Sunday, June 30, 2013

I suppose this explains...

...why the Bolshoi Ballet is incomparable, why a natural and cultural commitment to the art of dance would lead to graceful perfection:

Russian ballet class during the war

on the mystery of faces

There are faces that are beautiful abysses.

Science thinks it has things figured out. That the effect of a human face has its cause in strictly biological -- reproductive -- function. Duck feathers and nonsense!

A friend has described me as (accused me of being?) "romantic and hallucinatory." That sounds about right.

So for me, the mystery of a face is an infinite symbolism, a true magic, and a suggestion of the impossible-possible.

The mystery of a face is like the texture, color, and ghostly presence of an untouchable and geographically dubious aurora borealis -- a swirling plasma of significant energy, a hue of the uncertain, an interweaving of magnetic sympathies.

The mystery of a particular face is a reason to persist against the darkening of time.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

concerning Baudrillard

A friend recently brought to my attention a philosopher I sort of like and intend to explore further -- Jean Baudrillard. 

It has been declared: Baudrillard's philosophy owes something to 'Pataphysics, that it was an early influence and shaped aspects of his later concepts. Since I've been interested in René Daumal since the seventies, I have a natural affinity for 'Pataphysics-type stuff. Jarry and his Ubu. The absurd and the surreal.

Here's an essay by Baudrillard:


This type of thing is certainly not for everyone. I would almost feel sorry for anyone (like I sympathize with myself) who slipped into this crazy mode of thinking about the world. Beneath the bluff and nonsense of 'Pataphysics, though, is maybe something darkly vital and hyper-philosophical. At the very least, it's a certain way of tilting at abysses.

"Such is the unique imaginary solution to the absence of problems."

So yes. With Baudrillard's 'Pataphysical infection in mind, I will be reading and pondering what he came to think about the world himself. I'll see what it does to me.

1929 - 2007

some guy thinks this

If one has the perpetual feeling of an absence/presence, then something akin to surreal music always haunts the flowing of one's time. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Onegin -- a film version

Eugene Onegin

On an Overgrown Path

Leoš Janáček composed this melancholy Book I of On an Overgrown Path over a period of years. It was published as a complete thing in 1911. The 10 parts are:

1.   Our Evenings
2.   A Blown-Away Leaf
3.   Come With Us!
4.   The Madonna of Frydek
5.   They Chattered Like Swallows
6.   Words Fail!
7.   Good Night!
8.   Unutterable Anguish
9.   In Tears
10. The Barn Owl Has Not Flown Away!

As I listen to this, something odd happens. I become like a ghost moving through an older world of visions and lost desires.

Here's the great Janáček interpreter Josef Páleníček performing "Our Evenings" (the others are available):

Here's an article about Janáček from The Economist:

"On a Different Path"

1854 - 1928

Thursday, June 27, 2013

C.S. Lewis

During the late seventies and early eighties, I read, admired, and thought about the writings of C.S. Lewis. This was a time when I was about halfway between my Christian upbringing in the deep South to my present condition (who-knows-what?). 

So now I look back at C.S. Lewis with a twinge of nostalgia. He represents that earlier period of my religious innocence turning into naive inquiry.

Anyway, poetry is sort of my religion nowadays I guess, and I just came across a C.S. Lewis quote that knocked my socks off:

The poet is not a man who asks me to look at him; he is a man who says ‘look at that’ and points.


1898 - 1963

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What is a poem?

Only in the rarest of contemporary poetry do I hear that question asked implicitly as the poet goes about his or her way of expression. Poems in which that question moves beneath and through the work, as a form of humility, tradition, wonder, and the imperative to make an excellent thing.

What is a poem? These by Adam Zagajewski:

Long Afternoons

Those were the long afternoons when poetry left me.
The river flowed patiently, nudging lazy boats to sea.
Long afternoons, the coast of ivory.
Shadows lounged in the streets, haughty manikins in shopfronts
stared at me with bold and hostile eyes.

Professors left their schools with vacant faces,
as if the Iliad had finally done them in.
Evening papers brought disturbing news,
but nothing happened, no one hurried.
There was no one in the windows, you weren’t there;
even nuns seemed ashamed of their lives.

