Thursday, January 7, 2010

New Year's Resolution 2009: Ducks and Covers

I want to start the year with a duck.

Mallard Underwater in Lyn Pardarn (Wales.) Photographer: Graham Eaton

That's an extraordinary photo. Not just because the photographer was underwater when he took it, but because of the duck's open beak, his almost audible quack, the glorious burst of light surrounding him, and the look on his face - he's just as curious as we are, isn't he? He looks like he wants to move in closer and figure out what's up.

Actually, the photo has something to do with what I've been thinking about lately, the exhortation by Emily Dickinson to "Tell the truth, but tell it slant...."  When something is told "slant," it's fresh, it's not a cliche. It pulls us toward a new perspective, a personal view, a unique understanding of the world. Though I don't claim that telling it slant is the most commercial approach, nor the most calming, I do claim that the most interesting art puzzles us a bit, doesn't it? (It also "dazzles gradually" sometimes, as Dickinson also said....we don't always need to be knocked off our feet. Just pulled in.) It's what you feel (and ducks feel?) when you want to move in closer to examine and identify what you're looking at. Curiosity and art - they go together. Just watch how closely a young child moves in to examine an intriguing picture book.

The Black Book of Colors 
written by Menena Cottin, illustrated by artist Rosana Faria (both of Venezuela.) 
Originally published in Spanish: El libro negro de los colores.

I love the cover of the book you see above  - The Black Book of Colors. It's an example of a fresh perspective of the "slant" variety. The protagonist, in the story, Tomas, is blind, and his understanding of color comes to him through senses other than sight (for example, red is called both sour, like unripe strawberries, and sweet, like watermelon.)  The cover, and the art work inside, are embossed and can be felt with the fingers, as can the text on each left-hand page, which is in Braille with white text below it.  The cover is risky and  intriguing. The book won the New Horizons Award at the Bologna Fair in 2007 and was named one of the Best Illustrated Books 2008 by the New York Times.
How do you "see" without sight? It's a puzzle with an answer that changes the way we understand the world.  My New Year's Resolution this year - as a teacher and poet - and blogger  - is to look for and praise what is fresh, unexpected, and puzzling. Like this cover. And like that photo of the duck.


  1. What a gorgeous photo. Ducks are my favourite bird. Love their personalities :o)

  2. It's pretty incredible when you can design a cover that would make a four-year-old stop and think. I love that cover. The duck photo, on the other hand, gave me a different feeling. I have always had this fear of drowning. Now I have this fear of drowning while being laughed at by a duck.