Contribute a voice.


My work as a creator, storyteller, filmmaker.  Value your art. Contribute a voice.

Patti is an Alumnae TIFF, Film Fatales, WIFTUK and WOMEN IN THE DIRECTOR’S CHAIR (WIDC), which chooses 8 women from across Canada to participate each year.

Her focus has, and always will be, storytelling. Her unique upbringing, combined with years of experience in the entertainment industry has helped to shape her into a vibrant Director with the ability, through passion, knowledge and experience, to elevate a wide range of scripts.

Human Journey

The central theme of my body of work concerns itself with the human journey: quest for self- realization, a place in the world and personal identity. I also have a strong passion for magic-realism and allegory and often use these devices to make the impossible – possible, digestible and tangible to the viewer and with the immense power of technology to help illustrate complex concepts, my artistic visions are realized.

Coming from a journalism background, it was a natural progression for me to move into filmmaking practice, a cinematic tradition, through a nonfictional art form, the documentary. Fear No Art – An Inquisition (1995) was a 5-minute ‘artumentary’ that explored the question, “what happens to an artist whose art work inspires protest?” I documented artist Katarina Thorsen’s journey as she works through the censorship, penalization from art galleries, the right to freedom of artistic expression and creativity and ultimately her own vulnerability.

Up The Wall was born out of the desire to explore the theme of artistic expression further, my own as well as a fictional characters, through a dramatic film.
Corinna, a visual artist, has fallen into the trap of imitating her favourite artists and in an attempt to find her ‘own voice’, inspired by the portraits in her grandmother’s old scrapbook, she takes on the task of capturing the essence of herself in a self portrait. Now…there is a unique psychological thing that takes place when you look into your own eyes and face and paint your own portrait. Your own face suddenly becomes a mirror to your soul, the real you, and strange things happen as you paint, in pursuit of the prize, ‘know thyself’.

When I (Patti) am creating, and in ‘the flow’… time stands still… the muse takes over. So I gave Corinna this same experience but with a twist, the muse doesn’t take over Corinna, it takes over the self portrait.
The next morning, this muse spirit is rudely awakened by the noisy, annoying neighbor and is left to it’s own devices to create it’s own peaceful existence.
As the self-portrait needed to come to life in order to interact with the world around it, I turned to technology to help me achieve this action. In 1996 I wrote this script and in 1997, after much research into technology, I approached the film as a new technology piece; a pathos driven comedy, in the fashion of silent movies, using new technology to make it come to fruition. The film was shot in 1997 with a Sony Canada sponsored prosumer video camera with interchangeable lenses. (As seen in the photo at the top of this blog) My intention was to do everything I couldn’t afford to do if I shot on film and pitched it as “how filmmakers will make films in the future”.
The film was finished in 1998. It included title on picture and numerous visual effects, as well as being delivered in three formats; digital letterbox, ‘filmlook’ digital letterbox and a 35 mm kinescope transfer.
The finished film was well received by all, except for the film festivals… Up The Wall was not accepted into any films festivals between 1998-2002 because it DID NOT ORIGINATE ON FILM. I wrote, co-produced, directed and edited this film, or should I say video?

Salmon Chanted Evening continued my exploration of the hero’s journey, now through an allegorical drama. I did not write this script but I did embrace the opportunity to direct it. It was one of three winning scripts, out of 350 submissions, to the CBC “2001: Fill-This-Space Odyssey” Film Competition. A story of a salmon fisherman, who fears he is losing his livelihood, falls into a daydream and ends up in the ‘somethin’s fishy’ bar where he is the catch of the day and his soul is vied for by mythological creatures. The writing spoke to my love of the rhetorical strategy of extending a metaphor through an entire narrative so that objects, persons, and actions are equated with meanings that lie outside the text. It also gave me the chance to visually create in the genre of magic-realism. Ultimately, the hero returns from his mysterious journey with renewed passion to return to his way of life, neither anticipating the future nor regretting the past. Ultimately the film is meant to connect us to our deeper selves and help the viewer along the heroic journey of their own life.

I felt compelled to broaden my questioning about human nature and the human condition, and from this query came the short films, Stella’s Birthday and I’m Going Home, dealing with human rights, multiculturalism and hope flourishing over repression.

Stella celebrates her birthday every year by listening to an old voice message recording from her family. Her imagination and hope are not repressed by her child labour circumstances.

I’m Going Home engages personification to give a palm plant from Madagascar human qualities… but aren’t all living things deserving of the same respect?

