Saturday, September 08, 2007

The power of allusion in written works

I was first introduced to Sidney Lanier's (1842-1881) poetry though a book titled Macroscope, written by Piers Anthony in 1969. Anthony's book may have been the first written work to illustrate to me the importance of writers and artists alluding to others' work in their creations. The impact of somone's creative work reverbating in succeding work by others is an important aspect of how art and literary works over time, growing from being isolated ideas expressed by their creators to influencing a society's larger culture. Gordon Dickson, in his book Three to Dorsai! (1975), put forth the concept that societal change often begins as isolated visions that are first expressed by individual artists and writers. The concept behind their creative work, in turn, inspires others, whose collective message is then discovered and embraced by selected elements of their society. From this, ultimately, come the seeds of societal change.

On a more personal scale, I owe discovery of Cuban singer Ibrahim Ferrer and the group Buena Vista Social Club to Keith Snyder's book Coffin's Got the Dead Guy on the Inside.

Sidney Lanier was a Georgia poet whose work exemplifies the genre of lyrical poetry. A prominent musician and music teacher in his own right, he purposely integrated musical elements into his sound devices and diction.

Here is the first stanza of his 1878 poem, The Marshes of Glynn:

The Marshes of Glynn

Glooms of the live-oaks, beautiful-braided and woven
With intricate shades of the vines that myriad-cloven
Clamber the forks of the multiform boughs, -
Emerald twilights, -
Virginal shy lights,
Wrought of the leaves to allure to the whisper of vows,
When lovers pace timidly down through the green colonnades
Of the dim sweet woods, of the dear dark woods,
Of the heavenly woods and glades,
That run to the radiant marginal sand-beach within
The wide sea-marshes of Glynn; -

Sidney Lanier resources:
Biography on Wikipedia -
"Poems of Sidney Lanier, Edited by his Wife" on Documenting the American South website -

Urban scavenging

Last year, my daily commute included a journey through the usually gridlocked traffic of the Garden Grove Freeway. Major road construction had closed a good number of exits and lanes for a string of impressive engineering projects, and watching all that activity could provide entertainment for the unfortunate motorists who are still stuck on it after running out of snacks, tunes, or cellphone time.

Earlier that year, when construction began in earnest, a small family of vultures began perching themselves mornings and afternoons on the large freeway sign that overlooked all six lanes and studiously craned their necks down at the stalled traffic below. I kept wondering why on earth they were doing that and finally concluded that they must be waiting for a car to die!

Morning aftermath

Nelson DeMille, in his book Up Country, wisely said that when a man has been drinking, he should never be near any communication e-mail, no telephone, no fax machines, nothing. I've been promising myself to follow his advice, but so far, it hasn't happened. As a result, I always dread looking at the "sent" box of my e-mail the next morning, but the excitement does add a rush to the waking-up process.