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.

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

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.

No Contest for Content

Last week I missed my Sunday visual poetry due to a very fun and special family birthday party, so today I’ll be exploring two homographs: Content and Contest.

A blackout poem using purple sharpie on clear plastic over a random page from Rose Windows by Painton Cowen.
Dwelling Entirely in the Slime of the Earth by Maria L. Berg 2022

Content & Contest

Let’s start with a quick overview of the meanings of our homographs from dictionary.com. Each of these has two pronunciations as well.

Content (kon-tent): Usually contents.

  1. something that is contained: the contents of a box.
  2. the subjects or topics covered in a book or document.
  3. the chapters or other formal divisions of a book or document: a table of contents.

something that is to be expressed through some medium, as speech, writing, or any of various arts: significance or profundity; meaning: substantive information or creative material viewed in contrast to its actual or potential manner of presentation: that which may be perceived in something.

~That last meaning opens up content to be just about anything.

Content (kuhn-tent): satisfied with what one is or has; not wanting more or anything else.

Contest (kon-test) noun: a race, conflict, or other competition between rivals, as for a prize: struggle for victory or superiority: vigorous or bitter conflict in argument; dispute; controversy.

Contest (kuhn-test) verb: to struggle or fight for: to argue against; dispute: to call in question: to contend for in rivalry.

I’m feeling content to create content on this lovely, clear day. I won’t contest the results of my visual poetry experiments, and appreciate the poetic content equally. It’s not a contest.

The same image of the previous poem with a page of text from Man and his symbols by Carl G. Jung next to it.
Now the Experiment by Maria L. Berg 2022

The Prompts

The Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt yesterday was “clear” which got me thinking about the clear sleeve idea I started playing with “Combine.” I’ve been thinking about using the clear plastic to create blackout poetry. I thought it would be fun to print text in the same size and font and then use a blackout design from one poem on another piece of text.

Since I wanted to use small, uniform text, I photocopied sections from a few non-fiction texts I own. I started with Rose Windows by Painton Cowen. Choosing a random page from the introduction, I created the first image in this post.

Then I switched out the text to a page from Man and His Symbols by Carl Jung using the same blackout and got this:

The same purple blackout over a new text from Man and his symbols by Carl G. Jung, creating a new poem.
The Dream of the Unconscious Dreamer by Maria L. Berg 2022

I used this same blackout with two other random pages from non-fiction I own, and moved it up and down the pages. I highly recommend trying this as an inspirational tool. I’m loving it. It’s like creating a cipher to bring your own, new understanding to any text. I also like that it leaves the original text intact as I change it and make my own choices and meanings.

The Poem

Dwelling Entirely in the Slime of the Earth

Transfix us equally
unexpected feeling
elusive awe and wonder

this experience
accentuated by
interweaving tensions

poured light of
infinite shades
in the sun

glowing quietly
jewels and coloured
glass possessing

me dwelling
in some strange
universe which exists

entirely in the slime of the earth

#SoCS: Clearly Relieved

Relief by Maria L. Berg 2022

Relief

I’m excited for a little relief today. I’ve had stomach pain the last couple days, so alleviation, ease, or deliverance through the removal of pain, distress, oppression, etc. is greatly appreciated. A rain-free day with some sun is also something affording a pleasing change, as from monotony: release.

While thinking about visually creating relief, bas-relief came to mind. Bas-Relief is a sculpture technique in which the shapes only rise slightly from the flat surface of the background. In this case relief means the distance of the carving; bas-relief is low relief or a short distance, close to the surface compared to high relief. Coins are a good example of bas-relief images.

Because I finally have some relief from the rain and clouds, I can play with all my new transformer filters on the lake. The images I create using the glints of lights on the lake are like bas-relief in a way as the shapes stay connected to the water’s surface.

Relieved by Maria L. Berg 2022

Stream of Consciousness Saturday

Today’s prompt is “clear.” Here’s an excerpt from this morning’s journal:

A clear blue sky. Finally. A faint half-moon lingers just above the all firs behind the house across the lake. Today’s mission is clear: to plant. I looked at the seeds I have, the herbs my sister gave me for my birthday, the vegetable seeds left from last year: lettuce, spinach, cabbage, radishes, and beans are all going to find homes in the soil today. Here I go.

