Monday, January 31


We wake and find ourselves on a stair; there are stairs below us, which we seem to have ascended; there are stairs above us, many a one, which go upward and out of sight. But the Genius which, according to the old belief, stands at the door by which we enter, and gives us the lethe to drink, that we may tell no tales, mixed the cup too strongly, and we cannot shake off the lethargy now at noonday. Sleep lingers all our lifetime about our eyes, as night hovers all day in the boughs of the fir-tree. All things swim and glitter. Our life is not so much threatened as our perception. Ghostlike we glide through nature, and should not know our place again.

-- Ralph Waldo Emerson Experience


My cynicism had peaked, but later that summer something happened that changed me -- not instantly but decisively. A month before I was scheduled to fly to England and resume my career as a facile ignoramus, I came down with a mild summer cold that lingered, festered, and turned into pneumonia, forcing me to spend two weeks in bed. One feverish night I found myself standing in front of a bookcase ...

And so, belatedly, haltingly, and almost accidentally, it began: the education I'd put off while learning to pass as someone in the know. I wasn't sure what it would get me, whose approval it might win, or how long it might take to complete, but for once those weren't my first concerns. Alone in my room, exhausted and apprehensive, I no longer cared about self-advancement. I wanted to lose myself. I wanted to read. I wanted to find out what others thought.

-- Walter Kirn "Lost in the Meritocracy" The Atlantic 295:1

Sunday, January 30


I remember as one moment of joy the arrival of the 100,000th displaced person in New York. He struck me as a kind of Everyman, a Pole with maybe a seventh-grade education. In 1939 he'd been called out for what he thought would just be military maneuvers, and he found himself in an actual shooting war. He was captured and made a slave laborer in Germany. After the war he was in a displaced persons camp and applied for an American visa. But he kept being turned down, seven or eight times, because the X-rays showed a shadow on his lungs, a sign of TB. Finally the shadows disappeared, and they gave him a visa. In New York, they'd arranged a big reception ... He was holding onto his last X-ray sheets and as he was getting ready to come through, before the band began to play, he wanted to hand the X-ray sheets to the officials as proof that the shadows were gone. But they wouldn't take them. Instead, the officials confiscated the half-dozen oranges someone had given him as a present ... he smiled and walked on through and the band struck up with the music.

-- Eileen Egan For Whom There Is No Room: Scenes from the Refugee World

Friday, January 28


Now he glimpsed the flash of the pool through the aperture of a natural vault, a masterpiece of erosion. The vault was low and he bent his head to step down toward the water. In its limpid tintarron he saw his scarlet reflection but, oddly enough, owing to what seemed to be at first blush an optical illusion, this reflection was not at his feet but much further; moreover, it was accompanied by the ripple-warped reflection of a ledge that jutted high above his present position. And finally, the strain on the magic of the image caused it to snap as his red-sweatered, red-capped doubleganger turned and vanished, whereas he, the observer, remained immobile. He now advanced to the very lip of the water and was met there by a genuine reflection, much larger and clearer than the one that had deceived him. He skirted the pool. High up in the deep-blue sky jutted the empty ledge whereon a counterfeit king had just stood. A shiver of alfear (uncontrollable fear caused by elves) ran between his shoulder-blades. He murmured a familiar prayer, crossed himself, and resolutely proceeded toward the pass. At a high point upon an adjacent ridge a steinmann (a heap of stones erected as a memento of an ascent) had donned a cap of red wool in his honor. He trudged on.

-- Vladimir Nabokov Pale Fire

Thursday, January 27

the negative epiphany

One's first encounter with the photographic inventory of ultimate horror is a kind of revelation, the prototypically modern revelation: a negative epiphany. For me, it was photographs of Bergen-Belsen and Dachau which I came across by chance in a bookstore in Santa Monica in July 1945. Nothing I have seen — in photographs or in real life — ever cut me as sharply, deeply, instantaneously. Indeed, it seems plausible to me to divide my life into two parts, before I saw those photographs (I was twelve) and after, though it was several years before I understood fully what they were about.

