In 1932, Bradbury was captivated by the performance of Mr. Electrico, a carnival magician. At the end of the act, Electrico reached out to the twelve-year-old Bradbury and commanded, “Live Forever!” Bradbury later said, ”I decided that was the greatest idea I had ever heard. I started writing every day. I never stopped.” Read below to see how Bradbury lives forever through the people he continues to inspire.
January's Featured Artist: Ron Koertge
Janaury 30, 2021
Award winning South Pasadena Poet Laureate Ron Koertge recently penned a poem to accompany the stained glass window installation in the Bradbury meeting room of the South Pasadena Public Library. Koertge’s acquaintance with Bradbury, however, began some forty years ago: he and Bradbury frequented the same writer’s conferences and the famous author was a regular at South Pasadena Library events. Koertge and others often joined Bradbury afterwards for coffee. With “In Memoriam,” Koertge sets Bradbury’s desire to “live forever” through his work against the advice the author once offered at one of those sessions: “Mess around after you get your work done.”
Koertge, styled by United States Poet Laureate Billy Collins as “the wisest, most entertaining wiseguy in American poetry” has always been good at “messing around” as part of his work. He was not truly drawn to poetry until the legendary Southern California poet Gerry Locklin introduced him to the world of small poetry magazines where quirky and accessible, Koertge’s preferred style, flourished. Known not only for poetry but for acclaimed young adult novels, his sardonic wit and willingness to challenge authority and convention continue to draw an audience that values honesty and delights in irreverent fun. Not unlike Bradbury himself, Koertge threw off the idea of writing to impress academics early on. He continued to write young adult novels that rang true because, as his friend author Merrill Joan Gerber once told him, he is “chronically immature.”
That attachment to his inner child has not interfered with developing a thorough knowledge of classic poetic forms and a keen ear for the sounds and rhythm of language. Koertge, who had taught all manner of literature and composition classes during his 35 year career at Pasadena City College and Hamline University’s low-residency MFA program, follows the advice he recalls Bradbury passing on: “Put your butt in the chair. Write something.” On days when a poem doesn’t spring to mind, he works on something formulaic–a sonnet, a sestina, a haiku–because he believes, as Bradbury did, that writers should write something every day to hone their craft.
That practice laid the foundation for several novels written in verse. The Brimstone Journals lays out its plot in a selection of poems from 15 teenage characters. Shakespeare Bats Cleanup and Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs tell their story through a series of poems in almost every imaginable form, making them a favorite of English teachers. His latest book of poetry is Yellow Moving Van.
December’s Featured Artist: Esteban Cánepa
December 3, 2020
Esteban Cánepa will always remember how his father lent him just the right stories from the never-ending bookshelves that filled their home in Argentina. The elder Cánepa handed down a love of literature to his son, but it was the son who introduced the father to a genre the boy had discovered on his own: science fiction. Estaban recommended The Martian Chronicles and his father loved it.
Today, Cánepa is a professional illustrator, storyboard and concept artist for advertising and cinema, and human rights activist. He has also taught Image & Sound Design at the University of Buenos Aires, his alma mater. The poetry and humanism of Ray Bradbury continues to fascinate and inspire him.
In a work of art based on The Martian Chronicles, “The Fog Horn,” Fahrenheit 451, and others, Cánepa celebrates the timeless appeal of Bradbury’s exploration of love, curiosity and the human desire to reveal the unknown. In evocative illustrations sometimes reminiscent of the work of Ray Bradbury’s friend and collaborator artist Harry Harryhausen, the Argentine artist renders Bradbury’s mythic words and worlds in pen and ink. Cánepa fittingly points to a quote from Fahrenheit 451 to explain Bradbuy’s continuing influence on him and others around the globe: “Grandfather’s been dead all these years, but if you lifted my skull, by God, in the convolutions of my brain you’d find the big ridges of his thumbprint.”
Cánepa, like Bradbury himself, is not content to share his own passions for science, fiction, and science fiction in one form for one audience. In addition to his illustrations for books and comics, he has directed and written award winning short films, worked on designs for educational toys, and contributed his talents to social justice campaigns. He recently illustrated a University of Buenos Aires Faculty Press science book for young readers, sharing his love of science and visual art with a new generation.