Clearly, I did not expect pulling that dead plant out of the bed and putting my sister’s little birthday flower in its place would be so difficult. The dirt was hard as concrete and full of rocks. The wayward grass did NOT want to come out. I hope that little flower lives after all that effort. I’m glad it’s supposed to be nice tomorrow too because my nieces are here, and now I clearly have other things to do.

Maria L. Berg 2022

The Poem

Brief Relief

And when I finally find relief
release from pain and mind left clear
blue sky cloudless and half-moon near,

I hope the moment isn’t brief
the sun set free is quick to sear
and blinds all thought to steer or veer

Since time is such a greedy thief
a heart remembers cupid’s spear
a pain that aches renewing fear,

relying on our group belief
of control and measured hours: we’re
among our peers existing here

to smear the days with its mischief
the half-moon leers then disappears
leaving a trail of relief’s tears

And when I finally find relief
I hope the moment isn’t brief
since time is such a greedy thief
relying on our group belief
to smear the days with its mischief.


Release by Maria L. Berg 2022

The Mixed Mercies of Sleep

Mercy by Maria L. Berg 2022

Mercy

I’m finding this study of abstract nouns fascinating. We think we know what these words mean, but the more I study them, the less clear they become. When I dive into their definitions, I always find something surprising. Mercy has a very interesting definition: compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offender, an enemy, or other person in one’s power; compassion, pity, or benevolence.

Compassion is a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering. “Stricken by misfortune” brings in ideas of destiny and luck, and forbearance brings patience into the mix. But it’s the next part of the definition that surprised me: “an offender, an enemy, or other person in one’s power.”

The wording implies that an offender or enemy is a person in one’s power. That any person is in another’s power is a warped idea. Power struggles are one of those facts of life from beginning to end that are an instinctive part of the human struggle that is intertwined with the question of evolution and/or creation; and the basic questions of nature vs. nurture. However, I was even more interested in the idea of the offender, or enemy being that person in one’s power. When I think of an offender, or enemy, I think of bullies: people out for a fight; people looking for those they perceive as weaker than them, to belittle and have power over. How would that person be a person in my power? There’s a lot to think about there.

For today’s images, I thought of my door filter that I created for “Close” and used again for “Adventure,” symbolizing the mercy of giving someone a way out. What could symbolize removing suffering? A mouse with a thorn? Too obtuse, the viewer would have to think of the fable of the mouse and the lion, and interpret, a line in its paw as a thorn removed from a lion. Instead, I tried to open and close my door filter to flowers.

Mercy 2 by Maria L. Berg 2022

dVerse Poets Pub

For today’s quadrille, Sarah challenges us to write 44 words about sleep.

The Poem

Merciful sleep,
thick, heavy fog
with power
over me,
have pity
this one night
keep out intruders
lock the doors
and hold them
fast from the
dreams of
suffering
and sorrow,
haunted
memories of
possibilities
filled with desires
that you steal
away come
morning

Mercy 3 by Maria L. Berg 2022

An Impromptu Combination of Combines

Continuing my Sunday visual poetry, I’m abandoning my magnets for a new overlay idea that goes well with today’s homograph “combine.”

A Curious Combine by Maria L. Berg 2022

Combine

As you have probably noticed, I like to unite prompts for a common purpose; many prompts join forces to create one poem. I join many ideas into a close union, creating a new whole. But how will I simultaneously cut, thresh, and clean those ideas with my mental combine harvester; evaluate my prospective players, and which combine will use my results to create a self-serving monopoly (That last cabal-style definition of combine is unusual to me. I’ll have to look into it)?

Today’s new technique was inspired by yesterday’s search into Vispo, short for visual poetry. A description of a book mentioned transparencies which made me think about how I take a picture of my collages then more pictures after adding words. With transparencies, I could create this additive process over and over.

