Friday, May 31, 2013

"Le secret" -- Fauré

Barbara Bonney

"Aurore" -- Fauré

Barbara Bonney

Arleen Auger -- coloratura soprano

Queen of the Night aria -- Mozart's The Magic Flute

"Rose on the Heath" -- Schubert

"Rosamunde" -- Schubert

Thursday, May 30, 2013

some Szymanowski

Piano Sonata No. 3

Violin Concerto No. 1

The Unanswered Question -- Ives

A quiet metaphysical musing of strings alternates with the perplexity of brass and the gnomic hysteria of woodwinds.

If this isn't eloquent and profound...

...then I don't know what is:
Both in the dream and in the wall, floor, and ceiling analogies of existence, that is, in the anthropomorphic similarity of the air and hour -- you were Tsvetayeva, that is, you were the language found by everything to which the poet addresses himself his whole life without the hope of receiving an answer. 
       ~ Pasternak to Tsvetayeva, from Letters: Summer 1926 

Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto

For me, no one surpasses Oistrakh in this, but sometimes I enjoy listening to the soul of another.

"When Art Danced with Music"

An exhibition on the Ballets Russes at the National Gallery.

NY Times article

NPR article


Anderszewski on Schumann

He came to a deeper appreciation of Schumann after reading the works of Robert Walser.


1960 excerpt

1946 film poster

The Bolshoi!

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau -- Schumann's Dichterliebe

Part 1

Part 2

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Maria João Pires & Chopin

Piano Sonata No. 3

"Branch with Last Cherries"

I wanted to pick out an Abraham Sutzkever poem and write something about it. When the fit is on me to write, I like to write my impressions of a poem that has affected me. When I encounter a remarkable poem, I want to say something.

But what could I say about this poem? There's nothing I could say. The impression goes too deep and the quality is too remarkable for commentary.

Branch with Last Cherries

Where there is no more my home, no more my mother,
There is my blue home and there is my mother.
Perhaps someone lives who still recalls her face.
Among copper scorpions I will walk to seek him.
Elijah, I shall call him. Elijah.
Him, the Chosen One, who recalls my mother's face.
I will kiss his feet and beg: Elijah,
By virtue of my wounds — please, breathe out her face.
Just for a moment. If it's too long: half a moment.
With the rest of my years I am prepared to pay.
Oy, as to a branch of last cherries, through a mist,
I shall come close, and fear to come closer.
In that half moment, I shall ask: Tell me, mother,
Could the Creator look you in the eye?


Who in the world is Balint Vazsonyi?

Whomever he is, he recorded a wonderful version of Schumann's Symphonic Etudes in 1969:

Clara Haskil & Schumann

the Czech's holistic timbre

Aside from Martinů's remarkable music, just listen to the distinctive beauty, the characteristic sound of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Swan Lake

Elliott Carter -- what a beautiful and interesting soul

JDCMB: RIP Elliott Carter (1908 - 2012)

so many great string quartet ensembles

The Budapest, the Emerson, the Alban Berg, the Lindsay, the Guarneri, the Tokyo, the Quartetto Italiano, the Jerusalem, and so it goes.

For me, there is a special place deep inside my ears for the Takács in Haydn. Can't explain it. Won't try to justify it.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

pianist Daniil Trifonov

His homepage.

Saint-Saëns -- Piano Concerto No. 5

I wear out my feeble brain trying to decide what to do about Camille Saint-Saëns.

Most serious music critics and listeners sniff, considering him mostly surface, little substance. I understand what they're getting at.


sometimes, there's no substitute for how it is to float on his music in a glistening ambivalence. A condition of semi-abstracted listening and feeling.

Well...I listened to this some more, while knocking back a couple of beers. And I must revise what I said above. Besides the exemplary musical craft of this concerto, there are also moments of sensitive and genuine expression -- the mellifluous and the melancholy phasing through a portal of equanimity.

Sunday morning with composer Witold Lutosławski

1913 - 1994

From Steven Stucky's essay "Remembering Lutosławski":
...the ravishing beauty of Lutosławski’s French-Slavic sound world, his rich harmonic language, his expressive melodic voice, his lucid forms, his attention to dramatic tension and release, and, underpinning everything, his drive to communicate.
And on a larger level, there is Lutosławski’s intense interest in the psychology of the listener:
‘I understand the process of composing above all as the creation of a definite complex of psychological experiences for my listener…I try never to lose sight of my basic aim, which is to compose the particular aesthetic experiences of my listener.’ 

