sparkles from the wheel 11.30.2007, 5:19 PM
posted by ben vershbow
Walt Whitman's poem "Sparkles from the Wheel" beautifully captures the pleasure and exhilaration of watching work in progress:
WHERE the city's ceaseless crowd moves on, the live-long day,
Withdrawn, I join a group of children watching - ?I pause aside with them.
By the curb, toward the edge of the flagging,
A knife-grinder works at his wheel, sharpening a great knife;
Bending over, he carefully holds it to the stone - ?by foot and knee,
With measur'd tread, he turns rapidly - ?As he presses with light but firm hand,
Forth issue, then, in copious golden jets,
Sparkles from the wheel.
The scene, and all its belongings - ?how they seize and affect me!
The sad, sharp-chinn'd old man, with worn clothes, and broad shoulder-band of leather;
Myself, effusing and fluid - ?a phantom curiously floating - ?now here absorb'd and arrested;
The group, (an unminded point, set in a vast surrounding;)
The attentive, quiet children - ?the loud, proud, restive base of the streets;
The low, hoarse purr of the whirling stone - ?the light-press'd blade,
Diffusing, dropping, sideways-darting, in tiny showers of gold,
Sparkles from the wheel.
I was reminded of this the other day while reading a brief report in Library Journal on Siva's recent cross-blog argument with Michigan University Librarian Paul Courant about Google book digitization contracts. These sorts of exchanges are not new in themselves, but blogs have made it possible for them to occur much more spontaneously and, in Siva's case, to put them visibly in the context of a larger intellectual project. It's a nice snapshot of the sort of moment that can happen along the way when the writing process is made more transparent -? seeing an argument crystallize or a position get clarified. And there's a special kind of pleasure and exhilaration that comes from reading this way, seeing Siva sharpening his knife -? or argument -? and the rhetorical sparks that fly off the screen. Here's that Library Journal bit:
Discussion of Google Scan Plan Heats Up on Blogs:
Now this is why we love the Blogosphere. In launching his blog, University of Michigan's (UM) dean of libraries Paul Courant recently offered a spirited defense of UM's somewhat controversial scan plan with Google. That post drew quite a few comments, and a direct response from Siva Vaidhyanathan the author, blogger, and University of Virginia professor currently writing the Googlization of Everything online at the Institute for the Future of the Book; that of course drew a response from Courant. The result? A lively and illuminating dialog on Google's book scanning efforts.
bowerbird on December 2, 2007 3:10 PM:
i have to disagree.
i believe that when all the dust settles, you'll see that
siva's points distracted people from the real issues...