When I started my Words on the World project, I ordered two different thicknesses of colored Sharpies and a large amount of clear plastic sleeves to cut the filters from. Cutting open the sleeves creates pages for layers of transparencies. I printed out some of last week’s photos and tried it out.

Questionable Combination by Maria L. Berg 2022

The Prompts

For today’s poem, I took a look at my WordPress reader and found:

Sammi Cox’s Weekend Writing Prompt #258 is “Impromptu” and to write a poem (or piece of prose) in exactly 48 words.

Pensitivity101’s Three Things Challenge #957 is TROUBLE, FLIGHT, TICKET.

Fandango’s One-Word Challenge (FOWC) is “heat.”

Curiosity Kills Boredom by Maria L. Berg 2022
Curiosity Leads to Delight by Maria L. Berg 2022

The Poem

At the Poet Combine

This impromptu combination of light and words

I dream will take flight

layered to create heat

the heated air lifting

or get me into trouble

this brave trust

punch my ticket

above the troubles

to the improv

cut, threshed, and cleaned

to a shiny core of deeper meaning

#SoCS: Sticks and Stones and Words

Fragility by Maria L. Berg 2022

Fragility

The quality or state of being easily broken, shattered, damaged, or destroyed: delicate; brittle; frail: vulnerably delicate, as in appearance: lacking in substance or force; flimsy: in a weakened physical state; slight; tenuous: fragility comes to everything and everyone at one point or another. I think of thin, brittle, sheer tissue; skeletal frames; loose connections, crumbling.

For my images, I thought about how fragile the paper filters I created with paper punch shapes were. I pulled out the roll of paper to make a new one, but then thought about the loosely connected fragility of old lace. I have a collection of old lace trim, and tried placing some over the lens shield. I really like the effect.

A Fragile Connection by Maria L. Berg 2022

Stream of Consciousness Saturday

Today’s prompt is to write about a phrase from childhood. Here’s an excerpt from this morning’s journal:

I thought of discipline first: Just wait ’til your dad gets home, and I’m gonna count to ten, but there has to be some fun phrases from childhood. I thought of Step on a crack . . . ; Tag! you’re it; Jinx! you owe me a coke; but none of those really spoke to me. Then I thought of Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me–a phrase used a lot as a kid that proved not to be true–and I’m rubber and you’re glue; your words bounce off me and stick to you–fun to say, but also not true. The sticks and stones saying goes well with today’s abstract noun “fragility”, and both phrases feel like they would work well in a poem.

Maria L. Berg 2022

The Poem

Human Fragility

Sticks and stones–

so abundant / all around on the ground
quick to hand / broken from a dry branch
weaponized / slung, thrown, whipped, battered, broken
with the slightest aim / anger-fueled force

–may break my bones,
but words–

symbols and sounds / agreed upon to have meaning
combined with malicious intent / to produce hurt in the perceived fragile
shouted and chanted to taunt / because repetition erodes caverns from the cracks
because words evoke emotions that / though we’re told they don’t matter

–can [never] hurt me.

A Fragile Ecosystem by Maria L. Berg 2022

Closing Out All the April Challenges

This Sunday is the first of the month, and all the challenges are over, but I thought I would close with a visual poem guided by a homograph.

Coming to a Close by Maria L. Berg 2022

Close

I really enjoy homographs that have different pronunciations. Close can be an adjective or adverb; a noun or verb.
Pronounced klohs
adjective – near in space or time: near in relationship: parts or elements near to one another: compact, dense (a close weave)
adverb – tightly: near or within proximity
Pronounced klohz
noun – the end or conclusion (the close of the day)
verb – to cover an opening; shut: (tr) to bar, obstruct, or fill up: to bring the parts or edges of (a wound, etc) together or (of a wound, etc) to be brought together, unite.

I think of: closing a lid; closing a door; cutting it close; That was close!; close ties; close friends; personal space: too close; closing in on a solution.

