Monthly Archives: August 2015

A Fine Line

As some of you know, I like to collect images of books in art. See enough of these and patterns start to emerge. For a lazy August, I thought I’d put together some of the images I’ve found of animals and books.

I made some rules for myself. The animals had to be interacting with the books. In other words, although I have dozens and dozens of images of readers with cats, for example, those didn’t count.

Most of the artists seem to be exploring the idea of books a source of intelligence and enlightenment. I smile at the gears turning above this pigeon’s head (although maybe it’s simply an illustration for a story about a pigeon who lives in a clock tower.)

Illustration by Kusumi

Illustration by Kusumi

Owls and books are a popular connection for obvious reasons.

Illustration by Redmer Hoekstra

Illustration by Redmer Hoekstra

Illustration by Shahab Shamshirsaz

Illustration by Shahab Shamshirsaz

Illustration by Marc Potts

Illustration by Marc Potts

A few artists seem interested in other types of intelligence. Although I can’t tell if the illustrator Zhao Na is making fun of human pretensions, or if he’s remarking on how far a leap it is between climbing books and reading them.

Illustration by Zhao Na

Illustration by Zhao Na

Toni Demuro seems to be suggesting that there is a fine line here.

Illustration by Toni Demuro

Illustration by Toni Demuro

Mostly artists just seem to enjoy giving human-like reactions to books to animal surrogates.

Illustration by Blanca Gomez

Illustration by Blanca Gomez

Illustration by Marc Summers

Illustration by Marc Summers

Illustration by Anita Jeram

Illustration by Anita Jeram

But my favorite image of animals and books is by illustrator Erin Stead, Caldecott-winning illustrator of A Sick Day for Amos McGee.

Illustration by Erin Stead

Illustration by Erin Stead

Made into a poster for Scholastic in 2013, there seem to be several layers here. Of course there’s the delightful difference in size and the odd juxtaposition of books and whales, kids and the Arctic.

But I also see a nod to what lies beneath for whales, icebergs  and the human mind. And the haunting suggestion/reminder that marine mammals just may be our closest intellectual equals on the planet but in a realm so different from us, we are failing to recognize it. If only we could read their books!

 

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The Children’s Poems of Gabriela Mistral

Mistral 1

Gabriela Mistral 1889-1957

The other day I started going through my poetry books looking for The Selected Poems of Gabriela Mistral, translated by Mistral’s longtime friend, Doris Dana.  I couldn’t find it – not unusual in my house, where my organizational skills often fail me. I’m like Sisyphus rolling that rock up the mountain-side. Neither he nor I ever make it to the top.

I needed that book for an essay I’m writing for Numero Cinq magazine, so I ran over to the University of Washington graduate library to see if they had it. Luckily, I found an even better translation of Mistral’s work by the wonderful writer Ursula LeGuin, whose book about writing (Steering the Craft) I’ve recommended to so many of my students. LeGuin, of course is the author of the wonderful Earthsea books for children – I had no idea she also translated work.  As it turns out, she translates beautifully, capturing all the rhythms and music of the original Spanish. The combination of Mistral’s work and LeGuin’s translations gives me everything I look for in poetry – beautiful sound, a certain strangeness to the images, an obvious passion and quiet intelligence.

Mistral_s

Definitely check out Selected Poems of Gabriela Mistral, translated by LeGuin – it contains many of the children’s poems I mentioned (called lullabies, Tell-a-World poems, “Trickeries,” and “round dances”) as well as a good selection of Mistral’s most famous poems for adults, and an introduction that explains LeGuin’s approach to translating from the Spanish.

LA RATA

Una rata corrió a un venado
y los venados al jaguar,
y los jaguares a los búfalos,
y los búfalos a la mar…

Pillen, pillen a los que se van!
Pillen a la rata, pillen al venado,
pillen a los búfalos y a la mar!

 Miren que la rata de la delantera

se lleva en las patas lana de bordar,
y con la lana bordo mi vestido
y con el vestido me voy a casar.

