Fixing the Shadow

Yesterday I had yet another inspiring conversation with the poet Betty Adcock.  Such conversations with her and her late husband Don Adcock have been the norm for me over the past fifteen years (I wrote about Don here).  I’m lucky.  This particular chat was about my growing efforts to go deep on Gene Smith’s background in Wichita, to learn what it was about his first eighteen years that he carried for the next forty.  We talked about John Keats and James Dickey, among others.  I told Betty I’d been reading the Japanese novelist Junichiro Tanizaki, in particular his treatise on art, “In Praise of Shadows,” and his “Seven Japanese Tales,” which was recommended to me by novelist Allan Gurganus (I mentioned Tanizaki in a Paris Review piece here).  We ended up talking about the term “fixer,” in regard to the darkroom chemical, and also in regard to care giving and healing – themes that recurred in Smith’s work, and in regard to efforts to make solid shaky things in general.

Betty then pointed me toward a poem by her friend Claudia Emerson, Pulitzer Prize winner.  It’s called “Secure the Shadow” and I’ve read it six times in the past 24 hours.  I look forward to Claudia’s new book.

Check out Betty’s talk about Dickey here.  The talk provides a clear sense of her brilliance and humor.

-Sam Stephenson

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