Those were the long afternoons when poetry vanished
and I was left with the city’s opaque demon,
like a poor traveler stranded outside the Gare du Nord
with his bulging suitcase wrapped in twine
and September’s black rain falling.

Oh, tell me how to cure myself of irony, the gaze
that sees but doesn’t penetrate; tell me how to cure myself
of silence.

translated by Clare Cavanagh

In Strange Towns
for Zbigniew Herbert

In strange towns there is an unknown joy, 
the cold bliss of a new glance.
Yellow-plastered tenements where the sun 
climbs like a nimble spider 
exist, yet not for me. Not for me are the town-hall, 
port, jail, and courthouse built.
The sea flows through the town in a salty 
tide, sinking cellars and verandas.
At a street market, pyramids of apples 
stand for the eternity of one afternoon.
And even suffering isn’t really 
mine; a local idiot mumbles 
in a foreign tongue, and the despair of a lonely 
girl in a café resembles a patch 
of canvas in a poorly lit museum.
Huge flags of trees flutter as in familiar places, 
and pieces of the same lead-weights 
are sewn to the hems of sheets, and to dreams, 
and to imagination, which is homeless and wild.

Translated by Renata Gorczynski and Benjamin Ivry

And for what it's worth, here's something about Zagajeski:

"Dawn Always Tells Us Something": On the Poetry of Adam Zagajewski

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


it happened in Romania

A modern girl sits beside the Black Sea shore,
turning poverty and yesterday's tomorrows
into something beautiful.

Her poem sails a distant ghost ship
manned by Scythians on contingent winds 
ever northward to unknown Russia 
and unwritten tales of Baba Yaga's mischief. 

On board is a boy touched by magic.
He stares landward toward his vision
of a girl beside the Black Sea shore,
writing a poem beyond tomorrow. 

Who knew these waves held such power?

~ TB, 2013

Monday, June 24, 2013


Music by Louis Siciliano:

Mystical Flowers

Zagajewski talking about Polish poetry

International Poets in Conversation

Just listening to Mr. Zagajewski talk in this interview has such an effect on me. I hang on every word, phrase, sentence. His intelligence and understanding of poetry -- poets and poetics -- goes deep. No wonder his own poems are so remarkable. 

Contrasted with his intelligence and quality of consciousness, my own are flimsy and pipsqueak. It's almost depressing. But life has a way of providing compensations -- the possibility of appreciating voices touched by the aesthetic.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Occasionally, a thing...

...will get stuck in my head. The music of Hungarian composer László Lajtha (1892 - 1963) is stuck in my head. Keeping in mind the adage "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture," I still want to know and express how his music affects me. 

But it's as untranslatable as twilight and as elusive as elsewhere. So I guess I just won't say anything.

in honor of Akhmatova

My friend Sofiya Yuzefpolskaya-Tsilosani  (poet, scholar, translator) posted on Facebook what's below. She gave me permission to share it here, which I appreciate.

When Akhmatova died in 1966, Arseny Tarkovsky participated in her memorial ceremony in St. Petersburg and attended her burial in a small cemetery at Komarovo. He spent much of the following year composing a cycle of six lyric poems, In Memory of A. A. Akhmatova.

Here are two poems from that cycle:


Homeward, homeward, homeward,
Under Komarovo’s pines …
O mortal, fatal angel mine
With wreaths to crown your head,
In a crocheted shawl
With wings in readiness!

As for trees the snow,
So for the earth your open ark
Was not a heavy burden,
Sailing in front of everyone
Into your twenty-first century,
From out of time into time.

Overhead the winter
Carried a final ray,
Like the first flap of a wing
Out from under a Karelian fir,
And nighttime lit the stars
Above the snowy blue.

And we the whole night through
Promised immortality to you,
And begged you to help us
Leave the house of sadness,
All night, all night, all night.
And night’s again at its beginning.


And I accompanied this shade and saw it off
On its final road—to the final threshold.
And the two wings on the shadow’s back,
Like two rays, little by little went dark.

And a year went by in a circle to the side,
And now winter blares from the forest cutting,
The micaceous confusion of Karelian firs
Responds to the hunting-horn out of tune.

What if our memory, from earthly laws immune,
Has no strength to renew the day within the night?
What if her shade, having left the world,
Does not drink immortality in the word?
Heart, be silent,
Don’t tell lies, gulp another sip of blood,
Give thanks and benediction to the first rays of the sun.

