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Monday, January 25, 2016

The Wolf

Time passes
a metronome
with a circadian ebb and flow.
an ancient forest, laced with leaves,
a swirl of air where moth wings tread
so much left to overturn
gravity is exhausting
a battle cry
sung out from the depths of your belly,
a molten world encasing you.
it’s the calm that is unbearable.
The wolf is not always a wolf.
Sometimes he is a trucker called Jane.
You’ve met the wolf at a very,
very strange time in this life.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Field-Notes

Ahab [captain, prophet, madman] tell us how do we know the boat from the fish?


Moby Dick
Because whatever meaning one can find, however terrifying, is still preferable to the greater horror that there is nothing out there. Ahab's quest however manically self-serving and flawed at least offered a sense of purpose. Every man onboard that ship had at least a single moment in which he was alive with an overwhelming sense of purpose.

The Sublime compels men to their doom. Enjoy the doom.

First encounter with the sublime, we want to make it into beauty! 

We want Eden to exist but we can't live in it?

Because conceptions of the nature and purpose of art closely parallel conceptions of self and the world, the primary function of art is to interpret values. Therefore, aesthetic criticism, when it rises above mere technical analysis, attempts to understand these values in order to determine the worth of the interpretation.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Lover, Tyrant, Hero-God, My Achilles

Pallinode, Book 1, Section 8

By H. D.
 
     She is afraid, too. So she needs this protection. She has tried to conceal her identity with mockery, "I am a woman of pleasure." She knows what the Greeks think of her, and here is Greece-incarnate, the hero-god; true, he is shipwrecked; nevertheless, though wounded, he carries with him the threat of autocracy. She has lost caste. He is still Achilles. Or who is she? She says that Helen upon the ramparts was a phantom. Then, what is this Helen? Are they both ghosts? And if she is convinced of this, why does she entreat the flame that Achilles kindled, "let me love him, as Thetis, his mother"? Is she afraid of losing even her phantom integrity? And what of it? Thetis — Isis — Aphrodite — it was not her fault.

     O—no—but through eternity, she will be blamed for this and she feels it coming. She will blacken her face like the prophetic femme noire of antiquity. But it does not work. Achilles is here to impeach her. Why? We must blame someone. Hecate—a witch —a vulture, and finally, as if he had run out of common invective, he taunts her — a hieroglyph. This is almost funny, she must stop him, he is after all, the son of the sea-goddess. She has named Isis, the Egyptian Aphrodite, the primal cause of all the madness. But another, born-of-the-sea, is nearer, his own mother. Again, she thinks of her and reminds Achilles of his divine origin, "O child of Thetis." This is quite enough. Can you throttle a phantom? He tries. The end is inevitable.

                 How could I hide my eyes?
                 how could I veil my face?
                 with ash or charcoal from the embers?

                 I drew out a blackened stick,
                 but he snatched it,
                 he flung it back,

                 "what sort of enchantment is this?
                 what art will you wield with a fagot?
                 are you Hecate? are you a witch?

                 a vulture, a hieroglyph,
                 the sign or the name of a goddess?
                 what sort of goddess is this?

                 where are we? who are you?
                 where is this desolate coast?
                 who am I?    am I a ghost?"

                 "you are living, O child of Thetis,
                 as you never lived before,"
                 then he caught at my wrist,

                 "Helena, cursed of Greece,
                 I have seen you upon the ramparts,
                 no art is beneath your power,

                 you stole the chosen,
                 the flower of all-time, of all-history,
                 my children, my legions;

                 for you were the ships burnt,
                 O cursèd, O envious Isis,
                 you — you — a vulture, a hieroglyph";

                 "Zeus be my witness," I said,
                 "it was he, Amen dreamed of all this
                 phantasmagoria of Troy,

                 it was dream and a phantasy";
                 O Thetis, O sea-mother,
                 I prayed, as he clutched my throat

                 with his fingers' remorseless steel,
                 let me go out, let me forget,
                 let me be lost . . . . . . .

                 O Thetis, O sea-mother, I prayed under his cloak,
                 let me remember, let me remember,
                 forever, this Star in the night
 
 
Hilda Doolittle, "Pallinode, Book 1, Section 8" from Helen in Egypt. Copyright © 1961 by Hilda Doolittle.  Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.


