Thursday, June 30

A Plain Song for Comadre

Though the unseen may vanish, though insight fails
And doubter and downcast saint
Join in the same complaint,
What holy things were ever frightened off
By a fly's buzz, or itches, or a cough?
Harder than nails

They are, more warmly constant than the sun,
At whose continual sign
The dimly prompted vine
Upbraids itself to a green excellence.
What evening, when the slow and forced expense
Of sweat is done,

Does not the dark come flooding the straight furrow
Or filling the well-made bowl?
What night will not the whole
Sky with its clear studs and steady spheres
Turn on a sound chimney? It is seventeen years
Come tomorrow

That Bruna Sandoval has kept the church
Of San Ysidro, sweeping
And scrubbing the aisles, keeping
The candlesticks and the plaster faces bright,
And seen no visions but the thing done right
From the clay porch

To the white altar. For love and in all weathers
This is what she has done.
Sometimes the early sun
Shines as she flings the scrubwater out, with a crash
Of grimy rainbows, and the stained suds flash
Like angel-feathers.

-- Richard Wilbur

Wednesday, June 29


The unlike is joined together, and from differences results the most beautiful harmony...

-- Heraclitus
Translated by G.T.W. Patrick


I did not
have to ask my heart what it wanted,
because of all the desires I have ever known just one did I cling to
for it was the essence of
all desire:

to hold beauty in
my soul's

-- St. John of the Cross
Translated by Daniel Ladinsky

Tuesday, June 28


For a director, each work he completes is like a whole lifetime. I have lived many whole lifetimes with the films I have made, and I have experienced a different life-style with each one as well. Within each film I have become one with many different kinds of people, and I have lived their lives. For this reason, in order to prepare for the making of a new film, it requires a tremendous effort to forget the people in the film that went before.

-- Akira Kurosawa Something Like an Autobiography
Translated by Audie E. Bock

on reproduction

Since the ordinary photographic plate is sensitive to a larger range of shades than can be recorded in color, the best black-and-white reproduction of a Titian, Veronese or Renoir is comparable to a conscientious piano transcription of an orchestral score, whereas the color print, with some exceptions, is like a reduced orchestra with all the instruments out of tune.

-- Edgar Wind Art and Anarchy

Saturday, June 25

summer verse

The Blue Hour by Tom Myron

Friday, June 24


Knowing is not enough; we must act. Willing is not enough; we must do.

-- Goethe


You had this little river, Charity, that scalloped round your hem like a taffeta ruffle. It glided through your bottomlands... winking with minnows and riverflies and waterbugs. It was ornamented with big, drowsy snap-turtles sitting like figurines on rocks; had little jeweled perch in it and thick purple catfish shining in it and sliding cottonmouth watermoccasins. It crawled, croaking with bullfrogs and ticking and sucking and clucking and shining, round through meadows of bottomland palmettos..., between muscadine vines that plashed up like fretted fountains (and trailed and curled and twined over the ground and crept over old stony logs and ancient saffron-golden rotted wood festered with the decoration of pink and white and azure fungusflowers, and climbed up trees and coiled round their branches and then were flung down again in tassels and sprays and thick swags over the river), under purple hangings of moss and under bridges of many little towns until, somewhere far away from you, Charity, in a place you did not know but only imagined, it swam into a bay.

-- William Goyen The House of Breath

Thursday, June 23

the candles

Oh! thou clear spirit of clear fire, whom on these seas I as Persian once did worship, till in the sacramental act so burned by thee, that to this hour I bear the scar; I now know thee, thou clear spirit, and I now know that thy right worship is defiance. To neither love nor reverence wilt thou be kind; and e'en for hate thou canst but kill; and all are killed. No fearless fool now fronts thee. I own thy speechless, placeless power; but to the last gasp of my earthquake life will dispute its unconditional, unintegral mastery in me. In the midst of the personified impersonal, a personality stands here. Though but a point at best; whencesoe'er I came; wheresoe'er I go; yet while I earthly live, the queenly personality lives in me, and feels her royal rights. But war is pain, and hate is woe. Come in thy lowest form of love, and I will kneel and kiss thee; but at thy highest, come as mere supernal power; and though thou launchest navies of full-freighted worlds, there's that in here that still remains indifferent. Oh, thou clear spirit, of thy fire thou madest me, and like a true child of fire, I breathe it back to thee. [Sudden, repeated flashes of lightning, the nine flames leap length-wise thrice their previous height; Ahab, with the rest, closes his eyes, his right hand pressed hard upon them.]

