Tuesday, December 31, 2013

last day, last post

Tāls ceļš 

(Long Road)

A love poem by Paulina Barda set to music by Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds.  

The score with English translation is here.

The tension between...

...compressive and narrative statement represents the poet's chronic struggle.

Too much in either direction leads to a trying of the reader's patience. The reader is neither a receptacle for half-barked visions (requiring telepathy) nor for indulgent prolixity (requiring opium).

Dropping the reader into a series of stream-of-emotion vignettes or into an elongated "insightful" effusion makes the reader beg to be put out of his misery. Succinct yet flowing comprehensibility is the challenge. A poem requires connecting tissue but not gaseous bloating.

There's another tension: between the lyrical and the plainspoken. Too much of either makes a brain hurt. 

There's still another tension: between the personal and the universal. The reader should not be strapped down into a chair and forced to experience the poet's interesting-to-himself-alone written pathology.

Monday, December 30, 2013

A very fine thing...

...is this poem by Adam Zagajewski:

If I were Tomaž Šalamun

If I were Tomaž Šalamun,
I’d always be happy, I think.
I’d dance on the Small Market Square until all hours 
to a melody no one could place.
I’d play Mahler’s Fifth gaily on the accordion.

What’s the use, I’m an introvert,
who returns books late to the library
and sometimes envies life’s heroes—
the bronzed lifeguards on August’s beaches.
I could go on.

But one thing is certain: I’m not Tomaž Šalamun.
Tomaž came blessed with two imaginations,
Slovenian and Mexican, and he juggles them
with heart-stopping swiftness,

while I’m an eternal student of stenography,
struggling to understand how death enters the house
and how it leaves, and then returns,
and how it is defeated by a small freckled girl
reciting Dante from memory

—though I also seek the flame of rapture
pretty much everywhere, even in the budget theater,
the train, and almost every café
(but more unites than divides us).

If I were Tomaž Šalamun,
I’d ride wild on an invisible bicycle,
like a metaphor sprung from a poem’s cage,
still not certain of its freedom,
but making do with movement, wind, and sun.

Translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh.
This poem is in the book Unseen Hand: Poems.


a treasure

I have an instinctive faith...

...in the possibility of readable poems issuing from those who think and talk about poetry. Who think and talk about it as a something akin to the mystery and effect of music. My sense is that such thinking and talking about poetry are necessary though not sufficient criteria for the issuance of readable poems.

My sense of this stuff goes further:
exemplary poems have a way of happening within the paradoxical consciousness of the non-religious mystic.

(I've heard tell that poet Adam Zagajewski is a visiting professor at the University of Houston and the University of Chicago.  It would be swell to listen to him think and talk about poetry.)

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Pere Ubu -- "Street Waves"

Street Waves

I ride a street wave right by her side
And I can hear the city city comin' round
The things I say hit the air and seem to fall apart
And I can see the faces faces fallin' down
And then I'm
Gone by her heart

I get a picture of what it'll be like
I turn the channel round to Channel 43
I see electricity jump and spark
I see electricity uh real and stark
And then I'm
Gone by her heart

I ride a street wave right by her side
And I can hear the city city comin' round
The things I say hit the air and seem to fall apart
And I can see the faces faces fallin' down
And then I'm
Gone by her heart
And then I'm
Gone by her heart

I have little patience for...

...American poetry not influenced by German Romanticism -- from Novalis and Robert Schumann to Mahler, Thomas Mann, and W.G. Sebald. I'm sorry it has to be this way.

I have little patience for American poetry not influenced by the French Symbolists -- from Rimbaud to Mallarmé and Verlaine. I'm sorry it has to be this way.

I have little patience for American poetry not influenced by Ashkenazi consciousness -- from Kafka and Bruno Schulz to Abraham Sutzkever, Paul Celan, and Adam Zagajewski. I'm sorry it has to be this way.

Why should all that stuff from way over there be given precedence over purely American styles of experience and consciousness transposed to poetry? 

My answer is another question: what is the point of the greatest writers and poets if we, over here, don't internalize and re-manifest their spiritual, metaphysical, artistic discoveries?   

Poetry not implicitly haunted by or hued with aspects of spiritual melancholy and metaphysical irony is, in my opinion, beside the point and constitutes a shallow hectoring of the blank page.  

