Sunday, March 31, 2013

De Quincey

Below is an article about a guy who has been with me for over 40 years. Since that day in the high school library. When I pulled his book from the shelf.

I had no idea what I was in for, how his book would insinuate itself so deeply into me. That book did something to my head. It made me sort of eccentric, I guess.

"The Addicted Life of Thomas De Quincey"

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

my mother's birthday

She would have been 87 today. She loved this song:

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Jerome Rothenberg caught my attention

Check out these translations by Jerome Rothenberg of traditional verse from the Indian North Americas (scroll down especially for "A Song from Red Ant Way" and extra-specially for "Navajo Animal Songs"):

selections from "Shaking the Pumpkin"

the inimitable Roky...

...from some crazy-where in Texas.

As far as I know, he's the only genuine Outsider Artist in rock and roll. Just one damn thing after another:

Saturday, March 23, 2013

poet Adam Zagajewski said:

Don’t we use the word poetry in two ways? One: as a part of literature. Two: as a tiny part of the world, both human and pre-human, the part of beauty. So poetry as literature, as language, discovers within the world a layer that has existed unobserved in reality, and by doing so changes something in our life, expands somewhat the space of what we are. 

Here's one of his books of poems:
Unseen Hand: Poems

Friday, March 22, 2013

Marina Tsvetayeva and me

She and I share the same sense of this:

Oh, Boris, Boris! How well I know the other one [world]! From dreams, from the ambient air of dreams, from the density, the essentiality of dreams. And how little I know of this one, how much I dislike it, and how hurt I have been by it! But the other one -- just fancy! -- light, radiance, things illuminated quite differently, with your light and mine!
                                                                                        ~ from Letters: Summer 1926 

More than once on this blog, I've tried to describe that ambience, density, and essentiality of dreams. The poet's words are perfect. Often I'm struck by how dreams are expressed with a peculiar depth and substance. A situational gravity. A surreal quiddity. A holistic thereness.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

a poem by Anna Akhmatova

Along the hard crust of deep snows

Along the hard crust of deep snows,
To the secret, white house of yours,
So gentle and quiet – we both
Are walking, in silence half-lost.
And sweeter than all songs, sung ever,
Are this dream, becoming the truth,
Entwined twigs’ a-nodding with favor,
The light ring of your silver spurs...

This lyrical love poem is not an ordinary lyrical love poem. Ego's passion and pathology are muted. What stands out here is immanence, the mystery of human substance and spirit folded into time's dream. 

Akhmatova manages to lift this vignette into a different, stranger tonality than one of discrete emotional event. Amorous regard is universalized, spread to us in the warmth and magic of her lines. All lovers walk here in the uncanny space between oblivions of non-being (before birth, after death). Those silver spurs echo far beyond a masculine symbol; they ring the dream as a shared resonance: being here together.     

Friday, March 15, 2013

a poem by Jorge Luis Borges


When sorrow lays us low 
for a second we are saved 
by humble windfalls 
of the mindfulness or memory: 
the taste of a fruit, the taste of water, 
that face given back to us by a dream, 
the first jasmine of November, 
the endless yearning of the compass, 
a book we thought was lost, 
the throb of a hexameter, 
the slight key that opens a house to us, 
the smell of a library, or of sandalwood, 
the former name of a street, 
the colors of a map, 
an unforeseen etymology, 
the smoothness of a filed fingernail, 
the date we were looking for, 
the twelve dark bell-strokes, tolling as we count, 
a sudden physical pain. 

Eight million Shinto deities 
travel secretly throughout the earth. 
Those modest gods touch us-- 
touch us and move on.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

this looks interesting...

Vladimir Sofronitsky's Scriabin

I don't know how to talk about Sofronitsky's Scriabin. Especially in any kind of technical sense -- I'll leave that to those who are musically trained.

I can only babble a bit, in a general way.

A certain quality of playing -- of musicality and sensibility -- occurs in Richter and Gilels. A quality of musical  understanding that is not ordinary. It's even more pronounced in Sofronitsky. That quality of playing, without being wayward, brings out aspects or spirits in the music that others simply can't seem to access.

Apparently, there is something unusual going on with certain Russian pianists. Something that has no analog in pianists from elsewhere. Certain Russians imbue their playing with a distinctive aural magic. They find a way to release the subtlest poetry latent in measures.

The word "poetry" is problematic here. That word can mean so many things. In the present context, I use it to mean aesthetic intensity and probing imagination. Certain Russian pianists delve and retrieve the unexpected, the otherwise unheard.

Sofronitsky's Scriabin is exemplary and nonpareil in this respect. Almost spooky.

night rpm -- a tumblr blog

I've been spending some time reading this neat-o blog. It's chock full of good stuff. I have an affinity with this blogger's love of classical music and literature and stuff.