From Zbigniew Skowron's essay "Lutosławski's Aesthetics and Their Sources":
His openness towards concepts of musical form and process inherited from the Classical and Romantic period, together with his ability to create their modern equivalents, is surely one of the most important characteristics both of Lutosławski’s music and of his creative consciousness.
What awakened some of Lutosławski’s doubts and hesitations about the ultramodern attitude and aesthetics was what he called a ‘terror of the avant-garde’: ‘I totally reject all absolutism; and the utter certainty with which the dogmatic followers of Webern proclaim their own rights to dispose of the future awakens my reluctance and suspicion. Someone who is not modest enough to admit that he doesn’t know everything, exposes himself, in fact, to the risk of knowing nothing.’

And here is Steven Stucky's essay "Lutosławski: Les espaces du sommeil". This composition, as the essay describes, is based on the poem by surrealist Robert Desnos.

Lutosławski -- Les espaces du sommeil

Earlier this year, I posted Lutosławski's Concerto for Orchestra, a work I really, really like.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Samuil Yevgenyevich Feinberg & Bach

Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue in D minor, BWV 903

Fantasia and Fugue in A minor, BWV 904

Curzon & Beethoven's 4th

  This is good.

1st movement

2nd movement

3rd movement

Renée Fleming & Puccini

Her interpretation is wonderfully characterized. As if she is shyly holding back the deepest emotion at times. This allows her phrasing to breathe into the music with a remarkable understatement. This lends to the aria's soaring moments an extra whammy of beauty and poignancy.

O Mio Babbino Caro 

of luminous bones


Throats Full of Graves

a book of poems by Gillian Prew
Lapwing Publications, 2013

These poems are not only presentiments of oblivion; they are also the felt now of lived-in time. Grief is a way of conversing with those stilled tongues under earth. It's also a wan melisma within our stubbornly persisting marrow.

And yet....

Dark themes are cushioned here and become instances of art by the very quality of saying. In “After the Funeral,” Prew casts emotion and vision to us through remarkable cadence and symbol:
The river rocks solace to the hill
where the rowan rests ruined
from death's decent rumor
and a best life is gone in a burst joy.

Ennui for a poet of depth is a peculiar trance state. Even as consciousness drifts before the horizon of death, that abyss is a potential volume for new energies of language and perception. Out of the moribund of days might come a sense of existential irony. In "August, Departing," the bare fact of the phenomenal world's being inspires a sly sarcastic wink:
The tide is loud with the drowned
and the windy chains of gulls.
The air smells of salty bone
and the womb forgetting.
By the rotting light I breathe,
counting the pretty darknesses.
Again, the sensitive and artistic handling of the lines creates a kind of slow surprise in the reader – aesthetic frisson blends into and startles the ennui and irony.

Despite instances of levitation and beauty, these poems are requiems sounding an inconsolable harmonics in the deepest bass register. And glimmers of ostensible solace are, finally, subsumed in transience and a broken tongue. Even "Memory" is a futile refuge:
A scarred truth roaming bone. You fail
with a brave despair
like widowed songbirds, their throats full of graves.

I enjoyed this book of poetry so much that I found myself reading it three times in a row. Recommended. 

order chapbook

Myra Hess & Scarlotti

An artist!

Rameau's "La Poule"

Pianist Grigory Sokolov

This is another thing I found at Jessica Duchen's Classical Music & Ballet Blog.

The Rite of Spring

Here's Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Ballet:

I found this on a cool blog:  Jessica Duchen's Classical Music & Ballet Blog

Monday, May 20, 2013

appreciating poet Abraham Sutzkever

When I read the poems of Abraham Sutzkever, I experience a sense of quiet awe. He was a poet of unusual depth and quality. A poet whose language was a mode of aesthetic expression and aesthetic suspension of time. 

How to explain those moments of transport and subtle beauty woven into lines that are sometimes dark and tragic? Those moments that fill me with wonder? The ability to write such enhanced language, such profound poetry leaves me flabbergasted. I suppose it's a mystery not to be solved but to be savored.

Sutzkever is the kind of poet who wrote poetry the way poetry wants to be written.

His work means so much to me. 

