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One powerful image can overthrow the whole decaying edifice of empiricism and thrust us back into the medieval mind of gods, miracles, witches, and the wonders of an empowered and self-willed nature. But what is an image? It is a connection between two unrelated things, a lemon and blindness, as in the blues singer Blind Lemon Jefferson’s remarkable name; or a glass onion, after a song by the Beatles. Allen Ginsberg explained how he came by his own image-making through study of the brush strokes of Paul Cezanne’s paintings. The downward push of the brush with one color was juxtaposed with another push of paint – not a continuous or overlapping color but a separate, distinct unit of new color that together captured the skin of a ripe apple. Ginsberg saw this as a breakthrough to grasping the nature of the modern image – such as hydrogen jukebox, which combined the dread of the Atomic Age and the rock music that youth embraced as a gospel of love and escape from a terrifying future. Software is a marvelous image of paper in the computer age; rocket science is a gift from the space age, itself a fine image. Acidhead captures the psychedelic ‘60s; rubber soul comments on the unresponsive nature of modern life. An image perceives an underlying connection between things that define modern life. A poem needs such connections to remind us that we live in a unified experience, if only we could see it. The Me decade; chick lit; climate change; sex pistols; star wars; mission creep; the electric chair; a clockwork orange.; ghetto blaster; false positive. It takes imagination to find the right and fitting image of a time.
Copyright 2016 Paul Christensen