Written between January 1967 and August 1968; translated from the Russian by Sofiya Yuzefpolskaya and George Rueckert, and published in their article, ‘No Empty Game: The Immortality of the Poet in Arseny Tarkovsky’s Memorial Poems to N. A. Zabolotsky and A. A. Akhmatova,’ published in the Slavic and East European Journal, Vol. 50, No. 2, 2006.

1889 - 1966

This article... my kind of thing, means a lot to me:

"The Fiery Beauty of the World"

It's about the 1973 film The Hour-Glass Sanatorium, by Wojciech Has based on the writings of Bruno Schulz.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

László Lajtha's MARIONETTES

László Lajtha -- an obscure Hungarian composer who I like a lot. Got a CD of his string trios, and it's a special thing to me. I need this piece below. If I don't get it, I'll be tense. 

II. Night

Friday, June 21, 2013

"Why Is Contemporary American Poetry So Good?"

article at the Huffington Post's about demographics, aspiration, venue, quantity. 

Nowhere did I read an explanation of why contemporary American poetry is so good. Nowhere did I read anything about criteria having to do with actual quality, craft, aesthetics. No examples of good poems were presented.

After such an article title, why would he go on to say:
Because you cannot judge the poetry of any era on the basis of a case-by-case aesthetic analysis of its merits....

After reading the longish article, I felt kind of hoodwinked. I expected the author to actually tell me why contemporary American poetry is so good. I thought I would read what poets and poems he thought were good and why. But right there in the middle of the article, he says such a thing can't be talked about.

Instead, he seems to be saying merely that it's a good thing so many people are writing and reading contemporary American poetry. No poems here and now can be evaluated as good poems, because only posterity can bestow such a judgement.   

So he should have titled his article "Why Is The Contemporary American Poetry Scene So Vibrant?" That way, I would not have been hoodwinked. 


poet Mike Finley wrecks my head

They say the exception proves the rule. That's too deep for me. It's like how I would have no idea what to say to a psychiatrist if one asked me: "What does it mean for a rolling stone to gather no moss?" I have no galumphing idea, and my mind would go blank. So in general, I'm not fond of logic or its aphoristic presentations.

The exception proves the rule. No, it injures my head. I prefer consistency. 

Over there -- in Europe, Eastern Europe, Russia -- they write poems in such a way that I'm taken aback. They fall into my head and tell it strange things. Many of those poems are aesthetic creations of the highest order. They are not expressions of ego, neurosis, depression, banality, irritable blathering. Rather, they move toward something almost mystical -- embodied spirit observing the everyday and uncovering the marvelous within it.

Think Wisława Szymborska:  

Miracle Fair

Commonplace miracle:
that so many commonplace miracles happen.

An ordinary miracle:
in the dead of night
the barking of invisible dogs.

One miracle out of many:
a small, airy cloud
yet it can block a large and heavy moon.

Several miracles in one:
an alder tree reflected in the water,
and that it's backwards left to right
and that it grows there, crown down
and never reaches the bottom,
even though the water is shallow.

An everyday miracle:
winds weak to moderate
turning gusty in storms.

First among equal miracles:
cows are cows.

Second to none:
just this orchard
from just that seed.

A miracle without a cape and top hat:
scattering white doves.

A miracle, for what else could you call it:
today the sun rose at three-fourteen
and will set at eight-o-one.

A miracle, less surprising than it should be:
even though the hand has fewer than six fingers,
it still has more than four.

A miracle, just take a look around:
the world is everywhere.

An additional miracle, as everything is additional:
the unthinkable
is thinkable.

The tragic nature of being is implicit in some of those over-there poems, yet the art, symbols,  and soul of them are powerful enough to perform redemption. That's what the best poetry does: the reader is delivered from the mundane, opened to the uncanny, redeemed by the aesthetic.   

Tomas Tranströmer, Adam Zagajewski, Ilya Kaminsky, others who are still living. (Yes, Kaminsky lives and writes here now, but I still consider his poems to be over-there poems.)

A general Old World tone of voice sounds in their poems. An acoustic that is outside ego, as if a space has been opened between self and world. This complex voice requires a subtle cadence, which is an intrinsic, natural aspect of the over-there poems.  