-- Herman Melville Moby-Dick


There is another remark to be made about the conditions of this unconscious work: it is possible, and of a certainty it is only fruitful, if it is on the one hand preceded and on the other hand followed by a period of conscious work. These sudden inspirations... never happen except after some days of voluntary effort which has appeared absolutely fruitless and whence nothing good seems to have come, where the way taken seems totally astray. These efforts then have not been as sterile as one thinks; they have set agoing the unconscious machine and without them it would not have moved and would have produced nothing.

-- Henri Poincaré The Creative Process, ed. Brewster Ghiselin
Translated by George Bruce Halsted

Tuesday, June 21


Not symbols,
ecclesiastical decor,
but a clear pane of glass,
that was the reredos,
and there was the risk
of drawing the celebrating's focus
from the properties of the communion table,

because there,
in the transparence,
the greenery of earth was
flourishing in the sight of morning,
the river's spate blossoming,
the air a flight of joy,
and the sunshine setting
the clouds on fire,

and I observed
the eyes of the priest
as if unawares
placing his hand
upon these gifts
as though
were the bread and wine.

-- Euros Bowen
Translated by Joseph Clancy

Monday, June 20


Apples and Biscuits by Paul Cézanne
Apples and Biscuits by Paul Cézanne

Newton discovered his laws of gravity because of a falling apple; Cézanne in Apples and Biscuits introduced the possibility that Newton's conception was incomplete by painting apples that should fall but did not. More than any other artist, Cézanne exhaustively studied the essence of "apple." It has been said that he painted more apples than he could ever have consumed in a lifetime. Cézanne's representations of apples surreptitiously repealed Newton's laws of gravity. Many of his still lifes contain a table full of apples, the fruit precariously perched on a surface that is obviously tilted. Why don't the apples roll off? By insinuating into his canvases mountains that lose mass and apples that do not fall, Cézanne undermined the classical concepts of mass and space. And he did so a full generation before the scientific community discovered that the paradigm of mass, space, and gravity had to be revised.

Cézanne can be credited with changing the way the artist envisioned the relationship of space and mass. His accumulated insights departed radically from the precepts of the academic tradition. Space, no longer an empty stage upon which an artist merely presented objects, was now affected by the mass of those objects, which in turn were altered by the space in their vicinity. Many of Cézanne's works do not sharply delineate a boundary between space and mass because the boundary is an interactive tensile interface.

-- Leonard Shlain Art & Physics

the unattended

... But to apprehend
The point of intersection of the timeless
With time, is an occupation for the saint—
No occupation either, but something given
And taken, in a lifetime's death in love,
Ardour and selflessness and self-surrender.
For most of us, there is only the unattended
Moment, the moment in and out of time,
The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight,
The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning
Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply
That it is not heard at all, but you are the music
While the music lasts. These are only hints and guesses,
Hints followed by guesses; and the rest
Is prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action.
The hint half guessed, the gift half understood, is Incarnation.
Here the impossible union
Of spheres of existence is actual,
Here the past and future
Are conquered, and reconciled...

-- T.S. Eliot, from "The Dry Salvages" Four Quartets

Sunday, June 19

continuation of the lamentation

Are there no connoisseurs?

No lovers of love?

Is this the way the world is going to end, -- in indifference? Where are the serious, consequential, undeniable true fires? Where are the old prophets and scriveners of the Scriptures? Where is the Lamb? Where are the little ones? What has happened to parable? -- to the Word? -- even to mere tales and seriousness?

What's all this frivolous science?

Why do people wander around in unseriousness and forget even that?

Where is the serious child?

...This is why I can't fish deep now. O come to me, love, hurry up for Christ's sake -- the Muse is not enough, and there are no laurel wreaths.

I want a soul.
I want a soul.
I want a soul.
I want my little girl.

I insist that life is holy, and that we must be reverent of one another, always. This is the only truth: it has been said so, a thousand million times.

