Friday, December 31

I have seen many a bear led by a man, but I never saw a man led by a bear.
-- Margaret Boswell, on Samuel Johnson's influence over her husband, James Boswell.

Be Johnson.
-- James Boswell to himself

We work in the dark -- we do what we can -- we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.

-- Henry James

Thursday, December 30


Uphold us, cherish, and have power to make
Our noisy years seem moments in the being
Of the eternal Silence: truths that wake,
To perish never;
Which neither listlessness, nor mad endeavor,
Nor Man nor Boy,
Nor all that is at enmity with joy,
Can utterly abolish or destroy!
Hence in a season of calm weather
Though inland far we be,
Our Souls have sight of that immortal sea
Which brought us hither,
Can in a moment travel thither,
And see the Children sport upon the shore,
And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore.

-- William Wordsworth Ode: Intimations of Immortality

Wednesday, December 29


To most persons, as to myself, the ethereal, suave, transparent timbre of the flute, with its placidity and its poetic charm, produces an auditive sensation analogous to the visual impression of the color blue, a fine blue, pure and luminous as the azure of the sky. The strings of the orchestra represent, as a class, the colors of the distance.

-- Albert Lavignac Music and Musicians

All the Time

Evenings, after others go inside,
my glance quietly ascends through leaves,
through branches. The night wind sighs once
and bends over. Far beyond my glimpse of sky
those friends now gone begin their chorus.

There's a reason for whatever comes,
their song says. Released into light one star
appears, another, and those patterns affirm
where they have been waiting dissolved in blue
but holding their place inside of time.

Every evening this happens, an arch and promise
renewed. Nobody has to notice: a breath
crosses the lawn, or outside the window
a spirit roams, as mysterious as any wanderer
ever was. And it is only the night wind.

-- William Stafford

Tuesday, December 28


stonemason's tools by Martha Cooper

To be able to control fully every tool on every piece of stone is, I think, tantamount to impossible. Each stone is formed a little differently. One's softer, one's harder. You have to be able to understand and read each stone. So if you've got that sort of whiteness, when the matrix tightens, you know your stroke has to be a little firmer, to cut that. And as you go to the softer part, you have to lighten your stroke. There's always a nice flow to the work. You're always reading the color and the difference in the makeup of the stone that you're cutting: that's all going through your mind. It's sort of eye-hand coordination with the mind. It's a three-way triangulation here that you're talking about. Reading stone is very important, and also listening to stone. The ring of that chisel, as it comes off.

-- Alan Bird

Iron hammer. Lead dummy. Wooden mallet. Hard and soft striking tools have been used on stone since Neolithic man cracked flints with a stone hammer. I, myself, use the same arc-shaped hammer as I have seen depicted in the mason's stained glass window at Chartres dating from the 13th century.

Our applewood mallets are carefully chosen with a truncated branch to withstand the endless beating on the steel tools. To strike on the wrong 'beat' of the mallet will destroy it, so a favorite will never be lent.

I once showed Sebastian, who worked here [Cathedral of St. John the Divine] a few seasons ago, how effective a stiff brush was for indicating with paint where shadows were needed. "Oh, but for fine lines you paint with a feather," he said.

-- Simon Verity

Monday, December 27

It is a matter of extreme difficulty to detect tangible themes in the second movement of Mahler's Fifth Symphony, and it is an almost impossible task to follow them through the tortuous mazes of their formal and contrapuntal development. One has to cling by one's teeth, so to speak, to a shred of theme here and there, which appears for an occasional instant above the heavy masses of tone, only to be jumped upon immediately by the whole angry horde of instruments and stamped down into the very thick of the orchestral fray. The fighting grows so furious toward the finish that one is compelled to unclose one's teeth on the morsel of them, and lo and behold! it is seized upon, hurled through the screaming and frenzied ranks of the combatants, and that is the last seen or heard of the poor little rag of a theme.

-- Musical Courier 21 February 1906

The Sun

All colors come from the sun. And it does not have
Any particular color, for it contains them all.
And the whole Earth is like a poem
While the sun above represents the artist.

Whoever wants to paint the variegated world
Let him never look straight up at the sun
Or he will lose the memory of things he has seen.
Only burning tears will stay in his eyes.

Let him kneel down, lower his face to the grass,
And look at light reflected by the ground.
There he will find everything we have lost:
The stars and the roses, the dusks and the dawns.

-- Czeslaw Milosz

Sunday, December 26


Love knows no virtue, no merit; it loves and forgives and tolerates everything because it must. We are not guided by reason, nor do the assets or blemishes that we discover tempt us to devotion or intimidate us. It is a sweet, mournful, mysterious power that drives us, and we stop thinking, feeling, wishing, we let ourselves drift along and never ask where we are drifting.

-- Leopold von Sacher-Masoch Venus in Furs
Translated by Joachim Neugroschel

Friday, December 24

star of wonder

Star of Wonder in the heavens
Wonder what you want of me
Should I follow you tonight
Star of Wonder, star of Wonder

I am just a lonely shepherd
Watching from a distant hill
Why do you appear to me
Star of Wonder, if you will

In the morning they'll come looking
For the shepherd on the hill
What would make her leave her flock
For surely she must love them still

Star of Wonder in the heavens
Are you just a shining star
Or should I follow you tonight
Star of Wonder, star of Wonder, shining bright

-- Terre Roche

Listen to a clip of this song here

Thursday, December 23

you better watch out

This afternoon I worked as an Exit Elf, telling people in a loud voice, "THIS WAY OUT OF SANTALAND." A woman was standing at one of the cash registers paying for her idea of a picture, while her son lay beneath her kicking and heaving, having a tantrum.

The woman said, "Riley, if you don't start behaving yourself, Santa's not going to bring you any of those toys you asked for."

The child said, "He is too going to bring me toys, liar, he already told me."

The woman grabbed my arm and said, "You there, Elf, tell Riley here that if he doesn't start behaving immediately, then Santa's going to change his mind and bring him coal for Christmas."

I said that Santa no longer traffics in coal. Instead, if you're bad he comes to your house and steals things. I told Riley that if he didn't behave himself, Santa was going to take away his TV and all his electrical appliances and leave him in the dark. "All your appliances, including the refrigerator. Your food is going to spoil and smell bad. It's going to be so cold and dark where you are. Man, Riley, are you ever going to suffer. You're going to wish you never heard the name Santa."

The woman got a worried look on her face and said, "All right, that's enough."

I said, "He's going to take your car and your furniture and all the towels and blankets and leave you with nothing."

The mother said, "No, that's enough, really."

-- David Sedaris "Santaland Diaries" Holidays on Ice


Watching quietly, anticipating nothing, I am open to what is here, now. I look at myself reading these words. I read slowly. I see the way I am sitting. I sense my body, the arising and the movement of thoughts, of feelings -- the way my breath comes and goes. I am the witness and the witnessing, passively watching and actively being watched.

I see that there can be a further letting go, a beginning relationship to an unchanging inner stillness. Like a white sheet of paper that retains its nature, I remain receptive but unstained, quietly in touch with what is taking place, attention wholly in the moment. Is there help in a stop? In an unfolding to a fresh time/ space? Is there a way to be without doing?

Listening to the silence which is present in the stillness I become aware of a new web of relationships, of a unity bringing the body/ mind structure to another threshold. I sense that there is another Reality that can be served. Again, a stop.

-- William Segal The Structure of Man

Wednesday, December 22

Love Calls Us to the Things of This World

The eyes open to a cry of pulleys,
And spirited from sleep, the astounded soul
Hangs for a moment bodiless and simple
As false dawn.
Outside the open window
The morning air is all awash with angels.

Some are in bed-sheets, some are in blouses,
Some are in smocks: but truly there they are.
Now they are rising together in calm swells
Of halcyon feeling, filling whatever they wear
With the deep joy of their impersonal breathing;

Now they are flying in place, conveying
The terrible speed of their omnipresence, moving
And staying like white water; and now of a sudden
They swoon down into so rapt a quiet
That nobody seems to be there.
The soul shrinks

From all that it is about to remember,
From the punctual rape of every blessèd day,
And cries,
"Oh, let there be nothing on earth but laundry,
Nothing but rosy hands in the rising steam
And clear dances done in the sight of heaven."

Yet, as the sun acknowledges
With a warm look the world's hunks and colors,
The soul descends once more in bitter love
To accept the waking body, saying now
In a changed voice as the man yawns and rises,

"Bring them down from their ruddy gallows;
Let there be clean linen for the backs of thieves;
Let lovers go fresh and sweet to be undone,
And the heaviest nuns walk in a pure floating
Of dark habits,
keeping their difficult balance."

-- Richard Wilbur


... for me, white is the most wonderful color because within it you can see all the colors of the rainbow. For me, in fact, it is the color which in natural light, reflects and intensifies the perception of all of the shades of the rainbow, the colors which are constantly changing in nature, for the whiteness of white is never just white; it is almost always transformed by light and that which is changing; the sky, the clouds, the sun and the moon.

