The Ghost of Ursula K. Le Guin

Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin” by Arwen Curry
Viewing on Friday, February 1st, 2019
Northwest Film Forum, Seattle, WA

Impressions: I cried. I may need to get my hands on a copy of the documentary to accurately tell you why.

For me, Ursula K. Le Guin has been a ghostlike mentor since I first read her short story “Schrödinger’s Cat” in school. This story is an example of my favorite quality to Ursula’s writing – her exemplification of the power of words. In this story she uses words so skillfully, twisting them into every meaning she can conjure. I have read it out loud and in silence to myself and an audience of one or more. Every time I get swept up into the voice of Rover, the couple falling apart, the physics question translated through a cat in Pandora’s box, and the single note that makes our narrator want to cry. As a reader, I am transported from my single moment in time to an endless expanse of possibility.

Since that story, I have collected her books of poetry. I think Ursula K. Le Guin has always been first and foremost fascinated with the art of words. Her poems span individual experience to snapshots of place to mythology as personal, all with a musical quality to their expression. An authenticity and depth of character as well as an openness to new ideas is so prevalent in her writing. One of the greatest lessons I have learned about writing from Ursula K. Le Guin is to write from my experience.

“Writing from experience” doesn’t immediately set me in mind of interplanetary travel or the magic of naming as in her more sci-fi and fantasy focused novels. However, the more I’ve learned from Ursula, the more I have realized that for her, these were “writing from experience” and they can be for me too!

One of the things that came up in her documentary was “writing imaginatively.” This is where the raw ingredients mix with curiosity to create something that wasn’t there before. Depending on how you go about it, the process could be quite like candy making – a lot of time, energy, and attention spent on ingredients that are odd on their own, but magic together when you put in the work.

I definitely cried when I learned that Ursula K. Le Guin died. From reading her poetry, I got the impression that she was at peace with her passing. That gave me comfort. For me, she was always a ghost, sharing her imagination through the veil that exists between writers and readers. I will always cherish what she still shares through her words. If only she could continue on with us, creating more and more.

Have you read her translation of the Tao Te Ching? I mean… you could read it, or maybe I’ll just make a whole new post just for that later!

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1 thought on “The Ghost of Ursula K. Le Guin

  1. i have a copy of that translation – only slightly disappointed that it did not include the words she used in City of Illusions which first introduced me to Taoism ‘ the way that can be gone is not the eternal way, the name that can be named is not the eternal name’. No doubt she later found her new translation as more scholarly, but as you say her use of language provided a wonderful poetic and philosophical resonance.

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