Do Our Ideas About Beauty and Ugliness Change When We Close Our Eyes?

Do You Hear What I Hear? by Maria L. Berg 2022

This morning I did a search for “the ugliness in beauty” and found a couple of really interesting articles:

The Biological Response to Beauty and Ugliness in Art [Excerpt] by Eric Kandel 2012 from Scientific American

Experiences of Ugliness in Nature and Urban environments by Fatima M. Felisberti from International Association of Empirical Aesthetics

The first, by Nobel Prize winner Eric Kandel is an excerpt from his book called The Age of Insight. The study of art through neuroscience excites me so much, I ordered the book and it arrives on Sunday. Hopefully, it will inspire for a long time to come, so you will be hearing a lot about it. Guess we’ll find out on Sunday. For today, I want to share what I found most exciting from the Scientific American article.

“Beauty does not occupy a different area of the brain than ugliness. Both are part of a continuum representing the values the brain attributes to them, and both are encoded by relative changes in activity in the same areas of the brain. This is consistent with the idea that positive and negative emotions lie on a continuum and call on the same neural circuitry.”

This physiological connection between contradictory abstract nouns is really exciting. I wonder if this has only been studied through visual stimuli.

Yesterday I started thinking about how visual definitions of beauty and ugliness are, so today I wanted to focus on the other senses. Though beauty and ugliness are particular to the person perceiving the stimulus, are there consistencies within an individual across the senses? If someone perceives a beautiful smell, do they also find the stimulus visually beautiful? If she finds a texture uncomfortable or painful, does she find the stimulus ugly, and vice versa?

New Poem

For today’s Meeting the Bar: Critique and Craft prompt at dVerse Poets Pub, Laura Bloomsbury invites us to write in couplets. She introduces the prompt speaking of marriage which I think goes well with the physiological marriage of contradictory abstractions as laid out in Eric Kandel’s article above. I haven’t tried the Côte form before, so I thought I would give it a try.

A Movement that Married Right and Left

Become,
a fevered dreambook brimming

Survive,
a wooded area secreting

Discuss,
absolute wilderness loving

include,
visions of annihilation

predict,
variations of our ruination

until,
a poisoned well is flowing

Produce,
divided people by labeling

Attract,
all within orbits spinning

Cover,
the shadowy trails leading away

This poem was a culmination of many ideas I was playing with this week. First, a friend mentioned working on bringing meter into my free verse. Then I watched a ModPo discussion of Lorine Niedecker’s work that talked about how the she didn’t use strict meter, but created meter like bars of music. And I started reading The ABC’s of Reading by Ezra pound in which he writes:

“music begins to atrophy when it departs too far from the dance; that poetry begins to atrophy when it gets too far from music: but this must not be taken as implying that all good music is dance music or all poetry lyric.”

So I looked at some piano music I enjoyed playing and listened to some records. Rêverie by Debussy worked with the Côte form in my mind.

At the beginning of the week, while contemplating how to look at the beauty in ugliness and the ugliness in beauty, I thought about how society and culture define physical beauty and ugliness which made be think of a stack of Playboys that were left in this house before I moved in.

I thought about the joke that men always say, “I only read it for the articles” and thought it would be interesting to use Playboy articles for blackout poetry about ugliness in beauty and beauty in ugliness.

The magazines are from 2002, so they are strange little time machines to twenty years ago. I chose the imperative verbs from words in an article called “The Death of Network News” by Bill O’Reilly and the couplets were inspired by phrases from “Virtual Reich” by Michael Reynolds.

The Ugliness in Beauty and the Beauty in Ugliness

I thought about continuing last week’s study of love and apathy, there is so much to think about and explore, but I decided I’ll let that simmer as I continue through my planned overview of the big five. This week I’m looking at the ugliness in beauty and the beauty in ugliness.

Remember back in January when I was going to put a word on the world every day? Like this: A fish-eye lens view of the lake and sky with the word "WONDER" in orange floating in the clouds.