Closing by Maria L. Berg 2022

The Prompts

The April Challenges are over, but there are still plenty of prompts to be found. For today’s poem, I took a look at my WordPress reader and found:

Sammi Cox’s Weekend Writing Prompt #257 is “Luminous” and to write a poem (or piece of prose) in exactly 30 words.

Pensitivity101’s Three Things Challenge #950 is CROWD, BUSY, RUSH.

E. M.’s Sunday Ramble Prompt #22 This one’s new to me. The Sunday Ramble is 5 questions about a topic to ramble on about. Sounds a little like Stream of Consciousness Saturday, which I enjoy. Today’s topic is “Random Questions to Trigger Imagination” and the questions are:

  1. If people get a purple heart for bravery, what do the other colors of hearts mean? (Make up your own heart meanings and colors.)
  2. If you were given $5 Million to open a small museum, what kind of museum would you create?
  3. if you could build a themed hotel, what would the theme be and what would it look like?
  4. What would the adult version of an ice cream truck sell, look like, and play for its song?
  5. What animal would be the cutest if it was down-sized to the size of a cat?

Fandango’s One-Word Challenge (FOWC) is “remuneration”–money paid for work or services.

Closing by Maria L. Berg 2022

The Poem

When Staying at the Hotel Magique Réal

At my magical
realism hotel where
crowds rush to try
the strawberry pop-rocks
that make them sprout
wings and fly
the first to reach
the luminous-gold
heart that means
a dream will never die,
hanging in the
ceiling sky, is remunerated
an unimaginable sum
in magic hotel money.
And if that isn’t enough
excitement to keep
every patron busy,
they can visit the Museum
of the Fantastical and Silly
with a tank of whales
the size of cats and
giraffes the size of mice
that swish their tails
to swat at pesky
winged-humans
the size of flies.

#SoCS & Day Thirty: Moving On with Zealousness

Zealousness by Maria L. Berg 2022

Zealousness

Ardent activity, devotion, or diligence. What is ardent? With great conviction or zeal. I have no idea why I follow circular definitions with such intense emotion; passionately and fervently; such zealousness; I guess that’s something more for me to explore.

Here we are at the last day of April: the last day of National Poetry Month; the last day of the A to Z Challenge; the last day of the Poem a Day Challenge; and the last day of my photo challenge. That’s a lot of endings, and yet I feel like it’s only a beginning.

While exploring abstract nouns, I’ve encountered so many more abstract nouns I would like to explore in the mirrorworld, and I now have new filters and techniques for that. This has been a great month of discovery. I hope you’ve also discovered a zealousness for your topic and art and poetry.

For today’s images, I tried something completely new. When I first set up the mirrorworld, I had a moment that felt really magical: When I pointed a flashlight at an object in the mirror, the light showed on the object. It felt like I had found a gateway to new dimensions. Today, I put the camera on a tripod, and light painted with a flashlight to create still and moving bokeh at the same time. It was very challenging and will take a lot more practice, but that’s where zealousness helps.

Ardently Zealous by Maria L. Berg 2022

Stream of Consciousness Saturday

Today’s prompt is “zip, zero, zilch.” All great words. Here’s a sections from my journal this morning:

I thought zilch might have some more interesting meaning
but it’s only–nothing
Zip, on the other hand works
with zealousness–ardently active–
zipping around and
zero has the same shape
as the filter I used, and
circular definitions–though
maybe more oblong definitions
which is what abstract nouns
really have–distorted
by history and perception.
I like zilch: I never use it.

Maria L. Berg 2022

The Prompts

NaPoWriMo

Today’s prompt is to write a cento. A cento is a poem made up of lines from other poems. I like how creating a cento is described in the example as patching the lines into a coherent quilt. I recently bought the new book and CD by Dolly Parton. I also borrowed books from my local library by Adrienne Rich and Robert Bly. For this cento about moving on in zealousness, I’ll be quilting with lines from Run Rose Run by Dolly Parton, Silence in the Snowy Fields by Robert Bly, and The Fact of a Doorframe by Adrienne Rich

Poem A Day

Today’s prompt is to write a moving on poem.

Zeal by Maria L. Berg 2022

The Poem

Moving On With Zealousness