As a middle school English teacher, one of the reading strategies I was trained to teach was “mind movies.” In other words, when you read a book, you play the action out in your head. While this may seem a very simple act and basic strategy, it’s undoubtedly something that we all carry with us into our lives as adult readers. It’s why there’s often so much outcry when our beloved characters move from the page to the big screen. Was Hermione’s hair bushy enough? Mr. Darcy brooding enough? Was Legolas too pretty? And how could they pick her for that role? As avid readers, we’ve all surely asked these questions, but why? The answer goes back to those “mind movies” we learned to create all those years ago, and the force behind them: image in text.
As both a writer and a photographer, I take great interest in text, image, and the relationship between the two. It seems that at the most basic level we, as writers, use the words of our poems and stories to create images for our readers, while we, as visual artists, use singular images to suggest whole stories. Bottom line: the two are inextricably linked and complement one another beautifully when executed effectively. In his Poetic Image, poet C. Day Lewis describes image in writing as “a picture made out of words,” and that is what we sought as we put together in this edition of Mason’s Road. Of course, we looked to take as broad an approach to this issue as the word “image” itself must be taken, be it a description of a specific item that locates the reader in time and space, a more abstract image or allusion that subtly steers the reader in a particular direction, or the creation of a marvelous world full of dinosaurs and dreamers.
In M.H. Abrams’ A Glossary of Literary Terms, a book I never leave home without, Abrams points out that the use of the word imagery has trended toward signifying figurative language, “especially the vehicles of metaphors and similes.” While this is certainly true, I cannot help but think that this is very much a two-way street (cliché, yes, but it is a concrete image that I’ve just created in your mind to help you further your understanding of my point, no?). What I mean, is that I look at metaphor as image, and image as metaphor, or at least as each having the potential to bring forth the other. A well placed metaphor or simile can clarify a setting, while a single image can suggest a whole world of subtext and meaning.
Just as it is a director’s job to create his or her interpretation of a book when converting it to film, we as writers and artists view the world through our own lenses. And whether that world be the one we live in, or one that lives in us, it’s our job to translate it onto the page and make it attainable to our readers, creating images they can return to, and perhaps find solace in, when the images around them prove disheartening. It is this transposition and creation that is the joy of writing, and this escape and discovery that keeps us, as readers, returning to the written word again and again.
Colin D. Halloran