Suspicion should be the rule toward our stridently self-absorbed American forms of consciousness. The older, farther varieties still glow with a silver sheen of mysterious aesthetic wonder and humility.

Am I a snob? So be it. Art is a questioning of time and being, not a depository for squeaking neurosis and hyperbolized predicament.

I'm sorry it has to be this way. 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

on sincerity

The spectrum of human feelings covers a complex range, from the writhing shriek of a sick or injured child to the discombobulation of the amorous to the autumnal melancholy of some old geezer. Many other perturbations, excitations are found along the array of stimulated homo sapiens.

But the transference of emotion to forms of art should involve a movement not simply linear (compulsion, saturation, confession) but also vertical (metaphysics, symbolism, dubiety). 

Big context. Actual peculiar. Deep sincerity.

Bob Dylan - Highlands by perostoppogno

Bob Dylan

Well my heart's in the Highlands gentle and fair
Honeysuckle blooming in the wildwood air
Bluebelles blazing, where the Aberdeen waters flow
Well my heart's in the Highland,
I'm gonna go there when I feel good enough to go

Windows were shakin' all night in my dreams
Everything was exactly the way that it seems
Woke up this morning and I looked at the same old page
Same ol' rat race
Life in the same ol' cage.

I don't want nothing from anyone, ain't that much to take
Wouldn't know the difference between a real blonde and a fake
Feel like a prisoner in a world of mystery
I wish someone would come
And push back the clock for me

Well my heart's in the Highlands wherever I roam
That's where I'll be when I get called home
The wind, it whispers to the buckeyed trees in rhyme
Well my heart's in the Highland,
I can only get there one step at a time.

I'm listening to Neil Young, I gotta turn up the sound
Someone's always yelling turn it down
Feel like I'm drifting
Drifting from scene to scene
I'm wondering what in the devil could it all possibly mean?

Insanity is smashing up against my soul
You can say I was on anything but a roll
If I had a conscience, well I just might blow my top
What would I do with it anyway
Maybe take it to the pawn shop

My heart's in the Highlands at the break of dawn
By the beautiful lake of the Black Swan
Big white clouds, like chariots that swing down low
Well my heart's in the Highlands
Only place left to go

I'm in Boston town, in some restaurant
I got no idea what I want
Well, maybe I do but I'm just really not sure
Waitress comes over
Nobody in the place but me and her

It must be a holiday, there's nobody around
She studies me closely as I sit down
She got a pretty face and long white shiny legs
She says, "What'll it be?"
I say, "I don't know, you got any soft boiled eggs?"

She looks at me, Says "I'd bring you some
but we're out of 'm, you picked the wrong time to come"
Then she says, "I know you're an artist, draw a picture of me!"
I say, "I would if I could, but,
I don't do sketches from memory."

"Well", she says, "I'm right here in front of you, or haven't you looked?"
I say,"All right, I know, but I don't have my drawing book!"
She gives me a napkin, she says, "you can do it on that"
I say, "Yes I could but,
I don't know where my pencil is at!"

She pulls one out from behind her ear
She says "All right now, go ahead, draw me, I'm standing right here"
I make a few lines, and I show it for her to see
Well she takes a napkin and throws it back
And says "That don't look a thing like me!"

I said, "Oh, kind miss, it most certainly does"
She says, "You must be jokin.'" I say, "I wish I was!"
Then she says, "You don't read women authors, do you?"
Least that's what I think I hear her say,
"Well", I say, "how would you know and what would it matter anyway?"

"Well", she says, "you just don't seem like you do!"
I said, "You're way wrong."
She says, "Which ones have you read then?" I say, "I read Erica Jong!"
She goes away for a minute and I slide up out of my chair
I step outside back to the busy street, but nobody's going anywhere

Well my heart's in the Highlands, with the horses and hounds
Way up in the border country, far from the towns
With the twang of the arrow and a snap of the bow
My heart's in the Highlands
Can't see any other way to go

Every day is the same thing out the door
Feel further away then ever before
Some things in life, it gets too late to learn
Well, I'm lost somewhere
I must have made a few bad turns

I see people in the park forgetting their troubles and woes
They're drinking and dancing, wearing bright colored clothes
All the young men with their young women looking so good
Well, I'd trade places with any of them
In a minute, if I could