Here's a post from there about the artwork-calligraphy of Honami Koetsu (1558 - 1637):

Honami Koetsu

I "borrowed" this image from night rpm.

"Bafflin Smoke Signal" -- Lee Perry

Bafflin smoke signal in the Vatican City.
Bafflin smoke signal in the city of iniquity. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

on spiritual myopia

Apparently, there are two kinds of people in the world: those who are not death-haunted and those who are. Art has a chance of taking place among the latter group. The former are too oddly situated within a sober existence to be genuine makers or deep appreciators of art.

Art is a form of attempted transcendence. Any attempt at art -- music, painting, dance, sculpture, poem, novel -- that doesn't have death somewhere in the foreground or background will yield pedestrian results. That's an assertion. So be it. And here's another one: the genuine work of art is one in which consciousness knows that transcendence is only a fleeting possibility -- a something available only during moments of creation. Knowing that permanent transcendence is unavailable will texture or imbue the creative work with a sense of the tragic.

What got me to thinking about this stuff is an article I read this morning:

"Evolution and Existentialism"

I come across this attitude often, and it remains a baffling thing to behold. In this case, the fellow is trying to amalgamate evolutionary biology and rational existentialism. Oddly, he is not the least bit concerned with the macabre fact of death or with expression toward transcendence. This fellow is way too well adjusted. Art didn't even appear in his article about life.

But maybe his way is just one of the ways of being in the world. One in which art doesn't much register as a possibility of living and coping. Each to his or her own, right? The problem is that this fellow is preaching a preferred way of being. For all of us sentient human creatures. He says that the blending of scientific and philosophical rationalism will put us on a better path of life. And to that I say "Balderdash."

There's an unsettling blitheness to the article writer's construal of being and time: life overall is meaningless so our job is to lose ourselves inside little meanings. That won't cut it. A greater response to overall meaninglessness is called for. Art is the deeper form of life. The tragic sense is the called-for tonality.

Reality is not explainable, nor is consciousness. Another grand assertion, which is fun for me to make. So we are ensconced in a permanent mind-bending mystery. The fact that biological entities evolve or that old French guys in cafes prescribe free choice does nothing to quell the big problem: human consciousness and mortal existence are incompatible. We are located in a compelling paradox. That's where and why the artistically tragic takes center stage.

Mahler's symphonies make the article writer's attitude seem myopic and rather air-headed.

That's all I have to say right now. I need some more tragically existential coffee.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Friday, March 8, 2013

Bruno Schulz belongs to me, dammit !!

I don't remember exactly how I came to Bruno Schulz's masterpiece The Street of Crocodiles. It must have been while lost in the labyrinth: "Readers who liked this also liked this." Eventually, I must have come upon the Schulz book and found something in the description that spoke to me.

When I read it the first time, I sank so deeply into it. The book was written just for me, surely. Since then, I've had to deal with odd and possessive feelings. Who are all these other people who think they know what this book contains and who purport to appreciate it? But over time, I've softened my pathological ownership of Schulz's text. I have allowed for the possibility that others out there might also be strange readers and also sink deeply, irretrievably into Schulz's pages. Others out there might also be citizens of that peculiar and wondrous tangent-world.

Occasionally though, I still get a bit tense. I'll read about Schulz seminars and festivals. 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. But over time, I have also softened a bit in my chagrin over the "institutionalization" of Schulz. Especially when such seminars and festivals take place in Drohobych, Poland:


This thing sounds good to me. I wish I could get in a jet next year and fly (not upside-down) to Poland, to attend this thing. So many interesting things listed in connection with Bruno Schulz.

And speaking of Schulz scholars, there is one I've come across who does seem to evince the necessary and sufficient reverence for The Street of Crocodiles. Her name is Lauren A. Benjamin, and here's an article she wrote:

"The Likeness of a Tailor's Dummy: Bruno Schulz’s Recreation of the Human in Sklepy Cynamonowe"

Ms. Benjamin, in her approach to Schulz, is not abstract, wayward, or stuffy. She ponders Schulz boldly and sympathetically. In this way, she syncs with Schulz's visioning, with his tangent-worlding. Ms. Benjamin appears to know just what it is that is going on in the shadows, silences, and uproariously melancholic situations of the marvelous book.

Bruno Schulz

Julia Hartwig -- Polish poet

In Praise of the Unfinished: Selected Poems

Return to My Childhood Home

Amid a dark silence of pines—the shouts of
young birches calling each other.
Everything is as it was. Nothing is as it was.
Speak to me, Lord of the child. Speak,
innocent terror!
To understand nothing. Each time in a different
way, from the first cry to the last breath.
Yet happy moments come to me from the past,
like bridesmaids carrying oil lamps.

