April 1, 2011: Another piece from the old days at The Valve. I figure if we're going to transform our urban environments, we've got to take ownership of them. And that means we've got to find the beauty in them as they are now. Only then will we be prepared to deal with them rather than wishing them away. I've got a bunch of photos that I've posted under the urban pastoral rubric. Note: Still relevant, August 30, 2017.
It was in graduate school, I believe, that I heard someone refer to Hart Crane as a poet of the “urban pastoral,” referring, I believe to his collection “The Bridge” – which I’ve not read. That was the first time I heard the phrase, “urban pastoral,” and it has stuck in my mind. But it hasn’t done much until the past year when I began wandering my Jersey City neighborhood, camera in hand, in search of wild graffiti.
I photographed the graffiti, of course – lot’s of it – but that’s not all. I photographed other things as well, close-ups of bees and flowers, panoramas of this or that neighborhood view, of the Manhattan skyline from Jersey City, and even sunrises and sunsets. Thus a month and a half ago I blogged “This Jersey City My Prison,” in which I set Coleridge’s “This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison” amid photographs taken in Jersey City.
Coleridge wrote the poem while he was confined to the yard in his cottage in Britain’s fabled lake country. He was feeling sorry for himself because he had to miss a nature walk with his friends. Through identifying with his friend “gentle-hearted Charles!” who had “pined/ And hunger’d after nature, many a year,/ In the great City pent” Coleridge had managed to work himself out of a funk. Coming to a close, Coleridge asserts:
Henceforth I shall know
That Nature ne’er deserts the wise and pure;
No plot so narrow, be but Nature there,
No waste so vacant, but may well employ
Each faculty of sense, and keep the heart
Awake to Love and Beauty!
I, however, did not post my blog entry from a cottage in the lake country. I posted it from my apartment in Jersey City, a half dozen blocks from the Holland Tunnel, conduit to one of the largest cities in the world, one of a kind Coleridge could not have imagined.