I'm crossing the street to get away from a mangy dog
Talking to myself in a monologue
I think what I need might be a full length leather coat
Somebody just asked me
If I registered to vote

The sun is beginning to shine on me
But it's not like the sun that used to be
The party's over, and there's less and less to say
I got new eyes
Everything looks far away

Well, my heart's in the Highlands at the break of day
Over the hills and far away
There's a way to get there, and I'll figure it out somehow
But I'm already there in my mind
And that's good enough for now

Friday, December 27, 2013

Ilya Kaminsky

Poet Ilya Kaminsky was born in the former Soviet Union city of Odessa. He lost most of his hearing at the age of four after a doctor misdiagnosed mumps as a cold, and his family was granted political asylum by the United States in 1993, settling in Rochester, New York. After his father’s death in 1994, Kaminsky began to write poems in English. He explained in an interview with the Adirondack Review, “I chose English because no one in my family or friends knew it—no one I spoke to could read what I wrote. I myself did not know the language. It was a parallel reality, an insanely beautiful freedom. It still is.”

professional nonsense

I read John Armstrong's article at City Journal titled "What Is Art For?"

Armstrong completely misses the point of art. His evaluation is astonishing in its aesthetic and spiritual misapprehending.  
"The overarching aim is psychological improvement."

Balderdash and zebra feathers. 

He says that art is for therapy. He says that art is for intellectual and moral guidance. He doesn't seem to understand that art is an eruption of the strange into the quotidian. It's not to make us feel better or be better. It's to make us aesthetically haunted and spiritually odder. It's about existential disorientation.

Armstrong appears to be willfully, even militantly blind to how a work of art is an experience of time turned into the unsettling. A work of art is there to possess us, overwhelm us, make us partly mad. The exact opposite of Armstrong's medicinal criteria of interpretation.

Consider great works of art, from Rembrandt to Corot, from Monet to Van Gogh, from Kandinsky to Yves Tanguy. Do you discover in those works the psychologically edifying? Or do you rather find yourself confronted with the aesthetically mysterious and the spiritually peculiar?

The artist's compulsions and unusual visions are transferred to the viewer's consciousness. We become not better or healed people. We become part of a wondrous Uncanny. We enter into time and space turned into the resonance of a deep and subtle labyrinth, into the allurement of the puzzling and undecipherable. Yes, even Corot's paintings are implicit portals into the aesthetic dæmonic -- realms in which pastoral or urban beauty are complexified with an insinuating spiritual otherness.

Art is because art. It's a corrupter of conventional expectations. It's a palpable form of amnesia, a displacement and temporary forgetting of self. It's far beyond any instrumental categories. It's more like anti-therapy than any kind of psychological enhancement. 

John Armstrong probably got paid actual money to write his article.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

I got a Christmas present

Editors who haven't absorbed Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Mahler, Debussy, and Prokofiev into the core of their consciousness should stop publishing poetry. They should seek a new line of work.

If that rule were followed, then Poetry Magazine and so many other journals wouldn't be foisting so much unremarkable stuff (banality of vision) upon the world. If that rule were followed, it would be much less stressful for me in my quest to find readable poems.

And there's something quite odd about editors who sit back and sift through submissions, in order to settle on the least awful, on something less than the finest poems ever written.

How to know when such a poem presents itself? If you as an editor know Schubert's music, then you will know by an arcing of profound aesthetic sympathy when you are in the presence of a publishable poem. How to find such poems? I have no idea. I'm not an editor.

Somehow against all editorial odds, the poems of Adam Zagajewski made their way into the world, got published. Poems of the highest artistic quality. Astoundingness apparently does sometimes happen in the literary dimension.

Two of Santa's elves -- my daughter and her boyfriend -- got me this for Christmas:

Unseen Hand: Poems
Adam Zagajewski

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Time has a way...

...of moving certain souls toward a condition of silence. That movement involves a gradual shedding of vanity, pathology, and delusion. What's beneath the world, beneath language is more genuine than masks of form, substance, and saying. People are amorphous, pronouncements transient and hollow. Silence is solid.

Monday, December 23, 2013


published 1858
George MacDonald

I bought this book in 1978 and have read it several times over the years. When I read it, I'm affected by its dreamy strangeness, its quality of pure fantasy. I like the almost fractal narrative efflorescence.  