-- Jack Kerouac 1949 Journals 29 August

Saturday, June 18


We poets struggle with Non-being to force it to yield Being;
We knock upon silence for an answering music.
We enclose boundless space in a square foot of paper;
We pour out deluge from the inch space of the heart.

-- Lu Chi

Consider what this means. The 'Being' which the poem is to contain derives from 'Non-being,' not from the poet. And the 'music' which the poem is to own comes not from us who make the poem but from the silence; comes in answer to our knock. The verbs are eloquent: 'struggle,' 'force,' 'knock.' The poet's labor is to struggle with the meaningless and silence of the world until he can force it to mean; until he can make the silence answer and the Non-being be. It is a labor which undertakes to 'know' the world not by exegesis or demonstration or proofs but directly, as a man knows apple in the mouth.

-- Archibald MacLeish Poetry and Experience

Singing Image of Fire

A hand moves, and the fire's whirling takes different shapes:
All things change when we do.
The first word, "Ah," blossoms into all others.
Each of them is true.

-- Kukai
Translated by Jane Hirshfield

Friday, June 17

just in case

My dear Mr. Heifetz,

My wife and I were overwhelmed by your concert. If you continue to play with such beauty, you will certainly die young. No one can play with such perfection without provoking the jealousy of the gods. I earnestly implore you to play something badly every night before going to bed...

-- George Bernard Shaw Letter to Jascha Heifetz

marble dreams

To sense the meanings that marble gives to any sculpture, a viewer needs to know how the work of pushing, chipping, dusting, and gouging can occupy the mind. Marble is something that sculptors work on, but it is also something they think about. Marble has a specific kind of hardness. It is woody, meaning it can sometimes be pushed back or "peeled" in slivers. A chisel can dig down, curve, and come back out like a sharp knife in wood. But marble is also dry and friable, and it powders like chalk. Sculptors are constantly preoccupied with the feeling that marble is like wood, perhaps because it is seldom true: it is more like a dream, a kind of half-way version of the Pygmalion story where the artist dreams that the marble turns into wood instead of flesh. People also say that marble is like skin, but that is also a bit of a dream since marble outshines skin: it is glossier and smoother than any skin could be. It is notions like these, and not stories about technical excellence, that make marble an absorbing subject for a life's work. It is cold stone that dreams of being wood, and even skin. A sculpture might conjure thoughts of hard chiseling with a heavy mallet, or whittling, as if it were wood, or caressing, as if it were skin. Any viewer can appreciate the accomplishment of making stone into fingers and leaves, but in a more important, bodily way, marble is about the different motions and emotions that go with stone, wood, and skin.

-- James Elkins What Painting Is

Thursday, June 16

happy bloomsday

Beauty: it curves: curves are beauty.

-- James Joyce Ulysses

unsuspected deeps

Probably to most of us there have come exceptional, unworldly moments, like unsuspected deeps in a stream, when we fell through appearances -- fell through ourselves -- into an intuition of majesty and wonder. Perhaps we rounded a corner at sunset and saw the landscape charged with a rare light, or whirled away from company into a dark street where snow swooped down in a hush...

-- Bhikkhu Nyanasobhano Landscapes of Wonder

Wednesday, June 15

the dance

Labour is blossoming or dancing where
The body is not bruised to pleasure soul.
Nor beauty born out of its own despair,
Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil.
O chestnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?

-- William Butler Yeats, from "Among School Children"

Tuesday, June 14


For nothing contributes so much to tranquilize the mind as a steady purpose, -- a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye.

-- Mary Shelley Frankenstein

Love Poem

Yours is the face that the earth turns to me.
Continuous beyond its human features lie
The mountain forms that rest against the sky.
With your eyes, the reflecting rainbow, the sun's light
Sees me; forest and flowers, bird and beast
Know and hold me forever in the world's thought,
Creation's deep untroubled retrospect.

When your hand touches mine, it is the earth
That takes me -- the deep grass,
And rocks and rivers; the green graves,
And children still unborn, and ancestors,
In love passed down from hand to hand from God.
Your love comes from the creation of the world,
From those paternal fingers, streaming through the clouds
That break with light the surface of the sea.

