Friday, March 28, 2014

bird feeder

Yesterday would have been my mother's 88th birthday. She loved birds, always kept her bird feeders filled and water in the bird bath.

Yesterday in her honor, I built a bird feeder.

On the back of my property is a dilapidated old shed made out of cypress boards. I got one of those 1 x 6 cypress boards and sawed it into two pieces (for the top and bottom feeder platforms). I cut up a pine 1 x 2 for the upright supports ("weathered" them with some maple stain, some walnut stain, and some smears of gray oil house paint, so they would sort of match the old cypress boards). 

Then I said to myself, "Hey, I have an idea!" 

For the other feeders I've built, I used 1 x 2s for the perimeters, to keep bird seed from blowing off. This time, I cut some 1/2" diameter tree branches to length and nailed them around the top and bottom feeder platforms. 

The birds like it. They enjoy alighting on actual branches instead of on 1 x 2 strips.  In fact, I heard a chorus of them singing in mixed keys:

"Birdbrain went to extra fuss. We accept him, one of us!"

Friday, March 21, 2014

Meet Me in the Alleyway

This song makes me happy. It reminds me of how weird it is in the deep South.

I grew up a few miles north of Louisiana. Some of those Louisiana vibes made their way into my hometown:

hysterical night women, flaming death at the refinery, back road haints, toxic creeks, baptisms everywhere.

Meet Me in the Alleyway
Steve Earle

I had a melancholy malady
Went to see the doctor and the doctor say
Too bad, nothin' he could do
He knew a man in Louisiana if I’m willin' to pay
Laid my money on the barrelhead
Man behind the bar began to shimmy and shake
Can't lie, I reckoned I was dead
When he picked my money up and I heard him say

Meet me in the alleyway minute to midnight
Don't be late meet me in the alleyway
Better come runnin' the spirits won't wait

Thirteen tiger teeth in my talisman
St. John the Conqueror and a black cat bone
Been seen walkin' with the guardians
Now I’m in the alley and I’m all alone
Can't run, can't hide from destiny
Knew this day was callin' nearly all of my life
Been done ain't the only boy from Tennessee
To carve his name in cypress with a jawbone knife

So you wanna be the king of America
Say you wanna know the oracle's mind
Say you wanna see the Marquesses of Mardi Gras
dancin' with the devil at the end of the line

I'm not interested... experimental and conceptual poetry. I'm not interested in any kind of self-conscious, "political"-Dada junk somehow construing itself as poetry. 

What a pretentious waste of time and energy. What a parade of theorizing pipsqueaks! Apparently, the phrase "real aesthetics" would send them into fits of indignant convulsion. Their stuff makes me tense and bored -- quite the odd combination.

I'm interested in luminous soul states, in melancholy symbol states that only a genuine artist can make happen on the page. I'm interested in the poems of Adam Zagajewski.

Unseen Hand: Poems

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Some people stroll...

...through cemeteries rationally and socially on late Sunday or Sabbath afternoons in midsummer. They are not of my eccentric tribe.

I remember when I was a boy, walking through a particular cemetery on late Sunday afternoons in midsummer. That space of the dead generated in me a kind of muted ecstasy. The strangeness of it had a texture of the infinite (a poetic, not religious infinity). It opened up a region or vortex of delectable, macabre melancholy.

That haze of atmosphere mixed with a smell of moody grass.

The experience was distinct from any mournful connection to dead relatives there, though maybe that played a role subconsciously. It was more about time suddenly felt as an alien substance, as an exception to an unknown rule, as a something freakish and woven of the sublime -- sublime in the sense of beautiful or wondrous terror.

Perhaps those early-in-life, late Sunday afternoons of strolling through a cemetery contributed to my becoming an outsider being.

It's just a thought. I'm just having a moment of questionable nostalgia.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

a world event

Harvard University Press has published a new book. When I think about this book, which I haven't read, I get a strange feeling in the literary-philosophical-cultural zone of my consciousness. That sensation is, paradoxically, a becalmed mania, as if I'm riding a dizzy Ferris wheel while puffing on a Turkish hookah. Just knowing this book exists pleases me very much. 

Read about it here:

"Walter Benjamin's Afterlife"

And here's something cool:

Monday, March 17, 2014

Schumann -- Piano Sonata No. 2 in G minor

Adam Zagajewski, master poet

Yesterday, I posted a new poem of mine. I tried to put into words a general sense of things, how things look out there in the poignant circus of life. I suppose it was a kind of diffuse hymn to the great irony of being. 

