Introduction to the Word Section:

"… the anologizing function (including all the cousins: metaphoring, symbolling, allegorizing, etc.) is the bridge between mental functioning and the natural systems around us. The sounds, congealed into words, chosen to represent ... something ... are as much contributed to us by nature as they are created by the mind."
~Robert Greenway

The word, in its written form, has a lot to answer for. Leonard Shlain, in his influential classic The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict between Word and Image, pinpoints the moment in history when our ancient cultures turned from Goddess-honoring societies to male dominated fiefdoms as the period in which written language first appeared. Many modern storytellers would echo Shlain’s lament on the shift from oral to written narrative, when the level of memory and elocution necessary to recite epic poems telling history or recounting myth and fable diminished and faded away.

David Abram, too, makes many of the same points as Shlain, rather more gently, in The Spell of the Sensuous, though he is careful to emphasize the links between the spoken and written word, rather than the dislocation.

Nevertheless, it must be admitted that the written word, for all its rigidity and limitation, has opened the doors of communication between classes and cultures, and eras of history, on a scale impossible to imagine occurring in any other way.

In it’s creative form, the written word is an even more flexible vehicle for communication. Fiction has the power to create whole worlds in our imagination; worlds of grace and wonder, connected to everything within and around us, or worlds of horror and revulsion, shocking us to wake up to what we are doing to ourselves and each other. As Donna Seaman put it in her preface to In Our Nature: Stories of Wildness, the collection of stories excerpted in this section:

"… there are places where even the most subtle nonfiction cannot enter, regions of the psyche rife with ambiguity, paradox, and perversity, the deep shadowy caves and fathomless waters in which we struggle with the conflicting demands of instinct and reason, altruism and greed. These realms are best suited for the unfettered form of fiction."

Author Barbara Kingsolver is well known for her sensitive portrayal of the natural world. As a naturalist, she brings a particularly astute awareness of nature to life within her fiction, but her Prodigal Summer takes this capability to a new level. Read my review of this wonderful book in this section, and then read all of her you can find, You won’t be disappointed.

Poetry brings a further refinement of the creative elements that define fiction, and this section includes two of my favorite poems on language: "Eden in Winter" by Vachel Lindsay, and "From March ’79" by Tomas Transtromer, which I have reprinted here for you.

We have also been blessed with contributions from Gatherings reader Wendy Liles and ICE member Phoebe Wray. Wendy Liles has submitted the moving poem "Witness Tree", and a series of delicate haiku entitled "Reflections, Illinois State Beach", illustrated with photographs of scenes of their inspiration around Lake Michigan. Published author Phoebe Wray has graced us with three of her exquisite poems, "Eden, Early One Morning", Eve’s narrative in Paradise, "Museum of Fine Arts", about her encounter with Sekhmet, and "Six Ways of Radical", an amusing and sometimes alarming set of radical moments.