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