Tuesday, October 30, 2012

a feathered Legend

The Swan of Tuonela -- by Sibelius

Saturday, October 27, 2012

"Imaginary Conversations" by poet Jen Pezzo

Jen's new book of poems has been released by Poet's Haven Press.

There's a complex sensibility living in these poems: Cheshire smiles, spirit states, and erotic whispers.

As writer Mary Turzillo says: "And exciting collection for romantics and cynics alike."

Thursday, October 25, 2012

ANNUNCIATION - András Jeles (1984)

Hungarian filmmaker András Jeles made this film. The excerpt above projects a strangeness. I watch it and then ask myself: how is it that we human beings are not perpetually stunned to discover ourselves as minds in time and space, as spiritual substance amid phenomena, as unique experiencers of desire and event?

what a poem can do and mean

How could I not post this poem by Emily Dickinson?

There's a certain slant of light,
On winter afternoons,
That oppresses, like the weight
Of cathedral tunes.

Heavenly hurt it gives us;
We can find no scar,
But internal difference
Where the meanings are.

None may teach it anything,
'Tis the seal, despair,-
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the air.

When it comes, the landscape listens,
Shadows hold their breath;
When it goes, 't is like the distance
On the look of death.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I guess 60 changes a guy

I recently experienced my 20 x 3 birthday. And it seems my perspective or attitude on some things is shifting, modifying.

Here's an article about George Steiner:

"George Steiner, Last of the Europeans"

I have these books by Steiner and enjoyed reading them over the years:

And this book of essays about Steiner:

So.......what is it that changed with me?

I still admire Steiner's writings. He's an impressive literary and culture critic. My general assessment: Steiner is an advocate for high culture as a kind of divine immanence. Art, music, and literature (especially literature) are bridges between the phenomenal and the possible transcendent. The Holocaust, for him as for me, is a thing of great temporal wounding -- time itself and its speaking through language have been permanently altered, made equivocal and dark. (Those who continue blathering out their postmodern novels and ego-saturated poems are oddly oblivious to how dimensions of being have been distorted by the industrial slaughter of Jews.)

For quite a while, I was sympathetic to Steiner's basic form of sensibility. There's probably a bunch of my essayic ramblings on this blog that echo Steiner's thought. For me, high culture was a weave of meaning that I thought could be discerned in the world. Made life worth living.

But...it's all beginning to go strange on me. Steiner's mandarin intellection, his brilliant observance of literary associations and allusions, his hypnotically elegant writing style -- all these are maybe only apparent and not actual excavations and examples of deep meaning.

How has human life as such been elevated and made more humane by high culture? At this moment, I can't think of an answer. And Steiner's diffuse, balletic incantations have, so far as I know, conjured no god from the silence behind language or from the absence behind appearance.

I'm afraid that George Steiner (me, too) writes a lot of merely elegiac, effusive stuff. A wreathing of serious-sounding words around a metaphysical void. It strikes me now that Steiner's writing is perhaps more language-as-musical-affect than language-as-semantical-effect.

I guess 60 changes a guy.

Monday, October 22, 2012

a strange thing happened to me...

...while reading this article:

"After the Revolution" 

This article is a review of the book What Ever Happened To Modernism? by Gabriel Josipovici.

I was reading along because I like Modernist stuff. I was not prepared for the effect this article had on me -- a kind of spiritual dissociation occurred in my head. I began to wonder about what was so cosmically at stake for Josipovici. What might be percolating beneath his strident manifestoing? Why is he so obsessive? I began to suspect an existential myopia behind his fealty to one form of artistic/literary consciousness and his annoyance at another.

Yes, Modernist stuff is totally swell stuff. But even a return to Modernist sensibility in our literature and the other fine arts is not going to soften our mortality nor uncover essential meaning in an absurd universe. Since there are no answers in Modernism or anything else, why get your underwear in such conniptious wrinklage?

It. Don't. Mean. That. Much.

Billions of human beings currently breathing on Earth could not care less about the virtues of experimental, expressive literature in contrast to old-timey (and now new-timey) realist, narrative literature. If a lot of authors now are writing books you don't like, so what? I'll punch your Chagrined Sophisticate card so you can move on with your life.