1913 - 2010

The Fiddle Rose is out of print, but here's a webpage with some of the poems:

Another book of his poetry is A. Sutzkever: Selected Poetry and Prose:

The University of California Press

Here it is from the UC Press E-Books Collection, for free reading:

UC E-Book

Here are some article links about the poet:


NY Times

Tablet Magazine

Yiddish Institute

Here I Am

Here I am, blooming as big as I am,
Stung by songs as by fiery bees.
I heard you call me in the shining dawn
And rushed to you through night and dust and sweat.
Cities and villages tore off from me.
Lightning set thin fire to my old, gray home.
A rain washed away the red traces.
And I stood before your name
As before the blue mirror of conscience.
Like flayed branches, my hands
Rap hastily on your bright door.
My trembling and baffled eyes,
Like two sails, are drawn to you.
Suddenly: the door is open.
You're not there.
Everything's gone.
A poem left behind.
Silly weeping.


"Vilna: City of Spirit and Innocence"

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sunday morning with David Diamond

1915 - 2005

Rounds for Orchestra

String Quartet No. 4

It's too bad that Steven guy who posted all the Diamond string quartets saw fit to continually interrupt the music with his commentary. Anyway...Diamond's quartets are, for me, massively remarkable things.

info on composer David Diamond

Saturday, May 18, 2013

the fading and loss...

...of a friendship is the darkest music.

And life eventually takes on a quality of the void, with jittery accents of the absurd. But who's complaining? Relationships are script written by strange hands on the palimpsest of time over dream.

an unexpected poignancy

Yesterday, I posted this:

Professor Agata Bielik-Robson

My coming to that webpage, which announces and links to her seminar paper, was one of those tangential internet things. Something led to something led to something.  

I read her seminar paper

Mysteries of The Promise. Negative Theology in Benjamin and Scholem

and was unprepared for the effect it would have on me.

For most of the essay, I was simply trying to follow the argument, stopping many times to reread paragraphs in order to absorb the subtleties.  For most of the essay, the intellectual part of my head was engaged. I was transfixed by Professor Bielik-Robson's critical unfolding and analysis of the debate between Scholem and Benjamin -- their different approaches to God, nothingness, revelation, trace, bare life, and Kafka.

It would be an injustice to her paper were I to offer a summary or paraphrase of its contents. This stuff is too deep for a generalized compression. And what happened to me while reading it happened as a result of reading the whole thing. So, what I have to say about its effect on me is all I will say, and should be taken as a kind of whispered gesture of invitation to others.

On pages 16 and 17 (of 19), I read the following, which began to alter my orientation from the intellectual to the emotional:
It is not power which is concealed and radically transcendent – but only life, the ‘mysterious hidden life of God.’ God, therefore, reveals himself as indeed meaningless – but not as a Nothing-of-Meaning or the capriciously inexplicable power issuing ‘commands that command nothing,’ but as an autotelic Pleroma of eternal Sabbath, delighting in its own absolute uniqueness.

Also on page 17 is an excerpt from Zohar: The Book of Splendour. That text worked upon me in a peculiar manner. I felt an existential weight being gently displaced by something else. A kind of metaphysical buoyancy occurred. A floating quality that also sent invisible strings into the organic, the lived, the psychological. 

The suggestion of "Sabbath" struck me with a poignant force. 

Yet a dreamlike effect, as though the word was haunted by a heretofore unrecognized je ne sais quoi. For a few moments (who knows, maybe a lasting thing), I felt myself opening to a new and uncertain sense of the quietly festive. One struggles for words.

It was as if I had been graciously and strangely adopted into an old Jewish family.

Friday, May 17, 2013

lost in a Chinese night

Yesterday, I had an actual reverie. An official daydream, approved and stamped by a shadowy bureaucracy in charge of dubious precincts of time.

I keep thinking about that reverie. I think it lasted for only a few moments, yet those moments were stretched into a different form or quality of duration. Those few moments seemed to last an incredibly long while.

I was afoot and moving at night through a town or village somewhere in China. This night was dynamic and clangorous with bodies, faces, trumpets, dogs, chimes, flags, leashed monkeys, and neon signs buzzing unknowable ideograms.

But the faces! Everywhere faces. Peculiar, probing, insinuating, alarming faces.

The streets (some paved) were coming and going at odd angles and refuted any possibility of destination. The houses and other buildings were close to the streets and were all built in the old Chinese manner, with curving, sweeping roof lines. Trees overhung their perfumed branches. Traditional lanterns glowed here and there, like the pale heads of forlorn ghosts.

The sense of utter and bedazzled alienation took my daydreaming breath away.

