April (National Poetry Month)
Searching for Service.
Rejoice and Be Glad In It. A friend writes:
- Outside, the choir is singing--
- This is the day the Lord had made.
- It's a glad song. Everyone's clapping.
I am glad in it; church, girl's high school track team car wash, clipped rose bushes, azaleas, lilac, and yews. Raked garden beds. And barbecued steak, prepared home-made french fries, salad, red wine. Read New York Times. And updated entries at Birchlane: 25, 26, 27, 28, 29.
Time Code. Today was our neighbor's, and Daryl's best friend's, Bar Mitzvah; Michael Kibrick Katz. Michael and Daryl have grown up together; when they were babies Betsy took care of Michael while his mom worked. Where did these 12 years go? During the service the rabbi quoted from Primo Levi about the importance of staying clean, purposeful work, and regarding your self as a human and not a thing; all to retain dignity in the face of distress. Before we left the house for the service I started to read "Continual Lessons, The Journals of Glenway Wescott, 1937-1955," edited by Robert Phelps, a writer/teacher who I studied with at both Manhattanville College and The New School in New York City. From the Introduction by Robert Phelps:
Well over a century ago, Emerson predicted that "novels will give way, by and by, to diaries or autobiographies--captivating books, if only a man knew...how to record truth truly."
This volume is perhaps bet described as an attempt to kake the sort of book Emerson dreamed of, to use the form, the appearance, of the diary to try to tell one man's "truth truly." The author is Glenway Wescott, fo decades a shinning name in American literature, and the text begins in 1937, in the middle of the author's life, "nel mezzo del cammin." Wescott had known precocious prestige as the author of The Grandmothers and Goodbye, Wisconsin, and after nearly a decade abroad, he had returned to his native country to live in New York and on a spacious cattle-breeding ranch in western New Jersey. The result is an intimately personal book, exploring the daily activity of a man who loves the making of literature and the living of life almost equally well and who, like Stendhal, might have given as his profession "Observer of the Human Heart."
Signals of Distress. She tapped out a message and:
- call me call me
- you who
- are all
- ways there
- dot dot
- dot dash dot dot, dash dash dash, dot dot dot dash, dot
- dash dot dash dash
- call me call me
- you who
- dot dot dot dot, dot, dot dash dot dot, dot dash dash dot
- me call
- me love
- me call
- you who
- dot dash dot dot, dash dash dash , dot dot dot dash, dot
- me you
One Can See Seeing. Marcel Duchamp said this and today I saw a small but lovely exhibit entitled "Marcel Duchamp On Display, Optics, Exhibition Installations, Portable Museums" at Zabriskie Gallery in New York City. From the catalogue essay, written by Elena Filipovic:
In his capacity as the "generator-arbitrator" for the exhibition, Duchamp's simple but radical innovations were foundational. He masked the molded ceilings of George Wildenstein's bastion of high art with a reported 1,200 suspended coal sacks, had the walls painted black, erected an electrically lit brazier in the middle of the exhibition space, hung works on a set of uprooted revolving doors, and was reportedly also responsible for suggesting that mannequins line the entry corridor. As part of his transformation of the main hall into a coal-sack covered "central grotto," Duchamp also hoped to have the lights almost entirely extinguished, with sensor-triggered "magic eyes" illuminating works as the viewer approached them. The works would have been shrouded in darkness and the viewer able to see them only when he or she got physically close to a work. However, the project proved unfeasible, so Man Ray, as the exhibition's official "Master of Lighting," adapted the idea by handing out flashlights for the opening night. The solution retained much of Duchamp's original intention: the viewers brought themselves close to the works, leaning forward to focus their hand-held electric lights - an act in distinct contrast to the notion of "proper distance," disembodied viewing, and the "enlightening" clarity of the museum or gallery. If this mode of illumination helped reorder the spectator's body and gaze, the conception of the exhibition space as a disorienting environment also rethought the relationship of the spectator to objects on display.
The results of the collaborative effort between Duchamp and the Surrealists are by now legendary. Spurred by Duchamp's ideas, various artists of the group added their own idiosyncratic contributions to this space in which to show the work of over sixty artists from more than 14 countries. The exhibition's checklist and the accompanying mock reference tool, the Dictionnaire abrégé du Surréalisme, outline the division of labor. It is through the photographic traces of the many artistic and press photographers who were attracted by the show that we get a sense of its elaborate details: a bevy of fantastically appareled female mannequins lined the entry corridor, dirt and dead leaves covered the floor, four beds and a man-made lake occupied the gallery's main salle, and Surrealist objects loomed throughout, all of it framed by Duchamp's low hanging, soot emitting coal sacks. The mannequins, however, garnered by far the most of the critics' and the photographers' attention. Each of the readymade models was dressed by one of sixteen appointed artists or poets; the one attributed to (and signed by) Duchamp's alter-ego, Rrose Sélavy, wore the artist's own shoes, hat, jacket, and a electrified red lightbulb in its pocket. As if this were not enough, the spectacular ensemble was joined by several sensorial elements introduced for the January 17, 1938 evening vernissage: a dancer hired to simulate hysteria convulsed with her live chicken throughout the exhibitions various rooms, the smell of roasting coffee beans filled the air, a cacophonous soundtrack blared, and soot and darkness obscured almost everything. The event, in short, was nothing like your typical art exhibition and it would set the terms for the series of manifestations that would follow.
Then I visited the Central Park Zoo and took a few photos for FOJM. Singer/songwriter Paul Simon wrote:
Someone told me, it's all happening at the zoo.
I do believe it, I do believe it's true.
It's a light and tumble journey from the East Side to the park;
Just a fine and fancy ramble to the zoo.
But you can take the crosstown bus if it's raining or it's cold,
And the animals will love it if you do ... if you do now.
How true this was: the trees were flowering, the sun was shinning, the sky was blue, the thousands of children were laughing and skipping for joy (Gosh--it was so crowded I got stuck in the Penquin room for five minutes!).
Rare and Seminal Events. In a long poem, "Essentially About Something That Happened," that I wrote for Betsy years ago, I said:
- This history is not, as many people assume,
- a tale of slow progress,
- leading to greater diversity
- of kinds and numbers.
- It is, in important respects, a series of plateaus
- punctuated by rare and seminal events
- that shift systems from one level to another.
- From teenage innocence to loss of youth.
- Issues for older men and women.
- Memories of history. Oral histories
- provoked by images -- it is both fact and fiction,
- fiction and fact
a few pages later:
- With scarcely an interruption,
- pharoah succeeded pharoah
- and dynasty followed dynasty
- for nearly 3,000 years before Christ,
- a continuity of government unmatched by any other
- people. To appreciate the grandeur of that achievement
- one needs to imagine the American republic surviving
- until the year 4776.
- Therefore the mystic must rise above conceptual thought.