-- Susan Sontag On Photography

My childhood was partially spent in Germany, where my father was stationed in the U.S. Army base at Pirmasens. For several reasons I spent a lot of time alone in the library there. My parents were in the habit of dropping me off whenever they needed a babysitter and, being a precocious and voracious reader, I finished off the contents of the children's room and started hanging out in the periodicals, where I quickly discovered The New Yorker and its anthologized cartoons. This was my favorite place to be, dooming me to a lifetime of nerdy pursuits. I can honestly say that I have been a faithful reader of The New Yorker since I was six years old, although at first it was just for the pictures (there were no photographs at all in those days, just illustrations and cartoons and small ads).

Curiously, there was never any mention of the holocaust, either at school or at home, or in society at large, as far as was directed to me. I knew nothing about it. One day I was in the empty base library and I saw there was a commemorative photographic exhibit, all done up in basic drab, quite perfunctory in appearance, in a small room with a glass door that led off from the main room where I sat with what I had come to think of as "my" magazines (they were never touched by anyone else). I could see through the glass but the door was locked, and I kept returning to see if the room was open yet as my curiosity grew. I had never seen photographs before displayed in this way and what I could glimpse intrigued me in a way I could not define.

Finally one day I tried the doorknob and it turned. I went in and quickly walked the room, as if I had to hurry for fear I would be mysteriously locked in with the somber pictures I did not understand. My heart pounding, I left the room as quickly and as quietly as I could, hoping that no one had seen me. There was a forbidding aura around the whole thing, and the eyes of the people in the images followed me as I turned to make sure the door was latched. That night I thought of the photos and what they could mean.

The next day I was back, and went to the little glass door immediately. It was open and I stepped inside. A soldier greeted me, he was in the process of sorting and affixing labels to the walls. I had seen him before and I knew he was nice. He asked me if I wanted to help him and I said yes, without hesitating.

For the next week I went to the library every day and affixed labels to the walls and display tables, labels that the soldier or someone had hand typed, labels with corrections and some with punctuation added in blue ink. The pictures had an alphabet-number code and I matched the codes with the labels. As I tacked up or glued down each one, I read it, sometimes aloud (the little room was closed off from the library and I felt free to speak in a normal voice although probably it carried). The captions were chilling, matter of fact, and poetic. Some of them were just dates and locations, some of them had a whole story with a beginning, middle and end. A couple had emotional overtones, such as the one that explained the picture was half blurry because the subject collapsed just as it was being taken and there was not a possibility of reshooting it.

These were uncensored pictures of the liberation of death camps: snapshots taken by U.S. soldiers with personal recollections of those days. The images burned into my nascent awareness and provided an early lesson in the truth that not all eloquence comes packaged in sanitized forms of prettiness or wit or safety. The power of this exhibit came from revelations of ugliness, from candid understatement, from inklings of raw brutality. But most of all, to a little girl's mind, the power came from the unblinking human eyes that looked out from within each photograph.

RB 27 January 2005


George Gershwin and his brother Ira are a harmonious team. They play a happy duet in composition, although George plays his part on the piano and Ira performs his on the typewriter. Between shows the two write but little. Once they receive the outline of a plot, they really get down to work. They go over this carefully and decide which situations are best suited for tunes, and what type of tune. George Gershwin has no regular routine. Sometimes he is at the piano early in the afternoon, sometimes at three o'clock in the morning. When he gets eight bars that he likes, he can finish a chorus in a few minutes. He has been known to write four songs in a single afternoon. He composes very fluently. Once when returning from the tryout tour of Funny Face, he discovered that he had left two notebooks containing at least forty tunes at Wilmington, Delaware. When the hotel there informed him that the books could not be located, he neither raved nor stormed. He simply sat down and wrote forty more.

