Calvino’s 3rd Memo: Exactitude – Crystal & Flame

Party of Crystal by Maria L. Berg 2022

I’m continuing to find inspiration in Six Memos for the Next Millennium by Italo Calvino. This week I’m looking at Exactitude and Vagueness as contradictory abstractions.

Let’s start with some definitions:

exactitude: precision, accuracy, meticulousness

vagueness: unspecific, imprecise; obscure, hazy, shadowy

Calvino uses the symbols of crystal and flame, so I decided to start there.

“The crystal, with its precise faceting and its ability to refract light, is the model of perfection that I have always cherished as an emblem, and this predilection has become even more meaningful since we have learned that certain properties of the birth and growth of crystals resembles those of the most rudimentary biological creatures, forming a kind of bridge between the mineral world and living matter. . . . The contrasting images of flame and crystal are used to make visible the alternatives offered to biology, and from this pass on to theories of language and the ability to learn. . . . Crystal and flame: two forms of perfect beauty that we cannot tear our eyes away from, two modes of growth in time, of expenditure of the matter surrounding them, two moral symbols, two absolutes, two categories for classifying facts and ideas, styles and feelings.” ~Italo Calvino

For today’s images, I sewed a new pool noodle sleeve to change my color palette, since I wasn’t enjoying the predominantly white one. The new sleeve is shades of red. I cut two new “transformer” filters (my designs that have folded sections so can make more than one shape): One to represent flame and one to represent crystal.

Curious Fish by Maria L. Berg 2022

While I was making my images a curious visitor swam into my studio.

Party of Flame by Maria L. Berg 2022

New Poem

As is often the case, the prompt at dVerse Poets Pub fits with this week’s study. Sarah’s Poetics prompt is to pick one of the four elements (earth, fire, water, or air) as the subject of a poem.

Playing With Fire

Blue and orange tongues
licking the night
crackle, pop, and hiss
desire for oxygen,
an all-consuming passion,
a chaotic flickering
of internal agitation
released as light and heat.

A relentless, voracious consumer
leaping indiscriminately
from fuel source to fuel source,
dancing destruction’s arabesque.

Our eyes, seared
from the beauty,
travel among
crystalline structures
of glowing coals
like cities at sunset
that fool us into thinking
a creature so wild
could be tamed.

Quickly Capturing Lingering Light

Lingering in Quickness by Maria L. Berg 2022

It’s amazing how energizing one cool, cloudy day was. Today, was back to hot and sweaty, but it didn’t feel as oppressive. I finally set up my new mobile mirrorworld to my satisfaction, and played with an interesting purple and green light palette.

And They Dance by Maria L. Berg 2022

I find it amusing that these random globs of dried hot glue in different shapes look like people dancing to me.

Today was the first time I tried using the net-lights with the reflection balls in the fabric-covered pool noodles. I like how nature adds to the abstractions. I’m seeing lots of potential.

Bursting by Maria L. Berg 2022

New Poem

The poetry form prompt at dVerse Poets Pub is to write an Octelle. The focus of the form is to use personification and symbolism, so that sounded fun.

Quickly Capturing Lingering Light

When light escapes and comes to play
I know I’ll have a busy day
Free of night and free of fears
as glaring white she appears
but in our game I calm her
and coax each color forward
when light escapes and comes to play
I know I’ll have a busy day

The Values of Literature

A bokeh shape image of feathers in house shapes.
Gathered Feathers by Maria L. Berg 2022

Last week I stumbled upon Italo Calvino’s Six Memos for the Next Millennium which are a series of planned lectures about literary values he was working on when he died. He died before he finished writing the sixth. His six values of literature are: Lightness, Quickness, Exactitude, Visibility, Multiplicity, and Consistency.

In each of his lectures he discusses his ideas of the stated value and its opposite which inspired me to use these values as my contradictory abstractions for August and into September.

First, I considered the word value, and its many meanings. When I looked at value at the beginning of this study of abstract nouns in April, I was thinking about value in terms of exchange. Calvino appears to be using the seventh definition for value in my Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary which is “something (as a principal or quality) intrinsically valuable or desirable.

Three pool noodles covered in patterned spandex and tied together in a triangle, creating a cage for six reflection balls floating on a lake.
My Floating Summer Studio by Maria L. Berg 2022

Artistically, what I was desiring was a changeable color palette for my floating photography studio. So I chose some garish spandex I had collected from bargain tables over the years, and sewed colorful skins for my pool noodles. The results were surprisingly subtle, yet interesting.

