Esquire, May 2013. Photo by Max Vadukul. Copyright Esquire.
Esquire, May 2013. Photo by Max Vadukul. Copyright Esquire.

After seeing Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, I’ve been on a Leonardo DiCaprio binge. Never mind that he still hasn’t won an Oscar, or that he wears white athletic socks with boat shoes–those topics are covered on BuzzFeed. What I want to mention here is an article I read about Leo in the May 2013 issue of Esquire, written by Tom Junod.

I liked this article immediately, and not just for the obvious reasons. Junod’s intro drew me in with just enough detail and ambiguity about “a guy in a room” to carry me six paragraphs before he mentions the guy is Leo. This wasn’t going to be your average magazine interview with a celebrity.

Mid-way through the piece, Junod mentions Leo’s “big mobile forehead” and “dark exotic eyebrows that function like Gothic arches in a megachurch.” I ate this up, not because it brought to mind visions of marrying Leonardo in a Gothic cathedral, but because that language surprised me. How does a writer describe a face that literally everyone recognizes? A face that doesn’t need description? With new language– words combined and repurposed in a way that communicate something much greater than the sum of their parts.

As a poetry editor, this is one of my top criteria when reading submissions. Does the language simply roll over subjects and ideas we’re all familiar with, gathering a few pretty words along the way? Or does it do something new with the language, take them it a different direction, light it on fire and rearrange the ashes?

Surprise engages a reader. It’s like a little flag in the road reminding you to pay attention, to slow down because you don’t want to miss this. It sure makes things more interesting. I, for one, will never look at Leo’s brow the same way again, and for that, I thank Tom Junod. As for the rest of Leo’s parts….well, that’s another post.

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