-- New York Times 27 December 1931

Wednesday, January 26

push ahead

The boundaries of our world shift under our feet and we tremble while waiting to see whether any new form will take the place of the lost boundary or whether we can create out of this chaos some new order.

-- Rollo May

like this

Go slowly, breathe and smile.

-- Thich Nhat Hanh

Tuesday, January 25


I don't want to persuade the reader that it's a real thing; I want to show it as it is. In a sense, I'm telling those readers that it's just a story; it's fake. But when you experience the fake as real, it can be real. It's not easy to explain ...

I'm not pretending it's the real thing. We are living in a fake world; we are watching fake evening news. We are fighting a fake war. Our government is fake. But we find reality in this fake world. So our stories are the same: We are walking through fake scenes, but ourselves, as we walk through these scenes, are real. The situation is real, in the sense that it's a commitment; it's a true relationship. That's what I want to write about.

-- Haruki Murakami, in Paris Review No. 170

either way

"We're not metaphors."

"I know," I say. "But metaphors help eliminate what separates you and me."

A faint smile comes to her as she looks up at me. "That's the oddest pickup line I've ever heard."

"There're a lot of odd things going on -- but I feel like I'm slowly getting closer to the truth."

"Actually getting closer to a metaphorical truth? Or metaphorically getting closer to an actual truth? Or maybe they supplement each other?"

"Either way, I don't think I can stand the sadness I feel right now," I tell her.

"I feel the same way."

-- Haruki Murakami Kafka on the Shore
Translated by Philip Gabriel

discovering the truth


The elevator doors are pried open. It's packed with sad people. Maxine and the sad people climb out. The last to emerge is Malkovich. He is astounded by the squat dimensions of the floor. He turns the corner and sees a long line of crouching depressed-looking people. Maxine goes into the office and closes the door. Malkovich sees 'J.M. Inc.' taped to the door. He turns to the first man in line.

Excuse me, what type of service does this company provide?

You get to be John Malkovich for fifteen minutes. Two hundred clams.

(quietly flipped)
I see.

No cutting, by the way.

Malkovich pounds on the door.

No cutting!

Several people jump on Malkovich, and start beating him. Craig steps out of the office.

Hey! Break it up! Break it up! Everybody gets a chance to be ...

The people climb off Malkovich. His glasses and cap have been knocked off and everyone recognizes him.

It's him! Oh, I'm so sorry, Mr. Malkovich! I hope we didn't hurt you too terribly. It's such a thrill to meet you.

(to Craig)

-- Charlie Kaufman Being John Malkovich

Sunday, January 23

it is at moments after i have dreamed

it is at moments after i have dreamed
of the rare entertainment of your eyes,
when(being fool to fancy)i have deemed

with your peculiar mouth my heart made wise;
at moments when the glassy darkness holds

the genuine apparition of your smile
(it was through tears always)and silence moulds
such strangeness as was mine a little while;

moments when my once more illustrious arms
are filled with fascination,when my breast
wears the intolerant brightness of your charms:

one pierced moment whiter than the rest

—turning from the tremendous lie of sleep
i watch the roses of the day grow deep.

-- e. e. cummings

Set to music by John Cage

it is at moments after i have dreamed


10th August: Philip got me talking about art today. I told him about how I fell in love with Gaugain's red only when I saw it in person, and how I could see that same red in Matisse, for instance, or how important it is to see Van Gogh's paintings in person, maybe more than all the rest, because you can put your nose against the canvas and see how his swirling intermixed oils create valleys and crevices of color that rise off the canvas into bright peaks and dark valleys, & how important Vermeer was for both of us, and Gregory [Corso] too, but neither of us could really articulate why.