If I can't write poems of such quality, then by god, neither should anyone else over here be able to! The Atlantic Ocean should remain the medium of separation between the aesthetic sensibility of over-there and the lack of it here. No exception should snorkel its way through.

But then there's Mike Finley. Not content with simply writing more American poetry -- the stuff that journals over here think is readable, like the poems of Natasha Trethewey -- he must also write good poetry. He must also write poems that see into the mystic, sound with an aural uncanny, move with an austere Modernist cadence. As if he is willfully trying to wreck my head by being an exception to the rule that current American poetry is dismal, inartistic, suffocating.

Finley is also a videographer. He incorporates that into his poetics. Below are examples. 

Some people say that a poem should stand alone. That it doesn't need a guitar strumming in the background during a reading or an image to complement the text. I think Finley's video poems are his dynamic way of opening up a quasi-mystical space within a culture traumatized and distracted by greed, industry, banality. 

As stand-alone text, the mystic of his poems might get lost in the general American psychosis, in the noise of general American poetry. The videos are a way of saying, "Atmosphere and ambiance are possible, and since this is a society of the spectacle, I'll just have to show you how a poem should comport itself." Or maybe they're his way of making it new.

Leaving Bordeaux

Water Hills

Mike Finley abides in Saint Paul, Minnesota 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

on the trail of pianist Ignace Tiegerman

"His delivery of music was like Bruno Schulz in sound."

Tablet Magazine

regarding Gourari...

...and Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3.

Ten years ago, I bought this CD. I just listened to it again. Anna Gourari with the Staatskapelle Dresden (my favorite orchestra). The performance and recording are exceptional.

Rubinstein, in his 1944 broadcast recording with the NBC Symphony, found absolute poetry in those moments of the first movement when the orchestra breathes back in just before the conclusion. Those moments when the piano's gnomic, distant arpeggios conjure an aural mystic.

Ms. Gourari, like most others, misses the importance of those moments, moving through them prosaically. Otherwise, this is a worthy performance. One of the best. Looks like it's out-of-print. That's absurd.

a little outburst

It's like trying to play chess on a round board with round squares, where the pawns yawn and the bishops ride tiny motor scooters. It's getting nowhere and is beside the point!

That's my impression of rational, critical thinking.

Reality does not want to be probed by analysts or stuffed full of boring German and French categories. It has no freaking idea what it is and is okay with that. So why -- those who think without knowing what consciousness is -- pronounce upon it? Reality is especially annoyed by the arrogance of Zen masters and Christian monks.

Beer, the awfulness of polka, spicy food, nightmares, kissing, laughing, weeping! Reality approves. It also likes poems. It gets a quiet satisfaction from being turned into poems that have astoundingly subtle metaphors and that move with a perplexed-austere rhythm.

(Having said that, I still do occasionally enjoy reading some German and French philosophy. But I read it more as something quasi-artistic than a something that knows something.)

"Lively Up Yourself"

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

You can listen to Adam Zagajewski...

...reading his poems "On Swimming" and "She Wrote in Darkness" here (other poems, too).

While it rained yesterday afternoon...

...I listened to my CD of Bruckner's Symphony No. 7, Kurt Eichhorn conducting the Bruckner Orchester Linz. I listen to it when I want to get my Bruckner freak on:

vast empty cathedral, silent eccentric caretaker moving in shadows along the wall;

Bavarian mountains breathing fog;

old river floating through a valley;

neurotic composer-ghost brushing against me, whispering of the lass afar who walks through evening flower colors;

sun-touched cloudscape a-massing, then a rain of forgotten things;

death wish interjecting, pushed back, disappearing;

another large aspect -- Apotheosis of Substance;

now forest trees standing mysteriously;

village filled with time echoing a child's murmurs;

final swell of nothing else but music being music.

Other listeners will have different visions or none -- "seeing" the symphony in structural terms of development and harmonic transition.

Here's Guilini and the VPO:

the past

If you don't have time for the past -- have some historical consciousness -- then you are lost in a freaking daydream. Floating on the surface of a context-less now. It's hard to even imagine it. But it must be similar to the psychosis of derealization. It's not in the medical books -- "Willful Dementia" -- because it would mean a massive and stressful psychological intervention. Just not enough men in white coats for such a thing.

