Why Frank Lloyd Wright Designed a Gas Station in Minnesota (1958)

In the small town of Cloquet, Minnesota stands a piece of urban utopia. It takes the surprising form of a gas station, albeit one designed by no less a visionary of American architecture than Frank Lloyd Wright. He originally conceived it as an element of Broadacre City, a form of mechanized rural settlement intended as a Jeffersonian democracy-inspired rebuke against what Wright saw as the evils of the overgrown twentieth century city, first publicly presented in his 1932 book The Disappearing City. “That’s an aspirational title,” says architectural historian Richard Kronick in the Twin Cities PBS video above. “He thought that cities should go away.”

Cities didn’t go away, and Broadacre City remained speculative, though Wright did pursue every opportunity he could identify to bring it closer to reality. “In 1952, Ray and Emma Lindholm commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to build them a home on the south side of Cloquet,” writes photographer Susan Tregoning.

When Wright “discovered that Mr. Lindholm was in the petroleum business, he mentioned that he was quite interested in gas station design.” When Lindholm decided to rebuild a Phillips 66 station a few years later, he accepted Wright’s design proposal, calling it “an experiment to see if a little beauty couldn’t be incorporated in something as commonplace as a service station” — though Wright himself, characteristically, wasn’t thinking in quite such humble terms.

Wright’s R. W. Lindholm Service Station incorporates a cantilevered upper-level “customer lounge,” and the idea, as Kronick puts it, “was that customers would sit up here and while their time away waiting for their cars to be repaired,” and no doubt “discuss the issues of the day.” In Wright’s mind, “this little room is where the details of democracy would be worked out.” As with Southdale Center, Victor Gruen’s pioneering shopping mall that had opened two years earlier in Minneapolis, two hours south of Cloquet, the community aspect of the design never came to fruition: though its windows offer a distinctively American (or to use Wright’s language, Usonian) vista, the customer lounge has a bare, disused look in the pictures visitors take today.

Image by Library of Congress, via Wikimedia Commons

There are many such visitors, who arrive from not just all around the country but all around the world. But when it was last sold in 2018, the buyer it found was relatively local: Minnesota-born Andrew Volna, owner of such Minneapolis operations as vinyl-record manufacturer Noiseland Industries and the once-abandoned, now-renovated Hollywood Theater. “Wright saw the station as a cultural center, somewhere to meet a friend, get your car fixed, and have a cup of coffee while you waited,” writes Tregoning, though he never did make it back out to the finished building before he died in 1959. These sixty-odd years later, perhaps Volna will be the one to turn this unlikely architectural hot spot into an even less likely social one as well.

Related content:

Frank Lloyd Wright Designs an Urban Utopia: See His Hand-Drawn Sketches of Broadacre City (1932)

12 Famous Frank Lloyd Wright Houses Offer Virtual Tours: Hollyhock House, Taliesin West, Fallingwater & More

Build Wooden Models of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Great Building: The Guggenheim, Unity Temple, Johnson Wax Headquarters & More

How Frank Lloyd Wright’s Son Invented Lincoln Logs, “America’s National Toy” (1916)

The Modernist Gas Stations of Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe

When Frank Lloyd Wright Designed a Doghouse, His Smallest Architectural Creation (1956)

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The Story of Lorem Ipsum: How Scrambled Text by Cicero Became Used by Typesetters Everywhere

In high school, the language I most fell in love with happened to be a dead one: Latin. Sure, it’s spoken at the Vatican, and when I first began to study the tongue of Virgil and Catullus, friends joked that I could only use it if I moved to Rome. Tempting, but church Latin barely resembles the classical written language, a highly formal grammar full of symmetries and puzzles. You don’t speak classical Latin; you solve it, labor over it, and gloat, to no one in particular, when you’ve rendered it somewhat intelligible. Given that the study of an ancient language is rarely a conversational art, it can sometimes feel a little alienating.

And so you might imagine how pleased I was to discover what looked like classical Latin in the real world: the text known to designers around the globe as “Lorem Ipsum,” also called “filler text” and (erroneously) “Greek copy.”