- Sudden and complete is the experience;
- of this absolute nothing whatever can be postulated
- and the objects become one
- again -- it is an intuitive realization
- and what you behold is your real self.
- To affirm or deny is to limit;
- to limit is to shut out the light of truth.
- It is a wonder
- that it is
- all connnected
- I need a starting point.
- Onward Christian Soldiers
- marching on to war
- with the cross of Jesus
- (we sung this in school in sixth grade).
- If I write it all down maybe I'll find out.
- On the transmission of mind.
- They would toast birthdays and special ocassions.
- Being the teaching of Zen Master
- Huang Po as recorded by the scholar
- P'ei Hsiu of the Tang Dynasty.
- Enlightenment is a process which occurs
- in less time than it takes to blink an eye.
All this as introduction to some one thing I can't express: it was nearly one year ago when I read about Heather Anne in The New York Times.; it was, for me, a rare and seminal event; I can't explain what it was in the story that made me feel the way I did but it helped me on the road to writing again (someone once told me my letters were like poems, but for too long I chose not to speak; ah silence--no one could hear what I was saying), it helped me to create BirchLane, and I have always felt---felt what, well, a gladness in this; I felt indebted to her. And tonight we met on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, walked a few blocks to a small bar/restaurant where we sat and talked about art, books, photography, poetry, family, remodeling apartments, love. It was quite wonderful.Later, after we said goodbye and she and her husband, Victor, promised to visit me and my family here on Birch Lane, I went to see John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers, and after the show ended I walked across the street to EasyEverything, the world's largest internet cafe, and wrote Jouke and said how sweet and smart, vibrant, interesting and interested she was; how aglow and happy, and how not in anyway glum like that photo of her in the paper.
Speechless; not Sightless. This is what I saw first thing this morning: first the eyes:
And then I saw these photographs that Terry took. She has scoliosis, which is an abnormal curve of the spine---it is crooked and curves to one side. Terry has had two operations and will be having a third in May. She explores her body here and here. I find her explorations beautiful, terrifying, fragile, innocent, experienced, aged. A poem:
You're wondering if I'm lonely:
OK then, yes, I'm lonely
as a plane rides lonely and level
on its radio beam, aiming
across the Rockies
for the blue-strung aisles
of an airfield on the ocean.
You want to ask, am I lonely?
Well, of course, lonely
as a woman driving across country
day after day, leaving behind
mile after mile
little towns she might have stopped
and lived and died in, lonely
If I'm lonely
it must be the loneliness
of waking first, of breathing
dawns' first cold breath on the city
of being the one awake
in a house wrapped in sleep
If I'm lonely
it's with the rowboat ice-fast on the shore
in the last red light of the year
that knows what it is, that knows it's neither
ice nor mud nor winter light
but wood, with a gift for burning
......and before going to bed I read Kaycee's entry for today and I cried and cried and smiled and cried again:
Photo (and poem) by Bruce Barone
- Memory keeps the past whole
- and sometimes we apply it to others.
- I imagine myself through your blue
- eyes, when everything changes outside
- and around us. Stark love.
- The memory is of beauty is ignorance;
- bring back the telescope: a century later
- the sun had, at least in astronomy,
- replaced the earth as the center of
- planetary motions. What did we see?
- A moon, a star, and space; the property
- of planetary astronomy. I had
- my horoscope read. I read my horoscope.
- It was what I feared
- (as I thought I would)
The Body as Temple. This morning I have no answers; I have only questions. St. Paul teaches us saying, "Don't you know that your body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit who lives in you and who was given to you by God?" (1 Corinthians 6:19, Good News English Version). Continuing: "...use you bodies for God's glory" (1 Corinthians 6:20). This morning I am thinking of the relationships of spirit to body and in a larger context---the family, the house, the land, the community, the planet; all as Temple and how this principle might relate to sculpture, architecture, and following, writing. I am thinking this at Daryl's soccer game this morning, wondering, too, how this principle/belief (body as temple) might even apply to athletics. Maybe what I am exploring this morning as the boys run up and down the field kicking a small white ball is really "spirit;" what is it and what is its impact and influence on life and does it have any relationship to "Beauty?" In an old journal I find (author unknown):
It is no small thing to be simple. The real miracle is life, not art. And you can have art if you see, really see, what life is.
This morning I am asking questions and wondering if you look at your body, your house, your land, your community, your planet in this way, i.e. infused with spirit, does all shine in a clearer, brighter, burning light. Maybe I'm thinking about spirit because I am thinking about light; James Turrell has said: "I am more interested in posing questions than in answering them." And I am thinking about light because a friend is going to The Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas next week for a symposium; "Light in Architecture and Art: The Work of Dan Flavin." The symposium is organized in conjuntion with the museum's recent installation of Flavin's Marfa project, a large-scale permanent artwork in colored flourescent light that occupies six former army barracks on the site.
I think Judd said something like; a black hole is a black hole is a black hole. Looking at his work at Storm King, Daryl said, "Dad, what's it all about." I think I answered "Nothing. There is nothing to see but then there is; look." Flavin said, "Life in light continues." And Le Corbusier said, "I compose with light." Ramblings from me and a poem from Asher:
- raking the leaves across
- the strip of grass and dirt
- the side of a pie piece
- i watch the leaves blow up
- the street i hear a clump
- clump clump behind me
- i turn to look and see
- him deaf and strong
- running clump clump
- i turn spinning
- jenny watching
- the sale pending sign
- up one day you are
- small and fragile and
- and then gone call this
- a dream it does not
- change one thing
- Winter Breasfeeding
- Mother let the sink trickle
- past Epiphany; she said she
- couldn't feel Jesus all winter
- though they frequently talked
- over a bare breast. She memorized
- the spray of window frost that threw
- out longer, thicker fingers
- each night and finally laid
- immovable as a body across the glass.
- We rocked together like travelers
- in a creaking boat, nursed
- chest-ache and cutting teeth.
- In March she snagged icicles from the porch
- for me to melt in squat fingers
- and sang Hallelujah at rivulets of dirt-water
- streaking through the ice-padded windows.
First Poem; a list:
- Seven to Eight iron sixteen shirts
- Eight Forty Five pick up Daryl and
- Bring bike rack and take Daryl
- To soccer practice at Nine Fifty
- Then buy grass seed, dirt and rug cleaner
- And deposit paycheck
- Vacumn house from Ten to Eleven
- Take garbage to dump at Eleven Twenty
- Pick up Daryl at Eleven Thirty
- Make lunch
- Dog-sit from Twelve to Five
- Rake and garden from Twelve to Three
- Clip back rose bushes and butterfly
- Plants, plant grass seed, fill hole with dirt
- Clean bathrooms and do laundry
- From Three to Four
- Periodically check and write e-mail
- Fix stereo antenna when convenient
- And call about lawnmowers
- And check church schedule (am I
- Delegated to do something tomorrow?)