It's not merely about the lack of instrumental or causal knowledge -- being aware of how traces of the far past subtly affect the present. It's more about a spiritual-aesthetic dynamic missing from the brains of 3 1/2 billion people. How could anyone who is incurious and un-fascinated about gone time -- about how it must have felt to look around and breathe in, say, 1920 (or 1865) -- not go into convulsions of shallowness?

On the Beach, Sunset, 1865 -- Eugène Boudin

Further, and I'm just asking now -- how could a poem or any text that is not haunted by some aspects of history (an implicit volume of old and melancholy significance) be much worth bothering with? Maybe that's why I like East European poetry so much. The past is so present there. Poets there are compelled to write into and through the past, rather than express their purely current pathology. Such a temporal orientation forces the issue -- drags the poet out of himself and into the vaster mystic.


British agent Fitzroy MacLean was sent by Churchill to suss out and possibly assist Tito against the Nazis. Even if he was a Commie. 

MacLean remarked that this future prime minister and later president of Yugoslavia "could see both sides of a question and had a never-failing sense of humor."

Tito wrote this to Stalin:
Stop sending people to kill me. We've already captured five of them, one of them with a bomb and another with a rifle. If you don't stop sending killers, I'll send one to Moscow, and I won't have to send a second.

Accusations of atrocities under Tito's post-war leadership have been raised. As far as I know, they've not been confirmed. Others will know much more about this than me.

I must set aside some time to ponder Tito -- a man of complex consciousness inside a surreal country. A man also playing a long role on the world's stage.

Josip Broz Tito (1892 - 1980)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Prague as a kind of idea

I'm oddly pleased that few if any will read this.

What I want to express is on the vague edge of saying. I probably won't be able to muster appropriate words. I will sound lost and addle-brained. I'll proceed anyway.

Is it the onset of eccentricity when a permanent, unusual, and resonant space has opened inside one's head? Questionable boundaries there are spherical walls textured with invisible dreamstuff. The atmosphere inside is partly toxic, the way certain hallucinogens can be poisonous or mystical.

Music flows through this dimension, but only remembered music. Some older, some modern. It sets the mood for looking around at what is not actually there, at what are only quivering figments.

Tragedy and absence have left traces in this possible Prague.

Poetry walks slowly here, smoking blue cigarettes. It wears old hats and strange fabrics, leans against walls and shrugs in shadows. Owing to an unwritten law of transmutation, angst and desire become something else. They become poems of beauty and equipoise, brushed by wind or lamplight. They present their powerful symbols of the unapparent. Poetry here blooms naturally, as if the weather of being.

Stories also shuffle through this space, winter and summer. They pause on bridges, staring into icy or glimmering water. Some are tales of how nightmare is a stern yet tearful guardian angel watching into you. Then stories move on, bearing their forgotten burdens.

Sometimes, I meet someone there. We have quiet conversations about the water, about the deep colors of living, about the absurdity of dying.

Who can say for sure if that Prague isn't there inside the real Prague?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Thursday, June 13, 2013


When you observe inscrutable beings through a dream wash of emerald doing something's time to go buy much beer and think about marionettes whispering in an empty room.

Copyright by artist Jane Snell (Scattered Light)

it's weird... I can jump the gun.

The first Abraham Sutzkever poems that came to my attention blew me away. They had the qualities I look for in a poem. I posted an approving thing.

Since then, I've been reading a lot more of his poems, from his early, middle, and later periods.

My first impression that everything he touched must be gold was mistaken. Many of his poems are self-indulgent and over written. Some are too directly about the Holocaust -- I prefer the subtler touch, the more indirect approach of those poems that first came to my attention.

So...I don't know what to say. I went, maybe, a bit overboard. But that doesn't change the fact that some of his poems are on the highest level of poetic utterance.

1913 - 2010

poet Adam Zagajewski's "In Strange Towns"

This wonderful thing appears in The Times Literary Supplement.

I posted something about him earlier.

Karel Ančerl and the Czech Philharmonic... some pretty good works.

Smetana -- "From Bohemia's Woods and Fields"

Bloch -- Schelomo

Brahms -- Double Concerto

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

I can't explain.

