Saturday, September 28, 2013

Ivan Bunin

I think I would enjoy what's on the linked page below a lot more if I knew Russian. But I'm the kind of guy who won't ignore something that is interesting just because I don't know what's being said.

My friend Matt Dioguardi...

...lives and teaches in Japan. They have flowers in Japan. Matt likes to take photos of flowers. He attaches a few lines of verse to his flower photos. Most of these lines are old rhyming poems, which make me sort of nervous and irritable. But sometimes, he will attach lines that are swell:

In eastern lands they talk in flowers.
And they tell in a garland their loves and cares.
Each blossom that blooms in their garden bowers
On its leaves a mystic language bears.

~ James Gates Percival

Copyright © Matt Dioguardi, 2013

Matt's blog: Shadow of Iris

Friday, September 27, 2013

I'm just an American...

...who's never been anywhere and who doesn't know a damn thing. But you know what? Nature abhors a vacuum:

So nature continually shifts things around, leaks certain substances into the heads of beings of the void. A kind of algorithmic mercy takes place: to the untraveled and the ignorant, nature will bestow the gifts of curiosity and imagination.

Thus, I find myself today involved in reading this 18-page PDF:

Searching for a New Identity: The Acculturation of Russian–born Adolescents in Israel

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Kissin and Liszt

Harmonies du soir

Kiefer and Celan

  Dein aschenes Haar Sulamith

by artist Anselm Kiefer

This painting's title, translated as "your ashen hair Shulamith," not only refers to a line from Paul Celan's poem "Todesfuge," but also graphically incorporates that line onto the canvas. 

Or as Andréa Lauterwein says in her review of the book Anselm Kiefer / Paul Celan: Myth, Mourning and Memory:
Yet those words are not simply self-contained on the canvas, they are not just repeated in another context, nor are they merely mentioned, for they now participate in the life of the canvas: the dark letters are one with the lines of black paint, white paint and charcoal that thickly cross the canvas. Kiefer is showing how the reality of the Shoah manifests itself to him, and is using Celan's disclosure of the Shoah in "Todesfuge" as an exemplary manifestation of the same grim reality, one that has allowed him to make the Shoah manifest in his own way.

Here's another book:

Sites of the Uncanny: Paul Celan, 
Specularity and the Visual Arts

Here's part of that book's text online:

Maurice Blanchot

1907 - 2003

From Wikipedia about his thought on language:
Literary language, therefore, is a double negation, both of the thing and the idea. It is in this space that literature becomes possible where words take on a strange and mysterious reality of their own, and where also meaning and reference remain allusive and ambiguous.

Blanchot himself:
And what language is (not what it means, not the form in which it says what it means), what language is in its being, is that softest of voices, that nearly imperceptible retreat, that weakness deep inside and surrounding every thing and every face - what bathes the belated effort of the origin and the dawnlike erosion of death in the same neutral light, at once day and night.  

There's something about what was inside this fellow's head that is interesting to me and that warrants further pondering by me.

Here's a book:

SUNY Press

Here's an article:

Hungarian writer Miklós Szentkuthy said this:

Two things excite me: the most subjective epic details and the ephemeral trivialities of my most subjective life, in all their own factual, unstylized individuality — and the big facts of the world in their allegorical, Standbild-like grandiosity: death, summer, sea, love, gods, flowers.

1908 - 1988

Some selected passages: PDF.

About Italian filmmaker Elio Petri... critic and film historian Jean A. Gili said this:
Through a mixture of expressionism, Brecht, and the bizarre, Petri’s films brought together Marx and Gramsci, but also Freud and Reich. He dove into the world of dreams with Kafkian lunges and into the maze that divides being and schizophrenia.  

Elio Petri (1929 - 1982)

Sir Francis Bacon said this:

Nevertheless if any skillful Servant of Nature shall bring force to bear on matter, and shall vex it and drive it to extremities as if with the purpose of reducing it to nothing, then will matter (since annihilation or true destruction is not possible except by the omnipotence of God) finding itself in these straits, turn and transform itself into strange shapes, passing from one change to another till it has gone through the whole circle and finished the period.

~ from Proteus 

1561 - 1626

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Gérard de Nerval said this:

Our dreams are a second life. I have never been able to penetrate without a shudder those ivory or horned gates which separate us from the invisible world.
1808 - 1855

the artist Nadya Rusheva

She was born in Mongolia (1952) and died in Moscow (1969). Here are some links:



"Nadya Rusheva: Sighs on Paper, Breathing Lines"


something in the Russian language

Rusheva is most famous for her illustrations of Mikhail Bulgakov's Master and MargaritaHer illustrations of Margarita are said to bear a strong resemblance to Bulgakov's wife, whom Rusheva never met. Yelena Bulgakova later said, "I wish I knew this amazing and subtle creature, Nadya Rusheva."