Those faces! People swerving up to me, close to my nose, wide-eyed, gesticulating, staring with the expression of vaguely threatening hieroglyphs. Faces that were, in contrast to my own, completely at home in this world.

There was no point to this reverie. It was simply a divergent moment stretched out into forbidden space. If Freud was still alive, perhaps I'd drop in on him, to ask about this dark tumbling into a town or village of my subconscious hysteria. To discover the reason why I tumbled there. To know what form of psychological ruin this episode was a symptom and presentiment.

Professor Agata Bielik-Robson

Professor Bielik-Robson is the Jewish Studies Chair in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Nottingham. Her immensely distinguished career is founded on her research and teaching on modern Jewish thought from Spinoza to Derrida; and the dialogue between contemporary philosophy and theology. 

Her books are mentioned here. The ones that sound fascinating to me are apparently only available in Polish. They are probably way over my head anyway, though I'm sure I would enjoy them in my dilettantish manner. The theme of one book -- cryptotheology in late modernity -- certainly sounds intriguing. The theme of another -- an unfinished Romanticism -- also sounds cool, especially if it begins with Benjamin or sweeps him into the discussion.

And who could turn his back on this early-evening seminar from two days ago?
A research seminar on Professor Bielik-Robson's research on Walter Benjamin and Gershom Scholem's Jewish negative theology in light of their discussion of Kafka

Her paper, which I will be reading today.

Agata Bielik-Robson

Professor Michał Paweł Markowski

At the Department of Slavic and Baltic Studies (University of Illinois at Chicago). 

He's written two books I would like to read, but they are in Polish:

Universal Decomposition: Schulz, Existence, Literature (2012)

Black Waters: Gombrowicz, World, Literature (2004)

"a very definite atmosphere"

The real subject matter, the ultimate raw material that I find in myself without any interference of will, is a certain dynamic state, completely "ineffabilis" and totally incommensurate with poetic means. Even so, it has a very definite atmosphere, indicating a specific kind of content that grows out of it and is layered upon it. The more this intangible nucleus is "ineffabilis" the greater its capacity, the sharper its tropism and the stronger the temptation to inject it into matter in which it could be realized.

~ from a 1939 letter written by Bruno Schulz

Bruno Schulz -- beyond paraphernalia

I wrote a piece -- "Bruno Schulz belongs to me, dammit !!" -- in which I said the following:
Speakers presenting serious-sounding papers. Speakers talking about so much peripheral stuff. Speakers not talking about a simple encounter with a miraculous specimen of literature. Talking about anything and everything except a confession of wonder and how they have been affected. 

And last night, I came across this, which seems to me to speak in a similar vein:
The trouble with Bruno Schulz is the following: everybody knows he’s a genius, everybody talks about his tremendous influence, but when push comes to shove it’s all restricted to banalities, as if the measure of a writer’s greatness were to be this community of popular judgments. On the other hand, this comes as no surprise.
Schulz assaults the reader from the very first page and never allows him to rest, never allows him to gather his thoughts. His perfidy lies in the fact that he resists all translation, but encourages us to imitate, to paraphrase and to counterfeit. It’s easier to speak in Schulz’s language than to speak about Schulz. After reading a single paragraph we know at once that it’s Schulz, though we don’t at once know what to say about the paragraph.
The greatness of Schulz is the greatness of his resistance to appropriation, while the result of this resistance is the very small number of memorable books written about him. Certainly, there are a great many discussions, monographs, presentations, dictionaries and exegeses, but few books which would discard the academic paraphernalia and show in black and white that to read Schulz is to wrestle with an angel who means to wrench out your hip.
But then how should we read Schulz? Should we catalogue motifs and themes? This is important, but superficial. Should we illuminate metaphors and track turns of phrase? This reeks of the laboratory from a mile off. Should we compare? But how to compare the incomparable?  
~ from Michał Paweł Markowski's essay "The Republic of Dreams" (translated by Stanley Bill)

Michał Paweł Markowski

Thursday, May 16, 2013


A poem by Ewa Lipska.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


I've read Mary Shelley's book, and I like it.

"Childhood of Maxim Gorky" (1938)

I don't know what they're saying, but I don't care.