Now, I'm okay with casual discussions about art and literature -- the various qualities and whatnot. Give me a bottle of red wine, and I'll be verbose, maybe even enthusiastic. But while reading this review, I began to wonder if Josipovici had gone off the deep end, and maybe needed to retire to a cabin in the woods somewhere to calm himself down.

Bursting into heretofore unseen or unwritten planes of expression is, when you look at it calmly, not going to alter our basic situation. For a while, it can make us feel stimulated and profound, yes. But it's not going to usher in a new world or persuade a god to appear. So why get stressed out over it?

And for what it's worth: having read War and Peace three times for the sheer historical, psychological, metaphysical, and (yes) narrative sweep of the thing, I would not displace it in the aesthetic canon with a necessarily Modernist book. Both things -- tradition and revolution -- can exist as poised equals. And neither thing is going to crack the riddle of Being.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

a Wallace Stevens poem

Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour

Light the first light of evening, as in a room
In which we rest and, for small reason, think
The world imagined is the ultimate good.
This is, therefore, the intensest rendezvous.
It is in that thought that we collect ourselves,
Out of all the indifferences, into one thing:

Within a single thing, a single shawl
Wrapped tightly round us, since we are poor, a warmth,
A light, a power, the miraculous influence.

Here, now, we forget each other and ourselves.
We feel the obscurity of an order, a whole,
A knowledge, that which arranged the rendezvous.

Within its vital boundary, in the mind.
We say God and the imagination are one...
How high that highest candle lights the dark.

Out of this same light, out of the central mind,
We make a dwelling in the evening air,
In which being there together is enough. 

Wallace Stevens

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Schopenhauer's Troupe of Souls: The Poems of William Crawford

Will Crawford has two books of poems out now: Fire in the Marrow (NeoPoiesis Press, 2010) and Actual Tigers (Edgar & Lenore's Publishing House, 2012). 

Crawford's poems contain a coiled energy, which is released as they are read. This energy vivifies the souls moving through his poems. These people are moments or cross-sections of the (especially) modern human paradox – cartilage and emotion, viscera and expression, substance and duration. Tragedy and persistence. 

The people appearing in Crawford's poems ride a carousel of deep-gathered momentum. Implicit is the numinous (unknowable) force that through the skeletal fuse drives these forms of human spirit, propelling them into event and circumstance. These characters are instances of philosophy without their even realizing it. The ghost of Schopenhauer leans in to observe. And is bemused at how these expressions of life, torment, beauty, and melancholy – these human beings -- are immune from any compulsion for metaphysical context. They are what they are (intense fusions of unconscious will and stubborn being), and they are where they are (moving on action stages that could be secretly choreographed and directed by Werner Herzog).  

I've read and reread these Crawford poems. There are many possibilities of encounter and appreciation when reading poetry. I keep coming back to my thought about Schopenhauer and the numinous. I don't know if the poet intends what comes to me in this thought. Maybe it's just the way my mind skews. But I'm struck by what is "there" without being overtly suggested by the poet. What is implicit, yet powerfully so: the dark hidden region – the metaphysical penumbra – that arcs above dramas of bodies and souls. In other words, there is poetic power on the page and another, unwritten power hovering beyond the page.



Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Monday, October 8, 2012

a profound book review

"Faustian Bargain"

About the Holocaust.

Danilo Kiš -- "Serbia's Holocaust Memorist"

It is with a kind of muted awe that I begin to have thoughts about this writer and his work. I have yet to read his work. But the article linked below is sufficient to persuade me that Kiš was someone of cultural and literary depth.

article about Danilo Kiš

Sunday, October 7, 2012

I am going to be provocative

I don't wish to ruffle sophisticated feathers, but a certain thing must be stated (so it gets registered in time and space):

Van Cliburn's Chopin makes a peculiar and lasting impression, has a unique intensity, is aesthetically remarkable.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

William Crawford's ACTUAL TIGERS is here!

When a poet sets down on the page what he must set down -- as a sharing of intense memory, experience, observation, and evocation -- it is worth taking it seriously as a reader of poems.

When a poet goes to that place of art, imagination, and honesty because he must -- as a venture of personal discovery and of serendipitous wonder -- it is worth taking it seriously as a collector of trances.