Colorful Cogs by Maria L. Berg 2022

Calvino’s first value, “Lightness,” he sees as the opposite of “Weight” as in the weight of the world, or gravity of thought. When he discusses lightness as a quality of literature, he describes it as “the sudden agile leap of the poet-philosopher.”

Calvino says that lightness in writing is precision and determination, not vagueness and the haphazard. Then he quotes Paul Valery who said: “Il faut etre leger comme l’oiseau, et non comme la plume” (One should be light like a bird, and not like a feather).

This idea really appealed to me. Where I live, I am constantly surrounded by birds, from tiny hummingbirds and dark-eyed juncos to great blue herons, osprey and bald eagles. The mystery and grace, flight’s sheer defiance of gravity is exciting to watch.

I had already collected some small feathers the neighbor’s cats so kindly left on my porch. so I tried using them as filters.

Feathers on the Mat by Maria L. Berg 2022
A Bird in the Dry Grass by Maria L. Berg 2022

This week I am looking at Calvino’s second value Quickness which he sees as the opposite of Lingering and Digression. Yesterday, to begin my study, I tried a technique I found in Abstract Explorations in Acrylic Painting by Jo Toye. Jo used hot glue to create stencils to create resist patterns in her paintings. Now that I am look at my filters as both positive and negative space, I saw the potential for this technique with my photography. Here’s my first attempt:

Sudden Agile Leaping by Maria L. Berg 2022

What’s fun is it’s similar to something I tried a long time ago with wire:

Wire Lines by Maria L. Berg 2019

Guess it wasn’t that long ago, but it sure seems like a very long time ago. I think the changes in the thickness of line from the glue are much more dynamic.

The reason I chose to try the glue technique this week is because once the glue gun is hot and I’ve cut the basic filter shapes, I can create many different designs with quickness, then linger in all their image possibilities.

New Poem

Today’s Poetics prompt from Merril at dVerse Poets Pub is to write a poem about a restaurant. The example poem by Margaret Atwood “They eat out,” was an odd surprise, opening the prompt to all sorts of possibilities.

Restaurants bring up so many memories fraught with conflicting emotions. I think Lightness and Weight, and Quickness and Lingering can all find their way into a restaurant.

Gathered at Another Steak House

Restless in this restaurant, her eyes rest
on the fake, flickering candles and cloth
carnations, on the bleached tablecloth and
folded cloth napkin swans swimming
in place on gold waves rippling
at the edges of shiny plates waiting
for waiters to replace them with
appetizers, strengthening hunger’s desire.

Tense utensils clang in past and future tense
Tumblers topple, ice tumbling, sliding across
tabletops, and topics are quickly tabled as
secrets spilled splatter saucy and juicy
stains that will never completely come out
and after desserts are devoured
no one lingers to feel sated.

Thinking About August

Last week, as I continued my study of contradictory abstractions, I looked at freedom in constraint and constraint in freedom. Studying opposites inspired me to think about photo negatives and negative space, so I tried putting the sections I cut out to create my filters into their own filters, creating negatives of my filters in a way. The result was exciting.

Man in a Box by Maria L. Berg 2022

My further study of freedom and constraint led me to attempt using flowers considered weeds over a piece of clear plastic, so I wouldn’t get pollen or petals in my lens. Again, to happy results.

Free to be Appreciated by Maria L. Berg 2022

Today’s Poem

The Poetic’s prompt at dVerse Poets Pub was to write a poem about August. I didn’t get the poem done on Tuesday, but it got me thinking. Today, is the Open Link, so I gave it a go.

Here in the Puget Sound we just endured an extensive period of excessive heat (for here), so I’m actually looking forward to a cooler August. Even today, the coolest day in a while, I have the fan going because it’s humid.

One of the things I love about ExperienceWriting is it acts as a record of my work over the years. I looked back at what I was posting in August the last couple years expecting one or two posts, but it appears August is a time of discovery for me. Last year I was working on my first bokeh and poetry video “Pathways.” That feels so long ago. The year before that, I was writing and revising a short story as part of Writers in Motion. If I didn’t have this record of it, I wouldn’t believe it. So what is August deep in my bones? Work, exploration, discovery, and sweat.