Chess Mates addresses the loneliness of the elderly and having the courage to reach out and make new friends.

The screen dance film The New Beginning, challenged me to express a story through dance. A mans love of politics, his wife and daughter, are tested when Chile has a coup d’état. After a period of estrangement, his daughter returns to reconcile, only to find her father has Alzheimer’s.

Happiness School, a walk through at the happiness school, with a young woman, concludes in her choosing the fun and easy ‘pretty’ program over the much longer but highly rewarding ‘enlightenment’ program.
A philosophical statement about society as a whole.

John and Melissa again offered me the chance to explore word play with a Theatre of the Absurd drama. Much of the dialogue in Absurdist drama reflects evasiveness and inability to make a connection, exposing the surface relationship of two office workers trying to keep their affair under wraps…

Miss Pearlman was an opportunity to again use technology to my benefit. An homage to 1930’s films; I used various techniques to combine a matte image with live-action footage so Miss Pearlman could live in the present through her memories of the past.
‘We are who we remember ourselves to be’.

Drink Like A Fish a story of a boy’s innocence and loss of innocence when faced with the idiom of ‘drink like a fish’. The loss of innocence, coming of age.

A central theme of my oeuvre concerns itself with the human journey: quest for self- realization, a place in the world and personal identity.

My curiosity about the different ways life offers us paths to ‘search for one’s bearings’ and how often those paths depend precisely on the specifics of one’s situation, has led me to take an unconventional approach to the notion of autobiography and as result, a surprising body of work to draw from.

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Story is everything

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Great Terrors

Why Emotional Excess is Essential to Writing and Creativity

“Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them.”

The third volume of Anaïs Nin’s diaries has been on heavy rotation in recent weeks, yielding Nin’s thoughtful and timeless meditations on life, mass movements, Paris vs. New York, what makes a great city, and the joy of handicraft.

The subsequent installment, The Diary of Anais Nin, Vol. 4: 1944-1947 (public library) is an equally rich treasure trove of wisdom on everything from life to love to the art of writing. In fact, Nin’s gift shines most powerfully when she addresses all of these subjects and more in just a few ripe sentences.

Anais Nin

Such is the case with the following exquisite letter of advice she sent to a seventeen-year-old aspiring author by the name of Leonard W., whom she had taken under her wing as creative mentor. Nin writes:

I like to live always at the beginnings of life, not at their end. We all lose some of our faith under the oppression of mad leaders, insane history, pathologic cruelties of daily life. I am by nature always beginning and believing and so I find your company more fruitful than that of, say, Edmund Wilson, who asserts his opinions, beliefs, and knowledge as the ultimate verity. Older people fall into rigid patterns. Curiosity, risk, exploration are forgotten by them. You have not yet discovered that you have a lot to give, and that the more you give the more riches you will find in yourself. It amazed me that you felt that each time you write a story you gave away one of your dreams and you felt the poorer for it. But then you have not thought that this dream is planted in others, others begin to live it too, it is shared, it is the beginning of friendship and love.


You must not fear, hold back, count or be a miser with your thoughts and feelings. It is also true that creation comes from an overflow, so you have to learn to intake, to imbibe, to nourish yourself and not be afraid of fullness. The fullness is like a tidal wave which then carries you, sweeps you into experience and into writing. Permit yourself to flow and overflow, allow for the rise in temperature, all the expansions and intensifications. Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them. If it seems to you that I move in a world of certitudes, you, par contre, must benefit from the great privilege of youth, which is that you move in a world of mysteries. But both must be ruled by faith.

The Diary of Anais Nin, Vol. 4 is brimming with such poetic yet practical sagacity on the creative life and is a beautiful addition to other famous advice on writing like Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 rules for a great story, David Ogilvy’s 10 no-nonsense tips, Henry Miller’s 11 commandments, Jack Kerouac’s 30 beliefs and techniques, John Steinbeck’s 6 pointers, and Susan Sontag’s synthesized learnings.

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“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”

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The Path of Breakthrough



Being born on the 4 Life Path means that you will spend this lifetime learning about your true identity and purpose, and then putting this knowledge to constructive use. The work you do is likely to play a major role. 4 is the path of accomplishment through hard work, attention to detail, tenacity, and belief in yourself.

You know that nothing in life is certain, and yet your 4 personality does not deal well with doubt or disorder. You want everything to be in its proper place, and everything to happen according to expectation and schedule. But sometimes doubt and disorder signify that things need to be done differently; expectations often run too high or low, and schedules can be unrealistic. Details that others find trivial can frustrate you, and you can become so obsessed with the minutiae that you miss the big picture.

