Words are themselves an art

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Drawing on the Arts - Eliza Fernbach

Oscar Isaac in “Inside Llewyn Davis.”

“Words, words, words.”

William Shakespeare wrote in the play Hamlet and I played the part of Ophelia in that Masterpiece of Theatre. Without realizing it, over the course of several months of rehearsal with other actors my imagination was being stocked by the words, which were informing our actions.

Drama doesn’t come together to form the art that is Theatre without words. The Theatre of our current age that is Cinema also begins with letters gathered together on a page.

“My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: Words without thoughts never to heaven go.”

That is also from Shakespeare’s Hamlet but it well describes the process of good screenwriting; an art that prepares for the production of layers of image, sound, motion, stillness, noise and silence to create a huge art experience. The writers and directors Joel and Ethan Cohen recently put out their realization of what a few words suggested in the screenplay “Inside Lewyn Davis.”

The film opens with a room lit as if by the same light in a Carravaggio painting. A silhouette who is the lead character sits in a smoky beam of light.

That is my description of what I saw at the cinema.

The screenplay begins like this: “a singer accompanying himself on a guitar performing ‘I’ve Been All Around This World.’” He is Llewyn Davis. He is spot lit, seated on the small stage of a New York club, maybe the Gaslight.

He finishes the song to applause.

Llewyn

"You’ve probably heard that one before, but what the hell…"

He rises to go but dips back to the mike

"…if it was never new and it never gets old, then it’s a folk song."

From a beginning found in those simple words of description and prescribed speech, the breathtakingly beautiful images of that film, its haunting musical score and provocative dialog have been realized by a team of imaginers.

People who create cinema are like the people who lived before there was any way to record or create images; readers. They fabricate the rich tapestries that become our entertainment and distraction with words born of a need to describe and convey.

When was the last time you read a collection of words that became literature by the crafting of an artist known as a writer? Our own Pictou County landscape is illuminated by such artists regularly. The very people who put together this newspaper every day as well as writers who work on other forms of the art we know as writing.

The power of writing lies in its limitless potential for provoking drama in the minds of readers. I’ll leave you with a thoughtful and entertaining example which combines the work done so diligently in these pages by reporters who relay information and the gentle nudge of a poet and essayist who likes to encourage the creative collaboration of an audience.

A friend of mine frazzled by her two-year-old’s antics phoned me one afternoon. Darla had wrenched a quiet moment from her noisy world to relate the latest incident in her daughter Lola’s ongoing development in this way we call life.

“I’m sorry I didn’t call sooner,” she sighed. “Lola hair gelled the cat.”

There was a lengthy pause before I chuckled loudly. Darla continued in an exasperated tone “I should have take a picture.”

I disagreed. Why? Because the picture in my mind is my hair gelled cat. The picture in your mind dear reader is your hair gelled cat. It was a moment and an exchange in real life that changed my own art forever. It made me even more eager to carefully craft words, to attentively combine them to compose the images and sound that make my Cinema.

It also reminded me to return over and over to books; the long pondered, wildly inviting tools of the art that demands the most collaboration to be appreciated, writing.

Perhaps as this white and silver grey wonderland we call winter blankets us with a calm conducive to the time and space needed to really read, you will discover or rediscover some writing in this paper or on the pages of a cherished book or in a new collection of poetry that will enrich your imagination with new images and sounds inspired from the storehouse of your very own life.

Sheree Fitch is our 2013-2014 writer-in-residence at the Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library. She follows homegrown talents like Harry Thurston, Anne Simpson, Monica Hill and Sheldon Currie. On the PARL website there are many resources to lead you to back to old favorites and suggest new discoveries.  

Perhaps you’ll join Sheree and pen your own world of images. Here’s to a new year of well-composed cheer.

Organizations: Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library

Geographic location: New York, Pictou County

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