Speaking of oldies...

...I think this is one of the grooviest ever songs about that arcing passionate spark between male and female human beings. And that lead guitar solo is something else, Buddha wearing sunglasses:

From Franz Kafka... Petula Clark is quite a jump.

When I was a youngster, I would listen to the AM radio. When the song "Downtown" would come on, I would be pleased.

Only in the vaguest sense did I imagine London during the song. For me, it evoked a more general urban ambiance and fantasy. And I always pictured late November or early December for some weird reason. Maybe in Shreveport (where I'd been to) or Minneapolis (where I'd never been to).

Late fall and drizzling rain in some faraway city of streetlights and shop windows.

I wonder: do folks who hadn't been born when this song was on the air also get some kind of evocative impression from it? I would assume not. For them, it's probably a quaint and dated curiosity. Because if they did think it's extremely swell, this song would still be in constant rotation, still be the latest marvelous thing.

I guess I'm just nostalgic for how I was nostalgic as a youngster about some city impression I'd never actually experienced in person. Fantasy is a powerful aspect of human consciousness.


I also liked her song "I Know a Place." It's got a killer refrain. They just don't make songs like they used to. Since back then, it's all about being self-conscious and cool than about being naive, impressionable, and prone to pure wonder.

a cool review

I like this review by Jeff Nowak of the book Lambent Traces by Kafka scholar Stanley Corngold.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Kafka said this:

“I am always trying to convey something that can’t be conveyed, to explain something which is inexplicable, to tell about something I have in my bones, something which can be expressed only in the bones.” 

I've decided to appreciate...

...composer György Kurtág's Kafka Fragments.  

I first became aware of this composition a dozen or so years ago but forgot at that time to sink myself into it.

This good article contains the following good thing:
The Kafka texts range from miniature parables to imagistic snapshots (“The onlookers freeze as the train goes past” in Part I, No. 10, “Scene at the Station”) and brief but indelible sighs of insight (Part III, No. 3, “My fortress”). Stark beauty sits side by side with the blackest humor. For all their shard-like dislocations and intense contrasts, the fragments also betray recurring patterns of imagery. Chief of these is the metaphor of the path and locomotion (and the implication of the search for some path through the labyrinth of our existence – e.g., Part II’s “The True Path”). Other images involve the body’s fragility, erotic anxiety, states of exile, and the demands of the creative life. 
Instead of merely attempting to illustrate these texts, Kurtág’s musical profiles create uncanny parallel universes with their own recurrent patterns of imagery. In the very first fragment, for example (“The Good March in Step”), he sets up a counterpoint between the simple, mechanical oscillations of the violin and, for the singer, a contrasting freedom of line, moving from folksong innocence to giddily hiccupping leaps. Kurtág repeatedly alternates between stratagems of extreme simplicity and almost absurdly extreme acrobatics for both musicians. 
The arsenal from which Kurtág draws embraces an assortment of extremes: ethereal reflection and folkloric lustiness, violent staccato attacks and feather-wisps of lyricism, shocking silences and frenzied momentum. Expressionism (from primal shrieks to Sprechstimme) takes its place alongside shades of the past, from Bach to Romantic luminaries who register a nostalgic presence nearly unbearable in its poignancy. Consider Part I, No. 18 (another homage to Schumann) – “The Flower Hung Dreamily” – with its desperate attempt to recapture a lost lyrical innocence in the violin’s lofty but aimless flight. Throughout, Kurtág wrests the maximum of expressiveness from minimal gestures, all the while leaving space for the complex of imagery – verbal and musical – to resound and realign according to the private universe of each audience member.
a performance

a different performance

This website has some of the fragment text in English.

About Kafka Fragments, soprano Dawn Upshaw said this:
What I initially understood to be darkness in the piece, I now see as a purity and extreme clarity of thought.

Franz Kafka's It's a Wonderful Life

From time to time...

...and prompted by nothing in particular, I will find myself thinking about Kafka's writing style. Actually, "thinking" is the wrong word. That would imply some aspect of analysis. And that's not what happens in my head during these random moments of reflection.