Suban y pasen la llanada,
corran sin aliento, sigan sin parar,
vuelan por la novia, y por el cortejo,
y por la carroza y el velo nupcial.

THE RAT

A rat ran after a deer,
deer ran after a jaguar,
jaguars chased buffalo,
and the buffalo chased the sea…

Catch the ones who chase and flee!
Catch the rat, catch the deer,
catch the buffalo and the sea!

Look, look at the rat in front,
in its paws is a woolen thread,
with that thread I sew my gown,
in that gown I will be wed.

Climb up and run, breathless run,
ceaseless chase across the plain
after the carriage, the flying veil,
after the bride and the bridal train!

Mistral 11

Gabriela Mistral – First Communion

***

DAME LA MANO

                          A Tasso de Silveira

Dame la mano y danzaremos;
dame la mano y me amarás.
Como una sola flor seremos,
como una flor, y nada más.

El mismo verso cantaremos,
al mismo paso bailarás.
Como una espiga ondularemos,
como una espiga, y nada mas.

Te llamas Rosa y yo Esperanza;
pero tu nombre olvidarás,
porque seremos una danza
en la colina, y nada mas.

 

GIVE ME YOUR HAND

For Tasso de Silveira

Give me your hand and give me your love,
give me your hand and dance with me.
A single flower, and nothing more,
a single flower is all we’ll be.

Keeping time in the dance together,
singing the tune together with me,
grass in the wind, and nothing more,
grass in the wind is all we’ll be.

I’m called Hope and you’re called Rose;
but losing our names we’ll both go free,
a dance on the hills, and nothing more,
a dance on the hills is all we’ll be.

If you don’t know anything about Gabriela Mistral, here are the basics: She was born in a small farming village in Chile in 1889, and she won the Chilean National Poetry Prize with her first book when she was just 25. Her second book – Ternura [Tenderness]  – contains the wonderful poems for children. Mistral left Chile after the publication of Ternura and never returned to live there, though she represented Chile as a consul in many countries of the world. She was the first South American to win the Nobel Prize (in 1945), and she remains the only South American woman to have done so. She was an educator, a social activist, a diplomat and a poet. She died in New York in 1957.  Hundred s of thousands of people turned out for her funeral in Chile, and the Chilean government declared three days of mourning in her honor. You can read a wonderful essay about her at The Poetry Foundation website.

Mistral 3

TWINKLE, TWINKLE

This is a story about a search for the right word, and another search, too.

At our last critique meeting, I read my latest version of LITTLE WOLF’S FIRST HOWLING. Bonny suggested I find a new word for “twinkle” in the sentence, “They watched as the stars twinkled on and a full moon peeked over the mountain.”

I have consulted friends and Google, too, of course: blinked, winked, flickered, appeared. What is the word for that moment when a star becomes visible? Maybe blossomed? (No, a friend pointed out, that mixes the plant world and the moon’s anthropomorphic action of peeking.)

I was thinking of this “twinkled” challenge Wednesday night. All summer I have looked forward to the Perseid Meteor Showers, billed as this year’s biggest star event. Wednesday night, August 12, was supposed to be the best for viewing. The new moon would set early and the skies would be very dark. We could expect 80 to 100 shooting stars per hour. Talk about twinkling.

I imagined John and me watching this all from a mountain meadow, far away from the Seattle’s city lights. We’d be ensconced in our butterfly chairs that fold out into chaise lounges. Refreshing drinks would rest in the special cup holders that are built into the chairs’ arms. Our sweet spaniel, Izzi, would rest at our feet. It might be romantic.

So Wednesday afternoon we headed for the Cascades. Just as we cleared the tangle of city traffic, we realized we’d forgotten the special chairs. And the cooler.

At least we remembered the dog.

More challenges were, literally, on the horizon. Low clouds hung along the hills and a haze of smoke blew in from forest fires. After all this effort, would we be able to see stars at all?