A book of poems available now from Amazon.com --

when one has found...

...a friend who shares his sense of life and literature, then one has come into a long-sought space that breathes a form of "Amen."

Reality is too large and too complex for understanding. One must rest content in discovering a little secluded avenue where the possibility of some god's small beneficence is waiting. Where a sufficient meaning of time is found and is suffused with radiance beneath a tree of dreams.


Article at The New Criterion:

"Strindberg's inferno"


I must acknowledge Lev Shestov

Portrait by Leonid Pasternak 

Lev Shestov, Russian (1866 - 1938)

Wikipedia said this:

The author seems to contradict himself on every page, and even seeks out paradoxes. This is because he believes that life itself is, in the last analysis, deeply paradoxical, and not comprehensible through logical or rational inquiry. Shestov maintains that no theory can solve the mysteries of life. 

Camus said this:
Shestov ... throughout a wonderfully monotonous work, constantly straining toward the same truths, tirelessly demonstrates that the tightest system, the most universal rationalism always stumbles eventually on the irrational of human thought. None of the ironic facts or ridiculous contradictions that depreciate reason escapes him. One thing only interests him, and that is the exception, whether in the domain of the heart or of the mind. Through the Dostoevskian experiences of the condemned man, the exacerbated adventures of the Nietzschean mind, Hamlet's imprecations, or the bitter aristocracy of an Ibsen, he tracks down, illuminates, and magnifies the human revolt against the irremediable. He refuses reason its reasons and begins to advance with some decision only in the middle of that colorless desert where all certainties have become stones. 

Though Jewish, Shestov turned to Christianity as the answer to his philosophical concerns about radical freedom and the truth of subjectivity. Christianity as the true north against the hubris and dead systems of pure reason (Idealism). But it doesn't necessarily follow that the non-rational must reach apotheosis in a personal God or in the promise of the Cross.

While I agree that the human spirit is mostly unfathomable and that lived experience has a different, deeper resonance than philosophical and scientific edifice-building, it could be the case that our unmeasurable chambers of meaning have no absolute echo in a Fatherly Heaven. Maybe, but maybe not.

Again in sympathy with Shestov -- I think there is a density to human consciousness and its relation to phenomenal reality that supersedes the dim-but-noble lights of abstraction and theory. But if Shestov is sensitive to paradox, then how could he have so blithely tumbled toward and into God? How could he not also discern an even greater paradox in God's own theory of God?

About Shestov's notion of radical and infinite freedom -- freedom to be or to do what? To be simply unburdened with abstract formalism and the mentations of scientism? Surely he means more than that. Something mind-blowing and spiritual and religious. But what? To just sit around and have Godly and paradisaical feelings? To be a wild-spinning mystic? To prepare oneself for something beyond the grave? I just don't know what he's getting at.

Of course, it's not for me to criticize or even guess about the contents of Shestov's religious imagination. Whatever he envisioned and deeply felt about a Living God beyond reason is something that took place in the unique dimensions of his perception and response to reality.

Sometimes I wake up from dreams and know for sure that I've just come from worlds far more lustrous and strange than my thinking could ever encompass or understand.

And here's an essay by Czeslaw Milosz on Shestov:

"Shestov, or the Purity of Despair"

An article:

"A Philosopher of Small Things"


Konstantin  Korovin

Found at Biblioklept

Monday, October 1, 2012

"The Vanished"

Die Verschwundenen/The Vanished

BY Hans Magnus Enzensberger
TRANSLATED BY Rita Dove AND Fred Viebahn

For Nelly Sachs
It wasn't the earth that swallowed them. Was it the air?
Numerous as the sand, they did not become
sand, but came to naught instead. They've been forgotten
in droves. Often, and hand in hand,
like minutes. More than us,
but without memorials. Not registered,
not cipherable from dust, but vanished—
their names, spoons, and footsoles.
They don't make us sorry. Nobody
can remember them: Were they born,
did they flee, have they died? They were
not missed. The world is airtight
yet held together
by what it does not house,
by the vanished. They are everywhere.
Without the absent ones, there would be nothing.
Without the fugitives, nothing is firm.
Without the forgotten, nothing for certain.
The vanished are just.
That's how we'll fade, too.