Buckminster Fuller: Free Verse Poet of Geometry
By Olenka Burgess
Posted in Overcup Press, on May 19, 2016
In 1975, when Buckminster Fuller was almost eighty, he gave a series of lectures on his life’s work. These talks span over forty hours and cover science, mathematics, architecture, design, philosophy, history, education, and more. They are collectively called “Everything I Know” and were unrehearsed, delivered “completely extemporaneously,” as Fuller describes. He says, “I'm working on a mental tapestry, and I am introducing thoughts, and so forth, and I am bringing in threads and you'll find me continually weaving.”
You can get a taste of the lectures in this lightly edited version of the first session:
Full recordings of all the “Everything I Know” lectures are available on Archive.org [archive.org/details/buckminsterfuller], and you can find painstaking transcriptions on the Buckminster Fuller Institute website.
Since Bucky is, after all, the “Poet of Geometry," I thought I’d pull some threads from the mental tapestry of his lectures and reweave them into a poem of my own. All of the lines, though mashed up in a different order, are from Bucky’s “Everything I Know” lectures:
Some Things Bucky Knew
Suddenly there is a winter day. Everything is angles.
There was nothing in the moon, in its geometrical dimensions
the angle in which this light forms
eight stars in critical proximity,
a very narrow, delicate ellipse.
The tools of the land were just childish
in comparison to the tools of the sea.
Next picture please.
I gave you the two triangles the other day
discovering that the process of thinking produced a geometry
because crystalline structures do not distribute their loads.
They are simply taking position in the trees
just going along in their local circulatings.
I can drop a stone in the water
or I can try it in milk, or I can try it in kerosene.
And then we drop a piece of red popcorn
in the middle of the floating sawdust there,
and you see the yellow sawdust wave.
We have a number of observers,
in fact we have all of the degrees of freedom
getting in the palm of your hands
what used to be great piano-sized things.
This is a very simple kind of a folding.
Now, you say, I don't think anything is happening.
But I have slide pictures of other great circles.
What right have you to divide up the Universe?
There is nothing you can do without it being there.
It is very important to explain to yourself
how all the randomness can disclose to you
the beautiful complementaries that are always there.
There was no way for me to get anything from his eyes,
to make you look at things in a myopic way
and find yourself going exactly the opposite direction
from where you ought to be going,
a great cul-de-sac of incredible beauty and elegance.
Something has gone wrong on my picture.
I'm sure you are beginning to feel with me
the interrelatedness of everything.
* * *
We recommend that you try weaving a poem of your own from Buckminster Fuller’s transcribed “Everything I Know” lectures! In the process, you might just discover the seeds of the next great invention for the good of humankind . . .
Want to learn more about Buckminster Fuller and his universe? Check out the illustrated biography Buckminster Fuller: Poet of Geometry by Cole Gerst.