- Clean rug in bedroom
- Again, where Daisy pooped in her
- Loneliness, remember Betsy and Danielle
- Arriving home around Nine or Ten
- Call radio station in effort to win
- Lucinda Williams tickets
- Drive Daryl to Shawn's at Five
- Workout at Smith from Five Ten to Six
- Six to Six Twenty shower
- Six Thirty pour a glass of red wine
- And relax, read yesterday's New York Times
- And Wall Street Journal and today's
- Times and Daily Hampshire Gazette
- Update BirchLane and......
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
not fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart
The Women in My Heart, 1998
Friday 20 (still editing 18-20)
Home Alone=Updates. Betsy and Danielle are in the South still looking at colleges, Daryl is sleeping at a friend's house, Daisy is sleeping on the couch, and I'm trying to update the past few days. And I'm also thinking about how wonderful it was to discover in the mail my journal.
somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond any experience,your eyes have their silence: in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me, or which i cannot touch because they are too near your slightest look easily will unclose me though i have closed myself as fingers, you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens (touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose or if your wish be to close me,i and my life will shut very beautifully,suddenly, as when the heart of this flower imagines the snow carefully everywhere descending; nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals the power of your intense fragility:whose texture compels me with the color of its countries, rendering death and forever with each breathing (i do not know what it is about you that closes and opens;only something in me understands the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses) nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands
-e. e. cummings
Art Art Art. I've always associated Bill Brandt, one of England's pre-eminent photographers, with nudes, but I'm jumping ahead in today's story.
"Westminster" 1946 Bill Brandt
Daryl and I were back in New York City by 8:30, first stopping at Burger King so he could get his two orders of cini-mini's (the woman behind the counter was so kind; when she gave him his cini-mini's she said you can't eat those without drinking, here take this orange juice) and then on to Everywhere, the World's Largest Internet Cafe, on 42nd Street, right next door to Madame Tassauds. Here we checked and wrote e-mail and I forgot to tell Judith that I finally found the photography journal I had been looking for the past few months--thanks to the kind man working at International News, a few doors down from Everywhere; he saw me looking at art journals and said have you seen this, reading my mind.
"East End" 1937 Bill Brandt
Then we caught a cab and headed to the MET to see the William Blake show. No photos posted here today as I posted a few weeks ago. But let me say a few words about the show. See it. Reprodctions, particularly so in this case, can not move you the way you will be moved standing awestruck in from of some of these illustrations and engravings. (more to follow)
"Hampstead" 1945 Bill Brandt
Next Daryl wanted to stop at Niketown on 57th Street. The cab dropped us off infront of the building where Forum Gallery, Mary Boone, McKee, and Houk are all located. I asked Daryl if we could see the Bill Brandt show before visiting Niketown and he said yes.
"St John's Wood" 1950s Bill Brandt
I am so happy I saw this. As I said, I have always associated him (1904--1983) with nudes, which I like, but to see his work through the decades was moving and demonstrated his amazing range of vision--from stark realism to social comments and pure abstraction and surrealism. As the critic and historian, Francis Hodgson, said: "he's interested in class, he's interested in changing society through industrialism, and he's interested in social fairness...basically a literary critic and social critic but he is using a camera as his tool......Brandt is, in some ways, the first British modern artist..." (Duane Michals has often written about his admiration for Brandt)
Refreshed in spirit, we walk a few feet to Niketown and then eat lunch at ESPN Zone. And then we catch the ferry back to New Jersey, back ot our car, and rive to Storm King Art Center, where we spend two hours walking the grounds, talking, looking at:
"City on the High Mountain" 1966 Louise Nevelson
"Storm King Wall" 1997-98 Andy Goldsworthy
And a poem:
i like my body when it is with your
body. It is so quite a new thing.
Muscles better and nerves more.
i like your body. i like what it does,
i like its hows. i like to feel the spine
of your body and its bones, and the trembling
-firm-smooth ness and which i will
again and again and again
kiss, i like kissing this and that of you,
i like, slowly stroking the, shocking fuzz
of your electric fur, and what-is-it comes
over parting flesh...And eyes big love-crumbs,
and possibly I like the thrill
of under me you so quite new
Cotton Candy. Daryl and I are on the road at 6:00 a.m. He listens to Nelly, Jay Z, and other rap artists on my cd player and I listen to NPR on the radio. When we arrive in New York City we first head to the bathrooms at the Four Seasons Hotel on West 57th Street. I'm early for my appointment at Playboy so we look at the Will Cotton paintings at Mary Boone and the Annette Lemieux show at Mckee. Here's a piece from her show:
I have a very good appointment at Playboy (Daryl put that magazine down please); one of the most beautiful offices I've seen in the city. And then we played a game of pool at Bar Code on Broadway, listened to music at Virgin Records, had lunch at B.B. King and saw a movie--"Just Visiting," which I thought was hilarious, but I must say I laughed all the way through "The Spy Who Shagged Me," twice. We slept at my dad's and had a wonderful dinner with him.
And e.e. cummings:
since feeling is first who pays any attention to the syntax of things will never wholly kiss you; wholly to be a fool while Spring is in the world my blood approves, and kisses are a far better fate than wisdom lady i swear by all flowers. Don't cry --the best gesture of my brain is less than your eyelids' flutter which says we are for eachother: then laugh, leaning back in my arms for life's not a paragraph And death i think is no parenthesis
For Daryl's Eyes: I am taking Daryl to a Wonder of the World on Thursday--but, alas, I am jumping ahead of myself. It is Spring Break for Daryl and Danielle and their friends, too; but no Florida in our days ahead; tomorrow Betsy and Danielle leave for North Carolina and Virgina after Danielle's lacrosse game. Four days and many miles; looking at UVA, Richmond, UNC, Elon, Wake Forest, Duke, William and Mary, and more all in four days--sorry can't stop to talk we're on our way to....and Daryl and I leave for New York City at 6:00 tomorrow morning; appointments at Playboy (ah, that's the one Daryl is really interested in attending), Ogilvy, FMA Board Meeting, and then William Blake at the MET, DIA, Altoon Sultan at DeNagy, John Hull at Tatistcheff, Pearlstein at Miller and on Thursday Storm King Art Center--a wonder of the art world.
Manashe Kadishman "Suspended" 1977
Mark diSuvero, "Mother Peace," 1969-70
Alexander Calder, "The Arch," 1975
And this excerpt from a poem by Yehuda Amichai for my friend from college Kathleen Mellon who married a dancer from Israel and moved (I miss her/you): In "Now She Descends"(1989), a wonderful poem about the death of his mother (whom he describes in an early poem "like an old windmill/Two hands always raised to scream to the sky,/And two descending to make sandwiches"), :
Now she descends into the earth,
Now she is on a level with the telephone cables, electrical wires,
Pure water pipes and impure water pipes,
Now she descends to deeper places,
Deeper than deep, there lie
The reasons for all this flowing,
Now she is in the layers of stone and ground water,
There lie the motives of wars and the movers of history
And the future destinies of nations and peoples
My mother, Satellite of Redemption,
Turns the earth
Into real heavens.