White conventionally has always been seen as a symbol of perfection, of purity and clarity. If we ask why this is the case, we realize that where other colors have relative values dependent upon their context, white retains its absoluteness. At the same time, it may function as a color itself. It is against a white surface that one best appreciates the play of light and shadow, solids and voids. Goethe said "color is the pain of light." Whiteness is perhaps the memory and the anticipation of color. For me, the contrast becomes the definition -- that which is natural, organic, changing, contains at different times, all of the colors of the rainbow.

-- Richard Meier, on accepting the Pritzker Architecture Prize

Richard Meier designed the radiant High Museum of Art, in Atlanta, and other projects you can read about here.

Tuesday, December 21


Martin Buber by Andy Warhol

You wanted to descend like a storm wind
And to be mighty in deed like the tempest,
You wanted to blow being to being
And bless human souls while scourging them,
To admonish weary hearts in the hot whirlpool
And to stir the rigid to agitated light,
-- You sought me on your stormy paths
And did not find me.

You wanted to soar upward like a fire
And wipe out all that did not stand your test,
Sun-powerful, you wanted to scorch worlds
And to refine worlds in sacrificial flame,
With sudden force to kindle a young nothingness
To new becoming of blessed poem,
-- You sought me in your flaming abysses
And did not find me.

Then my messenger came to you
And placed your ear next to the still life of my earth,
Then you felt how seed after seed began to stir,
And all the movements of growing things encircled you,
Blood hammered against blood, and the silence overcame you,
The eternally complete, soft and motherly
-- Then you had to incline upon yourself,
Then you found me.

-- Martin Buber Elijah
Translated by Maurice Friedman


As a poet I hold the most archaic values on earth. They go back to the late Paleolithic; the fertility of the soil, the magic of animals, the power-vision in solitude, the terrifying initiation and rebirth; the love and ecstasy of the dance, the common work of the tribe.

-- Gary Snyder Earth House Hold


Poetry effects change by fiddling with the archetypes and getting at people's dreams about a century before it actually effects historical change. A poet would be, in terms of the ecology of symbols, noting the main structural connections and seeing which parts of the symbol system are no longer useful or applicable, though everyone is giving them credence. And out of his own vision and hearing of voices he seeks for new paths for mind-energy to flow.

-- Gary Snyder The Real Work: Interviews & Talks 1964-1979

Monday, December 20


He is dear to me, that man,
far away in his mountains

where the pepper-vine grows thick
and monkeys feed upon the tender leaves.

And now I wonder:
is the sorrow caused by those we love
not sweeter than the sweet joys
they say are found in heaven?

-- Kapilar Kuruntokai 288


Perhaps the making of this soup taught Karen Blixen something about telling stories. The recipe calls for you to keep the spirit but to discard the substance of your rough ingredients: eggshells and raw bones, root vegetables and red meat. You then submit them, like a storyteller, to "fire and patience." And the clarity comes at the end, a magic trick.

-- Judith Thurman Isak Dinesen: The Life of a Storyteller


In the middle of the day the air was alive over the land, like a flame burning; it scintillated, waved and shone like running water, mirrored and doubled all objects, and created great Fata Morgana. Up in this high air you breathed more easily, drawing in a vital assurance and lightness of heart. In the highlands you woke up in the morning and thought: Here I am, where I ought to be.

-- Isak Dinesen Out of Africa

Sunday, December 19

It's a Wonderful Life

re-enacted in 30 seconds by bunnies

(be sure to click the little bunny heads at the end)

To My Friends

Dear friends, and here I say friends
In the broad sense of the word:
Wife, sister, associates, relatives,
Schoolmates of both sexes,
People seen only once
Or frequented all my life;
Provided that between us, for at least a moment,
A line has been stretched,
A well-defined bond.

I speak for you, companions of a crowded
Road, not without its difficulties,
And for you too, who have lost
Soul, courage, the desire to live;
Or no one, or someone, or perhaps
only one person, or you
Who are reading me: remember the time
Before the wax hardened,
When everyone was like a seal.
Each of us bears the imprint
Of a friend met along the way;
In each the trace of each.
For good or evil
In wisdom or in folly
Everyone stamped by everyone.

Now that time crowds in
And the undertakings are finished,
To all of you the humble wish
That autumn will be long and mild.

-- Primo Levi
Translated by Ruth Feldman and Brian Swann

Saturday, December 18

Brahms's Lullaby

Lullaby and good night,
With roses bedight,
With lilies o'erspread,
Is baby's wee bed.
Lay thee down now and rest,
May thy slumber be blest.
Lay thee down now and rest,
May thy slumber be blest.

Lullaby and good night,
In the soft evening light,
Like a rose in its bed,
Lay down your sweet head.
When morning is near,
I will wake you, my dear.
When morning is near,
I will wake you, my dear.

Lullaby and good night,
You're your mother's delight,
Shining angels beside
My darling abide.
Soft and warm is your bed,
Close your eyes and rest your head.
Soft and warm is your bed,
Close your eyes and rest your head.

Sleepyhead, close your eyes.
Mother's right here beside you.
I'll protect you from harm,
You will wake in my arms.
Guardian angels are near,
So sleep on, with no fear.
Guardian angels are near,
So sleep on, with no fear.

Lullaby, and sleep tight.
Hush! My darling is sleeping,
On his sheets white as cream,
With his head full of dreams.
When the sky's bright with dawn,
He will wake in the morning.
When noontide warms the world,
He will frolic in the sun.

-- Johannes Brahms
Lyrics by Fritz Simrock


Our fine arts were developed, their types and uses were established, in times very different from the present, by men whose power of action upon things was insignificant in comparison with ours. But the amazing growth of our techniques, the adaptability and precision they have attained, the ideas and habits they are creating, make it a certainty that profound changes are impending in the ancient craft of the Beautiful. In all the arts there is a physical component which can no longer be considered or treated as it used to be, which cannot remain unaffected by our modern knowledge and power. For the last twenty years neither matter nor space nor time has been what it was from time immemorial. We must expect great innovations to transform the entire technique of the arts, thereby affecting artistic invention itself and perhaps even bringing about an amazing change in our very notion of art.

-- Paul Valéry "The Conquest of Ubiquity" in Aesthetics
Translated by Ralph Manheim

Friday, December 17

this world

At times the solitary One
grows out of the Many, at times
the Many out of the One:
Water, Fire, Earth
and the steeps of Air ...

The circle revolves
and the elements have their turn into power
fade into each other and grow in their places ...

It is through earth we perceive earth,
water through water, through aether
bright aether, consuming fire through fire,
love through love, and hate through grim
hate ...

a perfect sphere
in precise equipose
and exulting in its circling solitude.

-- Empedocles On Nature
Translated by Stanley Lombardo


All beauty is heightened by unity and simplicity, as is everything which we do and say; for whatever is great in itself is elevated, when executed and uttered with simplicity. It is not more strictly circumscribed, nor does it lose any of its greatness, because the mind can survey and measure it with a glance, and comprehend and embrace it in a single idea; but the very readiness with which it may be embraced places it before us in its true greatness, and the mind is enlarged, and likewise elevated, by the comprehension of it ...

The harmony which ravishes the soul does not consist in arpeggios, and tied and slurred notes, but in simple, long-drawn tones.

-- Johann Joachim Winckelmann The History of Ancient Art
Translated by G. Henry Lodge

Thursday, December 16

Fragment 31

fragment of Sappho's poetry

phainetai moi kênos îsos theoisin
emmen’ ônêr ottis enantios toi
isdanei kai plâsion âdu phonei-
sâs upakouei

He seems to me equal to gods that man
whoever he is who opposite you
sits and listens close
to your sweet speaking

kai gelaisâs îmeroen to m’ êmân
kardiân en stêthesin eptoaisen
ôs gar es s’ idô brokhe’ os me phônai-
s’ oud’ en et’ eikei

and lovely laughing - oh it
puts the heart in my chest on wings
for when I look at you, even a moment, no speaking
is left in me

alla kam men glôssa eâge lepton
d’ autika khrôi pur upadedromâken
oppatessi d’ oud’en orêmm’ epirom-
beisi d’ akouai

no: tongue breaks and thin
fire is racing under skin
and in eyes no sight and drumming
fills ears

kad de m’ idrôs kakkheetai tromos de
paisan agrei khlôrotera de poiâs
emmi tethnakên d’ oligô ‘pideuês
phainom’ em’ autai.

and cold sweat holds me and shaking
grips me all, greener than grass
I am and dead - or almost
I seem to me.

Alla pan tomaton . . .

But all is to be dared, because even a person of poverty

-- Sappho
Translated by Anne Carson

The image of the fragment is from this PDF document, where this poem can be found in the original Greek.

Wednesday, December 15


The call still sounding in the depths of the forest filled him with a great unrest and strange desires. It caused him to feel a vague, sweet gladness, and he was aware of wild yearnings and stirrings for he knew not what. Sometimes he pursued the call into the forest, looking for it as though it were a tangible thing, barking softly or defiantly, as the mood might dictate. He would thrust his nose into the cool wood moss, or into the black soil where long grasses grew, and snort with joy at the fat earth smells; or he would crouch for hours, as if in concealment, behind fungus-covered trunks of fallen trees, wide-eyed and wide-eared to all that moved and sounded about him. It might be, lying thus, that he hoped to surprise this call he could not understand. But he did not know why he did these various things. He was impelled to do them, and did not reason about them at all.

