New Stories Wednesday 9/19/12

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A perennial preoccupation of ours here at land that I live has been what it takes to see places differently. Whether an old factory is demolished in our hometown, we look down on our city from its tallest building, or we move back to Texas after a long time away, sometimes a place we think we know appears totally new just by a little change in perspective. These moments reveal characteristics of the world around us that we had never before considered, and often tell us a surprising thing or two about our own relationships with the places we care about.

While any number of experiences can bend our perspectives enough to alter the appearance of things, Andrew introduces a new concept this week that helps us articulate specifically our ability to connect disparate places in our minds so that each colors our understanding of the other. He relates this connection to rhyming, where an underlying and perhaps incidental commonality marries two things of otherwise-unrelated meaning. For him, on vacation in France, the rhyme is the Statue of Liberty:

[T]he Statue of Liberty forms the ubiquitous refrain that rhymes Paris with New York in my mind, the visual echo that binds together [the Twin] Towers and painters, my younger self, American immigrants, hay farmers, and my girlfriend and me on holiday.

Lady Liberty Perambulates” is an attempt to make sense of the resonances throughout the places and times of our experiences that feel intuitive but are hard to put into words. These resonances are the minute and shifting echoes that set the tone of our sense of place, the associations that layer a place’s meaning. There’s poetry in our sense of place, Andrew contends, and the more of it we uncover, the better we understand ourselves.

Newcomer Alexander Rothman, meanwhile, doesn’t talk about poetry; he makes it. He is a pioneer of sequential verse, which is the fancy term for comics poetry, a form that blends words and images for some pretty spectacular results. Alex has his own site at versequntial.com, but has shared a piece with land that I live this week because of his interest in the eastern California desert valley in which it takes place. “The experience was lonely and difficult,” he writes in the artist statement that follows the piece. “The desert, although gorgeous, provided constant, harsh reminders of how incidental our human presence was.”

Entitled “Processing,” the piece puns on the personal transformation we undergo while being exposed to the environmental and social forces behind the things we think we are familiar with. “Our human presence” seems important until it is contrasted with the vast, unsympathetic land we inhabit, and a cooked chicken seems delicious until we recognize what it went through to get on our table. The unspoken rhyme at the poem’s end is the paired images of cooked chicken and its remains, which forces us to come to terms with this connection that is so easily overlooked.

Sorry, but we never promised that deepening our sense of place would always make us feel better about things!