Another August

The fan whirs in the window
chopping boat motors
and children screaming
into beads of sweat

suntan lotion coconuts
and pineapples fight
UV rays breaking through
ozone and the odor of scales

working outside in the shade
every break a dive in the lake
and yet somehow I burn and yearn
to create which makes more heat

sweat drips on the page
under my breasts and down
and allergic to myself
I recognize the coming boils

and pain like an anniversary
of a coming storm swirling
a time to reevaluate
wind and water and fire

Calm in Agitation and Agitation in Calm

Heron Tree published my poem “Repent” as part of a series of poems created from materials published before 1927. Their call for submissions inspired me to explore a book of fairy tales I’ve had for a long time that was published in 1907. I talked about it in my post A Fun Found Poetry Project when I first started working on it back in January. Please check it out, and enjoy the great work they do at Heron Tree.

Calming Agitation by Maria L. Berg 2022

Calm & Agitation

This new way of studying abstractions really appeals to me. The idea of spending a week with contrasting abstractions and immersing myself in them is exciting and fun.

I finally figured out how to use the reflection balls in the lake. I made them a floating barrier by threading rope through some pool noodles. The color added by the pool noodles was I nice surprise. I like the effect so much, I ordered four more reflection balls of the same size. They arrive tomorrow. This weekend is going to be fun. Now I’m thinking of pool noodles as a color palette.

dVerse Poets Pub

Today was Open Mic Live (online) at dVerse. I always want to attend, but never make it. It starts at noon here in the PNW, and today it was 1pm before I finished making my filters and taking my photos. But I can still join in by posting a poem, so here’s today’s exploration of calm & agitation:

He says calm is the wind

I ask him what he thinks of
when I say calm
he waves his arm
majestically and says this

I turn from him, taking
in the entire day:
the sun, the lake, the sky
the warmth, the waves, the houses and trees
the moment we are sharing
as he pauses in his constant labors

Do you mean the lake?
Or the sun? Or? I prod
always wanting more
Actually, wind, he says,
Calm is the wind

I think of the gentle breeze
that guides a floating lounger
where I don’t want to go
I think of the wind that steals
my papers and pushes them
into bushes I think of the angry
wind that lifted the glass table
and threw it through the sliding door
I always think of the hurricane
that stole everything

I ask him what he thinks of when
I say agitation
He laughs, as if I should know?
Or he doesn’t want to say?
A disagreement of some kind
he answers, turning

That’s funny, I say, because
I always think of wind as agitation
because it makes things move
he moves on, and we both
continue our labors

Contrasting Abstractions: The next phase in my study

The Writer’s Games have ended! I sent in my final story yesterday. Guests have left. The family is busy. I might get a full day to myself. And the sun is out. 😎

Hope and Despair

Last week, inspired by some abstract art books:

and a writing tip from the Shaelin Writes video below, I started a new phase in my study of abstract nouns. Each week I’ll choose two opposing abstract nouns and attempt to create an image representing both. To inspire my work, I’m expanding my research from studying the words, history, and philosophy, to collecting music, paintings, photographs, poems, stories, scientific studies, and anything else I can find that represents the two abstractions, immersing myself for the week.

Using the statement, “Find the despair in hope, and the hope in despair,” I created several filters and tried different techniques. Here is one of the images:

Hope & Despair by Maria L. Berg 2022

Calm & Agitation

This week, expanding on the idea, I am exploring “Find the agitation in calm, and the calm in agitation.” Let’s start with some definitions:
agitate: 1. a. to give motion to b. to move with an irregular, rapid, or violent action 2. to excite and often trouble the mind or feelings of: Disturb 3. to discuss excitedly and earnestly
calm: 1. a period or condition of freedom from storms, high winds, or rough activity of water 2. a state of tranquility: free from agitation, excitement, or disturbance

So what could possibly be the agitation in calm? It depends on the person and situation. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like to lie still for long, so my own thoughts are often the agitation. On the beach, the agitation could be the sand fleas; at the lake, the music from the boats going by, or mowers and chainsaws. The waves themselves are the definition of agitation, though the sound of them hitting the shore may be the calm in agitation.

For today’s images, I noticed light glinting off spiderwebs, and experimented with creating my shapes from that light. It worked! And with the very cool effect of making smaller shapes than the light on the leaves behind the webs.

