Supporting the literary arts in Laguna Beach
There is a long tradition of writing responding to visual art, so we thought it would be fun to challenge local Laguna Beach poets and authors to respond in verse or prose to a piece of local art.
It just so happened that at the time of the idea, The Artists Fund, an organization that provides disaster-relief grants and professional-growth grants to local Laguna Beach artists, was featuring their latest exhibit at city hall. Jeff Rovner’s beautiful photograph Yangon Monastery Myanmar was an obvious choice. There is mystery in the open door that leads to darkness, hope in the light shining through an unseen window above, time etched in the scarred paint on the walls, promise in the youth of the monk and the breeze that lifts the blazing orange fabric of his robe.
And more importantly it spoke to dozens of poets and authors who put pen to paper to write about it. A photo taken in a faraway land of an unfamiliar world then viewed thousands of miles away in a small beach town in California and interpreted through the personal lens of each observer, the results so remarkable it was worthy of making the collection into a book. This project not only speaks to the power of words but also to the power of art, showing how a single inspiration, a snapshot capturing a stunning moment in time, can be interpreted in so many different ways, each expression a window into the unique soul of the writer who created it.
Yangon Monastery Myanmar
By Jeff Rovner
In November 2017, I participated in a photography workshop in Myanmar, the country formerly known as Burma. One day we paid an early morning visit to Kalaywa Monastery in Yangon. In the dawn light, hundreds of Buddhist monks and novices, many of them orphans receiving their education at the monastery, silently went about their morning rituals. Looking around the primitive yet soulful interior, I was drawn to a wall that captured a beautiful beam of light from an adjoining doorway. It seemed a promising stage for a photograph, so I set the exposure on my Leica for the dim light, manually focused my lens to a point about a meter from the wall, and waited in the hope that something important might happen there. My patience was soon rewarded when a monk entered the building and walked onto my stage. The man was silent and did not acknowledge my presence. As he crossed the threshold, his orange robe caught the breeze and was momentarily lit up, as if aflame. I imagined the outer light was propelling him forward toward the beam within. I pressed the shutter to make the photograph, feeling privileged to have witnessed something mysterious and wonderful.