Post-Easter. Something should happen today: I don't know what it is: a poem from Ellen Dore Watson:
We Live In Bodies
That we do means everything to me now
as I try to sort you out try to imagine
sticking you in the ground veins
drained or bones burned to dust try
to imagine what will be left here
in my lap empty hands mind's eye
my cup of having to go on
We live in bodies clumsy and disobedient
and we love them even as we punish
with too much or too little
we think we're bigger than they are
and then we sit dumbly surprised
how easily that tiny jot of spirit can get lost
so many folds of yellow and pink tissue
There are those who have looked back looked down
from ceilings of hospital rooms and returned to us
we see their lips full and red again but their words
hover fleshless in vowels and consonants
our heads nod yes our bones say no because living
in bodies means blood in all its horror and beauty
means making each other hum and ooze making
baby bodies means we can lay our hands on their
bodies where and when we must not
as we age our bodies pale with the knowing
The fact of sagging flesh and bodily regrets
the fact of slowly applied pain the hand somewhere
applying it while in this latitude her small mouth
tugs and closes over my nipple
the power of a shriek the solace of singing
winding our twisted sinewy streets
bodies are the doomed and wonderful cities where we live
Easter. I woke early to attend the sunrise service on the playing fields at Smith College. Thirty or forty of us (from four churches and women from Smith) gathered near the field-house and first listened to the waterfall and the birds singing; that was all the sound there was and there was light rising from the trees in the distance. During the 10:00 service at Edwards Church, Daryl read the Call To Worship:
- Welcome to God's new day!
- Everywhere, we see new life!
- In seeds and buds,
- In smiles and touch,
- We discover God's energizing presence.
- Can never, be the last word.
- God has raised Jesus Christ from the dead.
- Christ is present among us today.
- Praise God, for new life within, and
- Among us this day! Amen.
And then we all recited a prayer of confession, the words of Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa:
- Goodness is stronger than evil;
- love is stronger than hate;
- light is stronger than darkness;
- life is stronger than death;
- victory is ours through Him who loved us.
And then tears welled up in my eyes as the choir and the guest quintet (violin, violin, viola, cello, bass) performed a section of Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus;" can you hear it?/:
- and he shall reign for ever and ever
- King of Kings
- and Lord of Lords.
Escape......to the blog (thanks for that and this, I so like this from Jouke:
We see what we see because we miss all the finer details (Alfred Korzybski, of 'the map is not the territory' fame). Re: my godisinabundance, 'we see what we see because we don't see god.'
For weeks I have been looking at the curb outside our house that the snowplow ripped from the street wondering how and when to fix it some curbs are so daunting I lean on my shovel and stare past the sticks and limbs I spent hours picking up today some where near me where the roses yet to flower and the butterfly bush clipped to the earth How will I put the curb back I wondered and there walking across the tired wet grass my neighbor Hey Stick Man let's put that curb back togehter Maybe we should call the DPW I think but it is Good Friday Bruce I am not sure they would be working or getting ready to work you know what I mean Well neighbor let's pretend we work for the DPW and take a break, coffee or beer I know you don't smoke I want to know what I am and who it is that made me that way Oh stop and just move the curb will you please Here hand me that crow bar and he told me how he spent the day walking with Becca his nine-year-old daughter and I knew he was telling me this because it would soon be one of the last times he and she would go walking for so long for so many hours together and I said I am jealous neighbor for the things I see now I wish for history and not these days sometimes as in Spring as today when all is love for these days come then go and I think sometimes they are different years or they are the same as there always is love but not innocence and sometimes sweetness and here let's move the curb back and forth and dig and a little more dirt and rock out and neighbor says if we stand and look all day at the Birch trees we would see the buds open and I would like that to stand here looking up at the blue sky at the buds exploding on the Birch trees here onBirch Lane We are blessed Bruce he says with good children again the curb calls us to move it more to the right and I think we have a fit so we stand and we stare at the curb and neighbor says My brother was a soccer player in college he was built like you (all of a sudden I am feeling very good about moving the curb and this my neighbor who calls me Stick Man) who knew we woud become this he says I never saw myself a stock broker and we laughed when I said I had wanted to teach little children or art history to bigger children there was an Italian girl who came to college and I gave her a tour of all the art galleries on 57th street in new york city Juliana was her name I close my eyes and look at us walking and running from gallery to gallery laughing she is a princess a goddess in the city alive innocent adventurous and he tells me the city was good for him Boston and maybe it would be for our daughters and are you looking at city schools it is too much to think today in the sun near the curb we are unrestrained in college he tells me he wonders what to say to his child his daughter of growing older I say we are blessed with good children and we turn to talk now of Birch Lane who could have said we would end up here in beautiful homes with beautiful wives and beautiful children it is a dead end street lined with sugar maples pine and birch so much now in need of prunning, clipping, raking before the woods fill in we can still see our neighbor but not our neighbor's house was the rock moved so he could get out or so we could get in ah neighbor all that is that matters is beauty love is this life short and unpredictable we live as dust, molecules but what matters today is your story our story so let's go have a beer and tell each other a story
Pick Me Up. Wash My Feet. First a postscript to yesterday's Spelling Bee (wrapup story here). After The Headliners won spelling "lamasery" correctly, I went looking for Daryl. I found him outside skate-boarding with 15-20 friends. When he saw me he came running and said:
- Dad, did you see that girl on the National Honor Society team?
- Man was she hot. Who is she?
- Dad, don't you think she's hot?
- Well, yes, Daryl.
- Oh, man.
- Daryl, she's a senior in high school.
- Oh, bummer, she's way too old for me!
Nothing like a trip to New York City to pick me up; I woke at 4:00 a.m, showered, and was in the car by 4:20 driving in the pouring rain and fog in an effort to make an 8:00 AWNY (Advertising Women of New York) breakfast at which Jean Pool, President/Operations, MindShare North America was to speak. I didn't make it. I was so tired from driving in the rain and fog that I had to pull off the highway at one point (I think it was around 6:00) and take a 20 minute break/nap. But I did make my 9:30 appointment at Hachette-Filipacchi Magazines and 10:30 at Vibe Magazine. At Hachette, Joe gave me all their printed material to review and we had a wonderful conversation about Maundy Thursday, the Jesuits, and direct marketing. Ah, I was invigorated once again. But then I had to jump back in my car and hurry back to Northampton for a 7:00 church service; I was participating in the service--I was having my feet washed by the minister.
