Joe Ballantyne  Lightning Field

This October, I spent 24 hours with Walter de Maria’s Lightning Field artwork. It’s miles from anywhere, in the high desert of New Mexico about 3 hours outside of Albuquerque: a one mile by one kilometre grid of 400 stainless steel rods, averaging 20ft in height, which attract lightning. You have to stay the night (a little cabin sleeps six) which is just as well because when you first get there, there’s not a lot going on. In the early afternoon when the sun is high, the rods are almost invisible and so spread out it seems there’s little to see or do. And then, gradually, as the light changes, you realise you’re in the grip of an experience which needs time as well as space. I highly recommend it.

Andre Furstenberg, on untranslatable words

The Oxford English Dictionary claims there are at least a quarter of a million distinct English words in use. It estimates that English probably has more words than any other comparable world language. So, it struck me that when it comes to the most personal, our closest interactions with others, English still sometimes fail us.

How many times have we experienced Mamihlapinatapei, but failed to verbalise it? Nor have we one word for that hesitating look when you both know you want to initiate something but are reluctant to take the first step. Or cafune; tenderly running our fingers through someone’s hair?

It’s good to be reminded that in our media swamped world, our languages still sometimes come up short.

Andrew Curry, Don Paterson’s Rain

Sometimes consultancy has its privileges. So it was for me this year, when, delivering a keynote to the UK Independent Publishers’ Guild, the IPG, I was also able to hear their after-dinner speaker, the Scottish poet Don Paterson. Most of it was a light affair, as custom dictates, and he started with the conceit that he had forgotten which organisation he was speaking to, reminiscing about the chequered history of the fictitious International Paintballing Group. But Paterson is one of Britain’s finest poets, and this was an audience of publishers, so we were also treated to a reading of ‘Rain‘, the title poem of his best collection. It is dark and cinematographic, as this extract conveys:

I love all films that start with rain:

rain, braiding a windowpane

or darkening a hung-out dress

or streaming down her upturned face;

His reading sent me back to the collection. As it should.

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