I was reminded of this book by a blog post at Flame in the Snow. At the end of that blog post, Novalis is mentioned. A year and a half ago, I posted this about Novalis, mentioning MacDonald as a translator. I also posted this about Novalis's Hymns to the Night.

Polish audacity

The creation of aesthetic moods is an intrepid re-shaping of consciousness -- the composer's own as well as the listener's.  A form of beauty is the more disquieting-alluring the more eccentric its colors, shades, and gaits.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

to the poet Sofiya Yuzefpolskaya-Tsilosani

My Russian doesn't exist,
so I translate you via Bing.
The results are like the fog
obscuring a stand of birches.
But enough comes through --
symbols stark with a looking
toward the spirits of things
and spaces of great silence 
where memory can breathe
and gone poets still speak.

So many living poets are writing
and writing and writing and writing.
So few of their poems are haunted
by peculiar ghosts clinging to stones
in lost winter streams or vivifying
washed shirts and trousers that swirl
passionately on a summer clothesline.

Some days it's very hard to believe
we're bound for graves and nothing.
I somehow think I'll hear your voice
as the blue beneath auras of music,
like a candle flame lighting a dream
of tales told once upon a time.

~ TB, 2013

Friday, December 20, 2013

about Wrexie Bardaglio's poem "Baltic"

I had posted this poem on my blog over a month ago. I want to say something about it.

This poem meets my four personal criteria for a real poem, what is required for the possibility of a good poem -- comprehensibility, imagination, otherness, epiphany.

Today, I want to focus on one thing -- comprehensibility. And not just the overall comprehensibility. Today, I want to zoom in on a specific aspect -- how this poem opens by situating the reader in an actual somewhere, which is an act of authorial hospitality. The poem's later flight of imagination is enhanced by this earlier grounding in particular coordinates. 


Night deep black outside, 
Stars blinding in the dome of heaven, 
South of Lake Ontario, and Canada, beyond. 
Wind moans around old cornices 
Comes blowing from the northeast, 
Brings a vision so mysterious, time and place a blur, 
Wind susurrating sibilance into feeling, then to words. 

From across the fearful maritime, 
Across the North Atlantic, 
Where steppes roll deep and frigid 
Into vast and nothingness 
The gypsy wraps her fringed shawl tight, 
Clasps a volume of her verses, 
Words on desiccating pages, 
She’s been writing all the evening 
In the small hut’s candlelight.
She hurries toward the fireplace glow
That flickers through the window 
From a cottage on the shore; 
Lonely on the "zinc-gray" Baltic 
Brodsky pours some vodka there,
And there they read together, 
The frozen world forgotten, 
In their rich and blending tones
Reading verses in a language 
I do not know but understand.

I’m organic in this fabric I created out of nowhere, 
Their stanzas transcending my prosaic here and now, 
And as quickly as it came to me, 
That slice of life from somewhere 
Long ago and just imagined 
Dissolves into the curling wind,
Fringed shawl no longer tangible, 
Dark eyes shuttered, voices quiet, and 
The battered covers closed. 

The firelight fades, the hearth grows cold,
And real although it was for some long and 
Vibrant moments, Brodsky’s dead, his gypsy vanished, 
With nothing left but timelessness,
Visitation inexplicable and fading.
Outside now the wind picks up, 
As I strain to hear faint tolling bells 
From an old church on some far and blown cold shore, 
And coming from the Maritimes, 
I pause, I sniff the air 

The memory smells of salt.

Copyright © 2013, Wrexie Bardaglio

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Schelling's CLARA

One of the characters in this book says:
Oh, the true ruins are not those of ancient human splendor which the curious seek out in Persian or Indian deserts; the whole Earth is One great ruin, where animals live as ghosts and humans as spirits and where many hidden powers and treasures are locked away, as if by an invisible strength or by a magician's spell.

And this:
Even in your own opinion nature is suffering from a hidden poison that she would like to overcome or reject, but cannot. Doesn't she mourn with us? We are able to complain, but she suffers in silence and can talk to us only through signs and miens. What a quiet wistfulness lies in so many flowers, the mourning dew and in the evening's fading colors.

written in 1811

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I was going through...

...all my classical music CDs. I was wondering if I could pick out my favorite piece of music.

I'm still trying to come to terms with my selection.

