Poems & Photographs

In celebration of National Poetry Month, Don’t Take Pictures has curated a selection of projects that connect poetry and photography.


Red Cloak, Cig Harvey

In my twenties I wear vintage dresses every day.
1940s ball gowns to get coffee.
Fringed flappers to the post office.
They are itchy and of smell someone else’s transgressions.
But I am fearless and my life is a photograph.
When I turn forty, I retire them all in favor of tight jeans and high boots.
I put one thousand dresses in a room upstairs. 
A room now a galaxy of velvet, taffeta, crinoline, lavender, silk, fur, cashmere, magenta, chartreuse, and moths like stars in the night sky.
I like the idea of the moths taking back the clothes of these women.
Slowly making dust of our stories. 

Words and photograph by Cig Harvey from the book You an Orchestra You a Bomb.


Dialogue 008, Jonas Yip

Words by Wai-lim Yip, photograph by Jonas Yip from the book Paris: Dialogues and Meditations.


Flooded No. 25, 2012, Susan Keiser


I got lost in the river—
surrendering to reverie,
a golden vision through closed lids.

I got lost in the river—
not drowned but overwhelmed,
a relic of passing storms.

I got lost in the river—
mouth agape,
needing air but inhaling water.

From above rivers are motion,
below only stillness
and cold,
a world of fallen parts, misshapen
by water’s distorting lens.

But connections can be made,
stories can be told
relating one to another,
and it gets easier as time passes
unmeasurably in the darkness.

I got lost in the river—
I know the surface above glitters
but I haven’t the buoyancy to rise.

Words and photograph by Susan Keiser.


Central Park, Jefferson Hayman

IX. Song for Two Decades

The poems and songs, I threw them away—
They didn’t matter, they don’t matter now.
Two decades of words, many words
Don’t matter now.

I watched the sun rise and I wrote about it,
A girl’s eyes at dusk, somber, as fireflies started on,
Soft and random against the dense grass,
I wrote it down, the midsummer night, sweet and cool.

I knew how to rhyme any word.
The songs don’t matter now, they are gone
Like lightning, heat lightning of July,
Two decades of words, I said goodbye.

I watched stars spark on in the gap above an alleyway
Saw jets circling down above an endless crowd.
I felt the tide’s ebb draw hard on the sand.
I felt night fall in a country strange to me.

These old poems, these songs, the words I threw away
Were light in my hands, light as paper
As they left me, the fire they made
Kindled and darkened as dusk fell on a damp night.

They were a place I had been, a lost place,
Not forbidden, but like a river
In another country, a place I could not stay.
They didn’t matter, they don’t matter now—each word

A rhyme in a song I knew already by heart,
Sweet grating of maple branches in a wind
That returns each season, the wind that writes down things
That don’t matter, that don’t matter, the voice

In which we invent, without thinking,
—Like the songs of nesting birds
At the end of April, when April snow has vanished,
And the hard ground shows some promise of turning green again.

Words by MacLean Gander, photograph by Jefferson Hayman from the book The New City.