Unspoken Autumn

Everything that Acts Is Actual

BY DENISE LEVERTOV
From the tawny light
from the rainy nights
from the imagination finding
itself and more than itself
alone and more than alone
at the bottom of the well where the moon lives,
can you pull me
into December? a lowland
of space, perception of space
towering of shadows of clouds blown upon
clouds over
                  new ground, new made
under heavy December footsteps? the only
way to live?
The flawed moon
acts on the truth, and makes
an autumn of tentative
silences.
You lived, but somewhere else,
your presence touched others, ring upon ring,
and changed. Did you think
I would not change?
                              The black moon
turns away, its work done. A tenderness,
unspoken autumn.
We are faithful
only to the imagination. What the
imagination
             seizes
as beauty must be truth. What holds you
to what you see of me is
that grasp alone.
Denise Levertov, “Everything that Acts Is Actual” from Collected Earlier Poems 1940-1960. Copyright 1949, © 1979 by Denise Levertov.
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bureaucrats who have no imagination

I am a big fan of New Zealand and of its most resilient city Christchurch. However, I was disappointed to learn this week that the Christchurch city council has eliminated the job of official Wizard and axed the legendary Ian Brackenbury Channell who has served as the official Wizard of Christchurch, New Zealand since 1998. Prior to assuming the post as official Wizard, Channel taught literature and served in the Canadian army.

According to his contract, the wizard’s duties are “to provide acts of wizardry and other wizard-like-services — as part of promotional work for the city of Christchurch.” I never ran across the Wizard when I was visiting Christchurch, but his influence seemed to be working since it’s a magical place.

However, after 23 years of successful wizarding the city council has decided to terminate the relationship. Council Assistant Chief Executive Lynn McClelland said that “The council has met with The Wizard and sent him a letter thanking him for his services to Christchurch over the past decades, and informing him that we are bringing our formal contractual arrangement to a close.”

In response, the 89 year old Wizard decried what he sees as cancel culture, saying of the Christchurch City Council:

They are a bunch of bureaucrats who have no imagination. They are not thinking of ways to promote Christchurch overseas. They are just projecting an image of bureaucrats drinking lattes on the boulevard. Their image of Christchurch is nothing to do with the authentic heritage of the city.

The video below reflects a happier relationship between the Wizard and the previous city government.

NB: If the video does not appear in your email, please click on the short url to bring up a complete post.

 

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A Little Treasure (Island)

One of the very first “grown-up” books that I read as a child was a fabulous edition of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Treasure Island. I can’t be certain, but I believe that it was a well-worn copy with wonderful illustrations by N.C. Wyeth, like the one pictured above. So any stories about the book have a strong nostalgic pull for me.

The Captain’s Map is a micro-miniature book containing a sheet of text from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island and color map, each 78 x 30 mm, folded to 20 x 16 mm, along with a Bo Press bookmark, slipped in. The portfolio is bound in beige Japanese paper, and lined with paper printed with old map. It contains a tinted copy of the map on the recto. Published by Bo Press, the tiny Treasure Island is the work of miniaturist genius Pat Sweet. You can learn more about the book and see more of her work on her website: https://www.bopressminiaturebooks.com/

 

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I would prefer not to

Writer Clive Thompson has created and shared a new online tool allows you to visualize any piece of writing by stripping away everything but its punctuation. His free web tool—”just the punctuation”—allows you can paste in any piece of text and end up with the punctuation. Looking at just the punctuation of a text can reveal quite a lot about it, among other things, how long and lyrical the sentences are and how much the text uses dialogue.

Below is the visualization of Herman Melville’s classic 1853 short story Bartleby, the Scrivener. You give Thompson’s “just the punctuation” tool  a spin for yourself here. Try it on some contemporary writers to compare with Melville. Or don’t, if you prefer not to.

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Glooskap the Divinity

There are some of the great illustrations to be found in The Algonquin Legends of New England (1884). The collection of Algonquin folk tales presented in the book is a result of the collecting efforts of folklorist Charles G. Leland and from Rev. Silas T. Rand, a Canadian Baptist clergyman who was the first to record the legend of Glooskap. It is this legend, with its many chapters, which takes up the majority of the book. The central character is a giant of a divinity named Glooskap, who “grows to a more appalling greatness than Thor or Odin in his battles”, and whose name literally means Liar, because it is said that when he left earth he promised to return but has never done so.

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Small is beautiful (bookshop version)

I’ve visited bookstores all over the world, including some really, really small shops. Probably the tiniest of all was Twizel Bookshop in the little New Zealand mountain town of the same name. Here in North America, the cozy Poet’s Corner Book Shop in Sonoma California is now claiming the title of smallest bookstore in America.

Stephanie Culen, owner of Poet’s Corner Book Shop, “decorates” the outside of her tiny, 250 sq. ft. shop, before opening in Duncans Mills on Thursday, September 30, 2021. (Photo by John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

Last year, New York City transplant Stephanie Culen spotted the little 25-square -foot cabin for rent in the village of Duncans Mills and took the bookstore ownership leap. The shop, which carries both new and secondhand books, is nearing its one year anniversary and is thriving.

 

 

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One Hundred Seconds to Midnight

One Hundred Seconds to Midnight is a new collection focusing on the literary and scientific history of climate change dating back to the fifteenth century.  The innovative exhibition will go on display at the London Frieze Masters Art Fair this month in the run-up to the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow.

