Sunday, 20 March 2011

The Poetics of the Zoom


There's a fantastic article here about how poets invented the zoom lens, or rather the idea of zooming in and out, which, if you think about it, is something impossible to the human eye. Zooming can only happen in cameras and in the imagination, and it was the imagination that got there first, with the lens-makers scuttling along behind. The first zoom is credited to Milton.

The article misses, though, my favourite poetic zoom, which comes from the opening of an Auden poem:

Consider this and in our time
As the hawk sees it or the helmeted airman:
The clouds rift suddenly - look there
At cigarette end smouldering on a border
At the first garden party of the year.

The parted clouds to the cigarette end, faster than any film could make sense of the matter.

Two other little linguistic points were suggested by the article. First, an animalcule is a small or worthless animal. The word isn't in the OED, but that's what -cule always means. Second, zoom is onomatopoeic. The word was originally applied to the flight of aircraft, and specifically to the noise made when the throttle is opened and the aircraft shoots upwards - zoooom. The camera meaning is recorded from 1948.

Anyway, go and have a look at the article. The weather's horrible* and any notion that you have something better to do with your Sunday is a delusion. Click here.

The Inky Fool searching for cigarette ends

*Or it is in the Lake District where I am sojourning.


P.S. I'm indebted to the Antipodean for sending me the link.

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