4 teaches self-discipline, craftsmanship, industriousness, practicality, leadership, and how to deal effectively with various forms of limitation. 4 teaches the value of determination, effort, simplicity, and dependability.

“If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up.
Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”

~Michael Jordan 

Accept the gifts that the 4 Life Path offers, and you will experience the feeling that everything is “clicking” and coming together exactly as it should; a feeling that everything is in order, and that your timing is right on target. Although obstacles will occur, you will be able to deal with them and even turn them to your advantage. There is no challenge you cannot handle, even though you do not seek out these challenges.

4 produces a sense of knowing – that you’re on the right road and headed in the right direction. It can help you succeed in the material world and evokes a sense of satisfaction from your efforts. 4 offers a level of confidence that few others are able to achieve. But when you are in such a positive frame of mind, there is a tendency to ignore anything that could bring you down. Consequently, a lot goes on without your full awareness and, when it does finally catch up with you, it can feel overwhelming.

Release yourself from the limitations of guilt and blame, especially in your close relationships. When you are confident about your ability to love, you need not worry about hurting others. Neither will you set yourself up to be hurt.

Few 4s ever reach their extraordinary potential because they are so cynical about it. Either they do not believe that such a condition is possible, or they do not believe it can last. Well, it can be achieved, maintained, and enhanced to higher levels once you recognize your own nature – and your many options.

Some 4s use age – too old, too young – as an excuse for not doing what they want to do. In reality, 4 offers the opportunity for agelessness, if only you would more frequently allow yourself to experience time standing still; the way it does when you’re doing something you love.

Work is a major aspect of the 4 Life Path, but if you do not love what you do, then a huge chunk of love will be missing from your life. This doesn’t mean that love cannot also come from intimate relationships, but you will find that when personal relationships inhibit your worldly ambitions, or vice versa, happiness will be difficult to achieve in either area.

4 is the number of logic and intellectual reasoning. Deep feelings are often avoided, and relationships are then sought purely for social and emotional security. A typical 4 can reject anything which does not appear to have a practical purpose. With so much emphasis on work, efficiency and effort, you may think that yours is a difficult path, but it is often you yourself who makes your life more difficult by insisting on doing things in what you believe is the “proper” way, or obsessing over details. Most problems can be solved without scrutinizing and analyzing every tiny aspect. Learn to simplify – not magnify. This may be difficult because of your natural tendency for detail, system, and orderliness, but a balance must be reached nonetheless.

You came into this lifetime to learn about limitation. How are you limited? By your own physical body? Geographical location? General environment? Social background? Responsibilities? Finances? Gender? Age? Talent? Beliefs? Personal history? Guilt? Fear? Whatever the situation, try looking at it from different angles and in different lights. Changing your point of view in this way enables you to change your perception and reaction. Recognize the stubbornness that hides behind your proud persona, open your mind, and accept that alternatives do exist.

Some limitations may seem immovable and unsolvable – events and circumstances that life has placed on your path so you can reach your limits and then use your strong WILL to expand your horizons. We all have limits which make us feel boxed-in, but, by expanding your belief in yourself, you will produce an energy which pushes those limits up and out and away from you so that they no longer pressure you. And, if you encounter the same situation at a later time, it will no longer be a limitation but an area in which you have already gained expertise.

To reach your limits and just crash through them would be like banging your head against a wall. You would be injured, killed or, at least, embarrassed. Accepting your tremendous capabilities and using them is the key here. As your capabilities expand, so does the wall or ceiling that once limited you. Visualize the result you want and take the actions that will draw it to you. With effort, not struggle, you will experience breakthrough.

You are very practical, even though the word practical means different things to different people. You are very capable of managing and organizing. You can amaze people by taking what they see as chaos and turning it into order, structure and priority. You are able and usually willing to work long and hard. You seem to prefer working with difficult problems rather than simple ones. You are a dependable and conscientious worker whose efforts ensure that the work-at-hand is finished perfectly.

You admire other hard-working and serious people to the extent that this is how you sometimes judge their ‘worth’. You may criticize those whose lifestyles are different to yours, but this can alienate you from those who have something valuable to offer. It may be hard to tolerate certain people and, yet, if you look closely at other aspects of their lives, their sense of priority may just turn out to be more realistic than your own. Your way of doing things is not always the only way. Doing things the “proper” way has a definite place in your life, particularly where craftsmanship is involved, but unless this attitude is kept in perspective when it comes to your relationships and associations, it can also produce emotional, physical, and social problems.