~ Julia Hartwig

"Warsaw 1935"

Thursday, March 7, 2013

the joke of substance

The very fact of individual existence implies irony, leg-pulling, a clownish poking-out of the tongue.
                                                                                            ~ Bruno Schulz

the secondary literature

Literary critics of elevated sensibility, textual empathy, and informed imagination are hard to come by. The rare ones bond themselves almost spiritually to the finest literature. They write with such intelligent flair that their essays are like a homecoming. They understand how you understand. They give eloquent voice to your own deep wordless appreciation. Such a one was Susan Sontag.

1933 - 2004

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Robert Walser

“With all my ideas and follies I could one day found a corporate company for the propagation of beautiful but unreliable imaginings.”
                                                          ~ Robert Walser

Institute Benjamenta

Trailer for a unusual film by the Brothers Quay, based on the novel Jakob von Gunten by Robert Walser:

New York Review Books

world logic

An excerpt from Rebecca Goldstein's book:
It is logic itself, not its rules but its applications -- the vast and infinite system of logical entailments that are not merely abstract, as we usually conceive of them, but rather coated with the substance of being. Reality is ontologically enriched logic. It is a logic that is animated, alive with thought, infinitely aware of its own infinite space. And it is, simultaneously, a logic that is embodied, a logic which generates itself in space, resulting in a material world. 

That's some deep shit to ponder. 

about Robert Musil

The Unbounded Vision of Robert Musil

Hugo von Hofmannsthal

1874 - 1929

"Hofmannsthal's world"

"Radical, Modern Hofmannsthal"


A poem:


Your little sister
Has tossed her 
Untied hair forward
Like a living veil,
Like a fragrant hedge,
And peers, with such eyes!
Through a fragrant veil,
Through a dark hedge ...
How sweet it is to only
Think of such little things.

Fruits have ripened
On all the longing branches 
In your nightly garden,
Chinese lanterns like red fruits
Sway and illuminate
The longing branches
Rustled by the night wind
In your little garden ...

How sweet it is to only
Think of such little things.

Translated by Johannes Beilharz

Monday, March 4, 2013

dream trauma

He who loves the more is the inferior and must suffer.
                                          -- from Thomas Mann's Tonio Kröger

I had a dream. 

I was somehow tuned into an international radio show (90.5 on the dream dial). It was a culture show, with an English-speaking announcer. Someone known to me began speaking their poem-song. A voice in a language I don't know. A voice imbued with great and worldly qualities. A poem-song beautiful, poignant, and profound. About things beyond my experience and existence. Of things in a realm to which I don't belong. Spoken-sung in a transporting cadence. The lyrics moving on a subtle melody. Her voice was so very far above me in its rich conveyance of poetic atmospheres, of visionary eloquence. In a language I don't know, yet the gist of the poem-song came to me between the lines. As if the music of her voice translated the words.

When her poem-song was over, I turned off the radio. I went outside, eventually wandering into an unknown, colorful little neighborhood.  A car stopped to pick me up. Inside were four men, belonging to an ancient and foreign religious affiliation. I settled into the back seat. In the front seat, one of them began speculating about a secret, apocalyptic code. A number gleaned from his studies in Kabbalah. 

I soon realized they were driving me toward my home, from when I was a little boy. I asked them to pull over and let me walk alone the rest of the way. The old hill, the other side of which lay my childhood house, grew steeper as I approached. I began struggling to find handholds in what had now become a boulder-strewn mountainside. The brush and forlorn roots hanging here and there morphed into frozen water sprays. The heat of my climbing caused the ice-sprays to begin melting. This somehow triggered the bursting through of a terrible river above. Torrents of floodwater poured over and onto me, washing me back down the mountain(hill)side. The old road I had taken was now a hopeless ravine. I was swept away into death and eternal oblivion.

I woke up.

So...isn't it astonishing how consciousness can speak to itself allegorically, through the ambiguous form of an oneiric tale?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Kapralova's Piano Concerto

In her concerto -- Brahmsian flourishes and inflections; Rachmaninoff moments of melancholy; Beethovian mystery to open the Largo, which later takes on some Shostakovitch vibes. 

But pervading through the whole piece -- "a certain slant of light" that I can only imagine to be Bohemian.

Ms. Kapralova was a remarkable composer, writing with natural, fierce, and imaginative flair.

I woke up this morning...

...thinking about this movie. A freak-ass movie about numerological psychosis. I've seen it several times. Must see it again.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Some facts...

...are incapable of being dramatized, poeticized, or even imagined. The most that can be done by way of expression toward certain facts is an utterance brushing the edge of silence.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Martin Heidegger...

...was either an anti-Semite or a cynical opportunist. He was certainly a coward.

"Hitler's Superman"

As in the case of Wagner, Heidegger presents a troublesome phenomenon: the greatness of works in contrast to the repulsiveness of character.