As much as Beethoven, Schubert, and Brahms mean to me, as much as Chopin, Mahler, and Debussy possess me, as much as...well...you get the picture.

Unexpectedly (and at least during this particular episode of nowness), I'm unable to fend off the allure and mesmerism of Sibelius's Violin Concerto in D minor. There's just something about it and me. Something unconscious and elusive in me is sympathetic to whatever it is this concerto is doing and meaning.

I wonder how I will feel about this spiritual decision a year from now?

Why should anyone care about this? Beats me.

an English soul-blaster

Last night as I wandered aimlessly through the living room, the TV set was tuned to The Voice. And at that moment, five young folks were singing together a rendition of "Hold On I'm Coming." All five had technically impressive pop-style voices. Not one had the sheerest trace of a molecule of soulful cool.

Someone should write a scientific paper or convene an arcane symposium on the rare eruption of youthful, earthy cool. How it is that Eric Burdon became possible and then happened.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

the mysterium of aesthetics

The good, the true, and the beautiful are, I think, three related or complementary ideas. I further think they are three sides of an aesthetic pyramid. What is the fourth side and what constitutes the bottom, the foundation square?

Might it be that the fourth side represents our struggle with or our probing of the unknown, the mysterious, the numinous? And could the unknown itself be pictured as that bottom, that foundation square upon which all phenomenal experience rests or issues from?

The friction of our experiences brushing up against textures of the unknown can spark off religious belief and philosophical construction. But the deepest, most interesting forms of combustion happen as modes of artistic expression -- painting, sculpture, music, dance, poetry, stories.

Further down the scale of temperature one finds tepid mentations concerned with politics and science. From an atmosphere of stochastic particles of consciousness in a flurry of heated aesthetic movement, a contrasting torpor of soul makes politics and science -- focused on relational and material quiddity -- shapes of sleepwalking. The obscuring secretions of law and theory lead to spiritual amnesia. With those things, the Real has become so ordinary as to be drained of wonder and the perplexing reverberations of melancholy.

I was led, in part, to this musing after reading about Johann Georg Hamann (1730 - 1788). What an odd duck. 

In Königsberg, his translation of Hume made its way into the hands of his acquaintance Kant and inspired the latter's awakening from "dogmatic slumber." Hamann said some interesting things from his own head about language and what is beneath language. I'm especially curious about the linguistic aspects of aesthetics, so Hamann's head must be examined and tapped for any possible profundity. My interest is piqued because I'm infatuated with good poetry -- poems that are implicitly metaphysical, that indirectly probe a possibility of the noumenal, that contain an element of the uncanny, that refelct something of the mysterious within the everyday.

I've been fascinated with the problem of aesthetics for quite some time. I've even tried my hand at impromtu guesses about the nature and significance of aesthetics. But these guesses always have a hollowness about them. Or better to say, they end up being tautological, looping or mirroring back on themselves. I'm still searching for a kind of first principle -- a how come? -- for aesthetics. I tend to suspect that aesthetics is our deepest approach to the unknown ground (or Ab-grund, the abyss behind presence).

Gurdjieff once created a music-and-movement thing titled The Struggle of the Magicians. That's how I see the poems written by great poets -- brilliance or genius grappling with invisible materials, with what must always remain unsaid behind the said. Even the cadence of these poems is a symbolic gesture of strange dance toward the mystic dream of being. Consider the lines of poet Adam Zagajewski, how they move with a pensive and wondering grace, how the unsaid is as important as the pronounced -- the unspoken folded into dynamic figures of speech. 

Metaphor is the aesthetic shadow of the receding, what forever remains on the tip of the tongue. 
Everything profound loves masks.
~ Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

Schopenhauer said that the noumenal is pure undifferentiated urge and that the phenomenal is its expression as substance in time, space, and causality. According to him, we can't suppose anything about the noumenal, only suspect it as being undifferentiated urge or force. That intuited fact -- the aggression of matter via mindless energy -- leads to human pessimism and spiritual despair. Our only existential relief is to become narcotized and lost from thought while experiencing works of art. 

