Thursday, December 8, 2011

some nice Chekhov passages

From his novella The Steppe:

But when the moon rises, the night becomes pale and dark. It is as if the dusk had never been. The air is transparent, fresh, and warm, everything is clearly visible, and you can even make out the separate stalks of the weeds by the roadside. In the far distance, skulls and stones can be seen....

Broad shadows drift across the plain like clouds across the sky, and in the incomprehensible distance, if you look at it for a long time, misty, whimsical images loom and heap upon each other....It is a little eerie....

The boundless depth and infinity of the sky can be judged only on the sea or on the steppe at night, when the moon is shining. It is frightening, beautiful, and caressing, it looks at you languorously and beckons, and its caress makes your head spin....

...your soul responds to the beautiful, stern motherland, and you want to fly over the steppe with the night bird.

Troika in Steppe, 1882 -- Ivan Constantinovich

Sunday, December 4, 2011

going deeper into poetry

While I was off Facebook for two months, I had an anti-epiphany followed by a discovery.


Having produced another "book" of poems (In Lieu of Opium), I realized I had run out of steam. I realized how far I am from reaching my ideal of utterance. And even the thought of trying to write another poem began to feel like a bizarre and alien enterprise.

Thinking about my poems, I believe I came close a few times to my ideal of theme, perspective, and execution. Alas, I'm not profound enough to make the kind of poem I want to make. Even describing my ideal seems to be beyond me. I know it when I see it.


I stumbled upon the poetry of Tomas Tranströmer. I was quietly flabbergasted. Deeply affected. This is it! I want to spend a calm, thoughtful year reading and rereading his poems. I want to spend time living in and between his lines.

And I might want to write little things, from time to time, about his poems. That might be a way for me to gradually formulate and express my ideal about poetry. Whatever I might have to say will not be prescriptivist. It will merely establish the peculiarities of how I experience world-through-art.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A human being!

Yesterday morning, the Direct TV guy came to install a larger dish and an updated box. This fellow was so neat. He was professional and polite. But he was wonderfully peculiar. It was as if unnerving voices were whispering in his head. He projected a tenseness, almost quivering with vague spiritual unease. He was enveloped in a penumbra of distractedness. And he had a clipped, reluctant sense of humor.

I would have enjoyed having a non-Direct TV conversation with this young fellow. But how could I or anyone overcome his internal quivering? Suspicious energies were pouring off him and puddling around his hurried steps. He was efficient. He moved in a nervous blur. He seemed like one of my nightly dream characters come to dubious life.

Afterwards, it struck me that no novel could have prepared me for this Direct TV guy. And no literary critic's exposition could touch his persona. He is of no type. He is himself. No writer could capture the essence of his flustered, vibrating soul. Novels give us characters that are nice to spend time with. Critics try to tease out universals from the interplay of characters and their locations in plot. But real life and real people are different. Real people, like my Direct TV guy, are unique and thoroughly unexpected. No novel could contain him.

I'm glad he came yesterday. He refreshed me with how wild and preposterous is the world.