Friday News: Scrap poetry, tablets & readers, soundtracks, and love letters
EMILY DICKINSON’S SINGULAR SCRAP POETRY – A lovely meditation on Emily Dickinson’s habit of writing poems and pieces of poems on all sorts of paper items, including chocolate wrappers (genius). There is still a good deal of curiosity and speculation around Dickinson, and thinking about the relationship between the writing and the medium, from one poet (Dan Chiasson) to another, may not solve any mysteries, but it adds another dimension to the work.
The envelope poems suggest the current exhilarating paradox of Dickinson’s work: her unique actions of mind are bound in unusually dramatic ways to slips of paper a hundred and fifty years old or more, rarities whose near-perfect reproductions are nevertheless now widely and freely available online. It sometimes feels as though Dickinson’s sojourn in print, so fraught from its inception, was a temporary measure, now nearing its end as it’s replaced by a better technology. To write this paragraph, I looked hard at an envelope: what a mercurial object it is, more like origami than like a sheet of paper. If you use the back of a closed envelope, as Dickinson did in “A 496/497,” you get three squat triangles, like faces of a flattened jewel. She wrote within, and occasionally across, the folds and creases of this complex surface. To read the lines, you have to turn the image counterclockwise. The vertical column of the first panel then becomes a broad horizon, which, when the poet runs out of space, picks up on the third blank panel. The pleasures and the challenges of this kind of reading are impossible to ignore; next to a clear facsimile of these manuscripts, a print version seems, at best, a kind of crude trot. “Letters are sounds we see,” the poet Susan Howe, a major force in Dickinson studies, wrote. Handwritten letters express a far greater variety of sounds than printed ones. And, if the letters are sounds, so, too, are the spaces between the letters, the margins and gaps, the shape and other material aspects of the paper she chose. – The New Yorker
Tablets and e-book readers you’ll want on your holiday wish list – With the holidays in view (yikes!), you may be looking for a new reading device, or at least looking to gift one, and CNET has collected their reviews of 25 tablets and readers for your perusal. And it’s not just Amazon and Apple. – CNET
In Search of the Ultimate Teen Movie Soundtrack – I love this post, not because it’s such a genius essay, but because I am one of those people who thinks the soundtrack is one of the most important elements in a movie. I remember scenes in American Hustle, for example, based on the songs playing. Ditto for The Big Chill, Pulp Fiction, and Blow. And soundtracks in movies about and for teens? Oh, the angst, the drama, the passion! Like John Cusack playing Peter Gabriel in Say Anything. Given the “rules” below, what is your ideal soundtrack? Has it been done already, or do you have one in your mind, as Jason Diamond does (check his out in the link above).
Picking music for a good soundtrack for a movie focused on teens isn’t a difficult thing to pull off, but good songs can help really make a movie. There’s sort of a formula to it, you just have to keep in mind there are basically three ways to do it:
- The current, cool song route
- The nostalgia, period-specific route
- The score route
. . . The most important thing is mood. Teens are moody as hell, and I’ll be honest, I think a movie that captured this well was The Lost Boys. INXS? Echo and the Bunnymen covering The Doors? That was smooth. I won’t say you always have to go the goth kid route with this one, but I think it could help. – Electric Lit
Richard Feynman’s Poignant Letter to His Departed Wife Arline: Watch Actor Oscar Isaac Read It Live Onstage – First I must warn you that if you’ve recently lost someone or can’t stand a love story that ends with a death, this may not be for you. If you’re good with the circumstances here, though, or just need a cleansing cry, you’re in for a real treat. Make sure you have kleenex handy, though.
Even theoretical physicists must confront the presence of the departed, and few scientists—few writers—have done so with as much poignancy, directness, eloquence, and humor as Richard Feynman, in a letter to his wife Arline written over a year after she died of tuberculosis at age 25. Feynman, himself only 28 years old at the time, sealed the letter, written in 1946, until his own death in 1988. “Please excuse my not mailing this,” he wrote with bitter humor in the postscript, “but I don’t know your new address.” Even in the midst of his profound grief, Feynman’s wit sparkles. It is not a performance for us, his posthumous readers. It is simply the way he had always written—in letter after letter—to Arline. – Open Culture