"Flowers of the Sea"

Dead Can Dance

A Review of Nabina Das's BLUE VESSEL

purchase book

Novelist and poet Nabina Das has a book of poems out now, titled Blue Vessel.

For me, poetry is an aesthetic endeavor. It's about measuring the textured qualities of time and being in a mainly emotional context.

My memory of Das's previous poems is this: the feelings explored and captured in language are meta-feelings, so to speak. The poet in those other poems has set herself in the background in order to empathize into the time, being, and emotional context of others. Verses of social conscience. A given setting is measured with the compass and protractor of understanding and compassion. The mood of those earlier poems is an external, communal one. The social-elegiac can also be aesthetic in the right hands, and hers were capable.

With this new book, I'm struck by a change in tonality, mood, and perspective. These poems seem more personal; therefore, the poet is revealed with a new aspect, alive within a different dynamic.

Water is evoked in some poems -- compass and protractor give way to fathom rope and sextant for measuring the essence of an experience. The tense in Das's previous poems is predominantly the present. Here in Blue Vessel, it shifts  mostly to the past. For me, poems haunted by memory are the more affecting and glowing.

Gnomic melodies purl their rhythms within and through these poems. Modern and ancient. As if Prokofiev had composed a rasa. And some poems implicitly sing about displacement -- between one world (the West) and another (India), lies a sea of perpetual anticipation and contrast. Das is cosmopolitan, and her poetry reflects this complex fact.

But whether at home or abroad, the prevailing breezes moving these poems whisper upon the linen of billowing emotion:

I tied words around your wrist, threads from
archaic ceremonies, unknowing how I tied
up nerves in jasmine bunches hanging over
our garden shades as you casually chewed
sugarcane sticks taking back lost letters or
words that meant a new beginning for us
                                  ~ from "Indian Love Story: Message Tree"

Sunday, June 9, 2013

a Sunday afternoon musing

The quality of a thought is equal to the possibility of its elegant expression.

The quality of an emotion is equal to nothing else but itself.

The quality of abstract music, paradoxically, is equal to both elegant expression and the absence of the symbolic.


About that Blue Flower (or -- those funky, funky Germans!)

Against the mythos, ethos, and pathos of Judaism and Christianity, I contrast those funky, funky Germans and Austrians.

Goethe, Schiller, Beethoven, Schubert, Carl Maria von Weber, Schumann, Hölderlin, Heine, Kleist, Jean Paul, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Schelling, Kant, Fichte, Hegel, Schopenhauer, the Brothers Grimm, Nietzsche, Wagner, Mahler, Schoenberg, Freud, Walser, Hofmannsthal, Rilke, Benjamin, Hesse, Mann, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Werner Herzog, W.G. Sebald.

I'll lump in some others, such as: the German-Swiss Paul Klee, the Bohemian Kafka (who wrote and maybe thought in German), and the Polish Bruno Schulz (who translated Kafka and thereby was, I'm sure, infected with Germanic Weltanschauug and Weltschmerz). I will hazard to suggest that the German sense-of-things  trickled into the soul of Coleridge (via Lessing and Kant, as well as the scenic landscapes around Ratzeburg and Göttingen) and insinuated a darker, deeper tonality into English Romanticism. The British writer George MacDonald was influenced by the German imagination. Perhaps the spiritual-aesthetic shadow of Germanic being spread even to Edvard Munch, over in Norway -- I've felt it in his palette.

(It's incumbent on me, at this point, to mention the phenomenon of Nazism. But I don't want to go into it. Those thuggish butchers and their delusional followers have been seen by some scholars as the natural extension of German culture in general. But I'm not persuaded that Wagner and Nietzsche caused such barbarism.)

And then there's this unusual fellow:


"The more poetic, the more real."

Georg Philipp Friedrich Freiherr von Hardenberg

Even though some of our Germans dallied with Christianity to a certain degree, they could not be contained within the claustrophobia of a theistic category. With Judaism and then Christianity, we have a construct of Creator-Messiah-The End. In other words, a drawn-out, foregone conclusion about reality and Being.

The Judeo-Christian milieu, from Moses to Aquinas, is autistic and obsessive-compulsive. It wants to box in reality, impose order and narrative, mark strident time, leave no loose ends.