It's more like a space opens in my head into which the quality of Kafka's writing style appears as a something inimitable in its clarity, directness, and subtle eloquence. Well, I suppose even that is a form of analysis. But's more like his language style simply is there in my head as a thing excellent and nonparallel.

only the lonely

It has nothing to do with boredom. You are never bored. Boredom isn't possible, given the kind of peculiar being you are. But you do get lonely. In fact, loneliness can seem like the opposite of boredom -- a muted, elongated form of panic.

Well...a soul can still get lonely even if it ain't about a lost love.

Sometimes I wonder...

...why certain poem makers go to such extremes in their written view of life. Poems sprinkled with "fucking" (adjectival derision), "coffins," "shit," "death," "blood," so on and so forth.

Sometimes I wonder why these poem makers can't simply be sad about the general situation. In that long pause of melancholy, language might come of itself with hints of mystery, time, and surreal beauty. It does no one any good to rail like a demented orangutan at mortality and absurdity in the form of ugly verse.

The Dreamworld of Morpheus

Neil Gaiman's The Sandman comic book series consisted of 75 issues, from 1989 to 1996. I have nearly the entire run, missing only numbers 25 and 37.                          .

I'm reading the series again and really enjoying it again. It's pure fantasy. Remarkable stuff. I especially enjoy the images and events taking place in Dreamworld. They are sufficiently eerie, evocative, and disturbing. They are surreal without being stupid and clumsy. Of course, the images and events taking place elsewhere are also groovy. The whole story fabric is complex and marvelously textured.

The Sandman # 1

Years ago, I also purchased three of the ten trade paperback collections. I just found out that these have been reissued, with improved coloring. I might have to get some of these new ones:

official press release

Edgar Allan Poet Journal #1The Examiner

I wish to again thank editor Apryl Skies for including three of my poems.

It's probably too late...

...for me to swoon in adoration over this Ukrainian beauty, since she died the year I was born. I'll never get to whisper to the operatic soprano, "Hey, you seem pretty swell."

Solomiya Ambrosiyivna Krushelnytska

Sunday, September 22, 2013

It quietly alarms me...

...when I come across people who think they understand reality. I can think of nothing more preposterous, arrogant, deluded.

the brilliant Linda

I wish I had known Linda Ronstadt and been a friend of hers back in the day. Just being around certain people can add a richness to one's life.

NPR interview

Viola Concerto by Allan Pettersson

Friday, September 20, 2013

Those who think...

...poems should be written to fit within a preconceived ethical or political framing are oblivious to the deep, mysterious nature of the poetic impulse.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

I like this Yiddish song very much

The city of Belz is located in western Ukraine. But I read that the song was originally about the Moldovan town of Bălți.  The Yiddish pronunciation "Belts" for Bălți led to the song's later interpretation as being about the shtetl of Belz.

Be that as it may, I also came across this: 
The song became with years more and more legendary and the town itself -- semi-mythical. 

Anyway...what a beautiful melody!

"the indescribably fateful thing"

In 1901, Hugo von Hofmannsthal went to an exhibition of Van Gogh paintings:
At first sight they seemed to me harsh and disturbing, quite raw, quite odd, I had first to adjust in order to see the first ones as pictures, as a unity—then, however, then I saw them all as such, each one, and all together, and Nature in them, and the human spiritual power that Nature had formed, and tree and bush and field and slope, and something further, something behind what was painted, the essential thing, the indescribably fateful thing—, I saw the whole, so that I lost the sense of myself in these images, and came back powerfully and was lost again.

In the distant future...

...anthropologists will sift through the ruins of our age. They will uncover skeletons with shockingly bright-white teeth. A pseudo-documentarian of that later time will intone solemnly: "Could these be...Ancient Aliens?"

Friday, September 13, 2013

concerning Yves Tanguy

Yves Tanguy (1900 – 1955) was a Surrealist. He is my favorite artist from the Modernist era. When the term “Surrealism” is mentioned, most people think of wild juxtapositions of familiar objects, whether animate or inanimate. Tanguy is subtler, much more enigmatic. His canvases teem with objects, but those things have only a passing resemblance to known forms. Those equivocal thingy forms are more like reified fragments of mental or spiritual intuition. And the “landscapes” in which they are placed are less like space-time milieus than volumes of void, theaters of dream.

I think Tanguy was obsessed with painting the symbolic modes and contents of the hippocampus. He was about going down, via intuition, into the primal and nether zones of consciousness. And then painted what he found or imagined there.

These intuited objects and visionary "spaces" are not representations of phenomena and perception. Rather, Tanguy's ambiguous shapes within uncertain environments are images of human organic/mental strangeness, symbols of deep interior happening. They are suggestions in paint of the noumenal that lurks behind phenomena and behind perception. So I detect two kinds of duality or parallelism -- the apparent and the unknowable; consciousness and materiality. You can feel that along the edge of his bizarre "shores" meeting the metaphysical plasma of his "seas."