"Christ Washing Peter's Feet," Ford Maddox Brown, 1851-6
Maundy Thursday, or Holy Thursday, is a very important day in the Christian calendar. It is remembered as the time Jesus ate a final meal with the men who had followed him for so long. The term "Maundy" comes from the Latin word mandatum (from which we get the English word mandate), from a verb that means "to give," "to entrust," "to order." The term is usually translated "commandment," from John's account of this Thursday night. According to the Fourth Gospel, as Jesus and his Disiples were eating their final meal together before Jesus' arrest, he washed the disciples' feet to illustrate humility and the spirit of servanthood. After they had finished the meal, as they walked into the night toward Gethsemane, Jesus taught his disciples a "new" commandment that was not really new (John 13:34-35):
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, you also ought to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
But why their feet? In addition to the sign of humility--the command to serve and to be served--there is something else at work here. And maybe the answer lies in one last verse from John's Gospel;" "Very truly I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them." Those who received Jesus' lesson, those on the receiving end of this teaching are the apostles, the messengers and ministers of grace--and their feet are washed not just as a sign of humility, but possibly of mobility. Or to paraphrase Sherlock Holmes, "The gospel is afoot!"
Ah, I see, and now another thought about pick me up: and with that act, sitting there in front of the congregation, meditating on this act, I do feel blessed with greater guidance, love and strength and I am later reminded of something my manager said to me earlier in the day when I was in New York City; he said he had met with one of my old customers, Forbes magazine, and asked her about me and she answered that she thought very highly of me, that I was persistent without being a pest, and that everytime she met with me she learned something new. Ah, that was wonderful to hear; I guess I can still be a teacher even if I am not a professor.
Not a poem today, but this letter to the editor from today's Daily Hampshire Gazette which illustrates another reason why we love living where we live:
"Where Else Would A Poet Cause A Traffic Jam?"
I was pleased to see Northampton name a poet laureate and to follow that with naming April poetry month. Last year, I was happy to be caught in a traffic jam on the way to and from the University of Massachusetts to hear the Irish Nobel Prize poet, Seamus Heaney. Where else would a poet cause a traffic jam, with so many people going to hear him? These are healthy signs for our community. As Jacques Maritian said, "Poetry proceeds from the totality of man, sense, imagination, intellect, love, desire, instinct, blood, and spirit together." John A. Sheehan, Easthampton
Sandwich and Spelling. I was researching a few New York City advertising agencies today and at one site (click "fun" then "flow") they instructed me:
Take a few deep breaths and consider: what kind of Sandwich are you?
I wish I was a sandwich--today; I am feeling bored--no, frustrated; so if I was a sandwich, I certainly be made of two slices of boring white bread. But that gets me thinking about peanut butter and jelly; I want so badly to make a presentation and now that I've gone through all my old customers (who, I might add, turn out to be not good customers for my new company) I am prospecting, like the gold-diggers by the sides of almost dry streams, hungry, frustrated, angry, ready to shoot the person next to me, if not me; but I digress: peanut butter and jelly; I once made a presenation to a group of seven or eight people in New York City and to break the ice (and demonstrate a point, namely, that most people can't give clear instructions) I asked each person to write on a 5 X 7 index card their recipe for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Only one or two wrote "take two pieces of white bread and with a knife spread......" So I took two pieces of white bread and stuck my right hand first into the peanut butter and spread it on to one piece of white bread, and then I stuck my hand into the jelly (grape) and kind of mushed that into the peanut butter. Well, I think you get the picture. And if I absolutely must use The Martha Stewart Cookbook I guess I'd be a Sweet Onion and Arugula Sandwich (p.134). Or a hamburger. Can a hamburger be a sandwich? It's like a sandwich. Ah, close your eyes, take a few deeps breaths and consider: _______________.
And later it's THE Spelling Bee. According to a story in the the Daily Hampshire Gazette by Staff Writer Coral M. Davenport (April 9th story edited/updated ; "Spelling Bee Sets the City Abuzz"):
It pitted long-standing rivals and employer against employee. It united one family - even as its members square off against those they work with daily. It split another family down mother-daughter lines. And the talk was it will be the social event of the season.
The teams, 33 in all representing a community cross section from Smith College professors to Elks Lodge members, will competed in the first annual Northampton Adult Spelling Bee. The event was a benefit for the Northampton Education Foundation. Each team's $250 registration fee and profits from the $3 tickets for a pizza social will help Northampton schools. A silent auction that began at 5:15 p.m. will also raise funds.
Master of ceremonies was Northampton District Court Judge W. Michael Ryan, and judges wereSchools Superintendent Bruce Willard, Suzanne Beck, executive director of the Northampton Chamber of Commerce, and Rich Winnick, librarian at Northampton High School.
The bee generated a family competition, between Gazette editor Rachel Simpson, who is on the Gazette team, and her mother, Marian Macdonald, head of the Smith College writing center, who competed on a Smith College staff team.
Other rivalries: The Teams from the Gazette (the Headliners--and the winning team) and the Springfield Union News (the Bee-porters).
My favorite team names included: Spell, Speller & Spelling; The Wannah-Beazs; and The To Bees or Not To Bees, who fought in the final against The Headliners. The final playoff words were, in order:
And to think that I was admonished a few weeks ago for miss-spelling "acquantance" in an e-mail. And finally, this one last thought:
- I stand here, thinking, spell
- Bound is here where I
- Can not lie, hide
- Inside, yes , it
- Is raining, birds
- Drop to the feeder
- From the sugar maples
- A silken red thread
- The Cardinal weaves
- A path back and
- Forth from the woods and
- Me standing here
March on Washington 19(72?), Photos by BDB
I guess I started harking back to my youth today because of that article in The Atlantic; Jennifer got me first to read it and Caterina and Stuart reminded me of it yesterday. I found it disturbing. When I started college people were demonstrating against the Vietnam War and working toward social change. By the time I graduated (and even more so today) people were playing tennis or jogging (nothing wrong with these activities; I participate, but it is a belief system gone askew). They were the "in" things to do. People have always wanted to do "in" things to satisfy their basic desire to be part of a popular movement (Is today's the one outlined in The Atlantic?). The subjects that are news change, but the human curiosity to know what is new doesn't. People may disagree about what is self-improvement, but we all want to improve ourselves. "Me" has always been the most important thing in most people's lives, for better or worse, and it probably always will be. I am reminded tonight of a song by The Byrds.
Roger McGuinn had arranged "Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season)" for Judy Collins on her 1963 album, Judy Collins #3 (Elektra, 1963), and suggested the song might fit the group. After dozens of takes, the Byrds had another classic on their hands. The vocals are executed perfectly and with a sincerity suited to the earnest lyrics of the song. The words, adapted by Seeger from chapter three of the Book of Ecclesiastes, could be construed as fatalistc resignation, or criticized as a series of over-simplifications. But the Byrds' version sounded somehow hopeful, and its sentiments were relatively profound for a number one record. The song's ambiguity, and Seeger's editorial embellishment after "a time for peace," "I swear it's not too late..." allowed the listening public to conclude that the song captured the zeitgeist of late 1965.