-- Randy Roark A Month with Philip Whalen 10 August 1993

Saturday, January 22

letter from school

We all have our troubles (!), and very few of us want to increase them. Even that third-former, who is running along the corridor now, has probably an inherent cancer, or a mind full of lechery. The child grows from the cradle, soaked in a morbidity and restlessness he cannot understand, does a little painful loving, fails to make money, builds his life on sand, and is struck down before he can accomplish anything. Is it worth me lifting up my pen to write? Is anything worth anything? It is in moments like this that I emphatically reply "no." Very striking and all that. I can hear you in your suburban lodgings laughing at my theatrical gestures ...

-- Dylan Thomas (age 16) Letter to Percy Smart December 1930


The most important tool the artist fashions through constant practice is faith in his ability to produce miracles when they are needed. Pictures must be miraculous: the instant one is completed, the intimacy between the creation and the creator is ended. He is an outsider. The picture must be for him, as for anyone experiencing it later, a revelation, an unexpected and unprecedented resolution of an eternally familiar need.

-- Mark Rothko, in Painters on Painting by Eric Protter

Friday, January 21


Civilization, comprising all the achievements of art and science, technology and industry, is the result of man's invention and manipulation of symbols -- of words, letters, numbers, formulas and concepts, and of such social institutions as universally accepted clocks and rulers, scales and timetables, schedules and laws. By these means, we measure, predict, and control the behavior of the human and natural worlds -- and with such startling apparent success that the trick goes to our heads. All too easily, we confuse the world as we symbolize it with the world as it is.

-- Alan Watts Does It Matter?

Thursday, January 20


No one must see the ghost
Of me that wanders
Over the field and wood
Above this thin rain,
Filled with an ache
And a crazy refrain.

Margaret Newlin "Rain"


The evening light. Purple coves and holes of shadow in the breasts of hills and the white gable of Newton's house smiling so peacefully amid the trees in the middle of the valley. This is the peace and luminosity William Blake loved. Today after dinner, a hawk, circling the novitiate and the church steeple, designed a free flight unutterably more pure than skating or music. How he flung himself down from on high and swooped up to touch lightly on the pinnacle of the steeple and sit there, then fell off to cut lovely curves all around the cedars, then off like an arrow into the south.

-- Thomas Merton Journal 10 March 1963

Wednesday, January 19


"Do you understand," the [archery] Master asked me one day after a particularly good shot, "what I mean by 'It shoots,' 'It hits'?"

"I'm afraid I don't understand anything more at all," I answered, "even the simplest things have got me in a muddle. Is it 'I' who draw the bow, or is it the bow that draws me into the state of highest tension? Do 'I' hit the goal, or does the goal hit me? Is 'It' spiritual when seen by the eyes of the body, and corporeal when seen by the eyes of the spirit -- or both or neither? Bow, arrow, goal and ego, all melt into one another, so that I can no longer separate them. And even the need to separate has gone. For as soon as I take the bow and shoot, everything becomes so clear and straightforward and so ridiculously simple ..."

"Now at last," the Master broke in, "the bowstring has cut right through you."

-- Eugen Herrigel Zen in the Art of Archery
Translated by R.F.C. Hull


The first track is the end of a string. At the far end, a being is moving; a mystery, dropping a hint about itself every so many feet, telling you more about itself until you can almost see it, even before you come to it. The mystery reveals itself slowly, track by track, giving its genealogy early to coax you in. Further on, it will tell you the intimate details of its life and work, until you know the maker of the track like a lifelong friend.

The mystery leaves itself like a trail of breadcumbs, and by the time your mind has eaten its way to the maker of the tracks, the mystery is inside you, part of you forever. The tracks of every mystery you have ever swallowed move inside your own tracks, shading them slightly or skewing them with nuances that show how much more you have become than what you were ...

Birds are always mysteries. They leave their track in the air most of the time ...

-- Tom Brown The Tracker

Monday, January 17

tír na sorcha

In the hollows of quiet places we may meet,
the quiet places where is neither moon nor sun,
but only the light as of amber and pale gold
that comes from the Hills of the Heart.
There, listen at times: there
you will call, and I hear: there
will I whisper, and that whisper will come to you
as dew is gathered into the grass, at the rising of the moon.

