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Writing on Water by David Rothenberg and Marta Ulvaeus

2001; 288 pp.


MIT Press

I've been drawn to water all my life. I've spent years messing around in little boats, paddling kayaks, rowing rafts, navigating rivers, trying to penetrate the mystery of moving water, following the primal instinct back toward the universal womb. I don't think there can ever be too many words written about water.

I was instantly at home with this collection of water writings, which encompass science and fiction, poetry and prose, and a collection of aphorisms that float on the mind like the foam on a breaking wave. Good writing flows like water, and this book gushes with torrents of words that dance and ebb and eddy and swirl. The best writing, like a wild river, is indifferent to the presence of the reader: it occupies space on its own terms but it takes you someplace important. I was delighted to find passages in this book that led me into places I've never been, and other passages that welcomed me home to places I know and love.

Writers include Octavio Paz, C.L. Rawlins, Malcolm de Chazal, Hugh Dunkerly, our own Peter Warshall, the incomparable Freeman House, and many many more. I found myself dragging this book to bed with me night after night. It reminds me that we are bonded to, organized around, in relationship with, dependent upon, and ultimately saved or savaged by water.

"Foam swims with its fingers. Airy-tentacled, foam is a cuttlefish on the surface of the sea.

We all know what it is like to plunge our hands into foam, thousands of little feelers clutching us like the arms of an octopus. A giant spider of water lying in wait to embrace its liquid-fast prey, foam is the sweeper of streams and the brusher of lakes."

?Malcolm de Chazal, "Water Aphorisms"

" But it's not light

you're carrying

said the moon

it's water

the live weight of water

a basin you lift slowly"

?Jody Gladding, "Tidal"

"If you listen carelessly, the water in a rushing river sounds like a single thing with a great fullness about it. But when you begin to try and sort out the sound of one thing within the sound of the water, the moving water breaks into a thousand different sounds, some of which are in the water and some of which are in your mind.

?Freeman House, "In Salmon's Water"


ISBN: 0262681366

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