Chopin -- Piano Concerto No. 2

I've admired Mr. Freire's pianism since that day, years ago, I heard his Rachmaninoff Etude-Tableaux on the radio.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

literary criticism as a work of art

A few days ago, I wrote a piece here -- "taking poetry seriously" -- in which I bemoaned the dearth of writing about poetry. For me, there is more to poetics than writing poems. It's also about engagement with poetry as such. About a general enthusiasm revealing itself as prose about poetry. I'm talking about something looser, more informal than literary theory. I'm concerned with what a work means to a particular consciousness and the quality of language involved in evaluation. Whether or not a review was solicited by the poet or editor and not a spontaneous act of delving into is less important than the question: has a new and vital thing been produced within aesthetic space?

I came across a review by poet Gillian Prew of a book of poetry -- Abattoir Whispers -- by Michael McAloran. What I have to say will be a bit tricky, since I haven't read that book of poetry under review. What I have to say will be a review of a review. And a bracketing of the review from its material focus. I'm writing a review of a review because I'm interested in considering literary criticism as a form of art, as an aesthetic experience to stand beside the others: painting, sculpture, music, dance, poetry, film.

George Steiner comes to mind when thinking about exemplary critics of literature, but there's a problem. Although not irony laden or hitched to any theoretical formalism, Steiner is too "profound." He has an oracular tone of utterance. I admire and appreciate Steiner, but his writing is so weighty with allusion and metaphysical insinuation that it's rather oppressive at times. As far as an aesthetic impression goes, reading Steiner's "gigantism" is more like experiencing wind-swept Greek ruins than encountering a Van Gogh in a hushed gallery.

Although having studied philosophy, Gillian Prew doesn't swerve into exotic or superfluous dimensions when discussing a literary topic (in this case, McAloran's poems). She stays within the region of the discrete object under consideration. Her attitude conforms to an important aspect of aesthetic consciousness -- understatement. As opposed to Steiner's weaving of stratospheric penumbras, Prew elects a subtler approach. A new yet quieter aesthetic object results. Her commentary involves a confluent deepening and sympathetic illumination. Her avoidance of the oracular and the hyperbolic produces an inner harmonics of saying that appeals to the listening eye.

Hyperbole in literary criticism is as inappropriate as attaching roller skates to a pair of stilts. In both cases, instability, nausea, and wreckage would occur. It happens often that one will read a review of a minor poet in which that poet's work is praised with after-burner rhetoric. Orgasmic effusion, hot-air jargon. It's just too, too much! The genuine always has a subdued quality or coloration about it, a tonality of the real.

When considering literary criticism as one of the fine arts, what is the most significant thing to stress, the most appropriate to suggest? For me, it's this: literary criticism should, as should all works of art, create an aura of pleasure. Delight is what occurs in the observing consciousness during the aesthetic experience. It can happen in the blooming frisson of a Mozart serenade or in the excruciating darkness of a Shostakovitch string quartet. In both cases, an unconscious attunement takes place between auditor and object. The sympathetic vibrates pleasantly, even when the crux of the matter is bleak or horrific (aren't some nightmares rather wonderful?). What continually dreams in us beneath awareness might also dream -- magnetically -- toward  the work of art (in this case, a review as the artwork). Aesthetic experience -- even an aesthetic review of an aesthetic object -- is an affective experience, a possibility of relishing.

So...what in particular is going on with Gillian Prew's review of Abattoir Whispers?

I spoke above about a confluent deepening and sympathetic illumination. That is what she offers to the text (the excerpted poems). But something else occurs to me when reading her review. She opens a unique and peculiar space, one in which mood is not ordinary and language is elegant. The reader is almost entranced by the glowing rhythm and quiet artistry of these sentences. Beyond semantics, one finds himself amid candles and muted soliloquy. Within the mysterious relish of language opening up as an aesthetic environment.

I do hope you follow the link to read her review. For the pleasure of it.

If you've read Gillian Prew's poems, you will know that she is a word artist. This makes me wonder if literary criticism as an aesthetic experience is restricted to those who are creators of other literary art. History does show many instances of remarkable poets writing remarkable evaluations of poetry (and of other things). But I don't wish to verge off into wayward reverie. Surely, many non-poets and dubious poets also write exemplary reviews and fine commentary on general literary themes. But I still wonder. When a review achieves the level of an artwork itself, it's likely a good indication the writer's poems are worth experiencing.

Gillian Prew's webpage:

Sunflowers -- Van Gogh

Monday, May 13, 2013

Maria João Pires & Mozart

Her piano playing is extraordinary. Yes, there are many great pianists, but few are extraordinary. And by that word, I mean a rarely encountered depth of aesthetic consciousness. A certain peculiar quality of the spirit. A something on the beyond side of talent and technique.