Curated by London rare book dealers Peter HarringtonOne Hundred Seconds to Midnight is an allusion to the current time on the Doomsday Clock, which is continually updated to indicate our proximity to climate catastrophe. The exhibit features 800 first edition books as well as items such as the 1970 board game Ecology (‘The Game of Man and Nature’) and is centered on the core collection belonging to David L. Wenner.

“This important collection is the first on the theme of climate change, the dominant issue of our times,” says Pom Harrington, owner of Peter Harrington. “It has been three years in the making and comprises an astonishing range of museum-grade material, scientific as well as emotional, including magazines which are very hard to get hold of. We hope it will be made available to the public as it could easily go straight into a museum for display.”

The wide-ranging exhibit includes a 1485 first edition on weather forecasting by Frenchman Firmin de Beauval; Mettallum Martis (1665) the earliest printed account of fossil fuel usage by English ironmaster Dud Dudley; and a first edition of influential forestry book Sylva by seventeenth-century diarist and horticulturalist John Evelyn.

Among the art featured is Earthrise, the first full color photograph of Earth taken by astronaut William Anders during the Apollo 8 lunar mission in 1968; a lithograph of early environmentalist Alexander Humboldt (1769-1859); and Banksy’s Save or Delete poster for a 2002 Greenpeace campaign against deforestation.

A portion of the sale proceeds will go to the conservation charity World Land Trust. There is a special microsite to accompany the collection, an online catalogue, and a video.

 

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Rules for Flyers

Although I haven’t been in a plane for nearly two years, I still ruminate about proper travel etiquette, such as armrest access. This article from the website Jalopnik settles the ongoing arguement regarding equitable sharing of airliner armrests.

Here’s the straightforward explanation by seat:

Aisle

This seat gets the outside armrest only. The aisle seat enjoys free access to leave the row to use the bathroom, considerable stretching room on the aisle side, and the most open feel of the row.

The responsibilities of the aisle seat are to get up to allow your row-mates access to bathrooms or the rest of the aircraft.

Center

This seat gets the both armrests. The center seat has none of the benefits of the aisle or window, and as such is compensated with the use of both the armrests that border the seat.

It is generally agreed to be the worst seat in the row, and as such deserves the compensatory extra armrest.

Window

This seat gets the wall-side armrest. The window seat has, of course, the window, which reveals the miracle of heavier-than-air flight to those who are still capable of feeling such joys, hence why it’s the most popular seat choice for children. The wall also offers valuable lean-against-to-sleep options, and a modicum of privacy, if you push your face into the wall as you have a phone call or whatever.

The downsides are you’re just as trapped as the middle seat, and you may be asked to adjust the window shade, which you really should comply with if requested reasonably.

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Seeing Into Tomorrow

In my early adolescence I was deeply moved by the powerful writings of Richard Wright. It was difficult to imagine that anyone who read his novel Native Son or memoir Black Boy would not be enraged by his depictions of America’s racial injustice. But I didn’t know that Wright also wrote poetry, including thousands of works of haiku. Seeing Into Tomorrow is a wonderful project in Brooklyn, New York that is transforming works by Richard Wright into poetry murals.

Wright spent the two years of his life writing more than 4,000 works of haiku. The author’s 17-syllable poem are surprisingly hopeful and uplifting.

Seeing Into Tomorrow was designed by Doyle Partners  for the Poetry Society of America. The multi-site installation invites viewers to travel through the neighborhoods of Downtown Brooklyn and Fort Greene to discover this lesser known side of one of America’s greatest authors. The mural sites range from the Fulton Mall shopping district to cultural landmark to small stores at the NYCHA Whitman Houses. You can use the map below to visit all the sites.

In the coming weeks,more poems will be added to the project, including haikus on 38 Big Belly recycling bins such as the one below.

 

 

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“The mystery of life isn’t a problem to solve, but a reality to experience.”

I must admit that I am more than a bit curious to see the latest film version of the sci-fi classic Dune. Although David Lynch’s Dune is regularly panned, I enjoyed it with some reservations when it was first in theaters.

My first exposure to Frank Herbert’s long running saga was courtesy of my local library. I remember borrowing a well-worn copy of the first edition pictured above. And, although I thought that the series was initially brilliant, by book five of the original Frank Herbert books I lost interest.

For the uninitiated, the Dune saga was launched in 1965 when American writer Frank Herbert published Dune. The bestselling novel, set far in the future where intelligent computers have been banned, won the inaugural Nebula Award for best novel in 1965 and the 1966 Hugo Award.

When Frank Herbert died in 1986, his son Brian took over the series, co-writing prequels and sequels with Kevin J Anderson. The franchise is active with Brian Herbert and Anderson regularly releasing new books. Still, the original six books by Frank Herbert remain at the core of the Dune experience for most fans. The books in reading order are, Dune (1965), Dune Messiah (1969), Children of Dune (1976), God Emperor of Dune (1981), Heretics of Dune (1984), and Chapterhouse: Dune (1985).

The Dune saga revolves around the spice melange, which is only found on the desert planet of Arrakis. Melange is a drug that lengthens life, heightens awareness, unlocks visions of the future and facilitates interstellar space travel. However, it is guarded by massive sandworms in a barren desert-style landscape.

Frank Herbert’s challenges in getting the original novel published are worthy of a book in themselves. After rejections from more than twenty publishers, Dune was finally picked up by Chilton Books which was known primarily for publishing car repair manuals for home mechanics.

Over the years, I’ve run across some later printings of the book’s first edition, but nothing that would fetch the $15,000 that first editions of Dune are getting these days.

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