-- Fiona MacLeod The Silence of Amor

Sunday, January 16

La Courbe de Tes Yeux

The Curve of Your Eyes

La courbe de tes yeux fait le tour de mon coeur,
The curve of your eyes circles my heart,
Un rond de danse et de douceur,
A round of dance and gentleness,
Auréole du temps, berceau nocturne et sûr,
Time's aureole, safe nocturnal cradle,
Et si je ne sais plus tout ce que j'ai vécu
And if I don't remember all that I have lived
C'est que tes yeux ne m'ont pas toujours vu.
Blame your eyes that haven't always seen me.

Feuilles de jour et mousse de rosée,
Leaves of day and moss of dew,
Roseaux du vent, sourires parfumés,
Reeds of the wind, perfumed smiles,
Ailes couvrant le monde de lumière,
Wings spreading light over the world,
Bateaux chargés du ciel et de la mer,
Boats laden with the sky and the sea,
Chasseurs des bruits et sources des couleurs
Hunters of noises and springs of colors

Parfums éclos d'une couvée d'aurores
Perfumes bursting from a myriad dawns
Qui gît toujours sur la paille des astres,
Always lying on a pallet of stars,
Comme le jour dépend de l'innocence
As the day depends on innocence
Le monde entier dépend de tes yeux purs
The whole world depends upon your clear eyes
Et tout mon sang coule dans leurs regards.
And all my blood flows within their gaze.

-- Paul Eluard
Translated by Richard A. Branyon

light and space

To Vence -- small, on a sun-warmed hill, uncommercial, slow, peaceful. Walked to Matisse cathedral [sic] -- small, pure, clean-cut. White, with blue-tile roof sparkling in the sun. But shut! Only open to public two days a week. A kindly talkative peasant told me stories of how rich people came daily in large cars from Italy, Germany, Sweden, etc., and were not admitted, even for large sums of money. I was desolate and wandered to the back of the walled nunnery, where I could see a corner of the chapel and sketched it, feeling like Alice outside the garden, watching the white doves and orange trees. Then I went back to the front and stared with my face through the barred gate. I began to cry. I knew it was so lovely inside, pure white with the sun through blue, yellow and green stained windows.

Then I heard a voice. 'Ne pleurez plus, entrez,' and the Mother Superior let me in, after denying all the wealthy people in cars.

I just knelt in the heart of the sun and the colours of sky, sea and sun, in the pure white heart of the chapel. 'Vous êtes si gentille,' I stammered. The nun smiled. 'C'est la miséricorde de Dieu.' It was.

-- Sylvia Plath postcard to Aurelia Plath 7 January 1956

Friday, January 14

transcript: the aim of Oscar Wilde

Carson: You are of opinion, I believe, that there is no such thing as an immoral book?Trials of Oscar Wilde

Wilde: Yes.

Carson: Am I right in saying that you do not consider the effect in creating morality or immorality?

Wilde: Certainly I do not.

Carson: So far as your works are concerned, you pose as not being concerned about morality or immorality?

Wilde: I do not know whether you use the word 'pose' in any particular sense.

Carson: It is a favourite word of your own.

Wilde: Is it? I have no pose in this matter. In writing a play or book I am concerned entirely with literature; that is, with art. I aim not at doing good or evil, but in trying to make a thing that will have some quality or form of beauty or wit.

Carson: This is in your introduction to Dorian Gray: 'There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. That is all.' That expresses your view?

Wilde: My view on art, yes.

Carson: Then I take it that no matter how immoral a book may be, if it is well written it is, in your opinion, a good book?

Wilde: Yes: if it were well written so as to produce a sense of beauty, which is the highest sense of which a human being can be capable. If it were badly written it would produce a sense of disgust.