... he loved to run in the dim twilight of the summer midnights, listening to the subdued and sleepy murmurs of the forest, reading signs and sounds as man may read a book, and seeking for the mysterious something that called -- called, waking or sleeping, at all times, for him to come.

One night he sprang from sleep with a start, eager-eyed, nostrils quivering and scenting, his mane bristling in recurrent waves. From the forest came the call (or one note of it, for the call was many-noted), distinct and definite as never before -- a long-drawn howl, like, yet unlike, any noise made by husky dog. And he knew it, in the old familiar way, as a sound heard before. He sprang through the sleeping camp and in swift silence dashed through the woods. As he drew closer to the cry he went more slowly, with caution in every movement, till he came to an open place among the trees, and looking out saw, erect on haunches, with nose pointed to the sky, a long, lean, timber wolf.

... On the opposite slope of the watershed they came down into a level country where were great stretches of forest and many streams, and through these great stretches they ran steadily, hour after hour, the sun rising higher and the day growing warmer. Buck was wildly glad. He knew he was at last answering the call, running by the side of his wood brother toward the place from where the call surely came. Old memories were coming upon him fast, and he was stirring to them as of old he stirred to the realities of which they were the shadows. He had done this thing before, somewhere in that other and dimly remembered world, and he was doing it again, now, running free in the open, the unpacked earth underfoot, the wide sky overhead.

-- Jack London The Call of the Wild

Vocatus atque Non Vocatus

Before life was there a world?
When we take our life away, will fear
be anywhere -- the cold? the wind? those noises
darkness tries? We'll take fear
with us. It rides the vast night
carried in our breast. Then, everywhere --
nothing? -- the way it was again?

Across a desert, beyond storms
and waiting, air began to make
a wing, first leather stretched on bone
extended outward, shadow-quiet,
then whispering feathers lapped against
each other, and last the air itself,
life taken back, a knife of nothing.

There was a call one night, and a call
back. It made a song. All
the birds waited -- the sound they tried for
now over, and the turning of the world
going on in silence. Behind what happens
there is that stillness, the wings that wait,
the things to try, the wondering, the music.

-- William Stafford

Tuesday, December 14


Beauty is no quality in things themselves: it exists merely in the mind which contemplates them.

-- David Hume


The Palm Court was dim and quiet in the lull before dinner. An occasional shadowy waiter pussyfooted in the edges of light and sound, checking on tables, flowers, unlighted candles. Our small table was an island in a hushed sea. We drank slowly from almost invisible glasses, so thin, a blanc de blanc champagne ... M. Hérault scudded toward us with a plate in a huge napkin and then rushed off ... and we unveiled the prettiest pile of the tiniest sandwiches in the whole world, I am sure. They were delicately brown, very crisp, hot, and precisely the thickness and width of a silver dollar. Unbelievably, they were made of an inner and outer slice of white bread, with a layer of Parma ham and one of Gruyère cheese between. They were apparently tossed in a flash of sweet butter and rushed to be eaten. They seemed to evaporate in the mouth, like fried mimosa blossoms. They were an astonishing thing, in fact ... minute and complete.

... plainly M. Hérault was the last of the great chefs to have time enough to see that the titbits were properly constructed and then pressed under weights to the right thickness and then fried correctly so as not to gain a millimeter in height. It was, in other words, a historical moment.

I am glad it happened, just as I am glad that not long ago I went to a student self-service in Aix-en-Provence and pulled out from the glass counter a lukewarm lump labeled Croque-Monsieur, an inch-thick slab of bread overlaid with a dangling slice of pale ham and topped with a gluey cap of leathery melted cheese. I took it and a glass of tepid white wine out into the pure sunlight of a little courtyard and sat down under the leaves of a sickly palm tree, and part of me was back at the old Palace in the hushed gloom, reaching for another minute gilded dollar, sipping a finer wine in a thinner goblet, and I was happy for such a coincidence to warm my soul. It was not eery or funny or embarrassing. It was good. It is a fine thing that history repeats itself occasionally.

-- M.F.K. Fisher With Bold Knife and Fork

Monday, December 13


I mother you you father me vice versa:
take the exhausted person off, discard
the mom and dadness of who's child, whose child
means less than the warm back we each of us
lie against, the body where we anchor
ourself, the imprint deep as blood. Perpetual
stoas, arcades, and alleys
loom and dwindle, mark our mutual
distance, proceeding down the avenue
clutching a clue, love's puzzle
not yet, not ever done.

-- Rachel Hadas "Love"

Sunday, December 12

wooing jackdaw

All these different forms of self-presentation are addressed by the courting male always to one special female. But how does she know that the whole act is being performed for her benefit? This is all explained by the "language of the eyes," which Byron, in "Don Juan" calls:

The answer eloquent where the soul shines,
And darts in one quick glance a long reply.

As he makes his proposals, the male glances continually towards his love but ceases his efforts immediately if she chances to fly away; this however she is not likely to do if she is interested in her admirer.

Remarkable and exceedingly comical is the difference in eloquence between the eye-play of the wooing male and that of the courted female: the male jackdaw casts glowing glances straight into his loved one's eyes, while she apparently turns her eyes in all directions other than that of her ardent suitor. In reality, of course, she is watching him all the time, and her quick glances of a fraction of a second are quite long enough to make her realize that all his antics are calculated to inspire her admiration; long enough to let "him" know that "she" knows.

-- Konrad Z. Lorenz King Solomon's Ring

Saturday, December 11

identity and the sense of belonging

... there is no formula to teach us how to arrive at maturity ... Something ... has to be resolved between a man and himself ... but the results of the inner dialogue are evident to all, evident as independence, courage, and fairness in dealing with others ...

Maturity: among other things, a new lack of self-consciousness -- the kind you can only attain when you have become entirely indifferent to yourself through an absolute assent to your fate.

He who has placed himself in God's hands stands free vis-à-vis men: he is entirely at his ease with them, because he has granted them the right to judge.

We are not what we should be, we have not reached the full strength of our possible contribution, until we have managed to develop within ourselves, and in our relationships with others, the sense of belonging.

To be nothing in the self effacement of humility, yet, for the sake of the task, to embody its whole weight and importance in your bearing, as the one who has been called to undertake it. To give to people works, poetry, art, what the self can contribute, and to take, simply and freely, what belongs to it by reason of its identity ... Towards this, so help me, God.

-- Dag Hammarskjöld Markings
Translated by Leif Sjöberg and W.H. Auden

and Public Papers of the Secretaries-General of the United Nations, vols. II-V
Ed. Andrew W. Cordier and Wilder Foote

Friday, December 10


O living flame of love
that tenderly wounds my soul
in its deepest center! Since
now you are not oppressive,
now consummate! if it be your will:
tear through the veil of this sweet encounter!

-- Saint John of the Cross The Living Flame of Love

concept as function

The basic substance of art has become the protracted discourse in words and materials, echoed back and forth from artist to artist, work to work, art movement to art movement, on all aspects of contemporary civilization and of the place of creation in it ...

Begin by explaining a single painting (and the more empty of content it is the better) and if you continue describing it, you will find yourself touching on more subjects to investigate -- philosophical, social, political, historical, scientific, psychological -- than are needed for an academic degree ...

[The arts] have never been more indispensable than they are today. With its accumulated insights, its disciplines, its inner conflicts, painting (or poetry, or music) provides a means for the active self-development of individuals -- perhaps the only means. Given the patterns in which mass-behavior, including mass-education, is presently organized, art is the one vocation that keeps a space open for the individual to realize himself in knowing himself.

-- Harold Rosenberg The De-Definition of Art

Thursday, December 9

Curlews Lift

Out of the maternal watery blue lines

Stripped of all but their cry
Some twists of near-edible sinew

They slough off
The robes of bilberry blue
The cloud-stained bogland

They veer up and eddy away over
The stone horns

They trail a long, dangling, falling aim
Across water

Lancing their voices
Through the skin of this light

Drinking the nameless and naked
Through trembling bills

-- Ted Hughes


I dreamed that I floated at will in the great Ether, and I saw this world floating also not far off, but diminished to the size of an apple. Then an angel took it in his hand and brought it to me and said, "This must thou eat." And I ate the world.

-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, December 8


Then the moon like a new-lit lamp rose fast over the fields. A half world of lime-lit lakes and rivers formed under it, and the woods were changed into the foam of soundless waterfalls and shadowy cascades.

The moon commanded the hills, the valley and the fields. All things belonged to it. Each leaf was marked by it, it made its own shadows as strong as the shadows of the sun. The tiles of the roof were hardened by the light. One looked at it and lived only in that moment. But though the moon chalked his clothes and his hands and his face, yet Dunkley's body had the living day in it still. Upstairs in their room when he took off his clothes he could feel the warmth of the day in him. The light fell on her, making loops of shadows on her neck and her breasts, and her shoulders were cool but her body was as warm as bread. They lay down mouth to mouth. There was no other sound in the house but their sounds, no other sounds, no other selves (they felt) in all that countryside. 'The year is dying but we are making something beyond the year.'