Learn to accept others as they are, and know that you are free to stay or walk away. Open your mind to life’s natural diversity and know when to resist the urge to tidy everything up. The fact that you are a natural problem-solver can cause you to look for problems which, to others, are no problem at all. You have a serious approach to most things, even though the other energies in your chart soften this tendency to some extent. Even if you believe that you are footloose and fancy-free; even if you think you have a wonderful sense of humor, or that you exude creativity, there is a certain rigidity in your beliefs which is caused by your deep desire for a specific identity. You may need to develop a lighter approach to your own sense of ‘self’.

Your identity is not measured by the work you do. This may be difficult to fathom, since work is such a major aspect of your life. But, work does not only pertain to what you do for a living. Your life’s work – and the 4 path you are traveling to get there – is a matter of living in freedom so that you can work at something for which you feel passionate; something you truly love, something that feels natural to you. Your identity, therefore, is not a matter of what you do for a living, but of living the life you want to live. With this understanding, your sense of self – your ego – will find a more balanced and relaxed way to proceed.

At times, you may find yourself going in the opposite direction of your desires — disorganized, lazy, irresponsible, resentful, and with no sense of accountability or compassion. Of course, this is guilt disguising itself as blame. When these negatives arise, it is difficult to see that it is you yourself who is causing the problem. Remember that living an organized life includes making time for love, tenderness, enjoyment, creativity, social interaction, relaxation, and plain old fun. Create a balance between work and play, seriousness and lightness, etc.

You possess a deep curiosity for ‘how’ things work. 4s are known for their love of gadgets, mechanical devices, psychology, sociology, religion, medicine, science, politics, or metaphysics. Be sure your tendency to do things the ‘proper’ way does not confine you to outdated understandings. You admire and respect ‘experts’, but remember that experts can only remain experts by expanding their knowledge. We are all learning how to live in this disorderly and dangerous world, and there are no experts in this regard. We are learning as we go and, very often, one person’s lesson is not the same as another’s.

By treating your limitations as challenges and not immovable barriers; by finding the opportunities that are hidden within those limitations, you will learn to live in a state of freedom from limitations. You know that life is full of limitations, and that by doing whatever has to be done to deal with them, many can be eliminated. This requires effort and determination. It also requires balance.

Know when to take a break so that your energies can be replenished and your life can be enjoyed. 4s can be relentless workaholics who do not understand that, once in a while, they are supposed to stop, relax, and actually savor the fruits of their work – not just the work itself.

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I know Who and What I am. Next…When?


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The first two selves, inhabit the ordinary world and are present in all people; the third is of a different order and comes most easily alive in artists — it is where the wellspring of creative energy resides.

The Third Self: Mary Oliver on Time, Concentration, the Artist’s Task, and the Central Commitment of the Creative Life

“In the wholeheartedness of concentration,” the poet Jane Hirshfield wrote in her beautiful inquiry into the effortless effort of creativity, “world and self begin to cohere. With that state comes an enlarging: of what may be known, what may be felt, what may be done.” But concentration is indeed a difficult art, art’s art, and its difficulty lies in the constant conciliation of the dissonance between self and world — a difficulty hardly singular to the particular conditions of our time.

Two hundred years before social media, the great French artist Eugène Delacroix lamented the necessary torment of avoiding social distractions in creative work; a century and a half later, Agnes Martin admonished aspiring artists to exercise discernment in the interruptions they allow, or else corrupt the mental, emotional, and spiritual privacy where inspiration arises. 

But just as self-criticism is the most merciless kind of criticism and self-compassion the most elusive kind of compassion, self-distraction is the most hazardous kind of distraction, and the most difficult to protect creative work against.

How to hedge against that hazard is what beloved poet Mary Oliver (September 10, 1935–January 17, 2019) explores in a wonderful piece titled “Of Power and Time,” found in the altogether enchanting Upstream: Selected Essays (public library).

Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver

Oliver writes:

It is a silver morning like any other. I am at my desk. Then the phone rings, or someone raps at the door. I am deep in the machinery of my wits. Reluctantly I rise, I answer the phone or I open the door. And the thought which I had in hand, or almost in hand, is gone. Creative work needs solitude. It needs concentration, without interruptions. It needs the whole sky to fly in, and no eye watching until it comes to that certainty which it aspires to, but does not necessarily have at once. Privacy, then. A place apart — to pace, to chew pencils, to scribble and erase and scribble again.