To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven
A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep
To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven
A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones
A time to gather stones together
To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven
A time of war, a time of peace
A time of love, a time of hate
A time you may embrace
A time to refrain from embracing
To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven
A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time to love, a time to hate
A time of peace, I swear it's not too late!
And finally, one last note about conformity: In church a few Sundays ago my minister tells a story: "The most dangerous people in the world are young men willing to do anything to please their superiors."
Granite State Drive.
driving to new hampshire she says I am pretty right now and that is all that counts i hear this hymn danger danger wrong turn directions open arms rock a bye baby breasts pertain to lingerie flesh blood answer me i am coming down i am sorry sir there is no listing for a woman by that name are you sure you have the right name sir no listening for her name slower traffic keep right we are one name unify for better or for worse historic marker ahead wake up enter here i have seen it before history repeating left at light no turn on red now dream on dream on i love you i love you i love driving down the road driving down the road driving down the road watch children maybe we can make a deal the golden apple the garden the river all you can eat just north of the city line see the light chemistry stories sometimes there is no second chance franz liszt never heard of him here we are this is my favorite spring day song where would i be without you lonely yarns next right
Fellini and The Cross:
Photo by Cindy Lee Deubel.
Today in church we learn about The Cross; the horizontal signifying our earthly temptations and pain and life and the vertical signifying our spiritual selves . We learn the importance of connecting with the vertical. And once again I am reminded of my brother, standing there next to me in this photo, in the middle, looking; he wrote this, which the author Toby Olson, in the book's introduction said " In the long and brilliant meditation of The House of Land, Dennis Barone sets out toward understanding through personal recollection and the calling up of historical events to mark both change and the desire to avoid or prevent it." A short excerpt:
- Who is guilty?
- Must I howl like an owl
- or any various oftentimes nocturnal
- creatures to make you see
- those lines under your wrists,
- those lines you call veins,
- they are the lue of a spider's web.
- We killed...
- and then...
- My hands have twisted trees to roots,
- raked fields into fertile soil,
- and hewed stone into sculptured walls.
- unchiselled words
- in imperfect lines
- there's something safe in
- not knowing response.
- That process
- is a process of transformation.
- is the process of change.
- is the process of life.
- is the process.
The Precisionists. And Two Poems.
I saw some interesting photos last night (thanks to Juli) at insert.nu, an online photography project owned and run by Samm Blake: a seventeen-year-old Australian girl who dreams of becoming a photojournalist. Look at her work here and here. Her "warf" series got me thinking about Charles Demuth and The Precisionists. A Pennsylvanian, he was a major figure of the first generation precisionists. His developed works were closest to French cubisim. His first mature works were illustrations for books, as well as imaginative studies of dancers, acrobats, and flower or plant forms, free and organic in treatment, seemingly at the other extreme from a precisionist style. In a number of landscapes done in watercolor in Bermuda in 1917, using interoenetrating and shifting planes and suggestions of multiple views, he began his experiements with abstract lines of force, comparable to those used by Italian futurists or by Lyonel Feininger. In his late works (this is what the "warf" series called to mind) Demuth expanded his exploration of the abstract or symbolic implications of the American scence in ways that have unfluenced younger artists since. He became interested in the advertising signs on buildings and along highways, not as blemishes on the American landscape but as images with a certain abstract beauty of their own. In this period he also produced poster portraits made up of images and words and lettering associated with friends. "I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold, 1928, is a tribute to the poet William Carlos Williams and, in fact, is based on the Williams' poem "The Great Figure:"
Among the rain
I saw the figure 5
on a red
to gong clangs
and wheels rumbling
through the dark city.
Demuth may have been the most talented and comprehensive in approach of the painters associated with precisionism, and he anticipated and influenced still another generation of magic realists and pop artists. Stuart Davis, the major American artist to emrege during the 1920s, has admited with gratitude his debt to Demuth. And Robert Indiana and Jasper Johns have painted their variants on the teme of 5 as tributes to him. All this thanks to that book on my shelf--History of Modern Art.
Dennis Barone (right) talking with his brother, Bruce,about his idea for a literary journal.
From Dennis' literary journal, Tamarisk, Volume V, Number 3/4, an excerpt of a poem from Susan Howe:
- Each sequent separate musician
- a passion)
- across a deep divided deprivation
- (enchantment captivity
- a paradise-prison)
- seems to hear a voice walking in the
- who seems to say
- I am master of myself and of the
______________. I can't find the words to clearly and completely explain what I felt today when I read "One Little Angel" and "Yesterday Evening." Later, I receive a gift; a phone call from Susanne, an old friend from high school who I haven't spoken with in, gosh, 12, 13, 15, years. Thank You, Susanne. A poem by Daisy Aldan:
- Sun in water
- shatters in the current
- feathering wings.
- rainbow clouds on water
- quiver: spiral out.
- illusory depth.
- (the diamond:
- prism: white sun
- in shimmering rainbow.)
- water breaks
- and rearranges
- design of substance.
- first withered leaves
- (some die young)
- float slowly.
- a falcon plane,
- tremor of wings.
- a jubilant lark
- hovers high:
- dives earthward.
- a dragonfly
- --wings of light--
- skims over the lake.
- birds call: busy birdcalls:
- from songs of evening.
Contemplations: The Lake (Tamarisk, p. 60, Vol II, No. 2)
My old friend, Susanne
Stay Hungry. Today I discover that Erendira has an interesting link to a short story entitled "A Hunger Artist, Franz Kafka." It reminded me of an essay I read years ago and then incorporated into "Essentially About Something That Happened," a long poem I wrote for Betsy one Christmas which had interspersed throughout it news clips and art essays like this (unfortunately I don't remember where I found it or who wrote it):
Rimbaud has gone to Abyssina to make his fortune in the slave trade. Wittgenstein, after a period as a village schoolteacher, has chosen menial work as a hospital orderly. Duchamp has turned to chess. Accompanying these exemplary renunications of vocation, each man has declared that he regards his previous achievements in poetry, philosophy, or art as trifling, of no importance.
But he choice of permanent silence doesn't negate their work. On the contrary, it imparts retroactively an added power and authority to what was broken off---disavowal of the work becoming a new source of its vitality, a certificate of unchallengeable seriousness......
There is no longer a confession, art is more than ever deliverance, an exercise in asceticism. Through it, the artist becomes purified--of himself, and eventually, of his art. The artist (if not art itself) is still engaged in progress toward the "good," but whereas formerly the artist's good was mastery of and fulfillment in his art, now the highest good for the artist is to reach the point where those goals of excellence become insignificant to him, emotionally, ethically, and he is more satisfied by being silent than by finding a voice in art.
Silence is the artist's ultimate other-wordly gesture: by silence, he frees himself from servile bondage to the world, which appears as patron, client, consumer, antagonist, arbiter, and distorter of his work.