-- V.S. Pritchett "A New World"

This partly-autobiographical story was found in the New York Public Library's Berg Collection by Jeremy Treglown and published for the first time in Granta #87.


The Doctor, Romana and Duggan rush frantically back to the Tardis to try to reach the Jaggeroth ship before the Count. As they reach the gallery the Tardis is being contemplated by two art critics, played by John Cleese and Eleanor Bron:

CLEESE: For me the most curious thing about the piece is its wonderful a-functionalism.

BRON: Yes -- I see what you mean. Divorced from its function and seen purely as a work of art, its structure of line and colour is obviously counterpointed by the redundant vestiges of its function.

CLEESE: And since it has no call to be here the art lies in the fact that it is here.

The Doctor and his companions rush past them and enter the Tardis. The door closes and, with the critics still contemplating it, the Tardis dematerialises.

BRON: (now staring at the empty gallery space left by the vanished Tardis): Exquisite. Absolutely exquisite.

Cleese nods sagely in agreement, and with a gesture signifies "superb."

-- Douglas Adams and Graham Williams Doctor Who "City of Death" Part Four

Tuesday, December 7


Boston: 2 Dec 2004, ©2004 JL

Slowly the west reaches for clothes of new colors
which it passes to a row of ancient trees.
You look, and soon these two worlds both leave you,
one part climbs toward heaven, one sinks to earth,

leaving you, not really belonging to either,
not so hopelessly dark as that house that is silent,
not so unswervingly given to the eternal as that thing
that turns to a star each night and climbs --

leaving you (it is impossible to untangle the threads)
your own life, timid and standing high and growing,
so that, sometimes blocked in, sometimes reaching out,
one moment your life is a stone in you, and the next, a star.

-- Rainer Maria Rilke
Translated by Robert Bly


The boon of language is not tenderness. All that it holds, it holds with exactitude and without pity, even a term of endearment; the word is impartial: the usage is all. The boon of language is that potentially it is complete, it has the potentiality of holding with words the totality of human experience -- everything that has occurred and everything that may occur It even allows space for the unspeakable. In this sense one can say of language that it is potentially the only human home, the only dwelling place that cannot be hostile to man. For prose this home is a vast territory, a country which it crosses through a network of tracks, paths, highways; for poetry this home is concentrated on a single center, a single voice, and this voice is simultaneously that of an announcement and a response to it.

-- John Berger And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos

Monday, December 6


The heart can think of no devotion
Greater than being shore to the ocean--
Holding the curve of one position,
Counting an endless repetition.

-- Robert Frost

Friday, December 3

turning point

It cannot be looked for and cannot be held; in every moment it is creation from nothingness as pure present, independent of the past as well as the future. The artist who turns and is transformed is a medium through which the divine passes and thus becomes its interpreter of symbols and expressions.

The creative process is generation and birth as well as transformation and rebirth. The perpetual self-renewal and the dependence on grace of the person who opens to create are a human parallel to the eternal rebirth of all that is created. The rapture of the flowing deathlessness of creativity is just as much at work in man as nature; indeed, it is only in our creative flowing that we become a part of nature.

-- Erich Neumann Art and the Creative Unconsciousness
Translated by Ralph Manheim

Thursday, December 2

the depths of the reality

Hedvig and Gregers

HEDVIG. No. Even the chickens have all the others that they were baby chicks with, but she's so completely apart from any of her own. So you see, everything is so really mysterious about the wild duck. There's no one who knows her, and no one who knows where she's come from, either.

GREGERS. And actually, she's been in the depths of the sea.

HEDVIG (glances at him, suppresses a smile, and asks). Why did you say "depths of the sea?"

GREGERS. What else should I say?

HEDVIG. You could have said "bottom of the sea" -- or "the ocean's bottom?"

GREGERS. But couldn't I just as well say "depths of the sea?"

HEDVIG. Sure. But to me it sounds so strange when someone else says "depths of the sea."

GREGERS. But why? Tell me why?

HEDVIG. No, I won't. It's something so stupid.

GREGERS. It couldn't be. Now tell me why you smiled.

HEDVIG. That was because always, when all of a sudden -- in a flash -- I happen to think of that in there, it always seems to me that the whole room and everything in it is called "the depths of the sea!" But that's all so stupid.

GREGERS. Don't you dare say that.

HEDVIG. Oh yes, because it's only an attic.

GREGERS. Are you so sure of that?

HEDVIG (astonished). That it's an attic!

GREGERS. Yes. Do you know that for certain?

(HEDVIG, speechless, stares at him open-mouthed)

more ...

-- Henrik Ibsen The Wild Duck
Translated by Rolf Fjelde

photo from Jean Cocteau Repertory

Wednesday, December 1


There is a goodness, a Wisdom that arises, sometimes gracefully, sometimes gently, sometimes awkwardly, sometimes fiercely, but it will arise to save us if we let it, and it arises from within us, like the force that drives green shoots to break the winter ground, it will arise and drive us into a great blossoming like a pear tree, into flowering, into fragrance, fruit, and song ... into that part of ourselves that can never be defiled, defeated or destroyed, but that comes back to life, time and time again, that lives -- always -- that does not die.

-- China Galland The Bond Between Women

Words Rising

To Richard Eberhart

I open my notebook, write some words with a green pen, something enters my chest, and the stars begin to revolve and pick up alligator claws from under the ocean, whatever we have lived, in the sunlit shelves of the Dordogne, what we sang among the skeletons of Papua, the many times we died wounded under the tent of an animal's sniffing, and the grassy nights we ran in the moonlight for hours, returns, there is a "welling up of watery syllables," the anger barking in the cave, the luminous head of wheat, growls from under fur, none of it is lost. The old earth fragrance remains in the word "and," "the" with its lonely suffering.

We are bees then; language is the honey. The honey lies now in caves beneath us, and the energies of words carry what we do not. When a man or woman feeds a few words with private grief, the shames we knew before we could invent the wheel, words grow, an instant later we slip out into the farmyards where rabbits lie stretched out on the ground for buyers, then the stored energies come to our ears as music, we see the million hands with dusty palms turned up inside a verb. There are eternal vows held inside the word "Jericho."

Blessings then on the man who labors in his tiny room on his poem on lambs, and on the woman who separates the black seeds of loneliness from the brown seeds of solitude, as the afternoon light slants in, blessing on the dictionary maker, huddled among his bearded words, and the setter of songs, who sleeps at night inside his violin case.

-- Robert Bly

Tuesday, November 30


The infinite tenderness of that infinite melody
Carried to the last consequence
Would move mountains the mountains of hatred of ignorance of distance
From man to man from father to son from woman to man
From body to body

The beautiful circle of that melody
Carried to the extreme limit of the earth the bitter earth
Would bring the light that we long for every day
That flowers
The grave sweetness to the heart of all men all women of every race

That melody
Explored to the last cavern of golden stalactites
Would bring
Not any utopia
But the sacred gestures of everyday life
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
In a dance without questions
In which to be born to die to feed and to love
To sleep embracing another body
Would be part of an endless river
A dance without questions

-- Alberto De Lacerda


Objects don't exist for me except in so far as a rapport exists between them or between them and myself. When one attains this harmony, one reaches a sort of intellectual non-existence -- what I can only describe as a state of peace -- which makes everything possible and right. Life then becomes a perpetual revelation. That is true poetry...

"The only valid thing in art is that which cannot be explained," I once wrote. I still feel this very strongly. To explain away the mystery of a great painting -- if such a feat were possible -- would do irreparable harm, for whenever you explain or define something you substitute the explanation or the definition for the real thing ... Believe me, there are certain mysteries, certain secrets in my own work which even I don't understand nor do I try to do so ... Mysteries have to be respected if they are to retain their power ...

It's all the same to me whether a form represents a different thing to different people or many things at the same time. And then I occasionally introduce forms which have no literal meaning whatsoever. Sometimes these are accidents which happen to suit my purpose, sometimes "rhymes" which echo other forms, and sometimes rhythmical motifs which help to integrate a composition and give it movement.

