(Roughly) Daily

Among the ruins…


Photographer Matthew Christopher has been intrigued by abandoned structures since he was a child.  His site Abandoned America collects the fruits of that fascination.

We live in a time where every spare plot of land is being developed and redeveloped, a time when cookie-cutter, prefabricated homes and businesses are the general rule. The failures of the past are being ignored and repeated, and many valuable pieces of our common past are falling to the wrecking ball every year. This process may be considered inevitable but it speaks of a certain carelessness and wastefulness on our part not to acknowledge and explore these fragments together while we still can. There is also a responsibility we all share to confront the horrors some of these sites are witness to. While we teach and reteach certain historical atrocities like the holocaust (and rightfully so), most people are completely ignorant that asylums and institutions on our own soil came close to being as horrific and lethal to those inside. Likewise, every factory complex that is demolished erases a valuable part of the heritage of the community it helped create, and an opportunity to understand the sometimes brutal working conditions, class struggles, and the economic devastation created by its closing is gone forever. While I love archaeology, I am dismayed at the prevailing blindness in scholastic circles that prizes a handful of nails or pottery fragments from an early colonial settlement but ignores sites that are still above ground and critical to preserving the accounts of accomplishments and missteps over the last century.

Beyond that, there is an undeniably artistic element to decayed sites, and an immense number of social, theological, and philosophical questions they pose. Abandoned America’s aim encompasses not only the historical and photographic cataloging of such sites, but also on a larger scale a eulogy for the lost ways of life they represent, a statement of their emotional, spiritual, and metaphoric relevance to our everyday lives, and a sense of the visceral experience of entering a parallel universe of silence, rust, and peeling paint…

Many, many more mesmerizing memorials at Abandoned America (from whence the photos above, all rights reserved to the artist).


As we tread carefully, we might send a lightly-but-carefully-composed birthday verse to Lawrence Ferlinghetti; he was born on this date in 1919.  A translator and writer of fiction, theatre, art criticism, and film narration, he is best known as an author for his poetry, perhaps especially for A Coney Island of the Mind (1958).  He is also justly famed as a pioneering publisher:  he initiated the “Pocket Poet” series, publishing his own verse, and works by Kenneth Rexroth, Kenneth Patchen, Marie Ponsot, Allen Ginsberg, Denise Levertov, Robert Duncan, William Carlos Williams, and Gregory Corso.  He published fiction by the by the William Burroughs and Charles Bukowski; non-fiction from Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn; translations of Bataille, Brecht, and Goethe… and Neal Cassidy’s “memoir,” which might arguably fit into more than one of those categories.

But Ferlinghetti is perhaps best known these days for his base of operations, San Francisco’s famed City Lights Books; established in 1953, it was the first all-paperbound bookshop in the country.  Given its stock and its publishing activities, it quickly became the “clubhouse” for the Beats, and a center of challenging thought– a role it occupies to this day.

“Poetry is the shadow cast by our imaginations.”  – These Are My Rivers: New & Selected Poems, 1955-1993

Ferlinghetti, reading at City Lights


Written by (Roughly) Daily

March 24, 2013 at 1:01 am

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