Probably not, like many of my exciting ideas, it didn’t last long before I moved on to the next exciting idea. However, yesterday, while pondering this week’s contradictory abstractions and how to capture the ugliness in beauty and the beauty in ugliness, I remembered these words, and found Beauty in the box of plastic filters. When I was originally putting words on the world, I used my fisheye lens which won’t work with bokeh. This time, I tried my zoom lens and got the result I wanted.

Five textured light circles with the word Beauty written in cursive in their centers.
Full of Beauty by Maria L. Berg 2022

I can’t believe it took me this long to try this. I looked back at January’s posts and found a comment in my post Unlocking New Doors that seems to say that I tried it, but it didn’t work, but I think I was focused on the fisheye lens and trying to make the fisheye work with the zoom lens, so I could increase its distance. At the time, I wasn’t thinking of the words themselves as shape filters.

I think it took reading The Last Vispo, becoming interested in text and type as visual poetry, and my more recent discovery of the negatives of my filters also making great filters (which I talk about in my post Thinking About August) to finally realize that I can combine my word filters with my shape filters.

So, of course, I had to make one that said “Ugly,” and took some pictures.

Pretty Ugly by Maria L. Berg 2022

New Poem

For today’s Poetics at dVerse Poets Pub, Merril invites us to spice things up by choosing a few spices from her list. I recently picked and dried (baked) my own herbs to refill my Italian Seasoning container. The process was aromatic and the result, delicious.

In Search of a Spicy Muralist

A Mural Of Flavor—
blankness redefined
What palette do you offer?
What shapes to delight
this mind?

Ginger, first to answer
with fire atip her tongue
wisps Arizona Dreaming
in acrid cactus tones
but when pressed for any detail
she feels pricked and leaves for home

Basil was a little green
but did not shy from leafing out
He proposed a Tuscany Sunset
and all that it’s about
but when asked for some specifics
of what that would entail,
he curled up inside himself just like
a little snail

I thought about the mustard seed
and how it grew and grew
how it was tiny but then spread out
and how I could do that too
So I made a mark
then many more
and filled the blank
with every flavor
and some that had never been before
here for everyone to savor

How to Capture the Love in Apathy and the Apathy in Love

Foundations for ME-ECO-CHANGE by Maria L. Berg 2022

Contradictory Abstract Nouns

Since I finished studying Calvino’s Six Memos, I had to decide which contradictory abstract nouns to dive into this week. I printed out an extensive list of abstract nouns and started thinking about grouping them to narrow down the list. I went back to Feurbach’s list of “Legitimate Aspirations” that I talked about in my post “The Beauty of Dissonance.” Since I had four colors of highlighter and a pen, I decided to attempt to group the list into the Big 5: beauty, happiness, wisdom, love, and truth. This was a fun, and challenging exercise. Many of the words fit into most, if not all of the categories.

When I had finished, I realized that it made sense to begin with the big 5, like an overview. The interesting challenge came when I thought about their contradictory abstract nouns. Here are the first five contradictory abstract nouns I’ll be looking at which I started this week:

  • love and apathy
  • beauty and ugliness
  • happiness and grief
  • wisdom and naivete
  • truth and fiction

If you have been following this study of contradictory abstractions, you may remember the writing tip that inspired me: “Find the despair in hope, and the hope in despair,” which you can read about in my post, “Contrasting Abstractions: The next phase in my study.

Applying that idea to this week’s study, I am looking for the apathy in love, and the love in apathy. That’s a difficult one to wrap my head around, but I’ll give it a go.

The other day when I was pulling out some fabric to change the sleeves on the pool noodles, I found a box of treasures I had completely forgotten about. It contained “Vogue Pattern Book” and “Penny’s Fashion and Fabrics” magazines from the early 1960’s. I absolutely love these pages full of information about the newest fabrics and other wonderful home-ec goodies like “Good Grooming For Young Men: the Why and How” and “A new approach to Table Setting.” It’s hard to believe I had forgotten I had them. This made me think of the two contradictory sayings (proverbs):

  • Out of sight, out of mind
  • Absence makes the heart grow fonder

So is the first one the apathy in love, and the second the love in apathy. Was the answer to my query hanging out in a box in my closet? If so, it’s probably hanging out in many boxes in many closets.