An exemplary decision of this sort can be made only after the artist has demonstrated that he possesses a genius and exercised that genius authoritatively. Once he has surpassed his peers by the standard which he acknowledges, his pride has only one place left to go. For, to be a victim of the craving for silence is to be still in a further sense, superior to everyone else. It suggests that the artist has had the wit to ask more questions than other people, and that he possesses stronger nerve and higher standards of excellence.
The exemplary modern artist's choice of silence is rarely carried to this point of final simplification, so that he becomes literally silent. More typiclly, he continues speaking, but in a manner that his audience can't hear.
Ask questions. Stay Hungry. I have started to write an essay which will soon appear as a working document/title on index page; "A Short History of Self-Portraiture (from Poussin to Picasso) and its Relationship to the Trend in Digital and Photo Self Documentation." Any thoughts, please e-mail me.
This afternoon when I saw the photo of the books behind today's featured poet I was thinking about bookshelves and bookcases. When I wrote that poem for Besty I was working at Hearst Magazines in New york City and just about everyday I'd meet the science editor of Business Week magazine at Tin Pan Alley for lunch; a bar I've mentioned before--a bar frequented by writers, film editors, artists, musicians, pimps and prostitutes; it was there I met Susan Ensely, Nan Goldin, Alice Barrett, Maggie Smith (the owner; oh where in the world are you Maggie), Cara Perlman and others and on a hot summer day I met The Clash and took photos of them but that's another story; back to books, and places to put books. Alan told me when he and his wife were looking for a house in New Jersey they discovered that all the houses were book-less; no sheves filled with poetry, art monographs: James Joyce, Ernest Heminway, Marguerite Duras, Kobe Abe, Fitzgerald, Jean Rhys, Irwin Panofsky, and certainly no bookcases overflowing with Hardy, Thackeray, Steinbeck, Carson McCullers, William Gaddis; not even cookbooks did they see. I imagine many of the people who keep weblogs buy and keep books; Caterina and Heather are often talking about books, as is Judith, Helena, and Paul--oh, and, of course, Jennifer who just last week got me to read Pope's "The Rape of The Lock." (As Paul said yesterday, "Pinch yourself;" these internet friends/connections are vital), . Does that mean, then, that people who don't keep weblogs don't buy books?
And here is today's poem from Asher Simeon:
Our driveway mouthed
at the top of a steep hill.
A twisted mailbox, black
and blue, jutted like a bruised
tongue from a shallow ditch.
A man had parked his car
and was pitching trash
on matted leaves. He snapped up,
face florid at my approach,
and smoothed back his
Does Patricia live here?
No. Skinner, like the mailbox.
He smiled, fisted his fingers
and pressed them to his eyes.
For months after I waited
for more of mother's old men.
I imagined a baron who
would demand to take us away,
an artist to paint me, a millionaire,
a great white hunter.
Or, and this would suffice, my father.
Acceptance. The word has such a better ring to it than "Rejection." Or "Waitlisted." I went to Villanova for two years (because they had a good education department; I wanted to be a teacher--and they had a great track team; I was captain of my high school track team: as a friend said to me yesterday "and I make bad decisions that way.") I knew I had to get out soon after arriving; it was too much of a jock school and I became interested in art history (thanks to my first college sweetheart, Jordan Lee, who lived in Bryn Mawr and whose house was filled with modern art--Picasso, Braque, etc). I decided to transfer and applied to Sarah Lawrence, Vassar, Connecticut College, Oberlin, and Manhattanville; I don't remember--or I'm not saying--who accepted me and who rejected me, but I loved Manhattanville (I was one of seven males that first semester as the school as it just gone co-ed). I was given a tour by one of the art history professors and by the time I graduated I was able to put together the William Blake art exhibition--"The Apoclyptic Vision." Today's New York Times reported an amazing story about a breakthrough in education:
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology plans to offer nearly all its course materials on the Internet for free.The $100 million project aims to make information from MIT's 2,000 courses accessible to everyone within 10 years. The Web site will include lecture notes, course outlines, reading lists and assignments.``It expresses our belief in the way education can be advanced by constantly widening access to knowledge and inspiring participation,'' said MIT President Charles Vest. In fact, M.I.T. is a hotbed of the "open source" software movement; and this new Internet initiative is based on a similar idea, said Hal Abelson, a professor of computer science and engineering who is involved in both."Fundamentally, they proceed from the same ethic, which has to do with sharing," Professor Abelson said. "In the Middle Ages people built cathedrals, where the whole town would get together and make a thing that's greater than any individual person could do and the society would kind of revel in that. We don't do that as much anymore, but in a sense this is kind of like building a cathedral."
In in a related topic Paul writes:
Baby, pinch yourself and remember this moment. An experience like this has got to be worth at least a couple million words.......At Minerva in Groningen, we are doing a workshop on weblogs and weblogging. Which I am finding very difficult. Without the experience, the little theory and analysis that there is sounds (even to my ears) frighteningly hollow. What remains is my own enthusiasm and the conviction that this practice (as a form of sustained inquiry) will be very, very important to (future) artists.Three obvious requisites: Curiosity, trust, patience. (edited)
A few more thoughts about acceptance; a friend today shares some beautiful photographs with me--a stranger of sorts but still a friend and my boss calls me late in the day just when I was feeling guilty for not having any major sales success stories, except for getting into American Express and Playboy, to say he thinks I'm doing a great job and will be given a few new accounts in New York City and boy does it feel good to be accepted.
Today's poem from James Joyce, his book "Chamber Music:"
Winds of May, that dance on the sea,
Dancing a ring-around in glee
From furrow to furrow, while overhead
The foam flies up to be garlanded
In silvery arches spanning the air,
Saw you my true love anywhere?
For the winds of May!
Love is unhappy when love is away!
In The Decision. Reading the April edition of Art in America; first a story about how Venezuela's obssession with beauty has turned the beauty pageant into something between an art form and a blood sport. The Museo Jacobo Borges, in the Parque del Oeste in Caracas, last summer presented "90 60 90," a contemporary art exhibition devoted to beauty queens and the social apparatus surrounding them. Art in America does not have an online issue but I did find this. Also in this issue: "Marcel & Maria" (Did Duchamp's affair with Brazillian sculptor Maria Martins inspire his final work?); "Bridget Riley: The Pleasure of Pure Seeing" (Reassessing a prominent British painter whose career has long been distorted by the Op-art label; "Cataract #3" below but much better in person at Dia Center for the Arts in NYC through June 17--or in Art in America);
"The Serious Slapstick of Martin Kersels" (The airborne actions and noisy, plugged-in sculptures of this Los Angele artist rely on physical humor); "Into the Mystic" (Occult traditions inform the dreamlike images that Spanish artist Remedios Varo painted during her Mexican excile: and "Reconstructing Toyen" (The erotically charged art of Czech Surrealist Marie Cerminova, a.k.a. Toyen, was examined in a recent exhibition). I'm going to bed late tonight. In The Decision: I see so much art in New York City, much of it not reviewed, so I have decided to put my art history training to work while I sell printing; I am going to start writing about what I see and try to get it published--print or online.