But prior to Schopenhauer was Hamann. Instead of the noumenal causing bleakness and misery of outlook, it inspired in him an ironic spiritual humor, which later impressed Kierkegaard. He somehow intuited a God within the noumenal. That's interesting. And I can't figure out how he made such a blithe leap. I do know that for myself, an ambivalence is afoot -- I look upon the possible numinous as darkly macabre yet also darkly attractive. An affective leaning toward anything is an aesthetic orientation or disposition. 

What is behind all possible experience in which aspects of the good, the true, and the beautiful might be sourcefully located? That enigma continues to vibrate.

Hamann thought and wrote about how language has its source in the non-linguistic and the non-rational. Language is a form of life and as such doesn't belong to any of its own categories. Hence, language is a mysterium. So is life itself an unthinkable and radically free manifestation. Free from even the idea that it's radically free. The closest to the real of life we come is imagination -- the infinite dark flowing of aesthetic possibility. Can we call that "holy"? Heck if I know.

Regarding Socrates, Hamann said:

But perhaps all history is more mythology than this philosopher thinks, and is, like nature, a book that is sealed, a hidden witness, a riddle which cannot be solved unless we plow with another heifer than our reason.

According to Hamann, our language -- the spoken life -- is "from the tongue of angels," which eludes exegesis.  Our speaking is always already a translation beyond foundation and into metaphor. Who are the symbolists par excellence? -- the poet, the painter, the composer. Aesthetic beings.

In Keats's "To Autumn," he shows us life and nature, via personification. He knew instinctively that being and beings can't be defined or rationally analyzed. 

It seems like a hundred years ago that I read Robert Pirsig's Zen in the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The main thing I remember is his statement that the real (even the pleonasm "ultimate reality") has to do with Quality as such. I'm going to let that sit here for a little while and resonate through your eyeballs:
The abyss of the Real is a question of Quality as such.

Okay. I'm back again. Pirsig's realization nearly drove him crazy. I like the sound of that. Instead of the noumenal being Schopenhauer's undifferentiated, it might be an exact opposite. It might be instead the a priori (primal) reservoir of taste -- a Tao of Savor. From which a gnostic spectrum of discretion is extruded into our phenomenal world. In other words, the Real is an aesthetic ocean, its morphological waves our criteria of judgement and appreciation. At its most heartful depth is purest Quality.

F.W.J. Schelling (1775 - 1854) in his lecture course titled The Philosophy of Art wrote: 
I construe therefore in the philosophy of art not art as art, not as something particular. Rather I construe the universe in the form of art and the philosophy of art is the science of the All in the form or potency of art.
And from his System of Transcendental Idealism:
The fundamental character of the artwork is an unconscious infinity.

One thing about creativity, about aesthetic impulse and reception is that it takes place within the infinite freedom of imagination. Maybe the Real -- what brings anything at all to presence -- is also a kind of imagining into the vast "space" of thisness-is-better-than-thatness.  

Wittgenstein said:
It is not how things are in the world that is mystical, but that it exists.

To which I would add:
That anything is mystical is an aesthetic intuition.

The Birth of the World
Joan Miró, 1925

PS: One cool thing about the topic of aesthetics is that it allows a guy to string a bunch of words together with the mere semblance of having said something coherent or significant. It's like a loose goose dripping with uncatchable cooking oil. 

~ TB, 2013

Monday, December 16, 2013

a poem by Uri Hollander


Preludes meant to be played
in front of a small audience.
A silent piece on a big stage.
To play a cloud. To play snow.
Epopees of gnomes.
An epigram of smoke.

~ from his Days of the Tel-Aviv Conservatory

~ Uri Hollander is a poet, translator, musician, literary critic and journalist. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

an unusual blog

This blog -- Flame in the Snow -- isn't ordinary and boring. It's actually interesting. It's written and compiled by a sensitive soul. From certain depths, a resonance might issue with rich and peculiar coloring. 

Here's a post from there:  

Vertinsky and Pierrot (Blok and Balaganchik)

And I'm honored to be mentioned at flameinthesnow:

Someone is Required

an eavesdropping

Sometimes, I get myself all abstractified and extrusionated. I ramble and blather about this and that. Occasionally though, a certain unusual piece of music will bring me up short. My babbling fades. I then simply listen to eccentric aural moods of life as such. 

Whatever life is in itself becomes impervious to reason, presents itself as spirit within sound.

Four exemplary Chekhov aphorisms...

...brought to my attention by Will Crawford:

Life does not agree with philosophy: there is no happiness which is not idleness and only the useless is pleasurable.