It's more than surrealism. This is an audacious science of mental objects and spiritual conditions. Yves Tanguy opened up environments of the silent elemental.

I Await You

poetry and whatever that other stuff is

Occasionally (or rarely), one comes across poems in which experience and phenomena are transformed through language into an extraordinary condition or state. In such cases, language is used to perform a kind of spiritual-artistic magic.

Usually (or mostly), one comes across poems in which experience and phenomena are pathologized through ego into something barely readable, in which language is merely a clanky utilitarian Jeep carrying the poet across a dismal landscape of his self-absorption and self-fascination. In such cases, the reader begins to wonder: why should I care about this boring personal junk the poet is blathering about in such a prosaic manner? The reader, gradually losing patience, wonders further: why isn't the poet looking out at the world through language as sorcery and art?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

concerning the Snell sisters

I've been Facebook friends with the Snell sisters for several years. Janet is a painter, Cheryl a poet and fiction writer.

They like music.

It's weird, but I somehow get the sense that they like music the way I like music. They know and deeply appreciate the older masters -- Beethoven and all those other guys, up to Modernism. And here's where it gets more unusual: I suspect they also like music composed by the Modernists!

Years ago, I wasn't sure about that kind of music. It took me a while to become thoroughly captivated by that strange stuff, Modernist stuff beyond Debussy and Scriabin. But when it finally "took," it took hard. That dissonant, atonal, rhythmically bizarre music is wonderful! It's like a soundtrack for existential paranoia. It complements a metaphysical bent of mind that enjoys curving over into a condition of the surreal. It sounds like time being turned inside-out. Fantastic!

First for me came Sacre du printemps, then Shostakovitch and Prokofiev. Soon, I found myself entranced by the music of Arnold Schoenberg, Henri Dutilleux, Mieczyslaw Weinberg, Alfred Schnittke, Olivier Messiaen, Roberto Gerhard, Toru Takemitsu, Witold Lutosławski, Bohuslav Martinů, László Laitha, Allan Pettersson, Vítězslava Kaprálová, and Eliott Carter. Others.

For me, there is something moody, equivocal, and beautiful in this music that moves to new laws of structure and harmony. Whatever it is, it's not quite the same thing as noirish and horror film scores, old and new. It's music composed just to be itself, like Beethoven's and all those other guys'. Even the less-astringent stuff -- Martinů, Laitha, Kaprálová -- has an eccentric quality that is alluring. 

I don't know much about Janet and Cheryl.  I'm not even sure where they live. Somewhere up north, I reckon. I don't know how they perceive time or what they make of finding themselves inside reality. I do know they are exceptional people -- deeply and quietly intelligent.

Why do I think they like Modernist music? Because Janet's paintings strike me as having a Modernist-Expressionist sensibility informing the brush. Because Cheryl's poems -- especially those hypnotizing video poems -- strike me as spirit-states and abstract impressions become almost palpable, like the music of Dutilleux and Carter.

The Snell sisters have a website: Scattered Light.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Noam Chomsky...

...needs to simmer down. If he's concerned about bad behavior in the Middle East, he should direct his gaze elsewhere than Israel.  Just my non-genius opinion.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Revision in poetry... the art of being serious about writing. A thing once written should at least be ruthlessly scrutinized for possible aesthetic malfeasance. Failing to critically revisit one's written eruption reflects an attitude of lazy philistinism attached to preposterous egoism.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Edgar Allan Poet Journal #1

Three of my poems appear in this anthology, which has the macabre shadow of Poe drifting through it. From the link below, you can access the e-viewer for free reading.

Edgar & Lenore's Publishing House

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

I have a poem...

...on the website of Edgar Allan Poet:

"birth of a poem (for Apryl)"

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

"Tombstone Shadow"

Tombstone shadow stretchin' across my path.

Fogerty at his rawest, most elemental.

Monday, September 2, 2013

"Mystic Highway"

I suppose you'd have to be an old guy with a Huckleberry streak to be impressed with this song. I think it's neat. I like its Hobo-esque, riverbank metaphysics.


The comic book Hellblazer (Vertigo).

The artwork is usually adequate for this long-running series, and the stories are quite well written. In fact, it's hard to believe how certain comic books have plots, characterizations, and dialog more deftly executed than even good TV shows.

Forget the movie version of John Constantine. The actual chain-smoking, dead-mystical, comic-book guy will mess with your mind.