That just ain't gonna fly with the German soul, which prefers the ambiguous and the labyrinthine. It requires a pathological-hysterical opening onto the infinite, ever-weird Mysterium. Being for them, in general, is not about Jehovah or Jesus; it's about the Unsayable lurking within the beauty of nightmare and the melancholy of ecstasy.

Does it have something to do with Paganism & Nature? There might be a little Harz Mountains and Black Forest mixed into it. But it's something farther-fetched, subtler, and more unusual than the Volk.

German Romanticism -- early, late, modern, and postmodern -- is a different and shadowed response to "Let there be light." It's a preference for or instinctive allegiance to imagination, dream, and textures of the abyss behind substance and process.

Novalis's Blue Flower........

What is it? What's this all about?

The Blue Flower is the symbolic essence of sought-after Mathilde, in the novel Heinrich Von Ofterdingen. And Mathilde represents the sought-after meaning of beauty, poetry and being.

In this never-completed book, Henry travels the worlds of pondering, fairy tales, and actual geography. This is the story of an awakening into mystical spirit and mythical vision -- into the "supreme realism."

The Blue Flower blooms within Schubert's Trio No. 2 in E-flat major. It becomes an implicit apparition blossoming above Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde. The "gods" of Hölderlin and Heidegger are garlanded with its petals. Kant's and Schopenhauer's noumenal is scented with its unknowable blueness. Freud's Eros and Uncanny are forms of its pistil and stamen. The "ecstatic truth" of Herzog is hallucinated from its pollen. A tinted dew remains upon the melancholy of Sebald's wanderings.

The Blue Flower is a perennial. It continues to flourish outside the walls of ruins and within the depths of haunted poems.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Fauré -- Morceau de Lecture a Vue

 Gil Shaham and Akira Eguchi

thoughts on a Chris Madoch poem


We who are true
Never forget the scent of death-
Its odour always there at our dangerous births
Sickly, prior to our first cries. Yes,
We taste that ever present love
With our first intake of breath.

In the absence of this daunting thought
No grits ever sit working in our unique oyster
Haunting our lives to be endlessly creative,
Vivid, rare, painting, writing, in some way relating
The flora and fauna from all the mind’s corners
Of an elsewhere world alive with black pearls.

It is my memory of that primal stench
That gives me reason to suspect your lame inventions-
They stink of rose ink and pink lunettes.

Chris Madoch: Copyright 2013: All Rights Reserved.

Mr. Madoch doesn't need my opinion. He said what he wished to say and is simply presenting to readers the result, giving them the option of experiencing a piece of his consciousness. I'm no critic and no longer know a damn thing anyway. But knowing and being affected by are, perhaps, different categories.

What strikes me first is how these lines flow with an elegiac rhythm, halfway between the condition of music and the miracle of breathing. The word "primal" appears, and it's a good word. Poems that burn through the web of ordinariness, in order to reach essence, are poems that affect me. Nostalgia is different than the forceful weight of shadows behind and within a strangeness of pure memory. This poem opens up the inner eye, and that eye glances back over a continuum of melancholy.

There can be no true art without melancholy. (Sorry. I said I no longer knew a damn thing. I shouldn't make such knowing pronouncements.)

This is a death-haunted poem. But like Novalis, who found beauty and meaning in his "Hymn to the Night," this poet in this poem sings to me of the nightmare's inspiring frisson. And of elsewhere's black pearls. Death haunts and enlarges Imagination.

I would be a poor non-critic who knows not a damn thing anymore if I failed to register a mild complaint. I sense the poet scolding those who don't delve darkly, whose creations are thus anemic and banal. It seems to me that those others would, ipso facto, not know what the poet is talking about. Those others have minds intrinsically shut off from the poet's own complaint. They would, therefore, be immune to a possibility of heeding its significance or of correcting their courses.

"Melancholy as an Aesthetic Emotion"

This article came to my attention.

Of course, I must say something.

While I tend to agree that melancholy as an aesthetic emotion usually involves reflection, contemplation, and imagination, I think there are times when the "fit" comes on one without any reflective, contemplative, imaginative, or even associative object. Even without a locational stimulus, such as a church or nature setting (mentioned in the essay). And not even requiring solitude. Sometimes, maybe, melancholy arrives owing to either a vivid or an indistinct awareness of being as a bare fact, whether one is alone or not. In other words, there is no object or context, except the context of simply being-there.

