Tuesday, February 28, 2012


The bride sits in refined profile,
poised as a hush of Spanish roses,
beside a shadowed arbor waiting
for all seasons and capricious lights.

Her white sleeves fan out in woven lace,
textured of shy moons and old traditions.

In the silence of her sitting, the listener
who looks deeply enough can uncover
traces of tones from shape and gesture
and countenance of grace and compassion.
He will look into the hush and hear a sonata
played by De Larrocha, so redolent of roses
flourishing and thoughtful in a fountain garden.

Yes, a piano plays without making a sound --
homage to a princess who could be sitting
junto al mar en un jardín de Barcelona
and dreaming of her fine dashing groom
who already knows the value of melodies
that play always upon her complex brow
and upon her soft darkening cheeks of life.

Ah...but my niece is not Spanish.
It must be some magic in the wine
that makes Old Uncle imagine a scene
within a scene of beauty and fond sighs.
Forgive him for getting lost in fragrances
of roses imagined, of time becoming music.

The "señora" is sitting, and poems float upon her aura.

"Angels in Heaven"

Not bad at all for an Opus One.


Occasionally, I will catch myself staring at the wall and then the ceiling. And wondering when was it the first caveman or cavelady complained out loud, "Enough with the caves! I've had it. The air bad and batty. It's too expensive to heat. Enough! Let's build a ranch-style three-bedroom, with indoor plumbing. And a little fenced backyard for the poodle."

And other times, I catch myself thinking about Franz Schubert's Piano Trios. At such times, I simply don't know what to do. I just stand there, with my mind turning to fog and mist, and not believing those trios actually happened.

A Norman Nicholson poem

Old Main Street, Holborn Hill, Millom

A Shostakovich Prelude & Fugue

morning thoughts

My morning thoughts have, already, been all over the place -- a ruffled ostrich in a plasma tornado. But they seem to have settled down onto a certain spot.

Consciousness has not been explained, nor can it be, I think. Language is complementary to human consciousness, so maybe it also can't be explained. Cool. Okay. But mind/words allow the world to experience itself. Far out. And poetry is, perhaps, a condition of soul within which world gets down to its weirdest, saddest, most erotic, most natural, or most alarming beingness. Brodsky's thoughts have had an effect on my opinion about such things.

So, poetry. If via compressed, intense language world approaches itself from different angles, then poetry is not about a poet selecting the day's theme, or about a poet mining a particular vein to smithereens. Rather, poems are where anything can happen, just like world. Thus and therefore and hence or whatever, the poet is a medium, an attitude, an opening, a radar dish.

And as Connie Stadler recently said: "I've always felt being a poet was more about how one viewed the world than what was put to paper; the second flowing naturally from the first."

Ginette Neveu plays Ravel's TZIGANE

There have been and are, of course, many great violin virtuosos. But sometimes, the rare thing happens: a quality of tone, a presence of musicality that are on another level. The tone here is a speaking quality, and is a perfect demonstration of why a violin is a violin. In my dilettantish opinion.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sassafras Sassoon (Life & Times)

By the Gothic Rangers (me and Robin Willhite)

A thoughtful old geezer recounts his epilepsy-enhanced witnessing of events before, during, and after the great national Strife.

Sassafras Sassoon (Life & Times)

Well, I have lived a long and a strange life
Born in Georgia in eighteen double-naught
Now I’m ten years shy of a hundert
Lost my teeth and my bones are chalk
I have seen visions since my childhood
Folks said I was touched and cursed
But that euphoria with those fits
Got to be a sign of divine work
‘Prenticed a smithy when I was fourteen
Joined with Jackson near Horseshoe Bend
I still recall that turkey-shoot raid
He slaughtered five hundert and fifty red men

Reckon these eyes seen everything
Reckon it’s worked on my heart and mind
Reckon there’s a reason that I’m still breathin’
Reckon it’s important that I pen these lines

In ’36, I was Houston’s wheelwright
San Jacinto was a bloody mess
Mexico kicked off’n its own land
Santa Anna wearin’ Yellow Rose’s dress
Years flew by, then I went a-forty-ninin’
All the way to that pacifyin’ sea
Theft and fraud in those shenanigan camps
I busted flat out in ‘53
I figured there was a big storm comin’
Back in Kentucky midst tall ash trees
Saw it certain, saw a cold dead angel
Buried it deep, lest an unholy feast

Reckon I knew that war was comin’
Reckon I knew there’d be a heap ‘a killin’
Reckon that was just bound to happen
Reckon no man should work against his willin’

Well, I was slowin’ down with the rheumatiz’
When they caught that Chiricahua medicine man
He shore had gumption, shore a brave ‘un
Is knife revenge so hard to understand?
Jest last year in the Nashville paper
Caught a small column on page number ten
A polecat judge in that railroad case
Gave corporations the rights of men

Reckon it’s time for that long, dark sleep
Reckon I’m worn out, a mite melancholy
Reckon there’s an antichrist on the horizon
Reckon finance demons are fat and jolly

Reckon these eyes seen everything
Reckon it’s worked on my heart and mind
Reckon there’s a reason that I’m still breathin’

Reckon it’s important that I pen these lines


Words and music by Tim Buck

The Gothic Rangers at MySpace

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

"Praise of Ysolt" by Ezra Pound

‎John Burroughs, poet and editor of the journal Crisis Chronicles, just sent a shock-wave that blew the dust out of my hair. This Pound poem. Are there marvelous and "dark" forces at play in the cosmos?...something that veiled this poem from my discovery until this morning? Odd how things ripen....