The idea, Priceonomics informs us, is to force people to look at the layout and font, not read the words. Also, “nobody would mistake it for their native language,” therefore Lorem Ipsum is “less likely than other filler text to be mistaken for final copy and published by accident.” If you’ve done any web design, you’ve probably seen it, looking something like this:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

When I first encountered this text, I did what any Latin geek will—set about trying to translate it. But it wasn’t long before I realized that Lorem Ipsum is mostly gibberish, a garbling of Latin that makes no real sense. The first word, “Lorem,” isn’t even a word; instead it’s a piece of the word “dolorem,” meaning pain, suffering, or sorrow. So where did this mash-up of Latin-like syntax come from, and how did it get so scrambled? First, the source of Lorem Ipsum—tracked down by Hampden-Sydney Director of Publications Richard McClintock—is Roman lawyer, statesmen, and philosopher Cicero, from an essay called “On the Extremes of Good and Evil,” or De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum.

675px-Cicero_-_Musei_Capitolini

Why Cicero? Put most simply, writes Priceonomics, “for a long time, Cicero was everywhere.” His fame as the most skilled of Roman rhetoricians meant that his writing became the benchmark for prose in Latin, the standard European language of the Middle Ages. The passage that generated Lorem Ipsum translates in part to a sentiment Latinists will well understand:

Nor is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but occasionally circumstances occur in which toil and pain can procure him some great pleasure.

Dolorem Ipsum, “pain in and of itself,” sums up the tortuous feeling of trying to render some of Cicero’s complex, verbose sentences into English. Doing so with tolerable proficiency is, for some of us, “great pleasure” indeed.

But how did Cicero, that master stylist, come to be so badly manhandled as to be nearly unrecognizable? Lorem Ipsum has a history that long predates online content management. It has been used as filler text since the sixteenth century when—as McClintock theorized—“some typesetter had to make a type specimen book, to demo different fonts” and decided that “the text should be insensible, so as not to distract from the page’s graphical features.” It appears that this enterprising craftsman snatched up a page of Cicero he had lying around and turned it into nonsense. The text, says McClintock, “has survived not only four centuries of letter-by-letter resetting but even the leap into electronic typesetting, essentially unchanged.”

The story of Lorem Ipsum is a fascinating one—if you’re into that kind of thing—but its longevity raises a further question: should we still be using it at all, this mangling of a dead language, in a medium as vital and dynamic as web publishing, where “content” refers to hundreds of design elements besides font. Is Lorem Ipsum a quaint piece of nostalgia that’s outlived its usefulness? In answer, you may wish to read Karen McGrane’s spirited defense of the practice. Or, if you feel it’s time to let the garbled Latin go the way of manual typesetting machines, consider perhaps as an alternative “Nietzsche Ipsum,” which generates random paragraphs of mostly verb-less, incoherent Nietzsche-like text, in English. Hey, at least it looks like a real language.

Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in 2015.

Related Content:

Why Learn Latin?: 5 Videos Make a Compelling Case That the “Dead Language” Is an “Eternal Language”

What Ancient Latin Sounded Like, And How We Know It

Can Modern-Day Italians Understand Latin? A Youtuber Puts It to the Test on the Streets of Rome

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Scientists Working in Antarctica Unwittingly Started to Develop a New Accent

The distinctiveness of the accent heard in a place reflects that place’s isolation. It’s probably no coincidence that, as almost every place in the world has become less isolated, accents have become less distinctive. In these days of vanishing forms of regional speech, if you wanted to hear a new one coming into being, you’d have to go to the ends of the Earth — or one specific end of the Earth, anyway, as demonstrated not long ago by researchers from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. Taking and analyzing recordings made over the course of one winter, they discovered that a new accent has begun to take shape in English as spoken in Antarctica.

“Antarctica has no native population or permanent residents, but it does have a transitory community of scientists and support staff who live there for part of the year on a rotational basis,” writes Tom Hale at IFL Science. “In the summer months, there are typically around 5,000 people living in Antarctica, but that drops to just 1,000 in the winter.” It was from this group of the Antarctic “over-winterers” — and in particular, from those working on the British Antarctic Survey — that the linguistic researchers recruited their subjects, eight of whom were from England, one from the United States, one from Germany, and one from Iceland.