Also...while I do agree with the authors Brady and Haapala that melancholy is a form of aesthetic emotion, I think an opportunity was missed for a deeper dissection.

Reflection, contemplation, narrative, imagination -- these things are fine as far as it goes. But what is "beneath" this? Maybe something metaphysical? Maybe something about the nature of world and our possible but rare intuitions about it?

My stupid opinion continues: melancholy is an aesthetic emotion because it's an emotion deriving from extreme sensitiveness to quality or to qualities. Some science-brained folks now say that reality is comprised of pure information. But maybe it's actually made up of pure qualities.

So...when we get weird and melancholy before a work of art, that might be because the artist has captured (and we recognize) subtle aspects of quality analogous to or connected with strands of pure quality making up a world.

I just think the word "aesthetic" needs an intenser definition than was provided or indicated in the otherwise worthy article. Beyond categories of pleasure-pain, sublimity-awe, levitation-stupefaction, perhaps the term "aesthetic" could be placed within a deeper texture -- quality as such (this reminds me of Pursig's motorcycle zen book). And so, melancholy as an aesthetic emotion might be construed as how-it-feels to touch into that deeper texture of world qualities. Maybe the world itself suffers a little bit from melancholia, a bit overwhelmed to be composed of such a vast array of pulsating, inexplicable qualities. A quiet hysteria of time, substance, form. favorite part was the last paragraph of section five -- about ruins and transience and such.

Melancholy, 1891 -- Edvard Munch

poet Lucille Clifton

1936 - 2010

One of her poems -- "sorrows" -- is here.

Rita Dove said this about Lucille Clifton:
"In contrast to much of the poetry being written today—intellectualized lyricism characterized by an application of inductive thought to unusual images—Lucille Clifton's poems are compact and self-sufficient...Her revelations then resemble the epiphanies of childhood and early adolescence, when one's lack of preconceptions about the self allowed for brilliant slippage into the metaphysical, a glimpse into an egoless, utterly thingful and serene world." 

Thanks to poet and novelist Cheryl Snell for bringing Lucille Clifton's poetry to my attention. 

pianist Benjamin Grosvenor

Chopin's Scherzo No. 1 in B minor

I'm not easily impressed. This fellow impresses me.

two hours with pianist Noriko Ogawa

thinking Deleuze

composer Grażyna Bacewicz

1909 - 1969

Sinfonia No. 3

Cello Concerto No. 1

String Quartet No. 4

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Hilary Hahn & Bach

The Life of Emile Zola

MASKA -- the Brothers Quay

brief commentary

LEOS JANACEK -- the Brothers Quay

1 of 2

2 of 2

what dreams may come

Jessica Duchen is a rather neat person. She also has an aesthetic sensibility. That unusual condition can sometimes cause a special dream to happen.

In fact, I can imagine an unwritten Jessica character appearing in Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain. At the Davos sanitarium, she is sitting for breakfast at one of the dining hall tables. Hans Castorp, at another table, overhears her telling about last night's dream:

"Has anyone seen my dream aria?"


"Surrender to Proust"


"Knowing that you are reading a work of genius, it is difficult to recognize that Swann’s Way is strange."

And this:

"Proust goes on to explain that, 'Swann had regarded musical motifs as actual ideas, of another world, of another order, ideas veiled in shadows, unknown, impenetrable by the human mind, which none the less were perfectly distinct one from another, unequal among themselves in value and in significance.'”


"For this reason, reading Swann’s Way can feel like falling into a dream. Pages will drift by light as ether. You sometimes forget you are reading. You get lost in the stories, the memories."

IN ABSENTIA -- the Brothers Quay

First, a word about the Brothers Quay, who are filmmakers. They are interested in Polish and Czech stuff. They are interested in the surreal, the aesthetic, the literary, the rapturous, the forlorn, the nightmarish. They've made things inspired by the writer Bruno Schulz and by the composer Leoš Janáček. Bravo! Someone needs to be thinking about this gloriously deep shit.

Emma Hauck  (1878 - 1920)

She was confined to a mental asylum in Heidelberg. She wrote letters to her non-visiting husband. Sheets of paper on which the phrase "sweetheart come" is overwritten dozens of times. Until the sheets are nearly illegible:

This film is a tribute: