reading

Poem: The Sound of Words Colliding

Every year my dear friend, Andrew asks his friends for one thing for his birthday – that they write a poem and send it to him. Roberts is an accomplished poet himself and you should check out some of his work (try here, here or here). Below is the poem I sent him in 2012, and you can see the poem I sent him in 2010 here and 2011 here.

The Sound of Words Colliding
by Josh Stearns

My son sees every bookcase as a ladder and climbs with fists full of pages. The books – just pulp for chewing – old limbs to gnaw on. Sharp teeth and quick arms remind me he is more an animal than I, still close to something I have lost. Some beating, some rhythm, some heat.

He snaps the bindings, strings and glue bending as he twists the covers, and the signatures come tumbling out on the floor like broken wings. He tests them carefully with outstretched fingers, their newly white shapes overlapping, stacked and spilled there. They belong here, he’s sure of it.

The surfaces buckle as he flexes his fingers, full of pages crackling. I imagine this is the sound of all those words colliding. Letters, those atomic elements of language, crashing into each other. It’s the sound he’s been looking for, and it fills his eyes with wonder.

 

On Not Resisting the Kindle

Or “How I learned to stop worrying and love the screen.”

In the March 2nd edition of The Atlantic Sven Birkerts laments the way that the Kindle and other new technologies are eroding “a certain kind of cultural understanding.” This is not the first time Birkerts has made this appeal. His best known book, The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age, is an expanded version of this argument. The Kindle is just a convenient and timely vehicle for his longstanding critique of literacy in our digital age.

Birkerts’ reference to Gutenberg in the title of his book is fitting. As I read his article, I couldn’t help but thinking of a story Clay Shirky tells in his book Here Comes Everybody. Shirky writes about the scribes – an elite group of literate monks – whose job it was, for many centuries, to hand-copy books. That is, until the 1400’s when Gutenberg came along. “Suddenly,” writes Josh Benton, describing the scene, “scribes were no longer a necessary link between knowledge and learner.” And as the printing press spread across Europe, the scribes sounded remarkably like Birkerts, warning of all that we will lose if we allow technology to reshape reading. (more…)