#WaysofSeeing50 #JohnBerger. Day One: Painting And Camera. In celebration of fifty years since John Berger’s “Ways Of Seeing” was broadcast in January 1972, I welcome writers and artworkers to join and contribute with Sarah Crowson, Cy Forrest, Yvonne Marjot, Anjum Wasim Dar and me in a week long look at what he had to say, and how we might ekphrastically comment on the artworks he looked at, particularly painting and photography. It would be ideal if you could read the book beforehand, but not necessary. The challenge will run from January 9th-15th, and use the artworks he used as a prompt for each day. The first day features Magritte’s “The Key of Dreams” “La Clef Des Songes” 1935 version. See below.

WOS front cover

The first episode of the television series expanded on ideas from Walter Benjamin‘s 1935 essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction“, arguing that through reproduction an Old Master‘s painting’s modern context is severed from that which existed at the time of its making. Here is YouTube link: https://youtu.be/0pDE4VX_9Kk

Sarah Crowson first response to ways of seeing

-Sarah Crowson 

Sleep and Dream Again

I am The Key Of Dreams by Magritte.
I surveil my audience via facial
recognition and eye tracking, and
I see desire for completeness:
a bird is not a bird until it flies,
a door is not a door until it opens,
a horse is not a horse until
it rides into the sunset,
a clock is not a clock until
it counts down time,
my audience only exists if I can see it,
my poem only exists if the Poetry
Book Society recommends it,
history only exists if there’s a
concluding episode tomorrow,
and John Berger shows time not unfolding on the
horizon where it’s still 1492, and Christopher Columbus
believes his eyes and thinks he’s arrived in India
when actually it’s the Caribbean –
This miscalculation, these miles of
ocean, this way of seeing, this gulf of
unobtainable desires is right in front of
me now – and thousands of native nations still
tell Columbus the name for plants means
‘those who takes care of us’ –
Now, go to sleep and dream again.

-Cy Forrest


I am looking out of my kitchen window, neck craned slightly to gaze upwards at the pines overtopping the house on the hill. Their tops are swaying, caught in a wind I cannot feel from my sheltered spot. I watch their movement, understated at this distance, until a black speck or two rises from the branches: ravens, tossed in the wind which must be stronger than it seems.

I imagine myself in the raven’s eye, high above the canopy, looking out over the cliff edge to the sea, to the far shore, to the distant mountains, the tallest of them crowned with fresh snow. I feel how very tiny I am.

From the cupboard I pull out the birdseed bucket and fill a jam jar. I open the back door and step into the garden. The frost is hard on the grass, and a small flock of chaffinches whizzes up from under my feet and scrambles away into the hedge. A blackbird shouts in panic, warning everything in earshot that a stranger is come.

But the robin freezes on the fence-post, one black eye fixed unerringly on me, watching to see what I will do. And all of a sudden I feel huge, monstrous, out of all proportion. A giant intruder in the small, intimate world of the garden.

Who am I? The clumsy invader of songbird space? The mote in the raven’s eye? How is it that birds can transgress the boundaries of perception, where we earthbound wonderers get stuck in our ruts, forget to see ourselves in any other way than the way we have been imagining since the last time we looked in the mirror?

The bird’s eye is a perception filter. And I am only the image of its fear.




-Anjum Wasim Dar (Link to a combination of images and words)


That Horse Is (a response to Magritte’s “The Key of Dreams” “La Clef Des Songes” 1935 version)

the door, sometimes left ajar,
sometimes shuts out the gust.
has a lock you must find
the correct key to open.

That clock is

the wind. A wound up gust
whose hands move
at different speeds, mark
duration by their flow.

That jug is

the bird that all pass by.
If it contained milk they might
pour out a mouthful or two
before it flew away.

That suitcase is

the valise. It may be packed,
ready for the wind to be right,
for opening and riding away on the door,
emptying the bird to fly like a jug.

-Paul Brookes

Bios And Links:

-Cy Forrest

is from Manchester but now living in Wiltshire. Poems in the Honest Ulsterman, IceFloe Press and The Wombwell Rainbow. Poems due to appear in Stand in 2022.

-Yvonne Marjot

is a lost kiwi living on the Isle of Mull. Poet, author, librarian and escaped botanist: her poems are intimate and personal, and often link the natural world with mythological themes. She is especially fond of selkies.

 Her first collection, The Knitted Curiosity Cabinet, won the Britwriters Prize for Poetry in 2012. She is fascinated by the interface between human mind and the physical world, and her poems often have a scientific or mythological theme.

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