Continuing my idea of quilting, or knitting with light, I thought I would print some of my grid-images onto transparencies, and see if I could make some fun blackout poems with my found, re-treasured magazines.

Bold Odor by Maria L. Berg 2022

New Poem

Today is Open Link (#223) at dVerse Poets Pub, so I thought I would use a couple of today’s images to inspire my poem.

Her Head by Maria L. Berg 2022
Their Head

It all began on the ski slope
                        10 years ago
what yarns weave excitement
                  with a skier's move
It's all been shaped
            better fitting, taut, sleek
to spring back
                   tendency to "cling"
this not-too-flat construction
                    flattering, beautiful
a feature being exploited
              influencing the popular
and filling the stretch
                  all a result of texture
to permit cutters
          It's interesting lengthwise
and still be comfortable
                  shaped to resemble 
being made with function
                                a memory
unnecessary lock
                     divided into two
His Head by Maria L. Berg 2022

Looking Forward to October

Readers Imbibing Peril (RIP) I’m starting this reading challenge late again, but earlier than usual. I’m going to start with the short stories in The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories edited by Jeff and Ann VanderMeer and see where it inspires me to go from there.

Tourmaline .’s 2022 Halloween Challenge I found so much inspiration from this photography challenge last year. The calendar is up:

It looks similar to last year, so it will be interesting to see how my study of contradictory abstractions, and new techniques change my approach to these prompts.

#Writober 7 This year I’m going to return to the original idea of #Writober which is to write a flash fiction story each day. Click on the link to see the thirty-one images I have in this year’s collection. I may do some revision and numbering before October first, but they look pretty inspiring. I hope some of you will join me this year.

Calvino’s Sixth: The unwritten memo – consistency

A Consistent Inconsistency by Maria L. Berg

This week completes my study of Italo Calvino’s Six Memos for the Next Millennium. Calvino died before writing this final lecture in his series on values of literature. So I get to extrapolate from the other memos and imagine his ideas of consistency as a literary value.

I found Andrei Codrescu’s attempt to do just that: On Consistency: Italo Calvino’s Sixth Memo.

AND

In her article “Calvino’s Values in Literature” in The Journal of Educational Thought Vol. 24, No. 3A, Marylou Miner presents her belief that the sixth memo would explore harmonious structure explored in a musical sense. She also presents the image of consistency to be a circle or a wave.

Let’s start with the word “consistency.” It has two different meanings that could each be a value of literature:

  • a degree of density, firmness, viscosity, etc: the condition of cohering or holding together and retaining form; solidity or firmness

OR

  • steadfast adherence to the same principles, course, form, etc.: agreement, harmony, or compatibility, especially correspondence or uniformity among the parts of a complex thing

I had only been thinking of consistency in the latter definition before I looked it up. Now, I’m thinking of the viscosity of my images and the density of my images.

Yesterday I tried to explore consistency through staying in one place and only creating shapes with the light on the waves. I wasn’t excited with the results, but the practice with a focus on consistency led to exciting results today.

Using Marylou Miner’s ideas for forms, I pulled out all of my circular, spiral, and wavy filters and found some fun ideas for improvement.

An Inconsistent Consistency by Maria L. Berg 2022

ModPo

This is also the first week of ModPo, a free online introduction to modern and contemporary U.S. poetry offered year round through the Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania and Coursera.org. It is also a yearly ten-week symposium for poetry lovers. If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend it. I attended my first “office hours” session today and really enjoyed the discussion. The first live webcast to kick off this year’s symposium is Sept. 7 (tomorrow at noon) at 3PM Philadelphia time.

New Poem

For today’s Poetics prompt at dVerse Poets Pub, Mish challenges us to play with some unusual words.

In my aliferous dormiveglia

empyrean orenda arrives as
reflections upon late summer leaves, as
gleams in glittering eyes, as
glints upon the waves, pushing me
to querencia—a timeless space, an
ephemeral place—where
I am sustained by isolophilia.

My logolepsy borders on the obscene
in this foggy pause
as I wake from the dream.