“The findings revealed subtle but measurable changes in the speech of the overwintering staff during their time in Antarctica,” writes Mental Floss’ Brett Reynolds. “One change was convergence, where individuals in a close-knit group unconsciously begin to adopt similar speech characteristics. In this case, that meant convergence of /u/ (the ‘oo’ in goose), /ju/ (the ‘you’ in few), /ou/ (the ‘oh’ in goat), and /ɪ:/ (the ‘ee’ in the last syllable in happy).” Apart from that phenomenon, the researchers also noticed another change in the /ou/ of goat: “the over-winterers began to pronounce it more toward the front of their mouths than toward the back. (British pronunciations are already typically fronter than American /ou/.)”

Even if you got into a conversation with a scientist just back from a long winter in Antarctica, you probably wouldn’t notice any of this. But the fact that the differences between the series of recordings taken at six-week intervals during the winter show measurable changes in pronunciation when compared to control recordings taken back in the United Kingdom suggests that the isolation of Antarctica really does encourage the formation of a new accent. Given a sufficiently long time span, an accent naturally becomes a dialect, and eventually a separate language. Perhaps, even in our age of much-lamented loss of linguistic diversity, some of us can look forward to having Antarctic-speaking descendants.

via Mental Floss

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Why You Have an Accent When You Speak a Foreign Language

What English Would Sound Like If It Was Pronounced Phonetically

Meet the Americans Who Speak with Elizabethan English Accents: An Introduction to the “Hoi Toiders” from Ocracoke, North Carolina

Metallica Plays Antarctica, Setting a World Record as the First Band to Play All 7 Continents: Watch the Full Concert Online

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The 500-Year-Old Chinese “Bagel” That Helped Win a War

As a general rule, you can gain a decent understanding of any part of the world by eating its regional specialties. This holds especially true in a country like China, with its great size and deep history. Travel to the southeastern province of Fujian, for instance, and you’ve got to try guang bing or “shiny biscuit,” the Chinese equivalent of the bagel. “With flour, dietary alkali and salt, the cake, no bigger than a palm, can be simply cooked, and sells for about 1 yuan ($0.14) on the streets,” says China Daily. “Locals love it, not only because of the crispy and salty taste, but also because of a legendary story.”

The distinctive dishes of border or coastal areas always seem to have particularly intriguing histories, and so it is with the one behind Fujian’s guang bing. “During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), General Qi Jiguang brought an army to fight Japanese invaders in Fujian. Because of continuous rain, they could not cook for the soldiers, so Qi created a kind of cake with a small hole in the middle. Soldiers could string the cakes together and carry them while fighting the enemy.”

The result looks — and presumably tastes — like a necklace of bagels, the preparation of which could be accomplished in underground ovens that didn’t give away the soldiers’ position as clearly as open campfires would.

You can learn more about this bagel-powered victory of five centuries ago from the Great Big Story video at the top of the post, and more about the continued preparation and sale of guang bing by a few dedicated bakers in the Atlas Obscura video just above. Though plenty of Fujianese take them straight, “some like to add pork, or dried shrimp and Chinese chives in it; some fry it with chitterlings, duck’s gizzard or green been; and some break it into pieces and boil it with soup.” Written records of the bagel as Westerners know it date back to early seventeenth-century Poland, with apparent predecessors seen in that country as early as the late fourteenth century. It may naturally occur to an American traveler in China to unite these two long but distant culinary traditions, in which case he’d do well to pack his own with lox and cream cheese.

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Philosophy Explained with Donuts

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Why the Leaning Tower of Pisa Still Hasn’t Fallen Over, Even After 650 Years

The Leaning Tower of Pisa has stood, in its distinctive fashion, for six and a half centuries now. But it hasn’t always leaned at the same angle: to get the most dramatic view, the best time to go see it was the early nineteen-nineties, when its tilt had reached a full 5.5 degrees. Granted, at that point — when by some reckonings, the tower should no longer have been standing at all — it was closed to the public, presumably due to fears that the sheer weight of tourism would push it over the tipping point. The 1989 collapse of Pavia’s eleventh-century Civic Tower also had something to do with it: couldn’t something be done to spare Pisa’s world-famous landmark from a similar fate?

Attempts to shore up the Leaning Tower up to that point had a checkered history, to put it mildly. Built on soft soil, it started to lean in back in the twelfth century, before its construction was even complete. The process of that construction, in the event, took nearly 200 years to complete; during one decades-long pause during a particularly embattled period for the Republic of Pisa, the tower actually settled enough to prevent its later collapse, though it remained aslant. In the late thirteenth century, the best solution available for this condition was simply to build the rest of its floors in a curved shape in compensation.