• • • • •

Smoky winds sliced through the sliding doors as we stepped out on the balcony of our room in Suncadia Lodge. A smoky haze persisted after sundown but we headed out to find a dark spot away from the Lodge. We chose a driveway apron to a vacant lot and lay down on hard new asphalt to stargaze. Right away, I realized I could see the stars better without my new glasses, so I stuck them in my coat pocket. Several meteors streaked across the sky, but I was sure we’d see even more if we could find a darker spot. I talked John into walking another half mile down the barely lit road and following a string of bistro lights through the forest to the parking lot.

The skies cleared a little as we drove around looking for a dark cul de sac in the unbuilt part of the resort. We found the perfect spot, the kind of place young lovers seek on a warm summer night. Only it was on Rocking Chair Lane. We positioned the car so it blocked the one small streetlight and spread the dog’s old sleeping bag on the still-warm pavement. I folded my coat into a pillow and we lay down with Izzi between us to look at the now fully twinkling skies.

perseid

Despite the sky not being completely black, we counted 24 shooting stars over the next hour and a half. Then a local drove by to see what we were doing and we felt self-conscious lying out there in the deserted cul-de-sac on the dog’s old sleeping bag. We packed up. That’s when I realized my new glasses were missing.

Backtrack, Backtrack. Backtrack. Every place we’d been. We combed the dark roads and trails with our cell phone flashlights. No luck. We were bummed as we went to bed, the wind still whistling through the open sliding door. Then at 3 am an alarm on the room’s refrigerator started beeping. Which was annoying until we looked outside. All was calm. The night was perfectly black, the sky sugared with so many stars that it was hard to pick out the constellations. Those stars dazzled and danced. They sparkled and salsa-ed. They even twinkled.

The next morning before I got up, John went out with Izzi. He walked back to that first driveway apron and met a man working on the gate there.

“Did you happen to see some glasses?”

“As a matter of fact, I have them right here in my truck,” he said. “Lucky I didn’t drive over ‘em.”

Maybe now that I have my new glasses back I will see stars in a new way and find that right word. Or maybe twinkled is enough.

FullSizeRender

John and Izzi and the hazy Cascades.

Splash

It’s been hot in Seattle this summer. Luckily we have lots of places to swim. You can head for  a river…

Chris Raschka - Fishing in the Air

Chris Raschka – Fishing in the Air

a pond…

Soviet Lithuanian illustration seen on the blog 50 Watts

Soviet Lithuanian illustration seen on the blog 50 Watts

a lake…

Beatrice Alemagna

Beatrice Alemagna

or the ocean…

Hokusai

Hokusai

Ivan Bilibin

Ivan Bilibin

Jump in!

Arthur Rackham

Arthur Rackham

Undine by Arthur Rackham

Undine by Arthur Rackham

Who knows what you will find?

Linley Sambourne illustration for The Water Babies, 1888

Linley Sambourne illustration for The Water Babies, 1888

Claire Nivola, Life in the Ocean

Claire Nivola, Life in the Ocean

kimi

Kimi Ga Yo 1925

Edgar and Ingri Parin D'Aulaire - Ola

Edgar and Ingri Parin D’Aulaire – Ola

Edgar and Ingri Parin D'Aulaire - Ola

Edgar and Ingri Parin D’Aulaire – Ola

JiHyeon Lee - Pool

JiHyeon Lee – Pool

Sylvia Earle says that going 3000 feet down is like diving into a galaxy.

Clare Nivola biography of Sylvia Earle - Life in the Ocean

Clare Nivola biography of Sylvia Earle – Life in the Ocean

Or if you want to stay indoors you could read a book.

The Water Babies illustrated by Sambourne, 1888

The Water Babies illustrated by Sambourne, 1888

Always remember the wise words of Derek Zoolander – “Moisture is the essence of wetness, and wetness is the essence of beauty.” Splash!