Ingrid Haebler's piano artistry

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Coming next month....

...from Portobello Books, a new novel by Czech author Jáchym Topol:

Translated by Alex Zucker

drifting toward translation

In this article at NYR -- "Your English is Showing" -- Tim Parks discusses the interesting subject of translation.

First, he notes the difficulties of rendering certain texts into another language:

Above all there is a problem with a kind of writing that is, as it were, inward turning, about the language itself, about what it means to live under the spell of this or that vernacular.

Then, he intuits a kind of cultural osmosis of English-language dynamics into other language structures, therein making translation somewhat less challenging than it was decades ago:

So that is the intuition. The idea is not so much the old polemic that English is simply dominant and dangerous; but rather that there is a spirit abroad, especially in the world of fiction, that is seeking maximum communicability and that has fastened onto the world’s present lingua franca as something that can be absorbed and built into other vernaculars so that they can continue to exist while becoming more easily translated into each other.

WONDER by Hugo Claus

me trying to say something

World is a great myth of itself told through fierce and subtle substances.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

mood piece

Comes a time when one might realize that it's high time to think toward nothing. Even emotion becomes a too-weighty and decadent extravagance. Comes a time when one is numbed and subdued by the way things are ephemeral -- as if Nabokov himself had become netted by an ineffable dryad.

Time has an eventual way of revealing most spirits to be water escaping the human grasp. Space has a way of closing off the bruised and weary into private regions within itself.

Then...poetry enters. As a new form of time and space. As a when and a where one might experience the most peculiar mode of being -- language -- as a something peculiar even to itself. As a transforming of dream and nightmare, of ambivalence and loss into noble, tolerable substance. Yes, the aesthetic moment has a way of draining wound of exigence, of lending to isolation a muted quality of contentment.

Hilma af Klint

1862 - 1944

Some links:


The Guardian

Metropolis M

Moderna Museet

Painters' Table

Into the Heart of European Poetry -- a book


This book strikes me as a real good thing for a summer's reading.

Friday, May 10, 2013

BERLIN STORIES by Robert Walser

review at The Guardian


This poem by Dana Gioia is really something.

Atlantica Vox -- the new CD!

"The unforgettable sea / when waves crash in like a folk song...."

-- from the song "The Unforgettable Sea"

CD Baby

It's dark enough now... be off with you. Don't forget your black umbrella, empty satchel, and metaphysical camera. Keep to the unworn path. If things get dicey, know this: Franz Kafka and Bruno Schulz can be trusted. Heed certain spirits. Ignore the desire to be non-anonymous. Eat only the petals of dreaming flowers. Drink only the water squeezed from old stones.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

taking poetry seriously

If you lack the desire or compulsion to write coherent, thoughtful, elegant, and persuasive pieces of literary criticism about poetry, then maybe you should give your own poem-writing some time off. If at poetry readings, it never occurs to you to read some poems written by others, then maybe you should give your own poem-writing some time off.

Some time off to think about taking poetry seriously.

I'm on a certain social network, with many poem-writers among my acquaintances there. Many poems are presented but never any essays about poetry. Neither about the art of poetry in general nor appraisals of others' work in particular are to be found there.

That's not taking poetry seriously.

I already hear the protest: "There's not enough time to blather about poetry in general or about the work of others and also write my own stuff. Let the non-poets who are interested in poetry assemble the blathering essays and reviews. Heckfire -- I'm a poet, not a prose stylist. Paragraphs that are coherent, informative, and stylish are not my forte."

To me, that smacks of ego, insularity, and wrongheadedness. If you really love poetry and take it seriously as an art form, then writing prose about it would be as natural and desirous as breathing. Literary criticism should be a goes-without-saying (so to speak) ancillary to writing one's own poems, a thing flowing in the same stream as inspiration and creation. The knack for writing prose would blossom according to the will and conviction of the poet. And shouldn't the poet -- one in communion with language -- be as accomplished in prose as in verse?

At readings, Dylan Thomas used to spend half his time reading the work of others. In the past, poets wrote not just their poems but also about poetry. They took poetry quite seriously.