For centuries after, the sight of the Leaning Tower tempted generations of structural engineers to straighten it out. It even tempted non-engineers like Benito Mussolini, who in 1934 ordered large amounts of concrete pumped into its foundation. Like most such operations, it only made the tower lean more; only in the second half of the twentieth century did the technology come along to analyze its foundations and the soil in which they were embedded clearly enough to devise an effective solution. This ended up involving the removal of soil with a slanted drill from under the tower’s higher end, which eventually brought it back to lean about four degrees, as it did nearly two centuries ago. After subsequent stabilization work, it was guaranteed to remain upright for at least another two centuries.

You can learn more about the construction and re-engineering of the Leaning Tower in the videos above from TED-Ed and Discovery UK. But you may still ask, why was it never brought down by an earthquake? “It turns out that the squishy soil at the structure’s base that caused its fetching infirmity – the tower was tilting by the time its second story was built in 1178 – contains the secret to its structural resilience,” writes Joe Quirke at Global Construction Review. This means that “the softness of the foundation soil cushions the tower from vibrations in such a way that the tower does not resonate with earthquake ground motion.” The very element that caused the tower to lean kept it from falling over, an irony to match the fact that such a seemingly misbegotten building project has become one of Italy’s proudest tourist attractions.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

A Look Inside the Labor-Intensive Process of Making a Tiffany-Style Lamp

What do Tiffany lamps have in common with Kleenex?

A brand name so mighty, it’s become an umbrella term.

Of course, Kleenex is still manufacturing tissues, whereas authentic lamps from Louis Comfort Tiffany’s New York studio were produced between 1890 and 1930.

Handcrafted of coiled bronze wire and many pieces of blown favrile glass arranged in intricate natural motifs, bonafide Tiffany lamps can fetch prices of over a million dollars.

The “Tiffany lamps” for sale on Wayfair?

Not the genuine article.

Still, if the one on your end table brings you pleasure, who are we to get snippy about it?

There’s plenty of that attitude to be found in the YouTube comments for the above process video …

To be clear, what you’re seeing is the process by which an affordable colored glass lampshade in the style of Tiffany comes together at an overseas factory.

The quality may be lacking, but it’s still a pretty labor-intensive proposition.

First, the pieces are cut by hand or using blades mounted on metal arms. Their shapes and number are predetermined by a pattern…again in the style of Tiffany.

You won’t find the speckled confetti glass or golden hued glass with a translucent amber sheen that are defining features of the real McCoy here…

Once the pieces have been cut and sorted, their edges are wrapped in copper foil tape. (In Tiffany’s day this would have involved hand cutting strips of copper, then smearing them with beeswax to help them to adhere to the glass.)

The wrapped pieces are then laid out in a mold according to the pattern and soldered together.

The bottom edge is reinforced, and the shade is fitted onto a lamp base.

If you’re a museum curator, a connoisseur of the genuine article or a glazier, we don’t fault you for getting a bit salty.

(Our favorite comment: Oh the humanity. I used to be a glazier. I couldn’t finish watching the video. The way they cut the glass dry and slide it around without felt on the table makes me cringe. You can hear the crinkling sound of glass particles under it when it’s being slid around. The smallest contoured cuts and breaks are so rough they’re practically gnawed. If clear glass was handled this way every window would have deep scratches and would probably self destruct from thermal cycling or a strong breeze.)

If you’re susceptible to ASMR, enjoy your tingles – all those crinkling sounds of glass particles!

If you’re someone who’s insatiably curious as to how ordinary things are made, we hope you’ll consider the twelve minutes of this Process Discovery video time well spent, and no less interesting than their non-narrative peeks into the manufacture of bubble mailers, snow globes and swim goggles

We leave you with a brief tour of the “real thing”, courtesy of the New York Historical Society:

via Colossal

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– Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto and Creative, Not Famous Activity Book. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The Only Color Picture of Tolstoy, Taken by Photography Pioneer Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky (1908)

The photo above depicts Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, better known in the English-speaking world as Leo Tolstoy. It dates from 1908, when he had nearly all his work behind him: the major novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina, of course, but also the acclaimed late book The Death of Ivan Ilyich. His own death, in fact, lay not much more than two years before him. (See footage of the final days of his life here.) This didn’t offer much of a window of opportunity to the chemist Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky, who had recently developed a photography process that could capture the great man of letters in “true color” — and who understood that such a portrait would score a promotional coup for his innovation.