Source: Helen in Egypt (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1961)

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Romantic Ireland's Dead and Gone

September 1913

By William Butler Yeats 

 
What need you, being come to sense,
But fumble in a greasy till
And add the halfpence to the pence
And prayer to shivering prayer, until
You have dried the marrow from the bone;
For men were born to pray and save:
Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,
It’s with O’Leary in the grave.

Yet they were of a different kind,
The names that stilled your childish play,
They have gone about the world like wind,
But little time had they to pray
For whom the hangman’s rope was spun,
And what, God help us, could they save?
Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,
It’s with O’Leary in the grave.

Was it for this the wild geese spread
The grey wing upon every tide;
For this that all that blood was shed,
For this Edward Fitzgerald died,
And Robert Emmet and Wolfe Tone,
All that delirium of the brave?
Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,
It’s with O’Leary in the grave.

Yet could we turn the years again,
And call those exiles as they were
In all their loneliness and pain,
You’d cry, ‘Some woman’s yellow hair
Has maddened every mother’s son’:
They weighed so lightly what they gave.
But let them be, they’re dead and gone,
They’re with O’Leary in the grave.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Word of the Day

sprezzatura, n.

sprɛtsəˈt(j)ʊərə/
Etymology:  Italian.
 

  Ease of manner, studied carelessness; the appearance of acting or being done without effort; spec. of literary style or performance.

1957   N. Frye Anat. Crit. 93   The quality that the Italian critics called sprezzatura.
1960   E. H. Gombrich Art & Illusion iii. vi. 193   Sprezzatura, the nonchalance which marks the perfect courtier and the perfect artist.
1960   Spectator 14 Oct. 569   The style governed by sprezzatura, dash and mandarin neoclassicism.
1973   Times Lit. Suppl. 14 Sept. 1063/2   Literary fashion and his own aristocratic sprezzatura demanded that he affect an unconcern.
 
Sprezzatura is an Italian word originating from Baldassare Castiglione's The Book of the Courtier, where it is defined by the author as "a certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it". It is the ability of the courtier to display "an easy facility in accomplishing difficult actions which hides the conscious effort that went into them." Sprezzatura has also been described "as a form of defensive irony: the ability to disguise what one really desires, feels, thinks, and means or intends behind a mask of apparent reticence and nonchalance."
 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Not Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening

Not Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening

By Jennifer Michael Hecht

 
                                                                I

Promises to keep was a lie, he had nothing. Through 
the woods. Over the river and into the pain. It is an addict's
talk of quitting as she's smacking at a vein. He was always
going into the woods. It was he who wrote, The best way

out is always through. You'd think a shrink, but no, a poet.
He saw the woods and knew. The forest is the one that holds
promises. The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, they fill 
with a quiet snow. Miles are traveled as we sleep. He steers

his horse off the road. Among the trees now, the blizzard 
is a dusting. Holes in the canopy make columns of snowstorm, 
lit from above. His little horse thinks it is queer. They go
deeper, sky gets darker. It's the darkest night of the year.

                                                              II

He had no promises to keep, nothing pending. Had no bed
to head to, measurably away in miles. He was a freak like me,
monster of the dawn. Whose woods these are I think I know,
his house is in the village though. In the middle of life

he found himself lost in a dark woods. I discovered myself
in a somber forest. In between my breasts and breaths I got
lost. The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I've got promises
to keep, smiles to go before I leap. I'm going into the woods.

They're lovely dark, and deep, which is what I want, deep lovely 
darkness. No one has asked, let alone taken, a promise of me,
no one will notice if I choose bed or rug, couch or forest deep. 
It doesn't matter where I sleep. It doesn't matter where I sleep.
 
 
 
Jennifer  Michael Hecht, "Not Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening" from Who Said, 2013.

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still


Leda and the Swan  


By William Butler Yeats
 
 
A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
                                  Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?
 
 
 
W. B. Yeats, “Leda and the Swan” from The Poems of W. B. Yeats: A New Edition, edited by Richard J. Finneran, 1933.