Well, that sounds pretentious. And that's what happens to a poem not anchored to the weight of everyday experiences and given through palpable images. That's what happens to a poem not written by a real poet. You end up with a vague un-textured mood that makes a reader scratch his head: "What...?" The metaphysical has traction only according to its subtle supervention on the tangible.

Adam Zagajewski is a master poet. Sometimes, I wonder why so many people (especially me) still write poetry, when Zagajewski's poems make most other poems appear pale, self-indulgent, hectoring, tone deaf, amateurish, disposable. 

A real artist is so rare that we hoodwink ourselves into thinking mediocrity is somehow remarkable. A grading curve misdiagnosing quality. The mediocre should never be mistaken for the brilliant. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is that anyone who loves poetry should not hesitate to buy Zagajewski's books. His stuff is the real deal. In fact, his poems, like Beethoven's and Schubert's music, open up the ordinary onto textured dimensions of aesthetic experience. That's true brilliance. 

If my recommendation encourages a few people to buy his books, I will have accomplished something important, done my part to enhance the world.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

True Detective

Evil thinks of itself as badass, but Evil's about to meet Rust Cohle.

Someone please slap me...

...with enough force that I'm able to understand why this stuff is considered to be poetry:

"Five Poems from It's No Good"

(I'll let that book title go by without a snarky remark from me.)

In my un-slapped frame of mind, I wonder why this fellow -- Kiril Medvedev -- chooses to harm poetry with whatever it is he's doing. Why doesn't he instead blather and complain into regular paragraphs? Why is he breaking up prose into arbitrary lines?

Worse still, this fellow thinks poetry and politics go hand in hand. That's a form of artistic psychopathy. Or merely a spiritual coarseness on his part. Read and be abashed:

"New Emotion: On Kirill Medvedev"

Sorry, Mr. Medvedev. I have to call em like I see em.

I have a friend...

...who was born in the coal-dark and liquor-weird geography of West Virginia.

My friend is admirably self-sufficient. She's flown over the ocean to live in a land where they speak an incomprehensible northern tongue. My friend is remarkably independent. She's bootstrapped herself into dimensions of old and new culture, appreciating extraordinary literature and cool music.  

One thing in particular must be emphasized. It has to do with the music of Johannes Brahms.

It's not every day you run into a person who is drawn to Brahms's music, to his spiritual sound world. There's a distinctive emotional tonality that runs through his music, a diffuse yet cathartic atmosphere that haunts his wordless speaking. It's hard to describe. 

Most people can't be bothered to be amazed by the quality of Brahms's music. Different strokes. But I'm pleased to report that my friend is a friend of Brahms's music. I'm pleased both by the strangeness and the depthness of this phenomenon reflecting my friend's discrete, sovereign soul.   

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Bernard Malamud

Cynthia Ozick reviews Malamud's collections in Library of America:

"Judging the World"

...his aesthetic is instinct with the muted pulse of what used to be called moral seriousness, a notion gone out of fashion in American writing, where too often flippancy is mistaken for irony. Malamud, a virtuoso of darkest irony, refuses the easy conventions of cynicism and its dry detachment. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Every three years...

...I will think about pianist Ivan Moravec.

I will think about the distinctive tone he elicits from a piano. I will think about his clear articulation and about his poetic séance with a composition. When I'm pondering Moravec, Chopin usually shows up.


a quiet sophistication

Some people -- through an unknown law of nature or magic -- stick in your consciousness. It's really an unusual phenomenon. I say "stick," but it's more like an elastic echo returning at random moments across various segments of duration. Even weirder is that those who are the quietest conjure the profoundest echo.

I have a friend who lives in Norway. What a country! Ridiculously sublime mountains and waters. From my perspective here at a secret outpost in Arkansas, Norway is as exotic as Old Japan.  

My friend is Russian. How in the world did my friend end up in Norway? It's one of life's great mysteries.

My friend impresses with a quiet sophistication and a tendency to subtle mirth. Seeing into things with unusual vision and smiling at the occasional absurd are cool ways of being.