The grandfather is given fish to eat, and if it does not poison him and he remains alive, then all the family eat it.

A writer of no talent, who has been writing for a long time, with his air of importance reminds one of a high priest.

Women deprived of the company of men pine, men deprived of the company of women become stupid.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Hannah Arendt said:

"Ideologies are never interested in the miracle of being."

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Accidental Muse

T'was the night before tomorrow
and all through my consciousness,
nothing stirred to write a poem about
not even time's lachrymoseness.
When of a sudden did I hear
a stomping from up above,
then came crashing into my room
a strange female grasping a dove.
The bird was quite disheveled,
and this woman was semi-transparent.
I composed myself and bowed.
She winked then said, "I'll have claret!"
I opened a bottle and poured a glass 
then handed it to this presence.
She slurped it down with gusto spilling
some on her gown's evanescence.
She said, "Aha, I'm here now
to inspire you, my good chap."
Then she backed into a lamp
and ricocheted into my lap.
"So what'll it be -- unrequited love
or sublimation of some grief?"
Then she snickered with a new idea:
"But why not comic relief?
Obsessing over just dark themes
will make you batty and wrinkled.
So let me whisper a silly thing
for you arabesquely sprinkled."
Then she stood up clumsily flourishing  
an adieu while twirling like magic.
She stepped on my Siamese cat's curling tail
and disappeared to howls of panic.

~ TB, 2013

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Nikolai Leskov

An article in The Irish Times:

1831 - 1895

I once wrote a commentary on Walter Benjamin's commentary on Leskov's storytelling. I don't remember where it is. 

I do remember that I thought my commentary was possibly profound and somehow knowledgeable, even though I'd never read Leskov. How silly! Or maybe how lax and remiss it was of me not to have sought mental treatment for my peculiar condition of reckless graphomania.

The Enchanted Wanderer & Other Stories

to be but not to be pretentious

Whether in one's poems, stories, daily lived attitude, or chronic consciousness, I suggest it might be a good thing to not mythologize oneself.

Even worse is when self-mythologizing takes the form of an artificial role lifted from another's persona. One Hemingway and one Kerouac are adequate as single-occurrence beings. They were already rather shallow and boring. There's no need for any literary and attitudinal redundancy of those types.

Clipped expression and beatnik style go stale very fast. The elemental and the experimental -- masculinity and radicalism per se -- are metaphysically anemic constructions, therefore more cardboard texture than living gesture.

One should aspire to be oneself. And that means scraping off encrustations of pseudo-selves, means not glorifying the banality of your situation, means acquiring a pair of mystical binoculars to spy the question behind formal, fabricated personality.

The Real is vaster and stranger than what goes on in the blinkered coordinates of modern mythy guys.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Joan Osborne

The theme -- therefore the lyrics -- of this song are much too maudlin and love-pathological for me. If you've got a relationship problem, keep it a bit closer to the vest, instead of blasting it out coast-to-coast. Sheesh.

But I sure like this person's singing, the texture of voice and manner of phrasing.

when Neil Diamond was cool and outta sight, man

Monday, December 9, 2013

Robert Schumann continues...

...to mess with my mind.

Whenever I think about his Cello Concerto, I just don't know what to do about it. I almost refuse to believe that such a thing happened. I'm not trying to be hot-airish. I'm just trying to speak toward the remarkable effect that concerto has on me, how it somehow makes me dizzy or slightly drunk on its exemplary Romantic fumes.

As per usual with great music, the emotions or moods stimulated in the listener (even the rememberer) are complex -- blended of fantasy, longing, and something ineffable. I usually end up sighing to myself, "A shadowed beauty."  

Who would win in a swordfight...

...the probabilistic Blaise Pascal or the cognitively dissonant Miguel de Unamumo?

Pascal wagered on belief -- just in case there's a God on the other side of reality. Unamuno suggested paradoxical faith -- live as if there's a God, even though there isn't.

I think the Spaniard would win, because Spaniards are hot-blooded and tilty. I mean, would you really choose a lisping Musketeer with a feathered hat over Inigo Montoya?

No contest.

It is extremely important...

