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Friday, July 15, 2011

Bradbury's List

My parents recently sent me a box full of books and journals that they had received on my behalf (since I live in Japan, I often ask non-profits to send books to my parents' stateside address, and when they have a full box, they forward it to me).

In the almost magical box of books was two issues of Hunger Mountain, the VCFA journal of the arts, from last year. Flipping randomly through issue No. 15 : The Thing at the Top of the Stairs (which is an issue from 2010, delayed at my parents' home for an extended period of time), I noticed a lot of lists of seemingly random objects, each headed by an author's name, a date, and a location. Intrigued, I turned to the Editor's Note for an explanation. And found one.

It seems that Ray Bradbury, in his book Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You, suggests a word association writing practice he himself uses, in which a writer makes a sudden list of nouns to reveal to the self the self's own obsessions, to know what images to follow in order to mine deep spaces within the self. The editors of Hunger Mountain gave a similar challenge to some of their contributors, to make a quick unplanned list of nouns, and those were the lists I was seeing throughout the journal.

I love a list, as regular readers of this blog will now. So I could not be more delighted with this issue. Here are some of the more startling items found on lists (name of the listmaker will be in parentheses, and the capitalization and punctuation will represent the lists as they stand in the journal):

The stamen (Bruce Smith)
the confession booth (Michael Martone)
The dripping faucet and the fact of stars (Weston Cutter)
spider eggs (Richard Adams Corey)
The auger....The crawl space. (Gladys Haunton)
Lackawanna (Angie Estes; her list was particularly singular)
periodic table of elements. (Josie Sigler)
Torque. (J. D. Lewis)

Now the list above is my list, since I filtered through the lists in which the known world had already been filtered by these writers and others. But I did make a list all on my own too. It included: roofs, graph paper, electrons, and apples. None of which were big surprises to me.

What will I do with this list? I don't know. Should you make a list for yourself? I don't know that either. But it couldn't hurt, and it might be fun, and it might lead you somewhere.

Let me know.

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