Agitation in the Calm by Maria L. Berg 2022

dVerse Poets Pub

For today’s Poetics prompt, Lisa challenges us to consider fractals in relation to poetry in subject or form.

Rapid Irregular Movement

agitation nags                               it's tickling                               through the calm
little bits build                      to agitate with malice                      while lying calmly
in the sun                               even after the years                            have passed to
a calming age                             all is distraction                dizzying feelings of ions
commingling                                 I see them                              behind closed lids
and the gate creeks           commensurate to the spots                             gyrating

THE ANSWER

Final Words by Maria L. Berg 2022

The Prompt

For yesterday’s poetics prompt at the dVerse Poets Pub, Laura challenged us to think about last words and choose some famous last words to inspire our poem.

The Poem

The Answer

“Go on, get out! Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough.”
~ Karl Marx

How cruel and yet delicious
all those smiling, resting faces
all those relaxed, unworried death masks
forever frozen as last seen
in loving minds

How cruel and yet delicious
to know the time of one’s passing
to gather everyone ever loved together
to impart an answer
a lifetime sought

How cruel and yet delicious
the final not knowing but feeling certain
it will be there in time
feeling tongue-tipped and out-reached
seat-edged in life-searched readiness

How cruel and yet delicious
hearing gulps of held back sobs
tasting one’s own saliva, one’s juices
for a final time, becoming thick
with enzymes preparing for decay
smelling each familiar perfume
not disguising each unique sweat
visually sucking and sucking every
detail as if it will be the forever
memory: that cute sneeze,
that child’s whine,
that cuticle bitten,
that hair swept from that eye,
one’s own slowing, rattling breath and

then it’s there
it comes
the answer
THE ANSWER
electric, eye-bulging epiphany of all epiphanies
the room leans in edged, sharp
and everyone hears AH-HA!
before eyes dim, chest stills
and nothing more.

Sci-Fi and Fantasy Stories Anthology Review: L. Ron Hubbard presents Writers of the Future volume 38

CoverIn anticipation of the Writer’s Games kicking off this weekend, here are my thoughts on a book of short stories I recently enjoyed.

Why I picked it up:
I received a free e-book version of L. Ron Hubbard presents Writers of the Future volume 38 (amazon associate link) from the publisher through the Library Thing early reviewers program.

My Expectations:

Because this is a collection of stories by contest winners, and says it is “the best new SF & Fantasy of the year” right on the cover, I had high expectations: I expected some really great science fiction and fantasy stories.

What I liked:
There is so much to like about this book! It opens with a gallery of color illustrations by the winners of the illustration contest, one for each story, that piqued my interest and created anticipation. There is a nice range of stories exploring times from Earth’s history to planets in the far future with some time travel in there as well. I noticed a recurring theme of the power of knowledge and the dangers of memory manipulation which I find very interesting. Before each story and essay there is an extensive, informative bio for the author and illustrator which helps orient the reader for each new experience.

I especially enjoyed “The Single Most Important Piece of Advice” by Frank Herbert followed by one of his stories and then an essay by his son about teamwork and writing with others as he continues to create in his father’s world of Dune. Those three pieces in a row felt like a special moment.

The story by the editor David Farland that accompanies the cover illustration is also very special as it is the last story he wrote. He died only days after he finished editing this book.

What I didn’t like:

There were a couple of stories I didn’t like, and sadly, one of them was chosen as the opening story. This made it difficult for me to get into the book. But luckily, those intriguing, beautiful illustrations at the beginning and the craft essays throughout, pulled me further into the book. My personal preference would have been more science fiction and less fantasy.

Rating: ♦♦♦♦ 4 out of 5

Overall, I enjoyed the majority of the stories, the illustrations are beautiful, and I really liked the inclusion of craft essays and stories by Frank Herbert and other prominent authors and illustrators.

Happy Reading and Writing!

Motivation to Wade into Cold Water

Motivation 2 by Maria L. Berg 2022

Motivation

Today I’m re-visiting motivation. When I explored motivation in April, I talked about it as a force toward pleasure and away from pain. Motivation came up again when I explored need and talked about Maslow’s pyramid. Today I looked up some definitions and found that motivation is a force that imparts motion as if from a store. In other words, I’ve got a whole bunch of motion stored up somewhere and the force “motivation” will dole it out to me. But what is this force, and how do I trigger it at will? I think my definition still needs work.