Pound at Crisis Chronicles

Monday, February 20, 2012

How it's done.

Tomas Tranströmer's poem "The Indoors is Endless" --

Tranströmer -- at Poetry Foundation

No one should try to copy another poet's style. That's silly. But I've been trying to mind-meld with this poem, to understand its approach and some things about its structure. Why is it so excellent? A few things occur.

First, the voice, the cadence. It does not call attention to itself. The meter is subtle. Yet it isn't prosaic or tone-deaf.

Second, theme. Generally speaking, this poet considers the world outside himself. He is not lamenting the state of his miserable soul. Or boring the universe with his amorous obsessions or the banal claptrap of a relationship (which means he is not parading his ego and its needs). And he is not really *telling* us how it is out there. More of a questioning or marveling tone is alive in TT's poetry.

Third, language. Images are clear. Even his starling metaphors flow with a naturalness and understatement. He doesn't produce "profound" stream-of-consciousness word-magic. He's not trying to be artsy. However unusual his symbolism, it has a certain aesthetic and semantic clarity.

Finally, the "aha" moment for me. It seems to me that TT's subtle meter controls not only what images are possible as emergent things but also has a way of projecting consciousness away from ego. (A certain inspired-yet-tempered cadence is necessary -- merely blah-blah-blahing in a ho-hum fashion won't get the job done). And it may be that a subtlety of rhythm prevents even the possibility of thematic nonsense or moribund topic from reaching the page.

Conversely, there could be axiomatic effects when writing stuff about the inside: it causes dead or drunken cadence and leads to clunky, self-conscious image construction.

No one should try to copy another poet's style. But maybe an awareness of excellence and its ingredients can be a kind of subconscious aesthetic template for one's own forays into poem-making. Who knows?

Dvorak's CELLO CONCERTO -- Rose & the Philadelphia

The first time I heard this concerto, this was the recording. I had the cassette tape. I would listen late at night and...and...it had such an effect on me. The Philadelphia was at the height of its power and beauty -- silken strings, a bloom on the brass, woodwinds with such clarity. Mr. Rose gets the job done here, though his tone is a bit restricted. Not as broad, deep, or resonant as I've heard by others since. But I like this whole thing here very much.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


Ginastera and my reverie

Mid-morning in Argentina. The warm sunlight is lifting dew from violet blooms of the trumpet vine. The dew, going to mist, bids adieu to the petals: "Until tomorrow....."

Granados's "Goyescas no.1"

The peasant, floating the night's lake in his flat boat, is drawn to the far shore by strains of piano music. Old Pablo reaches the bank of an estate. He ties off his boat and cautiously enters a rose garden. He makes his quiet way to the great mansion and peers into an arched window.

Beautiful senoritas and gallant gentlemen are mingling, while the piano continues its evocative song. Old Pablo is filled with emotions for which he has no words. Youth, beauty, silk colors of held fans...this soirée of elegant grace! Soon, he knows, someone will recite a poem. Of true love meeting true love in the flushed bloom of life.

Old Pablo leaves the window. Tears would be too hurtful for his ancient eyes tonight. Back on his boat, under the cloudy moon, Old Pablo sighs, "Much better to float than to sink into one's dream. And this wine...this seductive wine...is my poem of poems!"

an episode

Tonight, a mouse ran from underneath the couch and then stood on its hind legs in the middle of the room. The cat stirred and purred, "This ought to be good." I looked on astonished as the mouse theatrically proclaimed:

"I am the mouse who some call Parmenides. Dig? I know something. Being is one and eternal. Thus, there is no void from which it sprang. Thus, there is no possibility of change, for that would mean moving from the what-is into a void of the what-is-not-yet. There can be no what-is-not-yet, because there is no void devoid of being. Thus.......I'm stuck here in the middle of the room. Will you pick me up and cook me some Ramen noodles? Please?"

Dvorak's Violin Concerto

Once every five years, I must listen to Dvorak's Violin Concerto. And hey!...I found Milstein, whose tone makes me very happy. And hey!...I found the Pittsburgh in the late fifties, whose tone makes me very happy.

Anabel Montesinos -- Fantasie Hongroise (Mertz)

Dead Can Dance -- "Rakim"

Monday, February 13, 2012

Novi Sad (after a watercolor by Dusan Djukaric)

Sonja somewhere in Novi Sad
has walked this scene, I'm sure,
where Djukaric's brushes explain
a metaphysics of old Slavic sky.

The day falls in a sharp angle
across the planes of architecture.
Nostalgia leans a pale rosiness,
and lavender drenches façades.

One wonders what silent offerings
are within that blue-framed door?

Did Sonja somewhere in Novi Sad
enter that door with one gold coin
to purchase a doll for no reason?