...that someone rhapsodize an essay about Rilke's attraction to Schopenhauer's thought. I will wait calmly, yet with a certain impatience, for someone to write what Schopenhauer meant to Rilke and how that influence might have affected the nature of his poems, thematically and tonally.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

the impossible poet

There are not very many poets, dead or alive. I will sometimes say: "I write poems." I should change that to: "I write pseudo-poems."

The aesthetic, literary quality of Adam Zagajewski's poems are way far beyond most other poems being written. He has an impossible consciousness, therefore his poems are highly implausible written events. Yet they exist, woven somehow from our shared human language. Actual poems. This is a paradox worth being astounded by.

When this impossible poet sits down to write, what happens is not merely a matter of inscribing a profound emotion, impression, or supposition as lines and stanzas. Something else and more peculiar is going on. Something uncanny and mind blowing results.

I'm going to ponder this some more. I might add more sentences to this post later on. When and if I figure out how to describe the nature -- the impossible aesthetic -- of actually existing Zagajewski poems.

Okay. It's hours later now, and I've pondered this thing. How is it that Zagajewski's consciousness is impossible and his poems implausible?

Because both have to do with a preternatural calm and a spiritual wizardry. One must be impossibly still to see into depths of things, must be partly magic to translate those depths into words.

The metaphysical substance within beings and objects, filtered through his consciousness and revealed in his poems, becomes as palpable as those beings and objects are in their everyday, physical manifestations. Symbolists were sensitive to the "other world." Without being flamboyant, Zagajewski's poems are attuned to that stratum of dreaming beneath or beyond phenomena, and sympathetic to the timbre of old bells.

His metaphors are uncommonly, unnaturally real, as if they flowed directly to the page from a mystical immanence. No artifice, no invention. That kind of thing almost never happens. It's about having a concentrated perspective on the world, to the extent of almost x-ray vision. His poems are hyper-coherent as a result. Solipsistic mish-mash doesn't stand a chance of happening in them. Instead, there's an assured, generous breathing into aesthetic form of experience, memory, and imagination. The words have a certain forlorn heft, the lines a certain musical texture.

This stuff is impossible and implausible because it's true.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

other forms of exile

I've never been forced to emigrate, so I don't know what it feels like to be an exile. Nonetheless, I'm drawn to poems made from that dynamic. There must be something deep about the condition of exile as such, something that mesmerizes me into that special complex of melancholy/dislocation. It must signify a certain tonality within myself. And maybe why I'm attracted to poetry in general.

Poems of exile seem to express or reveal an important latency inherent in language. 
Poems of exile have a distinctive quality, and I think they might contain a semantics of soul beyond the particular and the literal. Those poems might be rumors of answers to questions having to with the subtlest elements of aesthetics (the spectrum and texture of qualities).  

I wonder if there are forms of exile other than the geographical?

Maybe dreams are situations of quasi-exile. They place one within the coordinates of novel and problematic experience, requiring improvisation and elasticity from the sleeping spirit. We are wanderers from a somewhere, moving through an elsewhere and toward a neverwhere. We improvise from a vague store of memories and moods as we attempt to navigate among beings and within circumstances that are as foreign as an unknown language.

Time might be another form of exile. We are distanced from older happenings and impressions by spaces of duration. Perhaps we continually grieve in our unconscious precincts for the lost things that time has taken and hidden or half-hidden from us. The inexorable flow of moments eventually leads to a parting of ways with loved ones -- age takes them away to a land of fog and fading. Death exiles us from those who were the landscapes and cornerstones of our souls.

Old horizon, 1928
Yves Tanguy

I agree...

...with what Amazon reviewer Martin H. Dickinson says about poetry (in his evaluation of Adam Zagajewski's book Eternal Enemies: Poems):

Powerful, memorable poetry: 1) evokes our emotions; 2) possesses physicality appealing to one or more of our senses of sight, touch, hearing, smell and taste; 3) stays grounded in the concrete, specific world even when bordering on the general and philosophic; 4) speaks directly to us in a distinctive, unique voice and 5) opens outward toward a timeless, universal horizon.

Boleslaw Lesmian said this:

But beyond the self there exists some tone in the soul: some elemental song without words, waiting for the necessary words to come in a creative hour...

1877 - 1937

Friday, December 6, 2013

Adam Zagajewski's "To Go to Lvov"

That poem is one the finest things I've ever read.
And here's an article about him in The Guardian: