The old family home, long ago, back when the locust tree was a little stick (and the horizon was tilted).
I once edited a story by a man who’d spent many childhood summers at his grandparents’ house in a small Nebraska town. It was a distinctive old house with a cupola. Years later, he wrote, he revisited the town and saw the house, but didn’t knock on the door or even get very close. He feared that too much contact with the present reality of new owners, new furniture, and other evidence of the passage of decades would damage the house that existed in his memory.
I’ve experienced the same thing visiting my old neighborhood. I was driving back to the old family house (where my brother still lives) and took a detour to drive past the house where my aunt and uncle used to live and to take the old way home through the side streets. Continue reading →
I remember the first time I saw a Hayao Miyazaki film. A cable network was showing several of the Japanese animator’s films one weekend. My wife and I stumbled upon Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986). We hadn’t intended to watch it. It was a beautifully-drawn story of a search for a legendary flying city in a world of Jules Verne-era airships and other exotic flying machines. The dialog was in Japanese with English subtitles, and we had no idea whether we were watching a new movie or an old one. It was unlike any animated film we had ever seen. We were unable to look away.
If you aren’t a Miyazaki fan already, let this be your introduction to this amazingly creative storyteller and animator. Continue reading →
“How often, if we learn to look, is a spider’s wheel a universe, or a swarm of summer midges a galaxy, or a canyon a backward glance into time. Beneath our feet is the scratched pebble that denotes an ice age, or above us the summer cloud that changes form in one afternoon as a animal might do in ten million windy years.”
— Loren Eiseley, “The Angry Winter,” The Unexpected Universe (1969)
You never know where an obsession may be lurking. John Carerra found his under his grandfather’s reading chair. It was a tattered Webster’s International Dictionary (1898 edition), and “in the back were ganged together and printed all of the wonderful images printed in the book, a little universe of nineteenth century America. Little did I know I was about to devote the next ten years of my life to organizing and printing four thousand of these little blocks.”
Like Carerra’s grandfather’s 1898 Webster’s, my 1913 edition includes a section in the back that presents all the illustrations grouped by categories. (Detail below.)
My favorite description of how metaphor functions in a poem (or any writing, for that matter) comes from The Poetry Home Repair Manual by Ted Kooser (U.S. Poet Laureate 2004-2006). Kooser quotes “November” by Linda Pastan. Despite the title, a few lines of the poem refer to springtime, when
April 7. The photos below show the same branch.
the trees like gnarled magicians
out of empty branches.
Which is timely, now that the trees in my backyard (one of which is shown here) are performing the same trick. Metaphors, Kooser explains, Continue reading →
Curiosity involves two things: ignorance about something, and a desire to find out. That sounds simple enough. But curiosity can go wrong when the desire for certainty overwhelms one’s ability to live with tentative answers, or with no answer at all.
Consider two brief quotes from Richard Feynman (1918-1988), a Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist, and one of the most interesting people of the twentieth century (I recommend Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman, by James Gleick, and Feynman’s own Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!). Feynman said: Continue reading →
Some time ago I wrote a post about animated textflow poems as a new way to experience poetry. Of course, poems can also be animated in the more usual sense, as in this delightful version of Emily Dickinson’s “I started Early – Took my Dog” (656), created by Maureen Selwood and read by Blair Brown. It is part of the Poetry Everywhere project on PBS.