But just as often, if not more often, the interruption comes not from another but from the self itself, or some other self within the self, that whistles and pounds upon the door panels and tosses itself, splashing, into the pond of meditation. And what does it have to say? That you must phone the dentist, that you are out of mustard, that your uncle Stanley’s birthday is two weeks hence. You react, of course. Then you return to your work, only to find that the imps of idea have fled back into the mist.

Oliver terms this the “intimate interrupter” and cautions that it is far more perilous to creative work than any external distraction, adding:

The world sheds, in the energetic way of an open and communal place, its many greetings, as a world should. What quarrel can there be with that? But that the self can interrupt the self — and does — is a darker and more curious matter.

Echoing Borges’s puzzlement over our divided personhood, Oliver sets out to excavate the building blocks of the self in order to understand its parallel capacities for focused creative flow and merciless interruption. She identifies three primary selves that she inhabits, and that inhabit her, as they do all of us: the childhood self, which we spend our lives trying to weave into the continuity of our personal identity(“The child I was,” she writes, “is with me in the present hour. It will be with me in the grave.”); the social self, “fettered to a thousand notions of obligation”; and a third self, a sort of otherworldly awareness. 

The first two selves, she argues, inhabit the ordinary world and are present in all people; the third is of a different order and comes most easily alive in artists — it is where the wellspring of creative energy resides. She writes:

Certainly there is within each of us a self that is neither a child, nor a servant of the hours. It is a third self, occasional in some of us, tyrant in others. This self is out of love with the ordinary; it is out of love with time. It has a hunger for eternity.

Oliver contrasts the existential purpose of the two ordinary selves with that of the creative self:

Say you have bought a ticket on an airplane and you intend to fly from New York to San Francisco. What do you ask of the pilot when you climb aboard and take your seat next to the little window, which you cannot open but through which you see the dizzying heights to which you are lifted from the secure and friendly earth? 

Most assuredly you want the pilot to be his regular and ordinary self. You want him to approach and undertake his work with no more than a calm pleasure. You want nothing fancy, nothing new. You ask him to do, routinely, what he knows how to do — fly an airplane. You hope he will not daydream. You hope he will not drift into some interesting meander of thought. You want this flight to be ordinary, not extraordinary. So, too, with the surgeon, and the ambulance driver, and the captain of the ship. Let all of them work, as ordinarily they do, in confident familiarity with whatever the work requires, and no more. Their ordinariness is the surety of the world. Their ordinariness makes the world go round.


In creative work — creative work of all kinds— those who are the world’s working artists are not trying to help the world go around, but forward. Which is something altogether different from the ordinary. Such work does not refute the ordinary. It is, simply, something else. Its labor requires a different outlook — a different set of priorities.

Part of this something-elseness, Oliver argues, is the uncommon integration of the creative self — the artist’s work cannot be separated from the artist’s whole life, nor can its wholeness be broken down into the mechanical bits-and-pieces of specific actions and habits. (Elsewhere, Oliver has written beautifully about how habit gives shape to but must not control our inner lives). 

Echoing Keats’s notion of “negative capability,” Dani Shapiro’s insistence that the artist’s task is “to embrace uncertainty, to be sharpened and honed by it,” and Georgia O’Keeffe’s counsel that as an artist you ought to be “keeping the unknown always beyond you,” Oliver considers the central commitment of the creative life — that of making uncertainty and the unknown the raw material of art:

Intellectual work sometimes, spiritual work certainly, artistic work always — these are forces that fall within its grasp, forces that must travel beyond the realm of the hour and the restraint of the habit. Nor can the actual work be well separated from the entire life. Like the knights of the Middle Ages, there is little the creatively inclined person can do but to prepare himself, body and spirit, for the labor to come — for his adventures are all unknown. In truth, the work itself is the adventure. And no artist could go about this work, or would want to, with less than extraordinary energy and concentration. The extraordinary is what art is about.

In a sentiment that calls to mind Van Gogh’s spirited letter on risk-taking and how inspired mistakes move us forward, Oliver returns to the question of the conditions that coax the creative self into being:

No one yet has made a list of places where the extraordinary may happen and where it may not. Still, there are indications. Among crowds, in drawing rooms, among easements and comforts and pleasures, it is seldom seen. It likes the out-of-doors. It likes the concentrating mind. It likes solitude. It is more likely to stick to the risk-taker than the ticket-taker. It isn’t that it would disparage comforts, or the set routines of the world, but that its concern is directed to another place. Its concern is the edge, and the making of a form out of the formlessness that is beyond the edge.