Perhaps if a quantity of literary criticism was being produced among those in certain circles today, then more non-poets would be attracted to poetry, would become curious to know what the fuss is about, would become enlightened beneath the glow of aesthetic explication and appreciation.

this sounds good to me

The human race has been composing, reciting and hearing poetry from the very start. The conclusion must be that it is of some use to us. It is useful in making sense of a world that is part memory, part imagination. It does so by giving that world a shape in language. It makes us realise things we didn’t know we knew. It utterly changed my life at 17 when I started reading and writing it. I thought the shapes it made were magical in that they held things together by transforming them. It humanised the world for me. It was a form of power, like magic.

The poet is personal: the language is impersonal. Language is not a stable or static entity – it moves and crumbles and grows at the same time. The poet’s art lies in listening intently to the micro-movements of language while never forgetting the sense of the world as the pre-language – as instinct, apprehension, desire – that drove him or her to the threshold of language in the first place. Of course there are subjects and themes but that’s about as far as intention can go. As I see it is not a matter of wanting to say something, then finding the words to say it. You discover what you and the language have to say by entering the process of saying. The ethical power of poetry lies in its precise tension with language not in any broadly stated programme of doing good. The programme is advertisement. Technique, suggested Pound, is the test of sincerity. I think he was on to something.

The reader is as personal as the writer. Like the poet, the reader looks to reinvent himself / herself within a language shape that feels like the world. That shape is as impersonal to the reader as it is to the writer. Neither of them owns it. Reader and writer enter it at different angles, from different locations, with different baggage. But they share it. The solitary voice speaking to the solitary imagination is, paradoxically, the deepest shared experience. That sharing is the useful thing, the art that does some good: the ‘message’ is to be discovered not sent.

~ poet George Szirtes

George Szirtes interview

Love in Vain: A Vision of Robert Johnson

Book description:

The classic, deeply researched study and mythological telling of the life, legend, and enduring mystery of Robert Johnson

Love in Vain is Alan Greenberg’s remarkable, highly acclaimed screenplay and is widely considered to be one of the foremost books on legendary blues musician Robert Johnson’s life and legacy and an extraordinary exercise in American mythmaking. It is at once a classic of music writing and a screenplay whose reputation lies firmly in the realm of great American literature.


This interlude of old music....

Shiver of wind across the dark pool.
Willows blur beyond a haze of nymphs.
Color of thoughts turning sapphire
as moments open shadowed orchids.
Almost silence, then a deeper quiet.

Apparition of swan and the twilight comes.

....turns time into a volume of numbness
and forgetting how a feathered grace's
buoyant wings, also lifting, have flown. a way of atmosphere and a sinking
into the liquid mirror where stars drown,
where a dying memory still glimmers. a way of waiting, beauty-wounded,
on the haunted bank where a phantasm
glides the rhythm of a lasting nocturne.

~ TB, 2013

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

PAPRIKA by Yasutaka Tsutsui

Apparently, this is about dream technology and nefarious goings-on.

Random House


Poet Gillian Prew has a new chapbook out from Lapwing Publications, and it can be ordered from this page:

Throats Full of Graves

On that webpage, you will encounter a review of the new chapbook. It's concerned with the poems' thematic material and its philosophical evaluation. Most reviews of poetry are concerned with conceptual substance. I wish to take a different tack or maybe an auxiliary tangent.

Reading those excerpted parts of poems on the above webpage, one can enter an aesthetic, in addition to a conceptual experience. In the hands of the most gifted poets, more than a stated or inferred meaning is possible. A condition might occur in which language emerges from a different aspect of itself -- a condition akin to the mysterious effects of music.

Reading those excerpted parts of poems, you will be struck by the perfection of utterance as such. The words are measured out across lines with the same kind of artistic flair one finds beautifully registered in a Chopin nocturne or Debussy prelude. Each note (word) and phrase are placed according to some instinctive sense of saying, a mysterious connection to language and its way of becoming art.

I think language sometimes wants to tell us things beyond the horizons of concept, perspective, and attitude. I think language has a long, mystical memory, and through certain "mediums" -- like Ezra Pound or Dylan Thomas -- it might exteriorize its musical dreamings. When I read a Gillian Prew poem, I am taken toward a wonderment of language as such.

With the rare poet, words and lines take on deepening hues and energies, with the conceptual giving way to the aesthetic. Conception is thus subsumed in or enhanced by mood, aura, and complex  felt an implicit music.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Sofiya Yuzefpolskaya-Tsilosani -- a new website!

Poet, translator, independent author, with a PhD from the University of Washington, Seattle.

