Writing, Books, Painting, Politics, Neuroplasticity
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Private Gravity: A Poem

 I used to think not in pictures (as I do when thinking about how to paint something:  actually, thinking through the process of how-to-paint-those mountains, people, clouds, etc.) nor, exactly, in words.  Instead, I thought in lines of poetry.  They approached me whole, as if from a distance, as if already composed.  Therefore, I concluded (being at that time a philosophy major) that my poems emerged from the Forms, as in Platonic.  When I began to write short stories and novels, I soon realized that they did NOT come from the Forms!

I looked for a poem I wrote years ago about that particular process, and could not find it.  Instead, here is a poem I published in Asimov’s (one of the best-paying markets for poetry, anywhere) years ago:

     Private Gravity



we circle

one another.



by internally generated forces

our gravity grows strong

and turns to time:


loose memories pressed together

become weight


which fuels this swing of spheres

through empty space. Thoughts


long trapped by coldsleep

are roused by unavoidable programs.


Fueled by new proximity 

they flare to life inside us 

and we circle, unable to halt,

pulled by private gravity


into the heart 

of singularity.


–Kathleen Ann Goonan

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July 14, 2009   No Comments

BORN ON A BLUE DAY by Daniel Tammet

Subtitle: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant. And, yes. Tammet’s mind is indeed extraordinary.

Tammet is actually very high-functioning, on the Asberber’s end of the spectrum. The Blue Day of the title is the day on which he was born, Wednesday, which are, for him, blue. He is a synesthete, and I have always been fascinated by synesthesia. I think I have synesthetic tendencies, because I wrote a story when I was sixteen–some day I’ll find it, I suppose–about objects falling out of the back of a truck on the Beltway which turned into solid sounds and colors that blocked the road, and which everyone experienced in the same synesthetic way. One aspect of synesthesia–and someone correct me if I’m wrong–is that sounds, days of the week, whatever, are always consistent in sound or color or smell.  However, if some of my circuitry is thus wired, it is not much; I am not anywhere near what is described as a true synesthete. 

For Tammet, numbers have the characteristic of color, or sometimes other qualities. He says, “I can recognize every prime up to 9,973 by their pebble-like quality. It’s just the way my brian works.”

He was born in 1979, and has had an active and interesting life.  It helps that he can learn new languages very quickly, usually in a week.   He recognised early that he was gay, and has lived with his partner, Neil, for many years.

He set a new world record for reciting digits of pi, which was to 22,514 digits without error in ffive hours and nine minutes. When asked why he learned this, he said: “Pi is for me an extremely beautiful and utterly unique thing. Like the Mona Lisa or a Mozart symphony, pi is its own reason for loving it.”

In LIGHT MUSIC, Su-Chen was an Asperger’s girl born on the moon colony. When the rest of the colony vanishes, she and an adult, Io, return to an Earth very much changed in the previous decades.

Io hears what she has always called “the music of the spheres;” Su-Chen can actually play it. Io decides that this ability is heritable.

In THIS SHARED DREAM, I have a thirteen-year-old musical prodigy who “hears” people whom she loves, and develops a notation to express this, and plays them. (I’m a big fan of From The Top,” an NPR show featuring highly skilled young musicians who consistently amaze me.)

At any rate, I’ve always been interested in how the brain works, how the brains of those who are different than most of us work, and why they are different.  I will put this on my shelf next to THINKING IN PICTURES by Temple Grandin.

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July 14, 2009   1 Comment

Playing With Photos

Red LeafI’m trying to see if I can surround a photo with text.  This is, of course, a maple leaf.  I take a lot of photos with an eye to using them in or for a painting, at some point.  When Painting Woman is allowed to surface, she sees everything as a potential painting.  She sets up the painting, creates a palette, thinks about shadows, what to leave in and what to include, and how to do it.  For the leaf:  paint a base color of golden orange?  Layer on the red?  Paint the red (to put it simply), etch out the veins with a pin, and add gold?  I dunno.  Each attempt is an exercise in itself, just for the pleasure of finding out what works.

When I’m in full painting mode, it can be a nuisance; it’s all I think about.  Clouds, mountains, faces, interesting juxtapositions of form and color:  I think constantly about How To Paint This as I see.  I am therefore processing images rather than words, plot, dialogue, etc. during those times when I am away from my keyboard.  When I’m writing, I’m full into it.  I go to bed with scenes–dialogue, motive, The New Thought That Illuminates The Whole, etc.– unfolding in my mind, and have to get up and write them down, for they are ephemeral.  When I allow myself to relax into default, which seems to be painting mode, I’m not that way.

For many years, I was always in Poetry Mode.  Lines came into me one at a time, wherever I was, stimulated by all I saw and heard.  “Private Gravity” is a poem I published in Asimov’s (one of the best-paying markets for poetry!) years ago.  I will make it the next post.

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July 14, 2009   2 Comments