The sun was out this morning, so I took my net-lights outside for the first time. I am definitely motivated by the surprise of trying something new.

Imparting Motion by Maria L. Berg 2022

dVerse Poets Pub

For today’s poetics prompt, Merril invites us to think about summer with an ekphrastic prompt. I wrote to the image by Edward Henry Potthast, Summer Day, Brighton Beach which shows children wading into the ocean. I waded a bit into the lake this morning, wasn’t quite motivated to swim.

The Poem

Wading In

Hear them shrieking in the distance
oh, they must be having fun
the waves crashing against them splashing
oh, I can’t wait now let’s run

But it’s freezing, my feet are tingling
oh, this bite has just begun
up it’s reaching, and soon numbing
then forgotten in summer sun.

The Beauty of Dissonance

Beauty by Maria L. Berg 2022

Beauty

Today is the first time in this exciting study of abstract nouns that I’m revisiting a word to study it more deeply. When I first approached beauty on the second day of the A to Z Challenge in April, I found a thorough definition on dictionary.com. My Merriam Webster’s defines it only slightly differently (the quality or aggregate of qualities . . . gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit: Loveliness), so I still have the same questions about inherent beauty and perceived beauty. This morning I thought, if beauty is defined by culture and/or group-think of an era or time-period does it really exist at all?

To start to explore these questions, I turned to philosophy. In the book Does the Center Hold? by Donald Palmer I found an interesting passage about Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-1872)’s thoughts on beauty. He believed that a human being is fundamentally good and from the beginning of the species every human community has aspired, consciously or unconsciously, to achieving: love, truth, beauty, happiness, wisdom, purity, and strength. The book says “among others,” but sticks to that list. Guess which abstractions I’ll be focusing on further 😃. Next month?

This got me thinking about the famous ending from “Ode on a Grecian Urn” by John Keats :

 “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all

                Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

Does that narrow down Feurbach’s list–and my study–to only two abstract nouns? Or only one? And how would I choose? I would think that would include wisdom. If truth and beauty are indeed the same, if I focus all of my images on beauty, will I be making images of truth? Will I eventually look at my beautiful image and see truth equally in the image?

Looking at beauty physically, many people believe symmetry is beautiful, others like asymmetry. Some look at a mole on a face and see a blemish, others see a beauty mark. Looking at beauty mathematically, the artists of the Renaissance believed in the golden ratio. I think of this when I include the curve from my metal mirror in my photos like I did for Value.

Looking back at the images I created for beauty before, I can see what I was going for: the shapes, a geometric representation of flowers and leaves, shows the conflict of the wild beauty of nature and the human desire to tame it. I also see this dichotomy of beauty in the glowing primary colors: yellow (sun and flowers), red (flowers, some berries), blue (water and sky). And the green–a combination and a contrast–a union of blue and yellow contrasting with red, but also representing the leaves that surround the red flowers or berries, the grass that meets the water, the floor to the ceiling of sky.

When I look at those images, I see all of that, but I also don’t see beauty. I think the images may try to do too much. They feel busy. Though the colors and shapes give pleasure to my senses, the images don’t exalt.

How do I want to explore beauty today? This time around I want to look for beauty in simplicity. I think there’s graceful movement in beauty, or beauty in graceful movement.

Looking Forward, Looking Back by Maria L. Berg 2022

dVerse Poets Pub

For today’s Meeting the Bar: Critique and Craft prompt, Björn invites us to explore dissonance in our poetry. I love dissonance, especially the discordant combinations I create in my songs. I guess I haven’t really thought about the poetic tools of linguistic dissonance before. Great prompt!

The Poem

An Unexpected Irritation that Lingers

There is a man in the bushes to my left
He crunches and snaps, rustles and breaks
His every movement is destruction–
I believe he thinks–in the name of clearing,
taming nature to his will

I cannot see him through the thick
rhododendron he stomps and the
Japanese camellia he mangles caught
under the cherry-plum, but I see
the hedge move with a crack and a snap
and I know he has crossed

under the cherry-plum into the
leaf-shadows of this rhododendron
shuffling and crackling the crisp, dry
leaves as irritating and attention hoarding
as a jay or a spotted towhee, but his caw
is much worse than the jay’s screech.

When he finally speaks
the only thing he says is
cut your trees, cut your trees
cut your trees!