And a friend of mine.

Sofiya Yuzefpolskaya-Tsilosani, PhD

There's an English page and Russian pages. You can read a couple of poems in English, poems imbued with Sofiya's characteristic relationship to language and world. Poems of depth. Poems implicitly remembering those poets of another era, whose stanzas sighed or declaimed the allegorical night, distant music, melancholy.

Monday, May 6, 2013


All This Can Happen

Aesthetica Magazine

All This Can Happen

Gogol -- "four dimensional" prose

a startlement persisting

I don't like the word "miracle." It smacks of superstitious non sequitur. But on rare occasions, the word functions okay, as a mumbled stand-in for the not explainable.

John Keats's poem "To Autumn" is still so good that it unnerves a reader. No other poem comes close to challenging its organic perfection.

Where in the world did it come from? It's as if the aesthetic powers of imagination and the aesthetic resources of language emerged this one time to the most exquisite degree. But the poem's being-there is surely not explainable in the usual terms of talent, craft, and inspiration. It's a bewitchment of time and saying. It's a gift from the gods of metaphor, transferred to us through a young poet.

In the final analysis, it leaves analysis flummoxed.

                    To Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
    Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
    With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
    And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
        To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
    With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
        For summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
    Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
    Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
    Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
        Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
    Steady thy laden head across a brook;
    Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
        Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of spring?  Ay, where are they?
    Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, -
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
    And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
    Among the river sallows, borne aloft
        Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
    Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
    The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
        And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Jaybird Coleman -- 1927

"It's a four-legged rooster, a knock-kneed hen. They all run together, but they ain't no kin. Gettin' sick and tired of tellin' you to wiggle that thang."

...and contradicting the spirit of pessimism

on pessimism

"There’s a ghost that grows inside of me, damaged in the making, and there’s a hunt sprung from necessity, elliptical and drowned. Where the moving quiet of our insomnia offers up each thought, there’s a luminous field of grey inertia, and obsidian dreams burnt all the way down."

~ from Eugene Thacker's Cosmic Pessimism 

Friday, May 3, 2013

ballet music by Gounod

Dostoevsky's minor, even peripheral characters...

...go into me deeper than his major ones (with the exception of Stepan Trofimovich Verkhovensky in The Demons). I haven't yet figured out how to explain this inversion to myself. 

But...Tolstoy's major characters entrance me, compel my total concentration. 


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Who could resist...

...this newly published book?

Kazimir Malevich -- uncompromising visionary

1879 - 1935, Russian painter

From Christoph Asendorf's book Batteries of Life: On the History of Things and Their Perception in Modernity --  

Where the dadaists in Zurich used the existing linguistic material in order to change it, Malevich in the medium of painting can forsake natural forms and, as a radical gesture, oppose to them the pure form of a black square. His theory of suprematism is directed against the futurists, more precisely, the cubofuturists, who had indeed overcome perspective and depicted the dynamic of (technical) movement, but in doing so they continued to work with fragments of real forms. "In cubofuturism, the totality of things is destroyed; it is shattered and fragmented. That was a step toward the destruction of objectivity. The cubofuturists gathered together all objects on the market square and shattered them into pieces, but they did not burn them. Too bad!" (Malevich) 
Malevich is interested in pure painting beyond given objects. Its elements are the basic forms, squares, circles, etc., and the primary colors, yellow, red, and blue. Suprematist painting knows no shadows, no atmosphere, no manner of objectivity, but only the relationship of color and form according to the egalitarian principle of the "equality of all elements." It is painting without any support in reality, a free construction of a utopian world of color and form in nonperspectival space.


I read that and got to thinking about a few things: an escape from moribund aesthetic categories; a rejection of rigid intellectual and social forms; maybe even an affinity, displaced in time, with Alan Badiou's ontology of the Multiple ("inconsistent multiplicity is the presentation of presentation" -- from Wikipedia).

In all three cases above, privileged expression of perspective is put into question and replaced with a radical "silence" of simples. In the first case, traditional (exhausted) creative forms partaking of realism are metaphysically jarred by Malevich and become dubious. In the second case, conceptual certainty and hierarchy give way to spontaneous, complex forms-in-themselves. In the last case, colors and shapes as such (without natural correlatives) are viewed as pure and detached elements of organization, which opens the possibility that all components of world as such are philosophically distinct, that world as such is an infinitely plural construct grounded in void...which is wild and sort of cool.   

Black Square on a White Ground, 1915