Posts Tagged ‘water’
September 15, 2016 | by Susan Stewart
The genesis of “Channel,” a poem in our Fall 2016 issue.
I grew up along the Susquehanna, and taught for many summers along the Tiber, and today most warm early mornings you’ll find me rowing my shell on the Schuylkill. I learned to row in middle age because I wanted to see my city, Philadelphia, from the perspective of the river and to know what it would be like to be buoyed by its surface. Was this how I prepared? Or was it water plants and buried objects, Whitman and Wang Wei, Charles Cros and Works and Days, rhymes and chants, imagining how we pass in parallel at disparate speeds?
“Channel” began and begins with the words “salt” and “sweet.” I had been churning them in my thoughts for months—streams and the sea, the tears in our eyes, and the moisture in our words. A desire, after a hard winter, to write a long poem about a river. “Channel”: from canna, canalis, a pipe, a groove, a reed, a bed of running water. As I sketched and made notes, I wondered what views the poem could open, and how much history, where it would emerge (somewhere in a spring and in Spring) and where it would end (eventually at Siracusa, site of the sweet/salt legend of Arethusa and dear to my heart). In other words, it started with some words, as most poems start. Read More »
July 7, 2016 | by Wei Tchou
Two trees grow in Brooklyn.
Lately I’ve come to love the empress trees that stand at either end of the Union Street Bridge, which crosses the Gowanus Canal, in Brooklyn. The pair aren’t much in winter, but come spring their canopies grow heavy with grand cascades of lavender flowers. The display is especially remarkable because the canal that flows beside the trees is polluted by heavy metals, pathogens, polychlorinated biphenyls, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and other suspiciously unpronounceable toxins. Whatever perfume might drift from the purple blossoms is instantly overpowered by the rot that wafts from the canal’s murky, iridescent waters. Read More »
May 9, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Today in the expenditure of effort: one reason serialization has become so popular, Juliet Lapidos, is that it curtails the reader’s (or viewer’s) setup time, encouraging a kind of economy in entertainment: “The most demanding part of any narrative art form is the beginning, when everything—the style, the plot, the characters, perhaps even the universe in which the characters operate—is new … Series minimize that period of difficulty relative to the total experience. You do the work once, and then you’re free and easy … For the last twelve years, I’ve been addicted to serial novels.”
- Gregory Woods’s new book, Homintern, is a history of gay conspiracy in the arts—a history that, as Caleb Crain writes, requires some paradoxical thinking to address properly: “Homintern was a portmanteau word, a mash-up of Comintern, the name of the international communist organization that flourished between the two world wars, and homosexual. It referred, originally in jest, to the notion that a clique of gay men and (in smaller numbers) lesbian women controlled the arts world from behind the scenes, giving undue preference to the work of their lovers, ex-lovers and would-be lovers, and skewing taste away from the ‘natural’ and ‘wholesome’ … [Woods] rightly debunks the idea of a Homintern, pointing out that it’s unfair to single out gay men for mixing romance and art—‘as if,’ he writes, ‘heterosexual people never dedicate their books to their lovers or spouses’ … Woods then proceeds, however, to devote the bulk of his book to recounting, and even celebrating, links between gay men in the arts that were half hidden and often sexual in nature—the same links that he thinks it would be unjust, if not paranoid, to make too much of.”
- Easy advice: when you’re feeling down, look at a painting of a Russian person’s face. You’ll be surprised, delighted, perhaps even moved. They’re formidable faces. Jenny Uglow is especially fond of the portraitist Ilya Repin, whose work is well represented in a new show at the National Portrait Gallery: “I found these serious, unsmiling portraits astonishing. They feel governed by the belief that a portrait—like an intense conversation between artist and sitter—can bring us closer to its subject than any new-fangled photograph could do … There is humor in Repin’s portraits as well as empathy and understanding. Great warmth, for example, in his sexy, self-possessed pianist Sophie Menter, Liszt’s brilliant protégé; and a keen wit in his classic swagger-portrait of the salonnière Baroness Varvara Ikskul von Hildenbandt with her wickedly pointed hat and veil. At once bold and restrained, this is painted with such enjoyment that we can almost feel the weight of the locket chain round her arm and touch the gathers of her scarlet blouse and sweeping skirt.”
- A century ago, James Reuel Smith could still recall the days when a New Yorker might reasonably expect to stumble upon a natural spring within city limits: “In the days, not so very long ago, when nearly all the railroad mileage of the metropolis was to be found on the lower half of the Island, nothing was more cheering to the thirsty city tourist afoot or awheel than to discover a natural spring of clear cold water, and nothing quite so refreshing as a draught of it.”(His book Springs and Wells of Manhattan and the Bronx: New York City at the End of the Nineteenth Century contains an abundance of photographs of refreshed spring-sippers.)
- It’s about time someone wrote a history of oral histories that isn’t also an oral history: “The term oral history has been around for decades, though, early on, it was primarily the domain of folklorists, archivists, and academics. In the 1930s, the Federal Writer’s Project, funded by the New Deal, gathered the first-person narratives of former slaves, still alive in America; people who had traveled West in covered wagons; and others with interesting stories, say, about meeting Billy the Kid or surviving the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 … Some early guidelines, penned by longtime oral historian Willa Baum, in her book Oral History for the Local Historical Society, included tips that remain relevant even now: ‘An interview is not a dialogue … Ask one question at a time … Ask brief questions … Don’t let periods of silence fluster you … Try to avoid “off-the-record” information … Don’t switch the recorder off and on … Don’t use the interview to show off your knowledge, vocabulary, charm or other abilities.’ ”
November 5, 2015 | by Robert Walser
How riveted I was by the illustration entitled The Burning Ship! Is a sinking frigate not phenomenal?
If, by the way, velvet footstools and the like can be whacked free of dust and brushed on Sundays, then authorial activity must be permitted as well.
Do I not feel, when I am exercising my intellect, exactly as if I were sitting in church? Drafting a prose piece puts me in a devotional frame of mind.
How terrifying a ship on fire is. Gazing at the picture, I said to myself: The mariners find themselves faced with the necessity of fleeing the fire; but they have nowhere to escape to but the water, and soon enough they’ll be trying to escape from that as well; yet they have no choice but to take refuge in it. Beautifully spread out, the water lies there like a meadow; not the tiniest wave disturbs this mirror that conceals unfathomable depths. The mirror’s expansiveness poses a threat to the ones in peril, those desirous of rescue. Beneath the water, unknown mountain chains extend. This fact is surely known to the better educated among the mariners, and this precise knowledge makes them feel significantly more forsaken than those who enjoy perfect ignorance in this regard. Education, though reliable and helpful, is also treacherous. Read More »
July 2, 2012 | by Leanne Shapton
I am the first one in Stockholm’s Centralbadet this Monday morning, followed by James, then by an old man wearing big yellow goggles, who does a steady breaststroke around the perimeter of the pool. Watching him, I switch to breaststroke myself and match his speed. It feels comfortable. It feels relaxing. As the three of us swim counterclockwise, I channel my old age, my flabby form, my unself-conscious senior. I think of the two older women I passed in the locker room, whose modest black tanks encased humps and bones and bumpy flesh. The cruel phrase a friend once used to describe a woman’s backside: “a bagful of doorknobs.” I watch my hands trace their double ellipse in front of me, my mother’s wrists, my grandmother’s knuckles.