Surely Sonja stood considering
a shaggy-haired Adriatic pirate
or a lady in black aspect wooden
or a jester winking his dire irony.

But certainly Sonja spent her gold coin
on a melancholy doll -- "Nikolas Tesla."
His back would protrude a wind-up key
so sparks can arc from carved fingertips!

She bought one doll of oak and dyed wool
and set it on a shelf for midnight perplexing.
She left all the others to weep rotting tears,
and she whispered in leaving, “Time is tragic.”

On this street where rain has been lately,
where strollers are moving through being,
where space is Djukaric watercoloring...

Sonja's ambiance alternates in currents.


A watercolor by Dusan Djukaric.
Copyright © Dusan Djukaric.

Reproduced here with the artist's kind permission.

Dusan Djukaric's webpage
Dusan Djukaric on Facebook

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Zemun (after a watercolor by Dusan Djukaric)

Again the sun soft chimes the dawn,
luminous toward Zemun's waking.

And the Danube waits in a trance of boats.
And the painter floats on mystery of wetness.

The town jumbles in remnant colors
of dreaming on a shoreline's misting.

And the Danube waits in a trance of boats.
And the painter floats on mystery of wetness.

Around the bend afterthoughts nocturnal
as birds pivot to that echoing distance.

And the Danube waits in a trance of boats.
And the painter floats on mystery of wetness.

Time is liquid with tomorrow and memory.

And the Danube waits in a trance of boats.


A watercolor by Dusan Djukaric.
Copyright © Dusan Djukaric.

Reproduced here with the artist's kind permission.

Dusan Djukaric's webpage
Dusan Djukaric on Facebook

flabbergastingly good

Thursday, February 9, 2012

the island dweller (for David Bentley)

Canada curls over and winks quietly
at San Juan Island in the Northwest.
The island is six miles by twelve.

San Juan lies here with other islands –
forests and meadows dream over water.

He steps from the ferry to town dock.
Glad to be home from the mainland.

He dwells here under passacaglia rhythms
of clouds above melancholias of sea birds.
The winds that blow blow from China,
bring chants and ghosts from Manchuria.

He dwells in the heart of Friday Harbor town,
with his buddha smile, goatee, and spectacles.
On weekends he'll be found in the open air,
strolling galleries or considering antiques.

Rare ones live without questioning the weather.
In the nursing home, he worked decades tenderly,
answering eyes with companionship and easement.

He is so far from Arkansas and so away in time.
I knew him back then before he found paradise,
before he came to sea wind and olde shoppes.

I'm glad he is there in that strange place.
I'm glad he is sane just like he used to be.
Remembering him, I tumble into far years
jumbled with islands of days without dying.

A scribbler of lines is not sane and is no buddha.
He is memory, distance, and a beautiful psychosis.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Kaprálová -- "April"

I listen to this because I like listening to it.

I adore the music of Vítězslava Kaprálová. This "April" Prelude is played by Antonin Kubalek. The tone of this piano! The touch of these fingers on the keys!

And I like the idea that April in Arkansas feels like April in Czechoslovakia (or wherever she was when she composed this -- somewhere "over yonder"). I can smell fresh grass after gentle rain...intuit early flowers...and there! -- the first butterfly!

Under the spell of these purling, daydreaming notes, I will also think about the atmosphere of a gentle friendship.......


colors of Huckleberry

I came late to THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN. I was in my thirties. I remember the unusual effect it had on me, apart from narrative, theme, plot, characterization. The only other time I've had a similar unusual reaction was when I listened one day to orchestral excerpts of Wagner's RING cycle. In the latter case, I heard the music in deep yet vibrant colors. With ole Huck, I was reading in colors -- rich, swirling hues of nightshade purple, black-cat black, and shimmering indigo. Especially the sense of indigo -- I could almost taste it. One day, I need to get my head examined.

a Mahler thing!

From my friend Andrea, who lives in Austria:

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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Moravec -- Chopin

Czech pianist Ivan Moravec is a master poet of the piano. I've admired him for years. Such a spherical tone, even into the mid-range and bass! He instills his Chopin interpretations with an atmosphere of solitude. A shadowed depth opens somehow between each note. This is musicality on another level.

Lara St. John -- Bach

There are virtuoso violinists who are impressive. Then there are the rare ones, whose serious musicality flows from dedicated and deep aesthetic currents. That sets them apart. Their tonal generation and control, as well as rhythmic subtlety, are astonishing.

Brendel -- Mozart

Viktoria Postnikova Moscow 1970

Oh, my........

The unreal world of Alfred Schnittke

Richter -- Ravel


Songs from Bruno Schulz's THE STREET OF CROCODILES

Valentina Lisitsa -- Liszt

Valentina Lisitsa -- Chopin

This gal has a phenomenal technique and a large repertoire. She astonishes in the brilliant, extrovert pieces. I almost want to be grumpy when it comes to such technique applied to so many varieties of scores. I want to think she must be a tiny bit lacking in the subtlest aspects of musicality. But as the Chopin below proves, she conjures pure poetry. She must be some kind of real live genius. I just don't know what else to say.....