“After many years of work, I have now achieved excellent results in producing accurate colors,” Prokudin-Gorsky wrote to Tolstoy early that same year. “My colored projections are known in both Europe and in Russia. Now that my method of photography requires no more than 1 to 3 seconds, I will allow myself to ask your permission to visit for one or two days (keeping in mind the state of your health and weather) in order to take several color photographs of you and your spouse.” After receiving that permission, Prokudin-Gorsky spent two days at Yasnaya Polyana, Tolstoy’s family estate, where he took color pictures of not just the man himself but his working quarters and the surrounding grounds.

“A few months later, in its August 1908 issue, The Proceedings of the Russian Technical Society ran the following announcement describing ‘the first Russian color photoportrait,’ a color photograph of L. N. Tolstoy,” according to Tolstoy Studies Journal. The resulting fame drew Prokudin-Gorsky an invitation to show his work to Tsar Nicholas II, who subsequently furnished him with the resources to spend ten years photographically documenting Russia in color. “To this day, nobody knows exactly what camera Prokudin-Gorsky used,” writes Kai Bernau at Words that Work, “but it was likely a large wooden camera with a special holder for a sliding glass negative plate, taking three sequential monochrome photographs, each through a different colored filter.” This appears to be a technological descendant of the process developed in the early eighteen-sixties by Scottish physicist-poet James Clerk Maxwell, creator of the first color photograph in history.

To view that photograph, Maxwell “projected the three slides using three different projectors, each affixed with the same color filter that had been used to produce the slide.” Prokudin-Gorsky, too, had to project his photos, though he did later make color prints; “he also published it, in significant numbers, as a collectible postcard,” says Tolstoy Studies Journal, adding that the version seen here is a scan of one such postcard. How accurately a lithographed reproduction like the one above of Tolstoy represents the ‘real’ colors of Prokudin-Gorsky’s original projected image is debatable”; the basic technological difference between “subtractive” lithography and “additive’ projection means that we can’t be seeing quite the same picture of Tolstoy that the Tsar did — but then, it’s a good a likeness of him as we’re ever going to get.

Related content:

The History of Russia in 70,000 Photos: New Photo Archive Presents Russian History from 1860 to 1999

Behold the Very First Color Photograph (1861): Taken by Scottish Physicist (and Poet!) James Clerk Maxwell

Russian History & Literature Come to Life in Wonderfully Colorized Portraits: See Photos of Tolstoy, Chekhov, the Romanovs & More

The Very Last Days of Leo Tolstoy Captured on Video

Tsarist Russia Comes to Life in Vivid Color Photographs Taken Circa 1905-1915

Colorized Photos Bring Walt Whitman, Charlie Chaplin, Helen Keller & Mark Twain Back to Life

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

A Fully Functional Replica of the Antikythera Mechanism, the First Analog Computer from Ancient Greece, Re-Created in LEGO

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Discovered amidst the wreckage of a sunken ship off the coast of Greece in 1901, the Antikythera Mechanism (previously featured here on Open Culture) is often considered the world’s oldest known analog computer. Dating back to approximately 150-100 BCE, the device has a complex arrangement of precisely cut gears, all designed to track celestial movements, predict lunar and solar eclipses, and chart the positions of planets. It’s a testament to Ancient Greek engineering. Above, you can see a fully functional replica of the Antikythera Mechanism re-created in LEGO, courtesy of the scientific journal Nature. As one YouTuber put it, “The device is unbelievably cool, and the video is masterfully done.”

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Patti Smith Reads Sylvia Plath’s Poem, “The Moon and the Yew Tree”

Court Green, the rural Devon property Sylvia Plath called home for sixteen months toward the end of her life is a popular pilgrimage for Plathophiles, seeking to worship at the wellspring of some of her best known poems – The Bee Meeting, Daddy, Lady Lazarus, and many other works posthumously published in 1965’s Ariel.