Above all, Oliver observes from the “fortunate platform” of a long, purposeful, and creatively fertile life, the artist’s task is one of steadfast commitment to the art:

Of this there can be no question — creative work requires a loyalty as complete as the loyalty of water to the force of gravity. A person trudging through the wilderness of creation who does not know this — who does not swallow this — is lost. He who does not crave that roofless place eternity should stay at home. Such a person is perfectly worthy, and useful, and even beautiful, but is not an artist. Such a person had better live with timely ambitions and finished work formed for the sparkle of the moment only. Such a person had better go off and fly an airplane.

She returns to the problem of concentration, which for the artist is a form, perhaps the ultimate form, of consecration:

The working, concentrating artist is an adult who refuses interruption from himself, who remains absorbed and energized in and by the work — who is thus responsible to the work… Serious interruptions to work, therefore, are never the inopportune, cheerful, even loving interruptions which come to us from another.


It is six A.M., and I am working. I am absentminded, reckless, heedless of social obligations, etc. It is as it must be. The tire goes flat, the tooth falls out, there will be a hundred meals without mustard. The poem gets written. I have wrestled with the angel and I am stained with light and I have no shame. Neither do I have guilt. My responsibility is not to the ordinary, or the timely. It does not include mustard, or teeth. It does not extend to the lost button, or the beans in the pot. My loyalty is to the inner vision, whenever and howsoever it may arrive. If I have a meeting with you at three o’clock, rejoice if I am late. Rejoice even more if I do not arrive at all. 

There is no other way work of artistic worth can be done. And the occasional success, to the striver, is worth everything. The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.

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These are some of my favourite films. I am drawn to coming-of-age films and hope one day to make a feature film that someone else finds engaging and unique in perspective.




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Drink Like A Fish

 How much does a fish drink?
A story of a boy’s innocence and loss of innocence when faced with the idiom of ‘drink like a fish’.

Producer/Director: Patti Henderson

Hired by the Port Shorts Program.
Port Shorts allows 6 hours of shooting time (including load in and wrap out)

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Shelley on Poetry and the Art of Seeing | Brain Pickings

Shelley on Poetry and the Art of Seeing
“Poetry… reproduces the common universe of which we are portions and percipients, and it purges from our inward sight the film of familiarity which obscures from us the wonder of our being.”

“We hear and apprehend only what we already half know,” Thoreau wrote in contemplating the crucial difference between knowing and seeing. To apprehend reality unblinded by our preconceptions, to truly see rather than pre-know, takes a special receptivity, a special channel of perception that bypasses our ordinary, habit-blunted ways. Poetry provides one such opening, perhaps the supreme one — a subtle portal of receptivity that allows us to take in the universe anew. Poetry unlatches the backdoor of the psyche to rewire the optic nerve of our perception, giving us new eyes with which to regard the world, inner and outer, personal, political, and cosmic. Ursula K. Le Guin knew this when she observed that “science describes accurately from outside, poetry describes accurately from inside”; John F. Kennedy knew this when he proclaimed that “when power corrupt, poetry cleanses”; Adrienne Rich knew this when she wrote that “poetry can break open locked chambers of possibility, restore numbed zones to feeling, recharge desire”; I too intuited it in turning to poetry to celebrate the science and splendor of the natural world, and to protest their political assault, with The Universe in Verse.

But no one has articulated that singular power of poetry more beautifully than Percy Bysshe Shelley (August 4, 1792–July 8, 1822) in a piece titled A Defence of Poetry, originally composed just before his untimely death and later included in his Essays, Letters from Abroad, Translations and Fragments (public library | public domain) — the posthumous collection his equally visionary widow, Mary Shelley, edited and published in 1840.

Percy Bysshe Shelley by Alfred Clint
Shelley writes:

All things exist as they are perceived: at least in relation to the percipient. “The mind is its own place, and of itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” But poetry defeats the curse which binds us to be subjected to the accident of surrounding impressions. And whether it spreads its own figured curtain, or withdraws life’s dark veil from before the scene of things, it equally creates for us a being within our being. It makes us the inhabitants of a world to which the familiar world is a chaos. It reproduces the common universe of which we are portions and percipients, and it purges from our inward sight the film of familiarity which obscures from us the wonder of our being. It compels us to feel that which we perceive, and to imagine that which we know. It creates anew the universe, after it has been annihilated in our minds by the recurrence of impressions blunted by reiteration.
— Read on

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