Digging roads to a sense of belonging with Wanda Orme, creator of the new book of poetry and photography Volcano Songs.

Wanda Orme’s beautiful new book of poetry and photography, Volcano songs, offers an emotional exploration of the ineffable energy of volcanoes. It captures the sensuality and power of these unique landscapes, illuminated by Orme’s university education in anthropology and psychology as well as a prestigious career as a multidisciplinary artist and writer. The book was forged in the shadow of Vesuvius and on the volcanic islands of Alicudi and Pantelleria. The moving text, through which the volcano indeed seems to sing, is completed by images that anchor it in the substantiality of the volcano. Visual and written stories coexist and present an interwoven narrative that invites the reader to take a new perspective on ecology and geology.

Talking to Orme is a unique experience because unlike many people I have met, she chooses her words with absolute precision. As a writer who navigates the almost ineffable, this is hardly surprising but still refreshing. When she talks about Mount Vesuvius and her experiences while writing the book, I am awash with a sense of calm and a heartfelt reminder to seek out natural places of beauty. She postulates that the true sense of belonging can be found by cultivating true relationships with the natural world and by listening to the energy and presence that certain places offer. After reading Volcano Songs, it becomes difficult to disagree with it.

First of all, would you like to present your new book Volcano Songs – where did you get the idea from?

Moving to Naples, I lived in a city dominated by two very powerful natural elements, the sea and the volcano, Vesuvius. These presences change you, I started to orient myself in relation to them. The volcano dominates the landscape and one becomes keenly aware of its presence, even when it is not visible. I felt the geology moving around me, rippling between things – as if there was a constant conversation going on. A sense of power has also become central to the work as there is a humility and daring that comes with living on the slopes of a volcano. A different kind of power from the man-made notions of power that we often associate with the term.

What was your experience of making the book? Where did you start and what steps did you take to get to its creation?

I wrote much of the text on an island called Alicudi, off the coast of Sicily. It’s an extinct volcano, and it has a very interesting presence. Throughout the book there is this feeling of an energy. Unlike Stromboli, who was breaking out next door, Alicudi is calm and still, but you can still feel that he was once active.

Part of the photography fed off naturally, I went to photograph Vesuvius crater which was an amazing experience because it was so busy. Like an animal that I could relate to as an animal. You would expect a volcano to be very otherworldly, but in reality it looked incredibly like this earth and life. They breathe, they breathe, they exist as a body

This book features beautiful textured photographs alongside lyrical poetic writing. Did you create these elements simultaneously or one after another?

The association of text and photography came about quite naturally. Initially, I wrote the text in a notebook for a short period of a few days. The photography came after. Previously, I had concerns about bringing poetry and imagery together because I didn’t want to repeat the same idea or let the words sound like a caption. But he started to feel as if photography was a necessary part, as part of the conversation, like parallel interwoven narratives. I really wanted to introduce the substantiality of the material. The words could be understood as quite ethereal or fleeting on their own, I wanted something that rooted it in the terrain, warmth and earth of the place itself. I wanted him to have an element of the non-human beyond words as a human construct. To be anchored in the thing that refuses to be carefully contained, the volcano.

When taking pictures for this project, what type of equipment did you use?

I used a camera that I have used for so many projects which is an old OM10 that my mom gave me. I digress from using this camera every now and then, but I keep coming back to it. There is something about this that adds weight to the process. I like the fact that it shakes a bit when the shutter goes through. He feels like he is almost a living thing, and he doesn’t always cooperate. This is another part of the conversation between me and the world.

It seems like responding objects really resonate with you. In your practice, there is no sense of dominance through inquiry, rather it is a shared conversation between yourself and what you are studying and witnessing through creation. Would you say that your work shares a symbiotic relationship with the subject?

I think I might aspire to it. I don’t know what I can really say that I give back to a volcano, but I really try to give something to the people who go into labor. I think I can say that I hope to show the volcano the humility and the attention it deserves as a subject.

I think a matter of hierarchy and bringing your own vulnerability to the things you do is important. I don’t want to reproduce myself through my work, although we are all doomed to do so to some extent. I hope that I learn by working and therefore that the work shows something of the object that I am trying to pay attention to. I try to avoid creating an endless repetition of my ideas and seeking to be changed by the experience of making.

Are there any particular sources that you found truly inspiring for this project beyond the natural environment itself, perhaps books that you have read or works of art that you have seen recently? ?

Definitely, I read a lot. Today I was reading Cormac McCarthy Towns of the Plain, in which a boy adopts a wolf that he ultimately has to kill, it’s overall very sad. There are parts of this book about a beyond, mysterious, massive and powerful inaccessible but sometimes noticeable, beyond which we exist but, for the most part, of which we are absolutely unaware. I love writers who encouraged me to have confidence in this belief, this feeling of something more because we are systematically taught to unlearn that kind of spiritual connection to otherness and the sense of instinct.

I find inspiration in the work of everyone, from photographers and filmmakers to painters and poets. I love Anne Carson. He’s one of the first writers I discovered who spoke of the difficult, the uncomfortable, and the in-between.

Basically waking up and falling asleep every day seeing Vesuvius changed me. It was as if a lively, characterful being had come into my life and was so present. And yet the book is also about something more, it is not about the volcano at all, but about the type of energy that manifests in volcanoes. The energy that flows through and between the environment, the water, the people who live with it. The book is about something slippery, there is a kind of hide and seek with an entity that remains slightly intangible.

You try to discuss things that are pretty ineffable, it’s slippery and intangible because you’re trying to capture what refuses to be neatly wrapped. It’s like trying to explain the ocean to someone who has never seen it. I think through and between the words maybe people have some idea of ​​what it might be like to spend time near a volcano.

In the spaces between words, or in the resonance when you end a sentence – that moment when a feeling has been brought up and it lingers. This is perhaps more the point than the words themselves.

There is something you wrote in the book about the impact of volcanoes, that “they remind us that the planet is not ours”. When I read this sentence, it really struck me as the crux of what you are exploring. What does this mean to you? Is it some kind of advice or a reminder?

It is advice and therapy. I think people collectively lack a great sense of belonging that would come from recognizing that we belong to this land; we come, we go back. We are borrowed material temporarily assembled in a form that we consider to be ourselves, which is ultimately recycled. The great modern state of anxiety of feeling lonely and disconnected could be altered by shifting our relationship to the land as one of belonging. In the contemporary moment, we are in a war for attention, and very rarely do we have the opportunity to ask ourselves where we really feel right. I think if we would stop and listen to ourselves, we would change the way we take care of the environment and the way we prioritize and value things. How we attribute power, and what and who we worship.

So you say that if we learn that we belong to the planet, rather than understanding it as belonging to us, we would ultimately be happier and more fulfilled.

I think there’s a reason concepts like “mother nature” have been around as long as they’ve been around, because they’re true. A feeling that we come from the earth. From this understanding, we can feel that we are held by something, connected and belonging. It is to think of identity beyond a human framework. A deeper understanding of what it means to be human in relation to nature and a recognition of the power of nature. I think there is so much joy in standing by the sea and feeling both accepted and unrecognized. This huge thing is indifferent to you while still allowing you to be a part of it. I’m not sure how to put it into words but it’s powerful and magical. We should be encouraged to follow these kinds of feelings more.

Is there some sort of conclusion to the book, maybe a message or feeling that you particularly want to convey?

The feeling of being part of something powerful. Finding that feeling really changes people. Imagine knowing you belonged before you even ask yourself the question.

Buy Volcano Songs by Wanda Orme via Guest Editions: www.guesteditions.com

Learn more about Wanda Orme @wandaorme or www.wandaorme.com


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