13 Ways of Looking

13 Ways of Looking asks writers to elaborate on 13 images that inspired, directly or indirectly, their latest book.

13 Ways of Looking, with Lauren Groff
13 Ways of Looking, With Kaveh Akbar
Usually, after I’ve spent a good deal of time with a poem, it begins to become impenetrable to me—less a “small machine made of words” and more a symbol that enters my eye all at once like an ideogram or hieroglyph. A glance at a poem will visually summon all its experiential or psychospiritual data without requiring any actual engagement with its syntax (which also makes the poems obnoxious to revise, and often requires either another set of eyes or a great deal of time to turn the poem back into words).
13 Ways of Looking, With Kristen Radtke
When I start drawing, my first step is usually scouring through hundreds of images online to get a sense for the framing of what I’d like to draw, or taking a lot of very weird, very ugly photographs myself. Unless I’m just sketching or making a really simple drawing, I need to look at a model or a space to draw it and maintain the right proportions and scale. Here is a sampling of some images I found inspiration from for those drawings, and others that informed the shape of the project in general.
13 Ways of Looking, With Rivka Galchen
This book tells the story of Katharina Kepler, the mother of the astronomer Johannes Kepler, who at the end of her life was put on trial as a witch. This was a book that took me over completely, in a very emotional way.
13 Ways of Looking: Jeff VanderMeer
My new novel Hummingbird Salamander is written from the point of view of Jane, a security analyst who has been gifted with a taxidermied (extinct) hummingbird by a dead eco-activist named Silvina—a woman she does not know. As the mystery deepens and Jane’s investigation gets her into trouble, we come to learn more about the antagonists: the wildlife trafficker Langer, Silvina’s father, a wealthy industrialist, and “Hellmouth,” an agent of chaos who both helps and harries Jane at every turn. At stake in this exploration of eco-mystery may be the fate of the world.
13 Ways of Looking, with Dantiel W. Moniz
These are images I captured myself or came across, but either way, they stuck in my mind. Some sparked a story or a scene, some made me think deeper about how to layer in complexity to ideas that had already begun to seed. My intention for this collection was to portray the fullness of the human emotional experience, especially when that’s uncomfortable or frightening to sit with. Even in those moments, there can be beauty.