-hour poetry work shop in West Point, Virginia led at that time by Virginia Poet Laureate Carolyn Foronda. It was an amazing learning experience. During the workshop Ms. Foronda led us through various exercises to teach us to think creatively. One assignment was particularly difficult for me; I couldn’t find the creativity inside me to do it. It was writer’s block. She had given all of us a small black and white photo copy of Clyde Butcher’s Gaskin Bay 5 on a sheet of copy paper to view and in order to write a piece of poetry about it (see below for the photo’s current web address).
As Ms. Foronda walked around the room stopping here and there to speak with her students, and when she stopped by me I shared with her that nothing was coming to mind. She assured me that it was okay and to keep thinking. She was encouraging and patient.
I did give it more thought. On the way home in the dark words came to my mind fast and furiously. As I drove I wrote on a piece of paper when stop lights allowed me, the dome light illuminating the paper. When I got home I worked another two hours on the poem. Tired I went to bed, and first thing in the morning I went back to working on the poem.
When I thought I was finished, I sent it in an email to Ms. Foronda to review. She graciously offered several suggestions, which were extremely helpful. Taking my cue from her I made the improvements. Once done it sat in my computer for a long time.
One day it occurred to me to do an online search for the Butcher photo. I had worked from a small photo copy of Gaskin Bay 5; I could not see the detail in the photo for the picture was too small. When I found Clyde Butcher’s website and then clicked on Gaskin Bay 5 in a larger size on the computer screen, I was amazed to discover that Mr. Butcher also had written about his Gaskin Bay 5 photo experience. What I had imagined was an impending storm settling in over the bay, which actually happened during the moments before the photo was snapped.
In The Storm has a good bit of imagery inspired by David’s Psalm 18. After reading the psalm and then reading the poem you can see resemblances between the two. I post this poem again along with the back story in the hope that you can better appreciate the poem. I’m very thankful to Ms. Foronda for her love of poetry and the help she gave to a (still-) fledgling poet. Ultimately, I trust that the poem does justice to Clyde Butcher’s fine piece of black and white photography. Here is In The Storm…
Thunder’s distant rumble beats
on my ears. Laden with the
faint scent of fresh rain mingling
with the salty air, an impatient breeze
caresses my face. The wind
washes away the heat of the day
and awakens the slumbering water
to playful ripples rhythmically
lapping against my chest. Glowering
darkness encroaches ominously across
the water advancing with certainty,
conquering. Mangrove trees sail in
echelon formation and turn their
emerald heads to the storm’s first
thrust. Seagulls seek their weathered
refuge; I wait with attending
silence at nadir’s depth. The
thunderstorm’s hoary head far
above me gleams whiter than
snow in sunlight’s glare, unsullied
by the dark tempest at its feet. And
in this stunning moment an
epiphany sweeps away my
dullness, as the bay is cleansed
of its heat by the cool air I feel
and deeply inhale. I see
creation’s majestic God in the storm:
the cloud—his chariot,
the winds—his servants,
the rain—his train,
the rainbow—his bow,
the lightning—his arrows,
the thunder—his footfall,
earth and water—his domain,
my bowed heart—his throne.
This poem was inspired by Clyde Butcher’s Gaskin Bay 5 photo your can view at https://clydebutcher.com/s/photographs/the-american-collection/florida-collection-the-american-collection/gaskin-bay-5-south-fl/