-- Regina v. Queensberry in Trials of Oscar Wilde by H. Montgomery Hyde

maze of mazes

Under the trees of England I meditated on this lost and perhaps mythical labyrinth. I imagined it untouched and perfect on the secret summit of some mountain; I imagined it drowned under rice paddies or beneath the sea; I imagined it infinite, made not only of eight-sided pavilions and of twisting paths but also of rivers, provinces and kingdoms. I thought of a maze of mazes, of a sinuous, ever growing maze which would take in both past and future and would somehow involve the stars.

-- Jorge Luis Borges The Garden of Forking Paths

Thursday, January 13


The atmosphere into which genius leads us, and indeed all art, is the atmosphere of the world of dreams.


Dreaming is thus one of our roads into the infinite ... It is only by emphasizing our finiteness that we ever become conscious of the infinite. The infinite can only be that which stretches far beyond the boundaries of our own personality. It is the charm of dreams that they introduce us into a new infinity. Time and space are annihilated, gravity is suspended, and we are joyfully borne up in the air, as it were in the arms of angels; we are brought into a deeper communion with Nature.

-- Havelock Ellis The World of Dreams

Wednesday, January 12


I want to be where
your bare foot walks,

because maybe before you step,
you'll look at the ground.
I want that blessing.

-- Rumi
Translated by Coleman Barks

other world

There's a William Carlos Williams poem in which a man stops his car, lets his children off at school, then drives to where the road ends and from there walks down to the edge of the river. Even in the city there still is some mud, and there still are some flowers growing in the mud, and some weeds are still down by the river. He knows the names of the flowers by heart, and for him to see those flowers growing in the mud takes him outside of what he normally calls himself. There are no windows down by the river, he doesn't look through any window, but there is a membrane there, stretched between his ordinary world which is known, and another world. When he crouches down and touches the white petal of a flower with his fingertip, he enters that other world.

Then, like a curtain pulled aside, a sound -- say a honking -- wakes him and he turns around, walks back to his car and drives away from the river. But not away from the other world. He thinks he's left the other world but the other world has come with him, and in fact if he would look in the passenger seat he would see it. But he's driving now.

-- John Haskell "Marguerite's Cat" in Ninth Letter 1:2

Tuesday, January 11


... a little bit of failure can be a good thing. In India, when they weave marriage blankets, they make them perfect until they get to the end, then they put in this little screwed-up thing. They say that little mistake is what lets you in. That's what the Holy Grail myth is about -- somebody with a wound or "mistake" in him. I think you just have to accept that wound because it might contain its own healing factor. Accepting that wound might be the first ingredient in some kind of recipe.

-- Tom Verlaine


Hilarity and sour scorn typify my reactions to
passions of the moment: I mean, seeing people

expend themselves into fugitive extremes, it
speaks poorly of the power of the mind to

govern any kind of distances: until you
consider that passions, except in intense

subduals too long range to bear, only come in
moments, so if you are to get any passion out

of life, you'll have to dig it out of narrow
spaces or squeeze all you have into slender,

if deep, circumstance: I myself have never
known what to do about anything: as I look

back, I see not even a clown but a clown's
clothes flapping on the clothesline of some

tizzy: is it really wise so to anticipate
and prepare for the storm, so to gauge it in

terms of other storms, that when the fierce
lightning breaks and high wind falls blunt

against you you just look away with a numb
nonchalance: what about the splintering free

of the green branches, the bubbly pelt and
spray of windy rain on sudden pools, what

about the vigorous runaway of rivulets finding
themselves: what, what, did not the vibrance

of the ground in that thud click your teeth:
think of the tranquility, all passion spent,

when the passion passes and you lie back in
a relief of sweet feeling; whereas, unspent,

you would just growl your way into the next
worry of the next storm: hark, the bells are

ringing, the announcements are in preparation,
it is time for singing. . . .

-- Archie Ammons

Monday, January 10

the ringing of bells

View of Delft by Johannes Vermeer

View of Delft by Johannes Vermeer


Water lilies on the water.
Boys lowering glass jars to catch minnows.
MARCEL (13) and family walking along the bank.

