Cover image for Deep play
Deep play
Ackerman, Diane.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Random House, [1999]

Physical Description:
xiii, 235 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BF717 .A23 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
BF717 .A23 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



WithA Natural History of the Senses, Diane Ackerman let her free-ranging intellect loose on the natural world.  Now inDeep Playshe tackles the realm of creativity, by exploring one of the most essential aspects of our characters: the abitlity to play. "Deep play" is that more intensified form of play that puts us in a rapturous mood and awakens the most creative, sentient, and joyful aspects of our inner selves.  As Ackerman ranges over a panoply of artistic, spiritual, and athletic activities, from spiritual rapture through extreme sports, we gain a greater sense of what it means to be "in the moment" and totally, transcendentally human.  Keenly perceived and written with poetic exuberance,Deep Playenlightens us by revealing the manifold ways we can enhance our lives. From the Trade Paperback edition.

Author Notes

Diane Ackerman was born on October 7, 1948 in Waukegan, Illinois. She received a B.A. in English from Pennsylvania State University and her M.A., M.F.A., and Ph.D. in English from Cornell University. Poet, author, educator, adventurer, and naturalist, she tries to bridge science and art in her writing, exploring questions of who we are, where we come from, and how we fit into the fabric of the world.

She has written many books of poetry including The Planets: A Cosmic Pastoral; Wife of Light; Jaguar of Sweet Laughter: New and Selected Poems; Origami Bridges: Poems of Psychoanalysis and Fire; and I Praise My Destroyer. Her nonfiction works include A Natural History of the Senses; A Natural History of Love; The Moon by Whale Light: And Other Adventures Among Bats, Crocodilians, Penguins, and Whales; An Alchemy of Mind; and On Extended Wings. She also writes nature books for children including Animal Sense; Monk Seal Hideaway; and Bats: Shadows in the Night. She is coeditor of a Norton anthology, The Book of Love. Her essays about nature and human nature have appeared in Parade, National Geographic, The New York Times, and The New Yorker magazines. She hosted a five-hour PBS television series inspired by A Natural History of the Senses.

She received the Orion Book Award for The Zookeepers Wife. Her other awards include the Abbie Copps Poetry Prize, Black Warrior Poetry Prize, Pushcart Prize, Peter I. B. Lavan award, and the Wordsmith award. She has taught at a variety of universities, including Columbia and Cornell.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

What is most distinctive about naturalist and poet Ackerman's groundbreaking work is not so much that it brings poetry to science and vice versa, although that alone merits high praise, it's that she brings such joy to the page. The source of this delight, Ackerman tells her readers, is a heightened state of being that she calls "deep play." Play, Ackerman reminds us, is intrinsic to life. It teaches animals and human beings the skills and the lessons necessary for survival. Deep play, "ecstatic" play, transcends practical concerns and grants us passage to the sacred and the holy. Art is deep play, so is religion, the contemplation of nature, and playing sports; in short, pursuits that are all-consuming and inspire feelings of awe and a profound sense of connection with the universe. By turns anecdotal and philosophic, Ackerman vividly recounts her own "deep play" experiences, describing what it's like to stand among a "vast city-state" of emperor penguins in Antarctica, swim with spotted dolphins in tropical waters, and, closer to home, find bliss in bicycling, gardening, and reading poetry. Moving beyond immediate experience and drawing on her vast historical and scientific knowledge and keen insight into our complex psyches, Ackerman keeps riffing, explaining how pilgrimages to sacred sites, ceremonies, and the skills of Polynesian navigators all qualify as deep play, as liberation from the cage of the self. The very act of reading this original, exultant, sage, poetic, and generous meditation on the importance of enchantment is deep play, and you can't ask that a book be anything more wonderful than that. --Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

In a meandering meditation, poet and naturalist Ackerman (A Natural History of the Senses, etc.) employs the term "deep play" to refer to a combination of what others sometimes call "flow" or "the zone" and what anthropologists call "sacred play." Her subject can be understood as intensity, or even ecstasy, those moments of heightened experience when the mind and senses are working at full capacity. Her acknowledgments page bears a portent for readers as she mentions previous essays on poetry, ceremony and eco-psychology, travel pieces on Gauguin and the Grand Canyon, and more: to fit her broad conceit, she's shoehorned in a wide range of her activities. At her best, which usually comes when she is writing about something observable (e.g., standing amid penguins in Antarctica), Ackerman can beguile readers with fine turns of phrase. But when she indulges her weakness for abstraction, she can get airy. Musing on her application to the "Journalist in Space" program and the future of commonplace space flight, she declares: "What wonderful fields of deep play await us in space!" Poetry "is an act of deep play," she asserts, in an interesting if somewhat off-point account of writing and teaching. Some of her conclusions settle for a dismaying level of generalization as when, citing her experiences with soccer players and cycling magazines, she suggests that professional athletes are businesslike, while amateurs are more playful. Ultimately, the book is more confusing than illuminating, and, oddly, more labored than playful. Agent, Cullen Stanley of Janklow & Nesbit. Author tour. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The noted poet/naturalist on the pleasures of "deep play"‘things that absorb us so totally we forget everything else. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.