Here, where I trace your body with my hand,
Love's presence has no end;
For these, your arms that hold me, are the world's.
In us, the continents, clouds and oceans meet
Our arbitrary selves, extensive with the night,
Lost, in the heart's worship, and the body's sleep.

-- Kathleen Raine

Monday, June 13


In truth we do not go to Faery, we become Faery, and in the beating of a pulse we may live for a year or a thousand years. But when we return the memory is quickly clouded, and we seem to have had a dream or even seen a vision, although we have verily been in Faery. It is wonderful, then, that Fionn should have remembered all that happened to him in that wide-spun moment…

-- James Stephens, on Fionn McCumhaill (or Finn McCool), as quoted by Mara Freeman here

part of it

I remember I was struck by the harmony of color in the forest, shades of yellow and green deepening to the browns and purples. And the way the vines curled up through the trees, clinging to twigs and branches, twined around each other. I noticed where they embraced an old dead limb and dressed it again with life and color. The midday chorus of the cicadas was loud and strident, breaking out into the forest air in waves as different groups of the insects started up, then dropped out, like shrill choristers singing endless round songs without words.

One of the tasks that I had found most difficult... was the suppression of circling thought, the first step on the road to experiencing true awareness. There was a time when I had practiced often; then, in the press of life, I had lost the art. But on this day I felt the old mystery steal over me -- the cessation of noise from within. It was like getting back into a beautiful dream.

I lay there, part of the forest, and experienced again that magical enhancement of sound, that added richness of perception. I was keenly aware of secret movements in the trees. A small striped squirrel climbed, spiral fashion in the way of squirrels, poking into crevices in the bark, bright eyes and rounded ears alert. A great velvet black bumblebee visited tiny purple flowers, the end section of his abdomen glowing rich orange red each time he flew through one of the patches of sunlight that dappled the forest. It is all but impossible to describe the new awareness that comes when words are abandoned. One is transported back, perhaps, to the world of early childhood when everything is fresh and so much of it is wonderful...

Together the chimpanzees and the baboons and monkeys, the birds and insects, the teeming life of the vibrant forest, the stirrings of the never still waters of the great lake, and the uncountable stars and planets of the solar system formed one whole. All one, all part of the great mystery. And I was part of it too.

-- Jane Goodall Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey

Sunday, June 12

only so much as is demanded

The co-operation of the beholder, demanded for the enjoyment of a work of art, depends partly upon the fact that every work of art can only produce its effect through the medium of the fancy; therefore it must excite this, and can never allow it to be left out of the play and remain inactive. This is a condition of the aesthetic effect, and therefore a fundamental law of all fine arts. But it follows from this that, through the work of art, everything must not be directly given to the senses, but rather only so much as is demanded to lead the fancy on to the right path; something, and indeed the ultimate thing, must always be left over for the fancy to do. Even the author must always leave something over for the reader to think; for Voltaire has very rightly said, "Le secret d'être ennuyeux, c'est de tout dire."

-- Arthur Schopenhauer The World as Will and Idea
Translated by R.B. Haldane and J. Kemp

Saturday, June 11

The Buds Now Stretch

The buds now stretch into the light,
The warm air stirs the fertile bough,
The sap runs free, and in the night
The young emergent leaf is cast;
The leaf is cast, and garish now,
And drunk with mellow gold, the green
Shapes to the accurate wind, though fast
Upon the branch are laggard leaves,
Their shade not finger-dies, but soon
Their patterns swing into the light
And broaden in the blaze of noon.
The substance of the tree is hung,
And all its loveliness unbound,
Its emerald leaves to sky are flung;
But that sweet vertical, the sun,
Repeats those leaves upon the ground
To deepen half a summer field.
And still as dreams that lovely yield
Of shadows bound like garnered sheaves,
A harvest of immobile shade:
But when those shadows move, a sound,
The full and level noise of leaves.

-- Theodore Roethke


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.

-- Erich Neumann Art and the Creative Unconsciousness

Friday, June 10

When, With You Asleep

When, with you asleep, I plunge into your soul,
and I listen, with my ear
on your naked breast,
to your tranquil heart, it seems to me
that, in its deep throbbing, I surprise
the secret of the center
of the world.