No, no, of course we can't get as far as the château. It's much too far.

MOTHER (to MARCEL, gently)
But you'll be able to see the Duchess on Sunday. She's coming to Combray for the wedding.

I think Marcel's fascinated by the name as much as anything else. Aren't you?

The name stands for something. They're one of the oldest and noblest families in France.

Yes, but I meant the actual sound. It's golden. Guermantes.


Marcel (8) alone with a magic lantern.
The image of Geneviève de Brabant (ancestress of the Guermantes family) floats over the walls and ceiling.

MARCEL (V.O., murmuring)


Chapel of Gilbert the Bad.
Camera pans down stained-glass window.
The wedding in progress. White hawthorn blossoms over the altar.


DUCHESSE DE GUERMANTES (35) seen from MARCEL's point of view.

56. C.U. MARCEL.

Looking at her.


She turns her head, a slight smile on her lips.


Long shot across the lake to the chateau.
In the far distance the figures of the
DUCHESSE and MARCEL, walking slowly by the lake. She is holding his hand.
A woman's voice (not the
DUCHESSE's) heard over:

You are a poet. I can tell. Tell me about your poems. Tell me about the poems you intend to write.


SWANN (45) and MARCEL (13) are sitting together in the garden. Their heads are close.
SWANN is riffling through the pages of a book.
Smiling, he reads a sentence or two to
MARCEL's reaction is animated. He takes the book from SWANN, and studies the page.
Chimes of the church bell.
Bird sounds.

-- Harold Pinter The Proust Screenplay
Based on A La Recherche du Temps Perdu by Marcel Proust

Sunday, January 9


Perception of the beautiful is accompanied by that curious feeling of intellectual fullness through which we seem to be swollen with a superior knowledge of the object contemplated, and which nevertheless leaves us powerless to express it and to possess it by our ideas and make it the object of scientific analysis .

-- Jacques Maritain Art and Scholasticism
Translated by J.W. Evans

O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell

O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell,
Let it not be among the jumbled heap
Of murky buildings; climb with me the steep,--
Nature's observatory -- whence the dell,
Its flowery slopes, it's river's crystal swell,
May seem a span; let me thy vigils keep
'Mongst boughs pavillion'd, where the deer's swift leap
Startles the wild bee from the fox-glove bell.
But though I'll gladly trace these scenes with thee,
Yet the sweet converse of an innocent mind,
Whose words are images of thoughts refin'd,
Is my soul's pleasure; and it sure must be
Almost the highest bliss of human-kind,
When to thy haunts two kindred spirits flee.

-- John Keats

Saturday, January 8


What in common language we call beauty, which is in harmony of lines, colors, sounds, or in grouping of words or thoughts, delights us only because we cannot help admitting a truth in it that is ultimate. "Love is enough," the poet has said; it carried its own explanation, the joy of which can only be expressed in a form of art which also has that finality. Love gives evidence to something which is outside us but which intensely exists and thus stimulates the sense of our own existence.

-- Rabindranath Tagore

Friday, January 7


The great painter Degas often repeated to me a very true and simple remark by Mallarmé. Degas occasionally wrote verses, and some of those he left were delightful. But he often found great difficulty in this work accessory to his painting ... One day he said to Mallarmé: "Yours is a hellish craft. I can't manage to say what I want, and yet I'm full of ideas ..." And Mallarmé answered: "My dear Degas, one does not make poetry with ideas, but with words."

-- Paul Valêry The Art of Poetry
Translated by Denise Folliot

Humming Home Your Shadow

When you get up in the morning, Hoopa Indian children are told, it is very important for you to wait until you get your shadow home. When you go to sleep at night, part of you -- your shadow -- takes off. The part that you've held down all day, the part that you wouldn't let live. When you go to bed, your shadow says, "Now is my chance. I will go out and explore the world that you won't let me touch all day." And off it goes. The shadow has the freedom to go as far away as it wants to, but it has one tie: You have a hum that only your shadow knows. And it can never disobey you. So when you get up in the morning, if you remember to hum, your shadow will come back home. Even though it doesn't want to. So when you get up, before you go out, give your own little hum, and your shadow will say, "Oh! I have to go home," and it will come home. And you are never ready for the day until you have taken time to sing the song of your own shadow. Some people say, "I must have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed -- I think I'll go back and start over." They've forgotten to hum! Or some people get up at seven, and at ten o'clock they're still saying, "Don't mind me, I'm not all here." They've forgotten to hum! So there is a land of wisdom in remembering to get yourself all here every day. This is taught to the Hoopa tribal children not by saying, "When you get up in the morning you must do this!" but by saying, "Hum your song, so your heart and your spirit come together."

-- Hoopa, retold by Sister Maria José Hobday

Thursday, January 6


(steps in. In his right hand he carries the sort of brief case preferred by gentlemen who travel in coffee and under his left arm he carries a small, very pink, and very cheap portable phonograph. TULIP doesn't hear him, goes back to the shelf again to get some napkins and some spoons which she polishes on the napkins and he, seizing the opportunity, opens the portable phonograph, starts the disc spinning and blatantly it begins to play the popular air of the moment, whatever that is by the time this play goes into rehearsal if it ever gets written, and if it's ever accepted for production, because God knows I'm through putting money in my own turkeys. So help me.

[no closing parenthesis]

-- Preston Sturges, main character's entrance description in Act I of A Cup of Coffee, the play on which the movie
Christmas in July was based

Wednesday, January 5

Archaic Torso of Apollo

We have no idea what his fantastic head
was like, where the eyeballs were slowly swelling. But
his body now is glowing like a lamp
whose inner eyes, only turned down a little,

hold their flame, shine. If there weren't light, the curve
of the breast wouldn't blind you, and in the swerve
of the thighs a smile wouldn't keep on going
toward the place where the seeds are.

If there weren't light, this stone would look cut off
where it drops so clearly from the shoulders,
its skin wouldn't gleam like the fur of a wild animal,

and the body wouldn't send out light from every edge
as a star does ... for there is no place at all
that isn't looking at you. You must change your life.

-- R.M. Rilke
Translated by Robert Bly

Artaud on Van Gogh

No one has ever written, painted, sculpted, built, or invented except literally to get out of hell. And I prefer, to get out of hell, the landscapes of this quiet convulsionary to the teeming compositions of Breughel the Elder or Hieronymus Bosch, who are, in comparison with him, only artists, whereas Van Gogh is only a poor dunce determined not to deceive himself.

-- Antonin Artaud Watchfriends and Rack Screams
Translated by Clayton Eshleman and Bernard Bador

Tuesday, January 4

Mendoza's Dream, or Don Juan in Hell

THE DEVIL. What is the use of knowing [yourself and your destination]?

DON JUAN. Why, to be able to choose the line of greatest advantage instead of yielding in the direction of least resistance. Does a ship sail to its destination no better than a log drifts nowhither? The philosopher is Nature's pilot. And there you have our difference: to be in hell is to drift: to be in heaven is to steer.

THE DEVIL. On the rocks, most likely.

DON JUAN. Pooh! which ship goes oftenest on the rocks or to the bottom-- the drifting ship or the ship with a pilot on board? ... at least I shall not be bored. The service of the Life Force has that advantage, at all events. So fare you well, Señor Satan.

THE DEVIL. Fare you well, Don Juan. I shall often think of our interesting chats about things in general. I wish you every happiness: Heaven, as I said before, suits some people. But if you should change your mind, do not forget that the gates are always open here to the repentant prodigal ...

DON JUAN. ... Señor Commander: you know the way to the frontier of hell and heaven. Be good enough to direct me.

THE STATUE. Oh, the frontier is only the difference between two ways of looking at things. Any road will take you across it if you really want to get there.

-- George Bernard Shaw Man and Superman