Found poem for today:
- If Kafka were a woman
- Would she had been a milkmaid
The Apocalyptic Vision. I am thinking about William Blake today and I have in front of me the catalog from my college senior thesis/art exhibition, "William Blake, The Apocalyptic Vision." From the introduction:
For Blake, the apocalyptic moment was personal and could happen at any time evil is recognized. Revelation and Judgment are internal affairs of the spirit, arising from a clearing of the senses which the artist, by virtue of his imaginative genius, can promote. The true artist then has a social role bordering on the religious. Blake took this very seriously. He sought prophecies of a particular visionary nature, and found them in the Books of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Job, and Solomon......Apocalypse was not the only myth with which Blake was concerned. It was part of a general sequence, a cycle beginning with Creation and Fall and culminating with Apocalypse and Redemption. Apocalypse becomes the correction of the Fall, and Redemption, a reversal of the process by which the spirit was contracted into human form......This constrictd state Blake called Experience; its opposite was Innocence. Blake's cycle from Creation to Judgment or Redemption is paralleled on a personal level as a progress from Innocence to Experience. The tension between the two states is essential: "Without Contraries there is no progression. Attraction and Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to Human existence." This progress of opposites is man's learning to develop his spiritual aspects, to reject selfhood and learn true foregivness. Final Revelation will be "seen by the Imaginative Eye of Every one according to the Situation he holds" and the Last Judgment will happen "whenever any Individual Rejects Error & Embraces Truth."
Often considered one of Blake's most striking visual images, this is the frontispiece to "Europe, a Prophecy" (1794) and usually called "The Ancient of Day's." Again, from the catalog:
(It) represents the Creator striking the limits of the fallen world with his brazen compass. From the midst of a brilliant heavenly sphere, the old man leans forward and down, his flowing hair and beard blown to the side, his left hand firmly holding the compass down over the black depths he studies from above. The pictorial tradition connecting the compass to the Creation goes back to the Middle Ages and derives from Proverbs 8:27: "When he prepared the heavens, I was there; when he set a compass upon the face of the depth." It first occurs in Blake's work in connection with Milton's "He took the golden Compasses...to circumscribe this universe, and all created things" (Paradise Lost VII: 225-227). Blake's source for the striking pose of Urizen was ultimately Christ in Michelangelo's Conversion of Saint Paul. The powerful deity, who orders the unformed world, is Urizen, who by this terrible act limits the universe and inflicts woe upon the world by reducing the infinite to the finite. As his name suggests, he is "your reason," the faculty which defines and delimits. In Urizen 12:4, he opens the awful Book of Brass, the code of rational laws copied by kings and priests for the purpose of organizing and suppressing society. Once revealed, the code spreads through the ages: it is this terrible propagation that Blake follows in the cycle from Adam to Resurrection.
Blake's friends often made much of his seeing visions and receiving divine guidance. But Blake himself knew well the nature of his visions. In "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell" Blake describes a dinnertable conversation with Isaiah and Ezekiel:
I asked them how they dared so roundly to assert that God spoke to them; and whether they did not think at the time that they would be misunderstood, & so be the cause of imposition.
Isaiah answer'd: "I saw no God, nor heard any, in a finite organical perception; but my senses discovr'd the infinite in everything, and as I was then persuaded, & remain confirm'd, that the voice of honest indignation is the voice of God, I cared not for consequences, but wrote."
It was Blake that got me started this morning. Then phone calls. And my brother's book, Echoes, off to Jennifer. And then more phone calls. And the image of Daryl's first big pimple on my mind; in the crease of his nose. Red. Maybe that's why I was thinking of Blake; it was one of the names we considered giving Daryl when he was born. And Dylan, too. But we went with Daryl. Daryl Thomas. Later I find some writing of my brother's online, online and in today's mail a postcard from Cindy about a new exhibit at Ramapo College that I must make a point of seeing: Automedia. The word is a term coined by Paris-based, multimedia artist Chris Clark to describe video art shot in or from a car. This frenetic exhibition curated by School of Contemporary Arts Professor Shalom Gorewitz features photography and video and focuses on artists interpreting the landscape while moving through it on wheels. Included are George Bobby Jones, Portia Cobb, David Freund, Christen Clark, Sophie Calle, Peter D'Agostino, Kristen Lucas, Franz Vila, Jesse Rosser, Douglas Kelley, Hiro Yamagata, Geoffrey Biddle, and Louis Faurer. This exhibition extends from the Berrie Center Galleries into other areas of the campus. Also in today's mail: a newspaper clipping from my father; "The Visions of William Blake." A poem, again, for National Poetry Month (and the Final Four), from my brother:
- Shot off this globe,
- its circumference slackening
- with distance, you leave
- the game never to return,
- never to take such chances
- as sent you elastic and
- easy beyond memory,
- beyond anything that's
- adjustable as a rim.
- This ending braces
- the shot that sent
- you tumbling without
- innumerable prayers.
- A Christmas Broadside
- Basketball Poem
Hope. It is National Poetry Month and we're going to read a poem every Sunday this month in church. Today was my turn and I read (in a deep, manly voice per Daryl's request; last week he said if I joined the choir--I wasn't planning to--they would put me in the women's section because my voice can be, what, well, I guess, high) a poem by Emily Dickinson, but first I say, "In the Emily Dickinson poem I am going to read this morning, "Hope is The Thing With Feathers," she examines the abstract idea of hope in the free spirit of a bird. She shows how nature, hope, religion correlate. It is not just a bird but a spirit or inspiration that sits in the souls of us all. It is small in that we often cannot see it, but it is huge because it guides and inspires us. Hope rests in our soul the way a bird rests on a perch. Deeply analyzed, Hope could represent Christ. He is always in your soul, the singing never stops, the beauty is always there, within:
"Hope" is the thing with feathers --
That perches in the soul --
And sings the tune without the words --
And never stops -- at all --
And sweetest -- in the Gale -- is heard --
And sore must be the storm --
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm --
I've heard it in the chillest land --
And on the strangest Sea --
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb -- of Me.
Then, during Peter's sermon, entitled "Don't Be Fooled," I took some notes:
Later I find a funny quote in an article Steve Martin, the comedian and writer, had in today's New York Times. He is exhibiting his art collection for the first time, at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, starting Saturday. The 28 pictures, representing most of his holdings, range from Georges Seurat to David Hockney to Robert Crumb. The article is adapted from his catalog for the exhibition. At the end of the piece he writes:
"The collector and actor Vincent Price once told me a story about his wife Coral Brown. They were giving an art tour in their home, when, with a particular frown, a woman looked at a Diebenkorn they owned and snarled: 'You have so many beautiful things. Why would you own that? What is that called?' And Coral Brown replied, 'It's called We Like It. Now get out.'"