(Her ex-husband Ted Hughes wrote his collection, Crow, there as well, not long after Plath died by suicide. Something tells us his widow, Carol, a staunch defender of her husband’s legacy, doesn’t exactly roll out the welcome mat when she sees starry eyed devotee’s of her husband’s first wife tromping around the perimeter of the property where she still lives…)

Plath scholar Dorka Tamás made the trip to St. Peter’s, the North Tawton church abutting Court Green. Plath took pleasure in describing its grounds in letters to friends and family, and immoratlized its massive yew in “The Moon and the Yew Tree”:

I looked around the Victorian gravestones, slowly passing the souls of the dead. The beautiful green trees could not contrast more with the Neo-gothic church. I knew at first sight which one is the yew tree in Plath’s poem. I was searching for the window of Court Green, Plath’s office window, from which she could have an expansive view of the yew…North Tawton has been an ambiguous place for both Plath and Plathians. In the year she spent in the isolated village, she produced her best and most well-known poems, but it was also a place where she experienced extreme isolation after Hughes left her. Nevertheless, the country life provided plenty of opportunities for Plath to explore her creative, aesthetic, and domestic independence, such as horse riding in the field of Devon, experimenting with beekeeping, painting her children’s nursery elbow chair, and making apple pie from the apples of her garden. The poetry and fiction Plath wrote between autumn 1961 and winter 1962 are embedded in the natural environment in Devon and community, places, and non-human life of North Tawton. 

Poet David Trinidad, an avid collector of Plath-related memorabilia, whose souvenirs include a vial of dust from the studio she occupied during a residency at Yaddo and a facsimile of a blue patterned Liberty of London scarf she gave her mother during a 1962 visit to Court Green, prizes his cuttings from St. Peter’s yew:

Plath wrote The Moon and the Yew Tree on October 22, 1961, less than two months after moving to Court Green. Everything in the poem is true: her property was separated from an adjacent church by a row of headstones; on Sunday eight bells would toll; an ancient yew tree grew in the church graveyard. …She doesn’t mention the yew tree specifically in any of her letters; she saved that for the poem.

Godmother of Punk Patti Smith, whose souvenirs run more toward Polaroids, wrote of visiting Plath’s grave in her memoir, M Train, and identifies the poet as someone who makes her want to write.

Her performance of “The Moon and The Yew Tree,” above, is more straightforward than Plathian, allowing the darkness of the work–which The Marginalian’s Maria Popova calls “one of (Plath’s) finest poems and one of the most poignant portraits of depression in the history of literature”–to speak for itself.

As Popova notes, the poem was written during a difficult period, in an attempt to fulfill a writing exercise suggested by Hughes, “to simply describe what she saw in the Gothic churchyard outside her window.”

Who would dare fault Plath for obeying the impulse to editorialize a bit?

The New Yorker had accepted but not yet published “The Moon and the Yew Tree” when Plath took her own life on February 11, 1963. It was published posthumously in a two-page spread along with five other poems six months later. You can read it online here.

via The Marginalian

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– Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto and Creative, Not Famous Activity Book. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

“Doctor, My Eyes” Performed by Jackson Browne & Musicians Around the World

The music collective Playing for Change is back. This time, they have Jackson Browne performing his 1970s hit, “Doctor, My Eyes,” supported by musicians from Brazil, Jamaica, India, Puerto Rico, France and beyond. Browne is also joined by Leland Sklar and Russ Kunkel, who played on the original 1972 song, and they still sound amazing. Enjoy….

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Coursera Offers $100 Off of Coursera Plus (Until September 21), Giving You Unlimited Access to Courses & Certificates

A heads up on a deal: Between now and September 21, 2023, Coursera is offering a $100 discount on its annual subscription plan called “Coursera Plus.” Normally priced at $399, Coursera Plus (now available for $299) gives you access to 6,000+ world-class courses for one all-inclusive subscription price. This includes Coursera’s Specializations and Professional Certificates, all of which are taught by top instructors from leading universities and companies (e.g. Yale, Duke, Google, Meta, and more).

The $299 annual fee–which translates to 81 cents per day–could be a good investment for anyone interested in learning new subjects and skills, or earning certificates that can be added to your resume. Just as Netflix’s streaming service gives you access to unlimited movies, Coursera Plus gives you access to unlimited courses and certificates. It’s basically an all-you-can-eat deal. Explore the offer (before September 21, 2023) here.

Note: Open Culture has a partnership with Coursera. If readers enroll in certain Coursera courses and programs, it helps support Open Culture.


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