-- Georges Braque, in G. Braque by John Richardson

Monday, November 29

dream dialogue

○ What proof could you give if anyone should ask us now, at the present moment, whether we are asleep and our thoughts are a dream, or whether we are awake and talking to each other in a waking condition?
-- Socrates

○ I can never decide whether my dreams are the result of my thoughts or my thoughts are the result of my dreams.
-- D.H. Lawrence

○ Sleeping and waking I supposed to be not two processes but two aspects of the same process. To fall asleep "here" is to wake "there." My head sinks gratefully into the pillow, and the world dissolves; and at that very moment, on another plane or planet, I rub my waking eyes and begin a new day, resuming without thought or sense of strangeness, the life in which my sleep — my waking hours here — has been a quiescent interval.
-- Gerald Bullett

○ If someone were to tell me I had twenty years left, and ask me how I'd like to spend them, I'd reply "Give me two hours a day of activity, and I'll take the other twenty-two in dreams."
-- Luis Buñuel

Sunday, November 28


But any process, if it is to be perceivable, must be divided into definite, deliberate cycles with a precise rhythm. And so one day we found ourselves considering the problem of pauses, intermissions, breaks of whatever kind in the flow of action, which are as necessary in theatre as they are in music, where rests are as necessary as notes; rests are instruments of articulation in that they help organize and emphasize musical patterns. In theatre, if a pause has a precisely calculated length, it can heighten dramatic tension and become a dramatic fact. The effectiveness of pauses depends, of course, on their placement in the current of the action, and also on their frequency. Therefore, we carefully placed pauses where they would dramatically reinforce coherence. As a result, drama stopped being a condition and became a process. Time and rhythm acquired a precise, almost tangible quality. And I suddenly realized the true sense of Paul Klee's assertion: "Art should not picture the visible, but make the invisible visible, which means that it must translate the world into new pictorial laws or principles. Instead of the phenomenon of a tree, brook, or rose, we are more interested in revealing the growth, flow, and blossoming which takes place within them."

-- Josef Svoboda The Secret of Theatrical Space
Translated by Jarka M. Burian

sign here

Goldfish by Ralph Gibson

Goldfish by Ralph Gibson

It's fixed in the stars that there are a certain number of kisses to every love story and not one more. Love stories that seem to go on forever simply haven't exhausted that final kiss. Putting people on the couch because they're having trouble in love is ridiculous. Nobody's asked to sign a contract saying, "I agree to be successful," or "I agree to be healthy." But you're supposed to sign a contract that says I agree to be happy in love. It doesn't work that way.

-- Ralph Gibson


In its energy and dash, the work of youth or early maturity remains a reflection of the movements of everyday life; animated by a different current, it is shackled to time and can detach itself only with difficulty. But the secret of Le Carosse d'Or is that of creation and the problems, the trials, the gambles it subjects itself to in order to perfect an object and give it the autonomy and the subtlety of an as yet unexplored world.

-- Jacques Rivette Cahiers du cinéma 46
Translated by Tom Milne

Saturday, November 27

language does not equal information

Das Sprechen der Musik. Vergiß nicht, daß ein Gedicht, wenn auch in der Sprache der Mitteilung abgefaßt, nicht im Sprachspiel der Mitteilung verwendet wird.

The way music speaks. Do not forget that a poem, even though it is composed in the language of information, is not used in the language-game of giving information.

-- Ludwig Wittgenstein Zettel
Translated by Marjorie Perloff in Jacket #14

Friday, November 26


That afternoon, perhaps because of the shock, words began to uncurl from the nib of my fountain pen. (What a splendid term: fountain pen, the source from which prose flows, except in a dry season). I enjoyed the soft wet scratching sound of fresh letters as they linked up -- no longer in copperplate, but in adult handwriting that was at least clear and evenly suspended above the whiteness below: sentences skeining west to east, a book in flight. I grew to love the silence, even the mini-silences that swelled between one word and the next, and to this day, when words won't come, I listen for them rather than look for them. Sooner or later one that sounds right will whisper itself onto the page.

-- Edmund Morris Washington Post Book World 27 September 1998


For beauty, for significance, it's space
We need; and since we have no space today
In which to frame the act, the word, the face
Of beauty, it's no longer beautiful.

A tree's significant when it's alone,
Standing against the sky's wide open face;
A sail, spark-white upon the space of sea,
Can pin a whole horizon into place.

Encompassed by the dark, a candle flowers,
Creating space around it as it towers,
Giving the room a shape, a form, a name;
Significance is born within the frame.

A word falls in the silence like a star,
Searing the empty heavens with the scar
Of beautiful and solitary flight
Against the dark and speechless space of night.

-- Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Thursday, November 25

Happy Thanksgiving!

People have always longed to fling food at each other, and to smash the crockery. Louis XIV (he who ruled over the etiquette of Versailles) is said to have baited his brother, the august Monsieur, by splashing soup at his wig until Monsieur lost his temper and flung his bowl of boiled beef at the king ...

The hilarity occasioned by custard cream pies flung in faces must be part of the same complex of emotions. In the Baroque period in Europe, when food was spectacularly arranged -- it often took kitchen staff days to sculpt and decorate pyramids, pièces montées, and architectural fantasies for a banquet -- and a royal feast was like an opera, with gorgeously dressed players at the table and spectators standing round about to view the eating, it was common for the inner circle of noble guests to retire after dinner, leaving the onlookers to move in for the kill. They would rush the table and demolish all the exquisite culinary edifices, with a pleasure perhaps like that of children knocking down sandcastles or towers of building blocks. They would eat some of the food, and throw the rest at each other. John Evelyn, describing a great dinner for the Garter Knights in the Banqueting House in Whitehall on April 23, 1667, says the feast ended with the "banqueting stuff" being "flung around the room profusely."

-- Margaret Visser The Ritual of Dinner

lest we forget

Family Supper by Ralph Fasanella

Family Supper by Ralph Fasanella

There are certain pictorial reasons why Fasanella achieves such a remarkable likeness. (Though these don't explain the uniqueness of his achievement.) His perspective, by professional standards, is inconsistent. It constantly adapts itself to the next sight in view; rather than being a standing static perspective, it is a walking one ... And the same creative inconsistency determines the eye-level. Things are seen either face to face as on the sidewalk, or from above, at about the height of a tenement roof ... Thus each painting offers, not an instant view, a postcard, but an amalgam of visual experience, a sequence of memories. Hence the likeness. Hence the face that those who have lived in these streets, recognise corner after corner ...

The family is Fasanella's. In the centre is his mother. On the right wall is one of his own paintings of his father, the iceman, crucified on a wall of bricks, his head clamped in the ice-tongs with which he worked. On the back wall is a second painting, this time of his mother with his sister and himself standing on chairs in front of another wooden cross, against a brick wall between window frames. Every person and object in this kitchen is a memorial to what happened within his family. But the way it is painted -- and here the truthfulness to experience of the "primitive" painting reveals itself -- the way it is painted makes everything in it continuous and entirely homogeneous with the exterior walls and elevation which surrounds it.

-- John Berger About Looking

Wednesday, November 24


The plane of the rainbow is always at right angles to our view of it, whether we go directly up to it or look at it from an angle. The rainbow keeps ahead of our view of it and turns when we turn. God is always right there in front of us.

-- Malcolm de Chazal Sens-Plastique
Translated by Irving Weiss

from the writings of Saint Teresa of Avila

Thus does God when he raises a soul to union with himself, suspend the natural action of all her faculties ... God establishes himself in the interior of this soul in such a way, that when she returns to herself, it is wholly impossible for her to doubt that she has been in God, and God in her.

-- William James The Varieties of Religious Experience

Tuesday, November 23


The common perception of the Portuguese fado is one of an emotionally distraught singer pouring out her woes - inevitably a departed lover - in some smoky late-night den. In truth, the fado is rather more complex, and its origin far from definitive. There are claims that the fado has Oriental roots, or that the plaintive songs were first sung by slaves brought to Brazil from Africa. More romantically, and this is the lore Wellenkamp finds more attractive, is that the fado was born out of the sound of rippling waves building into turbulent seas, which fired the imaginations of seafaring folk to tell their passionate tales of love and loss. Subsequently, Portugal's most revered poets wrote verses for fado, embodying themes of unlawful detention and other social injustices.

-- Emma Manning Dance Europe

Vasco Wellenkamp's Amaramàlia-Abandono is a a ballet homage to legendary fado singer Amália Rodrigues

Portuguese Amália Rodrigues site

Monday, November 22

play your hand

I admit it's tempting to wish for the perfect boss, the perfect parent, or the perfect outfit. But maybe the best any of us can do is not quit, play the hand we've been given, and accessorize the outfit we've got.

-- Carrie Bradshaw Sex and the City

Thanks to vilaine fille and to Alex Ross


... one of the strengths of Irish poetry at the moment is that it has its roots, it knows that it has roots in song and dance and story. In America, there's a real danger of that being forgotten. People there think that their poetry has its roots in their word processors, and it certainly looks like that on the page. You see, if you look at the most ancient forms of poetry, the prayer, and the curse, and the song, and the riddle: these are all folk -- to use that awful phrase, "folk art" -- these are forms that have their roots in the community. Good writing pulses with life from those ancient forms and helps the blood to circulate,

-- Michael Longley Five Points Vol. 8, No. 3


The Mountain
This is ravens' territory, skulls, bones,
The marrow of these boulders supervised
From the upper air: I stand alone here
And seem to gather children about me,
A collection of picnic things, my voice
Filling the district as I call their names.

The Path
With my first step I dislodge the mallards
Whose necks strain over the bog to where
Kittiwakes scrape the waves: then, the circle
Widening, lapwings, curlews, snipe until
I am left with only one swan to nudge
To the far side of its gradual disdain.

The Strand
I discover, remaindered from yesterday,
Cattle tracks, a sanderling's tiny trail,
The footprints of the children and my own
Linking the dunes to the water's edge,
Reducing to sand the dry shells, the toe
And fingernail parings of the sea.

The Wall
I join all the men who have squatted here
This lichened side of the dry-stone wall
And notice how smoke from our turf fire
Recalls in the cool air above the lake
Steam from a kettle, a tablecloth and
A table she might have already set.

The Lake
Though it will duplicate at any time
The sheep and cattle that wander there,
For a few minutes every evening
Its surface seems tilted to receive
The sun perfectly, the mare and her foal,
The heron, all such special visitors.

-- Michael Longley

Sunday, November 21


The tray was freighted with the most exquisite and shapely pantoufles, sufficient to make Cluny a place of naught. There were shoes of grey and black and brown suède, of white silk and rose satin, and velvet and sarcenet; there were some of sea-green sewn with cherry blossoms, some of red with willow branches, and some of grey with bright-winged birds. There were heels of silver, of ivory, and of gilt; there were buckles of very precious stones set in most strange and esoteric devices; there were ribbons tied and twisted into cunning forms; there were buttons so beautiful that the buttonholes might have no pleasure till they closed upon them; there were soles of delicate leathers scented with maréchale, and linings of soft stuffs scented with the juice of July flowers. But Venus, finding none of them to her mind, called for a discarded pair of blood-red maroquin, diapered with pearls. They looked very distinguished over her white silk stockings.

-- Aubrey Beardsley Under the Hill

Saturday, November 20

American Beauty


Angela, once again fully clothed, sits at the kitchen counter. She's eating a turkey sandwich.

ANGELA: Wow. I was starving.

Lester puts a jar of mayonnaise back in the refrigerator.

LESTER: Do you want me to make you another one?

ANGELA: No, no, no. I'm fine.

He turns to her and cocks an eyebrow.

LESTER: (concerned) You sure?

ANGELA: I mean, I'm still a little weirded out, but ... (sincerely) ... I feel better. Thanks.

A long beat, as Lester studies her. Then:

LESTER: How's Jane?

ANGELA: What do you mean?

LESTER: I mean, how's her life? Is she happy? Is she miserable? I'd really like to know, and she'd die before she'd ever tell me about it.

Angela shifts uncomfortably.

ANGELA: She's ... she's really happy. She thinks she's in love.

Angela rolls her eyes at how silly this notion is.

LESTER: (quietly) Good for her.

An awkward beat.

ANGELA: How are you?

LESTER: (smiles, taken aback) God, it's been a long time since anybody asked me that. (thinks about it) I'm great.

They just sit there, smiling at each other, then:

ANGELA: (suddenly) I've gotta go to the bathroom.

She crosses off. Lester watches her go, then stands there wondering why he should suddenly feel so content.

LESTER: (laughs) I'm great.

Something at the edge of the counter catches his eye, and he reaches for ...

CLOSE on a framed PHOTOGRAPH as he picks it up: It's the photo we saw earlier of him, Carolyn and Jane, taken several years ago at an amusement park. It's startling how happy they look.

Lester crosses to the kitchen table, where he sits and studies the photo. He suddenly seems older, more mature ... and then he smiles: the deep satisfied smile of a man who just now understands the punch line of a joke he heard long ago ...

LESTER: Man oh man ... (softly) Man oh man oh man ...

-- Alan Ball

Friday, November 19

Picasso's Colors

Then the man in the blue suit reaches into his pocket and takes out a large sheet of paper, which he carefully unfolds and hands to me. It is covered with Picasso's handwriting — less spasmodic, more studied than usual. At first sight, it resembles a poem. Twenty or so verses are assembled in a column, surrounded by broad white margins. Each verse is prolonged with a dash, occasionally a very long one. But it is not a poem; it is Picasso’s most recent order for colors …

For once, all the anonymous heroes of Picasso’s palette trooped forth from the shadows, with Permanent White at their head. Each had distinguished himself in some great battle — the blue period, the rose period, cubism, “Guernica” … Each could say: “I too, I was there …” And Picasso, reviewing his old comrades-in-arms, gives to each of them a sweep of his pen, a long dash that seems a fraternal salute: Welcome Persian red! Welcome emerald green! Cerulean blue, ivory black, cobalt violet, clear and deep, welcome! Welcome!

-- Brassaï Conversations avec Picasso

Thursday, November 18

The Abnormal is Not Courage

The Poles rode out from Warsaw against the German
Tanks on horses. Rode knowing, in sunlight, with sabers,
A magnitude of beauty that allows me no peace.
And yet this poem would lessen that day. Question
The bravery. Say it's not courage. Call it a passion.
Would say courage isn't that. Not at its best.
It was impossible, and with form. They rode in sunlight,
Were mangled. But I say courage is not the abnormal.
Not the marvelous act. Not Macbeth with fine speeches.
The worthless can manage in public, or for the moment.
It is too near the whore's heart: the bounty of impulse,
And the failure to sustain even small kindness.
Not the marvelous act, but the evident conclusion of being.
Not strangeness, but a leap forward of the same quality.
Accomplishment. The even loyalty. But fresh.
Not the Prodigal Son, nor Faustus. But Penelope.
The thing steady and clear. Then the crescendo.
The real form. The culmination. And the exceeding.
Not the surprise. The amazed understanding. The marriage,
Not the month's rapture. Not the exception. The beauty
That is of many days. Steady and clear.
It is the normal excellence, of long accomplishment.

-- Jack Gilbert

Wednesday, November 17

the essential nature

The actor takes the mask, studies it, and as he puts it on, his face slightly modifies itself until it goes towards the shape of the mask, and he puts it on his face and in a way he has dropped one of his own masks; so the intervening flesh masks disappear and the actor is in close contact, epidermal contact, with a face that is not his face, but the face of a very strong, essential type of man. And his actor's capacity to be a comedian (without which he couldn't be an actor) makes him realize his potentiality to be that person. So at that moment he is in that role. And that becomes his role; and the moment it is assumed, it comes to life, it is no longer hard and fast but something that adapts itself to any circumstance; so the actor, having put that mask on, is sufficiently in the character that if someone unexpectedly offers him a cup of tea, whatever response he makes is totally that of that type, not in the schematic sense but in the essential sense. For instance, if he's wearing a proud mask, in the schematic sense he would be forced to say proudly, "Take away your tea!" But in a living sense, the proudest of men can see a cup of tea and say, "Oh, thank you," and take it without betraying his essential nature.

-- Peter Brook

The Nearest Dream

The nearest Dream recedes -- unrealized --
The Heaven we chase,
Like the June Bee -- before the School Boy,
Invites the Race --
Stoops -- to an easy Clover --
Dips -- evades -- teases -- deploys --
Then -- to the Royal Clouds
Lifts his light Pinnace --
Heedless of the Boy --
Staring -- bewildered -- at the mocking sky --
Homesick for steadfast Honey --
Ah, the Bee flies not
That brews that rare variety!

-- Emily Dickinson

Tuesday, November 16

Pierre Louÿs' wedding march

The marriage will take place in six weeks, at the Saint-Philippe Church. Do you know the organist of that curious edifice? I intend to suggest to him a little Bachian program which would include as an introduction a celebrated unpublished Hochzeitmarsch by Debussy! Are you disposed to indite one for two manuals and a pedal in the customary march time in four beats, a piece of festive nature, lascivious and fervent as behooves a nuptial ceremony? It ought to be one of those little masterpieces that one writes at the table in a restaurant between a scotch and a chaser. You cannot refuse an old buddy.

-- Pierre Louÿs Letter to Claude Debussy 1899

We Have to Meet

We have to meet deliberately
knowing in full consciousness
that there is nothing other
than what we make.
We make our idea of love
Our definitions move the words we speak,
so when we will that definitions leave us --
we are there
in a presence that in that moment
is love.
Love is for the shapers of reality.

-- Miguel Algarin

Monday, November 15

John Cale's wedding

Before John and I got married, we lived together at the Chelsea Hotel, then on a loft on LaGuardia Place where Nico lived under our kitchen sink. When we decided to get married, all the Velvets were against it, probably because John was the first to have a girl come into the group. I think Lou saw it as a threat; John and Lou always had a star problem. I'm sure that Lou didn't personally dislike me, but he thought I could cut a good pair of pants. We were going to have this funky wedding at City Hall. Ladies Home Journal found out about it and were going to throw this big bash afterwards, so they could photograph the freaky rock'n'roll scene. About a week before the wedding, John went to the hospital for a blood test because he was turning bright yellow. Sure enough, John had hepatitis and stayed in the hospital for four months. Ladies Home Journal wanted me to go ahead with the wedding without John; they said they'd just take a picture of him and strip it in later.

-- Betsey Johnson

On Chaplin's Limelight


It remains to be said, nevertheless, that the famous scene near the end of the movie when Calvero performs on the stage as a comic violinist, with Buster Keaton as his accompanist, represents a kind of success far beyond the complex and unsteady ironies of the earlier parts. In this there is no longer any problem of interpretation and choice, no "victims" and no victories, no shifting of involvements back and forth between the performer and his role and his audience, no society, no egotism, no love or not-love, no ideas -- only a perfect unity of the absolutely ridiculous. Perhaps the Tramp's adventure with the automatic feeding machine in Modern Times is as funny, but there it is still possible to say that something is being satirized and something else, therefore, upheld. The difficulties that confront Calvero and Keaton in their gentle attempt to give a concert are beyond satire. The universe stands in their way, and not because the universe is imperfect, either, but just because it exists; God himself could not conceive a universe in which these two could accomplish the simplest thing without mishap. It is not enough that the music will not stay on its rack, that the violin cannot be tuned, that the piano develops a kind of malignant disease -- the violinist cannot even depend on a minimal consistency in the behavior of his own body. When, on top of all the other misfortunes that can possibly come upon a performer humbly anxious to make an impression, it can happen also that one or both of his legs may capriciously grow shorter while he is on the stage, then he is at the last extreme: nothing is left. Nothing except the deep, sweet patience with which the two unhappy musicians accept these difficulties, somehow confident -- out of God knows what reservoir of awful experience -- that the moment will come at last when they will be able to play their piece. When that moment does come, it is as happy a moment as one can hope for in the theater. And it comes to us out of that profundity where art, having become perfect, seems no longer to have any implications. The scene is unendurably funny, but the analogies that occur to me are tragic: Lear's "Never, never, never, never, never!" or Kafka's "It is enough that the arrows fit exactly in the wounds they have made."

-- Robert Warshow The Immediate Experience

Sunday, November 14


The task of the lighting technicians is an extremely creative one. A really good lighting man has his own plan, though he of course still needs to discuss it with the cameraman and the director. But if he does not put forth his own concept, his job becomes nothing more than lighting up the whole frame. I think, for example, that the current method of lighting for color film is wrong. In order to bring out the colors, the entire frame is flooded with light. I always say the lighting should be treated as it is for black-and-white film, whether the colors are strong or not, so that the shadows come out right.

-- Akira Kurosawa Notes on Filmmaking
Translated by Audie Bock

Saturday, November 13


Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect, and touch, and greet each other.

-- Rainer Maria Rilke

Cézanne's Cloth

The Black Clock by Paul Cezanne

The Black Clock by Paul Cézanne
Private Collection (Stavros Niarchos)

His still lifes are so wonderfully occupied with themselves. The frequently used white cloth, for one, which has a peculiar way of soaking up the predominant local color, and the things placed upon it now adding their statements and comments, each with its whole heart. The use of white as a color was natural to him from the start: together with black, it defined the two limits of his wide-open palette, and in the very beautiful ensemble of a black stone mantelpiece with a pendulum clock, black and white (the latter in a cloth that covers part of the mantel and hangs over its edge) behave perfectly colorlike next to the other colors, their equal in every way, as if long acclimatized ... Brightly confronting each other on the white cloth are a coffee cup with a heavy dark-blue stripe on the edge, a fresh, ripe lemon, a cut crystal chalice with a sharply scalloped edge, and, way over on the left, a large, baroque triton shell -- eccentric and singular in appearance, with its smooth, red orifice facing the front. Its inward carmine bulging out into brightness provokes the wall behind it to a kind of thunderstorm blue, which is then repeated, more deeply and spaciously, by the adjoining gold-framed mantelpiece mirror; here, in the mirror image, it again meets with a contradiction: the milky rose of a glass vase which, standing on the black pendulum clock, asserts its contrast twice (first in reality, then, a little more yieldingly, in reflection). Space and mirror-space are definitively indicated and distinguished -- musically, as it were -- by this double stroke; the picture contains them the way a basket contains fruit and leaves: as if all this were just as easy to grasp and to give. But there's still some other object on the bare mantelpiece, pushed up against the white cloth: I'd like to go back to the picture to see what it was.

-- Rainer Maria Rilke Letter to Clara Rilke 14 October 1907
Translated by Joel Agee

Friday, November 12


A skillful literary artist has constructed a tale. If wise, he has not fashioned his thoughts to accommodate his incidents; but having conceived, with deliberate care, a certain unique or single effect to be wrought out, he then invents such incidents — he then combines such events as may best aid him in establishing this preconceived effect. If his very initial sentences tend not to the outbringing of this effect, then he has failed in his first step. In the whole composition there should be no word written, of which the tendency, direct or indirect, is not to the one pre-established design. And by such means, with such care and skill, a picture is at length painted which leaves in the mind of him who contemplates it with a kindred art, a sense of the fullest satisfaction. The idea of the tale has been presented unblemished, because undisturbed; and this is an end unattainable by the novel. Undue brevity is just as exceptionable here as in the poem; but undue length is yet more to be avoided.

-- Edgar Allan Poe Graham's Magazine

Thursday, November 11


I made a poem going
to sleep last night, woke
in sunlight, it was clean forgotten.

If it was any good, gods
of the great darkness
where sleep goes and farther
death goes, you not named,
then as true offering
accept it.

-- Ursula K. Le Guin

Wednesday, November 10


For the phenomenon of music is nothing other than a phenomenon of speculation. There is nothing in this expression that should frighten you. It simply presupposes that the basis of musical creation is a preliminary feeling out, a will moving first in an abstract realm with the object of giving shape to something concrete. The elements at which this speculation necessarily aims are those of sound and time. Music is inconceivable apart from those two elements.

-- Igor Stravinsky Poetics of Music
Translated by Arthur Knodel and Ingolf Dahl

Tuesday, November 9


Looking through a book of drawings by Holbein I realize several moments of truth. A nose (a line) so nose-like. So line-like. And then I think to myself "so what?" It's not going to solve any of my problems. And then I realize that at the very moment of appreciation I had no problems. Then I decide that this is a pretty profound thought. And that I ought to write it down. This is what I have just done. But it doesn't sound so profound any more. That's art for you.

Joe Brainard

Monday, November 8


Much is said of what is spiritual, and of spirituality, in this, that, or the other -- in objects, expressions. -- For me, I see no object, no expression, no animal, no tree, no art, no book, but I see, from morning to night, and from night to morning, the spiritual. -- Bodies are all spiritual. -- All words are spiritual -- nothing is more spiritual than words. -- Whence are they? along how many thousands and tens of thousands of years have they come? those eluding, fluid, beautiful, fleshless, realities, Mother, Father, Water, Earth, Me, This, Soul, Tongue, House, Fire.

What beauty there is in words! What a lurking curious charm in the sound of some words! Then voices! Five or six times in a lifetime, (perhaps not so often), you have heard from men and women such voices, as they spoke the most common word! -- What can it be that from those few men and women made so much out of the most common word!

Walt Whitman An American Primer


For the cherub with his flaming sword is hereby commanded to leave his guard at the tree of life, and when he does, the whole creation will be consumed and appear infinite and holy whereas it now appears finite & corrupt.

This will come to pass by an improvement of sensual enjoyment.

But first the notion that man has a body distinct from his soul is to be expunged; this I shall do, by printing in the infernal method, by corrosives, which in Hell are salutary and medicinal, melting apparent surfaces away, and displaying the infinite which was hid.

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.

For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern.

-- William Blake The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

Sunday, November 7


What interests me about making a film is the impact the original idea makes on me in the first place. That's what I hang on to. That's what I try to remember all through the shooting and cutting and editing. Because films are all in bits and pieces and you can easily lose track of the main objective and that's where you go wrong. I don't really explain to myself why it has such an impact. It's like a girl you're in love with. I try to remember the emotional impact it made on me initially. After that it's what the actors do to it.

-- Stanley Kubrick

Saturday, November 6


At evening the woods of autumn are full of the sound
Of the weapons of death, golden fields
And blue lakes, over which the darkening sun
Rolls down; night gathers in
Dying recruits, the animal cries
Of their burst mouths.
Yet a red cloud, in which a furious god,
The spilled blood itself, has its home, silently
Gathers, a moonlike coolness in the willow bottoms;
All the roads spread out into the black mold.
Under the gold branches of the night and stars
The sister’s shadow falters through the diminishing grove,
To greet the ghosts of the heroes, bleeding heads;
And from the reeds the sound of the dark flutes of autumn rises.
O prouder grief ! you bronze altars,
The hot flame of the spirit is fed today by a more monstrous pain,
The unborn grandchildren.

-- Georg Trakl

thanks to mark at wood s lot


Have faith and pursue the unknown end. The trial, by all means, must be made unless one would bear a spirit altogether abject, for there is no comparison between that which we lose by not succeeding and by not trying.

-- Francis Bacon

Friday, November 5


Maybe we are creatures in search of exaltation. We don't have much of it. Our lives are not what we deserve; they are, let us agree, in many painful ways deficient. Song turns them into something else. Song shows us a world that is worthy of our yearning, it shows us ourselves as we might be, if we were really in the world.

-- Salman Rushdie

The Sleepers

No map traces the street
Where those two sleepers are.
We have lost track of it.
They lie as if under water
In a blue, unchanging light,
The French window ajar

Curtained with yellow lace.
Through the narrow crack
Odors of wet earth rise.
The snail leaves a silver track;
Dark thickets hedge the house.
We take a backward look.

Among petals pale as death
And leaves steadfast in shape
They sleep on, mouth to mouth.
A white mist is going up.
The small green nostrils breathe,
And they turn in their sleep.

Ousted from that warm bed
We are a dream they dream.
Their eyelids keep up the shade.
No harm can come to them.
We cast our skins and slide
Into another time.

-- Sylvia Plath

Thursday, November 4

my life as a dormouse

Alice did not quite know what to say to this: so she helped herself to some tea and bread-and-butter, and then turned to the Dormouse, and repeated her question. 'Why did they live at the bottom of a well?'

The Dormouse again took a minute or two to think about it, and then said, 'It was a treacle-well.'

'There's no such thing!' Alice was beginning very angrily, but the Hatter and the March Hare went 'Sh! sh!' and the Dormouse sulkily remarked, 'If you can't be civil, you'd better finish the story for yourself.'

'No, please go on!' Alice said very humbly; 'I won't interrupt again. I dare say there may be one.'

'One, indeed!' said the Dormouse indignantly. However, he consented to go on. 'And so these three little sisters—they were learning to draw, you know—'

'What did they draw?' said Alice, quite forgetting her promise.

'Treacle,' said the Dormouse, without considering at all this time.

'I want a clean cup,' interrupted the Hatter: 'let's all move one place on.'

He moved on as he spoke, and the Dormouse followed him: the March Hare moved into the Dormouse's place, and Alice rather unwillingly took the place of the March Hare. The Hatter was the only one who got any advantage from the change: and Alice was a good deal worse off than before, as the March Hare had just upset the milk-jug into his plate.

Alice did not wish to offend the Dormouse again, so she began very cautiously: 'But I don't understand. Where did they draw the treacle from?'

'You can draw water out of a water-well,' said the Hatter; 'so I should think you could draw treacle out of a treacle-well—eh, stupid?'

'But they were in the well,' Alice said to the Dormouse, not choosing to notice this last remark.

'Of course they were', said the Dormouse; '—well in.'

This answer so confused poor Alice, that she let the Dormouse go on for some time without interrupting it.

'They were learning to draw,' the Dormouse went on, yawning and rubbing its eyes, for it was getting very sleepy; 'and they drew all manner of things—everything that begins with an M—'

'Why with an M?' said Alice.

'Why not?' said the March Hare.

Alice was silent.

The Dormouse had closed its eyes by this time, and was going off into a doze; but, on being pinched by the Hatter, it woke up again with a little shriek, and went on: '—that begins with an M, such as mouse-traps, and the moon, and memory, and muchness— you know you say things are "much of a muchness"—did you ever see such a thing as a drawing of a muchness?'

'Really, now you ask me,' said Alice, very much confused, 'I don't think—'

'Then you shouldn't talk,' said the Hatter.

This piece of rudeness was more than Alice could bear: she got up in great disgust, and walked off; the Dormouse fell asleep instantly, and neither of the others took the least notice of her going, though she looked back once or twice, half hoping that they would call after her: the last time she saw them, they were trying to put the Dormouse into the teapot.

-- Lewis Carroll Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Wednesday, November 3


You and I have spoken all these words,
But for the way we have to go, words are no preparation.
There's no getting ready, other than grace.
My faults have stayed hidden:
One might call that a preparation!

I have one small drop of knowing in my soul
Let it dissolve in your ocean.

There are so many threats to it.
Inside of us, there's a continual autumn. Our leaves fall
and are blown out over the water.
A crow sits in the blackened limbs
and talks about what's gone.

Then your generosity
returns: Spring, moisture, intelligence,
The smell of hyacinth and cypress

-- Rumi
Translated by Coleman Barks

Wednesday, October 27


So the dead are among us again
even here where Halloween is not celebrated
and the moon flies through the skeletons of trees
and men in rowboats fish for souls on the river
There is a woman with spidery hair swinging a lantern
disappearing down the colonnade
a row of buildings tilted like gravestones
in which a single window is lit
a wall from whose depths shadows emerge
assuming the contours of bodies they will follow
all night and abandon at dawn:
a revelation to you
that each day we take on a new shadow

-- Nicholas Christopher 14 rue Serpentine: A Paris notebook

Faithfulness Verse

Create for yourself a new, indomitable perception of faithfulness. What is usually called faithfulness passes so quickly. Let this be your faithfulness:

You will experience moments—fleeting moments—with the other person.

The human being will appear to you then as if filled, irradiated, with the archetype of his Spirit.

And then there may be—indeed will be—other moments. Long periods of time, when human beings are darkened. But you will learn to say to yourself at such times: "The Spirit makes me strong. I remember the archetype. I saw it once. No illusion, no deception shall rob me of it."

Always struggle for the image that you saw. This struggle is faithfulness.

Striving thus for faithfulness, we shall be close to one another, as if endowed with the protective powers of angels.

-- Rudolf Steiner, quoted by Christopher Schaefer in his introduction (p. xvi) to Reverse Ritual by Rudolf Steiner and Friedrich Benesch

Tuesday, October 26

The Spring

He is thirsty, and is cut off from a spring by a mere clump of bushes. But he is divided against himself: one part overlooks the whole, sees that he is standing here and that the spring is just beside him; but another part notices nothing, has at most a divination that the first part sees all. But as he notices nothing he cannot drink.

-- Franz Kafka
Translated by Willa and Edwin Muir

Monday, October 25

The Voice

One feather is a bird,
I claim; one tree, a wood;
In her low voice I heard
More than a mortal should;
And so I stood apart,
Hidden in my own heart.

And yet I roamed out where
Those notes went, like the bird,
Whose thin song hung in air,
Diminished, yet still heard:
I lived with open sound,
Aloft, and on the ground.

That ghost was my own choice,
The shy cerulean bird;
It sang with her true voice.
And it was I who heard
A slight voice reply;
I heard; and only I.

Desire exults the ear:
Bird, girl, and ghostly tree,
The earth, the solid air --
Their slow song sang in me;
The long noon pulsed away,
Like any summer day.

-- Theodore Roethke


... things happen that destroy everything which forced the person to exist and the identity which was dependent upon the things that were done, does it still exist, yes or no.

Rather yes, a genius is a genius, even when he does not work.

So Picasso ceased to work.

It was very curious.

He commenced to write poems but this writing was never his writing. After all the egoism of a painter is not at all the egoism of a writer, there is nothing to say about it, it is not. No.

Two years of not working. In a way Picasso liked it, it was one responsibility the less, it is nice not having responsibilities, it is like the soldiers during a war, a war is terrible, they said, but during a war one has no responsibility, neither for death, nor for life. So these two years were like that for Picasso, he did not work, it was not for him to decide every moment what he saw, no, poetry for him was something to be made during rather bitter meditations, but agreeably enough, in a cafe.

This was his life for two years, of course he who could write, write so well with drawings and with colors, knew very well that to write with words was, for him, not to write at all. Of course he understood that but he did not wish to allow himself to be awakened, there are moments in life when one is neither dead nor alive, it was not an agreeable period for him, but a period of rest, he, who all his life needed to empty himself and to empty himself, during two years he did not empty himself, that is to say not actively, actually he really emptied himself completely, emptied himself of many things and above all of being subjugated by a vision which was not his own vision ...

The only way to purge himself of a vision which was not his was to cease to express it, so that as it was impossible for him to do nothing he made poetry but of course it was his way of falling asleep during the operation of detaching himself from the souls of things which were not his concern.

To see people as they have existed since they were created is not strange, it is direct, and Picasso's vision, his own vision, is a direct vision.

-- Gertrude Stein Picasso

Happy birthday to Pablo Picasso (b. 25 October 1881)

At 12 O'Clock

At 12 o'clock in the afternoon
in the middle of the street --

Summer had all but brought the fruit
to its perilous end:
& the summer sun & that boy's look

did their work on me.
Night hid the sun.
Your face consumes my dreams.

Others feel sleep as feathered rest;
mine but in flames refigures
your image lit in me.

-- Meleager
Translated by Peter Whigham

sick of goodby's

I was looking at Robert Frank’s photograph Sick of Goodby’s in his book The Lines of My Hand. Moments before I had been listening to a Johnny Cash song called I Wish I Was Crazy Again. Then I thought of the goodbyes in the book to old friends caught once and for all and never again to be seen in life, and I was struck by the intensity of the sadness of life and its redeeming qualities as reflected in these moving photos. With Johnny Cash as well, the desire to see it all again, to go out one more time into the wild flame only to be burned up forever and never be seen again except in these farewell photos, is moving beyond description. The photos speak of an acceptance of things as they are… the inevitable death of us all and the last photo – that last unposed shot to remind us of our friends, of our loss of the times we had in a past captured only on film in black and white Frank has been there, and seen that, and recorded it with such subtlety that we only look in awe, our own hearts beating with the memories of lost partners and songs.

To wish for the crazy times one last time and freeze it in the memory of a camera is the least a great artist can do. Robert Frank is a great democrat. We’re all in these photos. Paint dripping from a mirror like blood. I’m sick of goodbyes. And aren’t we all, but it’s nice to see it said.

-- Lou Reed TATE ETC.

You can see the photograph on TATE ETC.