This four-issue arc -- "Freezes Over" -- is creepy, dark, readable.

Bylini, Bely & Brodsky

I can't read or speak the Russian language. I'm going to write something about it anyway. Because that's the kind of thing I like to do -- intuit my way toward uncertain regions.

Epic poem-songs of Russia -- bylini -- were based on historical characters but raised to a pitch of magic and lore through dramatic exaggeration. The word itself can be very roughly translated as "how something was." And how things were then were surely more than met the eye. Those heroic characters and their deeds -- fighting battles, rescuing princesses, defeating dragons -- took place in the context of a feminine creation myth. The greatest heroes were considered actual sons of the deity Mother Russia. In some cases, these sons themselves can be inferred as personifications of natural forces.The recitatives of bylini were charged with symbolism and sentimental dynamics. Bylini are a cultural treasury of the Russian people.

Andrei Bely (1880 - 1934) was a Russian novelist, poet, and literary theorist, famous for his novel Petersburg. Bely's essay "Rhythm as Dialectic in the Bronze Horseman" is an examination of Russian iambic tetrameter as discovered in Pushkin's poem. Nabokov followed Bely's ideas with his own survey -- "Notes on Prosody" -- of how syllabic accents are distributed through Russian verse. In English, many nouns, verbs, and adjectives are monosyllabic, which gives rise to an organic, variable flow of accents across a line's natural underlying pulse. Whereas Russian, with its many di- or polysyllabic nouns, verbs, and adjectives, moves with a different "music" extruded from the rhythm. According to Bely/Nabokov, many Russian words are characterized as being "scudded," owing to their di- or polysyllabic formation -- a word's syllables flow with few or no accents.

What do bylini and Bely have to do with one another, and what do both have to do with the poet Joseph Brodsky? I will intuit my way toward possible connections.

Bylini recitative expression takes place, of course, in the Russian language. My surmise is that the language itself is informed -- syllabic patterns structured -- by thematic and psychological characteristics of those old tales. Exaggeration in the tales -- raising the pitch of wonder and myth -- requires words made of complex cultural substance. Words encode meaning. Words are made of syllables. And syllables are fragments or pieces of encoded meaning and cultural memory.

The Russian language, owing to qualities of its bylini heritage, grew its words large enough to fold in layers of dramatic significance. To convey the mass of symbol and sentiment, nouns, verbs, and adjectives naturally expanded, becoming di- or polysyllabic.

What is the aural effect of this bylini conditioning, this syllabic expansion? The syllables of spoken words create rhythm -- form patterns of accent across a line's or a sentence's underlying metered pulse. In a formal setting -- story or poem -- the expression would, I think, have a quality I will call "droning chant." As words move across sentences or lines -- words scudded because of syllabic quantity -- an additive and cumulative power glows in those sentences and lines. An analog to mythic bylini embellishment occurs as an extended acoustic, an extravagant intonation.

In everyday conversation, I suggest, this aural extravagance is a muted and implied aspect of the Russian language. But certain poets, especially, are exemplars -- subconscious bardic curators, if you will -- of the oracular acoustic. With them, Russian words -- spectra of deep syllabic information -- leave the tongue on a mission of "how something was," as a droning chant of life as rich as fable. Time is distended as this ceremonial cadence itself becomes an encoding of cultural information and significance. Russian poets are, therefore, natural metaphysicians, their poems written in a language still mystically imbued, written in a language spiritually syllabic, written in a language aurally metaphorical.

Listen to Joseph Brodsky reciting one of his poems:

There is something of the magical incantation in this. A heightened energy and a deepened suspense in the atmosphere of speaking. In contrast to most English poems, in which a descriptive litany occurs, here Brodsky seems to be chanting a vision into presence. He is telling us a deep tale about life, a modern bylini. And Mother Russia is heroically implicit in the mythic prosody.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

a different perspective

I'm bored to smithereens with dead celebrities -- the neurotically ambitious, the shallow dazzlers, the fated lucky, the power mongers.

I'm for setting aside a solid year during which only the nondescript and utterly forgotten are commemorated and memorialized. 

The accountant (1895 - 1965) who led a life of murmuring uneventfulness, yet who felt things beyond the pale and who did his quiet duty in life.

The librarian (1910 - 1975) who led a life of books and thoughtful accommodation, who dreamed of far lands and sea-ship passage before succumbing to fatal ennui.

Those everyday faded people were no less substantial beings and worthy of words than the sensational and the trumpeted. Someone should research brittle oxidizing obituaries, write a million biographies of the unassuming dead, bring back to life textures of souls in hidden time.