It seems to me
that legions of angels
on celestial steeds
— as when, in the height
of the night we listen, without a breath
and our ears to the earth,
to distant hoofbeats that never arrive —,
that legions of angels
are coming through you, from afar
— like the Three Kings
to the eternal birth
of our love —,
they are coming through you, from afar,
to bring me, in your dreams,
the secret of the center
of the heavens.

-- Juan Ramón Jiménez
Translated by Perry Higman

Thursday, June 9

the heart

Art does not come from ideas. Art does not come from the mind. Art comes from the place where you dream. Art comes from your unconscious; it comes from the white hot center of you...

We look at the landscape and what we see out there is our deepest emotional inner selves. This is at the heart of a work of art.

-- Robert Olen Butler, from "Boot Camp" Five Points 9:1

Wednesday, June 8


There is, all around us,
this country
of original fire.

You know what I mean.

The sky, after all, stops at nothing, so something
has to be holding
our bodies
in its rich and timeless stables or else
we would fly away...

Listen, whatever it is you try
to do with your life, nothing will ever dazzle you
like the dreams of your body,

its spirit
longing to fly while the dead-weight bones

toss their dark mane and hurry
back into the fields of glittering fire

where everything,
even the great whale,
throbs with song.

-- Mary Oliver, from "Humpbacks"

Tuesday, June 7

an appeal

Having this occasion of troubling you with a letter, I cannot forbear to tell you the earnestness of my wishes, that, as you have made such steps towards it, already, you would let us owe to your inimitable genius, the establishment of musick, upon a foundation of good poetry; where the excellence of the sound should be no longer dishonour'd, by the poorness of the sense it is chain'd to.

My meaning is, that you would be resolute enough, to deliver us from our Italian bondage; and demonstrate, that English is soft enough for Opera, when compos'd by poets, who know how to distinguish the sweetness of our tongue, from the strength of it, where the last is necessary.

I am of the opinion, that male and female voices may be found in this kingdom, capable of every thing, that is requisite; and, I am sure, a species of dramatic Opera might be invented, that, by reconciling reason and dignity, with musick and fine machinery, would charm the ear, and hold fast the heart, together.

Such an improvement must, at once, be lasting, and profitable, to a very great degree; and would, infallibly, attract an universal regard, and encouragement.

-- Aaron Hill Letter to George Frideric Handel 5 December 1732

this afternoon

It is a bright afternoon: what am I going to do? I am going to work with my mind and with my pen, while the sky is clear and while the soft white clouds are small and sharply defined in it. I am not going to bury myself in books and note taking. I am not going to lose myself in this jungle and come out drunk and bewildered, feeling that bewilderment is a sign that I have done something. I am not going to write as one driven by compulsions but freely, because I am a writer, because for me to write is to think and to live and also in some degree even to pray.

-- Thomas Merton The Search For Solitude

Monday, June 6

Before the Sun Goes Down

I'll lay my wildflower hand
in your hand's white wicker basket

and bold-tender-shy I'll encircle you
as day and night would encircle
the trees of day and night

and my kisses will live like birds on your shoulder.

-- Astrid Hjertenæs Andersen
Translated by Nadia Christensen

Friday, June 3


This is the essential point: the world speaks to us; it comes and lets itself be caught in the snare of words; the words that these grand images wrench from us are full of its presence. And here perhaps we are at the very source that we sought to regain, at that point where the world reveals itself to us, where what is spoken is itself speaking.

-- Mikel Dufrenne Language and Philosophy


Love is not a mere impulse, it must contain truth, which is law. It accepts limitations from truth because of its own inner wealth. The child willingly exercises restraint to correct its bodily balance, because it has true pleasure in the freedom of its movements; and love also counts no cost as too great to realize its truth.

-- Rabindranath Tagore A Tagore Reader

Thursday, June 2


For a long time, I remained motionless, letting myself be penetrated gently by this unspeakable ensemble, by the serenity of the sky and the melancholy of the moment. I do not know what was going on in my mind, and I could not express it; it was one of those ineffable moments when one feels something in himself which is going to sleep and something which is awakening.

-- Victor Hugo En Voyage. France et Belgique
Translated by Daniel Russell

Wednesday, June 1

the dance

Time and Space are Real Beings, a Male & a Female. Time is a Man, Space is a Woman.

-- William Blake