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Voice of the Fourth Person Singular

September 16th, 2012

Voice of the Fourth Person Singular

Delphi, in Greece, is home to the ruins of Apollo's temple, where, in ancient times, female prophetesses, called sibyls, reigned. These revered sibyls never answered a question point-blank--their responses were poetic, and the Querent had to scratch his or her head for awhile, then perform a little mental acrobatics to decipher the meaning of the sibyl's riddle. As an example, one of the sibyl's well-known prophecies concerns the ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates. According to the Oracle, Socrates was the wisest man in Athens, yet Socrates famously claimed to know nothing. Catapulting to the 20th century, the poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti wrote a poem, titled "To The Oracle at Delphi," in which he begs the "Far-seeing sibyl" to "come out of [her] cave at last / And speak to us in the poet's voice / the voice of the fourth person singular." One interpretation of Ferlinghetti's poem suggests that things have gone terribly awry in a world lacking all things associated with "the feminine" (as represented by the sibyls), including imagination and compassion. Thus, we can read the poem as a vindication for the arts, and/or the unacknowledged "yin” in an over- “yanged” construct, and/or a cry for peace in a war-torn world, and so on. But who heeds the warning of poets? The 21st century finds us every bit as greedy and blood-thirsty as ever, and an ever-growing focus on the standardization of most everything, particularly education, is most disturbing, indeed. Undoubtedly, we need the sibyl to emerge from her "forever hidden" niche in the bowels of humankind's deranged psyche more than ever. Imagination (and the arts in general) cannot be smothered, however; for like the carnival game, Whack-A-Mole, if Imagination is hammered down in one place, it will pop up in another. Imagination/Art has no boundaries. We do have choices, though, and our focus, both individually and collectively, affects our reality.

My position on creating positive change in the world is a focus on what I call poetic cognition. Poetic cognition is a mode of thought and interaction based upon a focus on poetic associations, pattern recognition, image, symbolism, metaphor, multiplicity, and possibility. Poetic cognition is the “voice of the fourth person singular.” I am not a photographer, so much as I am a poetographer. Each picture is a sibyl's riddle, with layers of complexity that beg unraveling, and with a multiplicity of latent interpretations, awaiting the viewer's reading in its process of becoming.