My friend is more sophisticated than I am. Whether a text, a painting, or a vocalise, my friend extracts from them a nuanced essence that is beyond my Arkansas detection equipment.'s really a fool's errand, trying to describe aspects of a being who is sensitive to seasons in Norway, who pays attention to eccentric moods of Nordic flowers, who is elusively Russian, and who is preternaturally not a nihilist. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Amos Oz & Natalie Portman

I read that Natalie Portman has written a screen adaptation for Amos Oz's book A Tale of Love and Darkness. I read that she's currently directing and starring in the film, shooting on location in Jerusalem.

I wish Ms. Portman much success with this project. I think the project is in capable hands.

Having said that, I'm ambivalent about this 2014 film. I liked Oz's book a whole lot. When I like a book a whole lot, the book lives vividly in my imagination, and I want it to stay there as a book. So that makes me ambivalent -- a preference to keep the narrative inside my head and a curiosity about how it might be brought to cinematographic life. 

When the film is released, I'm sure I'll watch it. And I'll probably appreciate it as a thing existing in its own right.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Saturday, March 1, 2014

One day, it came to pass...

...that I began to appreciate paintings by the Impressionists. 

About 30 years ago. Half my life ago. I'm sure that others, from a more cultured background, came to those paintings at a much earlier age. I don't think I even knew those paintings existed until I was around 30 years old. Why did it take so long? It's all hazy.

I'm still asking myself the question: "What's the deal with Monet?"

I don't mean: "What can be said about the formal characteristics and rendered effects of his works?" I'm not interested in dry academic commentary on technique and theory of light. 

I'm interested in thinking about Monet's artistic unconscious.  

Impression Sunrise

I think all great artists -- painters, composers, poets -- are fantasists. Their works are much less about documentary compulsions taking place in the real world (landscape, structure, diary) than they are about unconscious retrievals of substance from the far side. That's why great works have an unusual effect on us. Unconscious mood has come to presence in palpable shapes, and we are confronted with objects -- painting, sonata, poem -- that are infused with an otherworldly aspect.

I think Monet did more than accomplish a flecky capturing of natural transience. I think his fracturing of light and mardi grasing of shadow also transported into this world a metaphysical substance from somewhere beyond the waking mind.   

Under the Poplars, Sunlight Effect

With Monet, fantasy -- the extraordinary -- comes to spiritual presence and combines its fibers with those of the ordinary -- the French scene. Like the painter, the composer is also a fracturing artist. The composer disintegrates time, re-imagines it as melody, harmony, and rhythm. Recasts time into new light and shadow, allowing an otherness to leak through. Like the painter and the composer, the poet is also a fracturing artist. The poet opens up language, re-energizes it into metaphor and cadential gesture. Recasts language into new light and shadow, allowing an otherness to leak through.

Perhaps at night, that fantastical unconscious substance latent on the far side of dreams filters into our dreams, creates that disquieting and wondrous background aura to our dreams. Then in the moody trances of great artists (Monet for this blog post), that fantastical unconscious substance makes its farther way into the created works.

The Artist's House at Argenteuil 

Isn't there an aura of the ideal, of the farfetched, of the fantastic in a Monet canvas? What's deeply ironic about all this is that fantasy just might be the psychosis of the actual Real. The actual Real can't possibly be but is. Might not the impossible-actual be a suitable region for artistic appropriation? 

Whatever the unconscious is, I think it's safe to say that it's connected to, rooted in all the subtle dimensions of being. Our DNA is most likely a mute semiotics, a chemical raconteur of the infinite weird. Monet, I suggest, painted in such a way that the psychosis of the actual peers out at us between painted flecks.

Water Lilies and Japanese Bridge

A great work of art is a palimpsest of the fantastic occurring upon the actual.

Now, don't get me started on Van Gogh, the Post-Impressionist. He did more than unconsciously dream fantastic substance from the far side into this side. He wrenched it from there and exploded it into here, revealed it in all its shocked, hysterical, naked coloration. 


Sometimes when I watch a ballet, something happens. 

Set, costume, character, and story begin to dissolve. In place of those things, something else begins to appear: a bodily flowing of syntax as such, a wordless gesturing of semantics as such.

It's like staring into a moving x-ray of embodied language. It's like staring into a mystical kaleidoscope of symbolic speaking.

That dissolving and appearing comes and goes, comes and goes. It's a fickle state of mind and won't stick. It's an episodic abstract delirium. 

And other times when I watch a ballet, I just watch the ballet.