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Month: May 2008

Edmond Jabes

Edmond Jabes

Edmond Jabes. Photo by Bracha L. Ettinger.
Edmond Jabes. Photo by Bracha L. Ettinger.

I discovered the amazing poetry of Edmond Jabes back in the 80s, thanks to the foundational Random House Anthology of 20th Century French Poetry. Foundational for me, at least. His poetry stunned me with its wisdom, silence, profound silences, and made me think of other poets of the unsaid like Beckett, Camus, Hemingway, Celan and Blanchot. The power of the sun and the desert to create moments beyond language was his unique gift. His attempt to express those moments. The impossibility of using words to emote silence. The impossibility of remembering or forgetting the terrible, the extremes of grief beyond endurance. The impossibility of knowing or forgetting or naming his god. . . . Read more. “Edmond Jabes”

The Idea of Order is Key

The Idea of Order is Key

Wallace Stevens
Wallace Stevens

Wallace Stevens is probably my favorite English language poet. His elegance, eloquence, and wordsmithiness shine above all others for me. He had wit and whimsy, along with a deep sadness and melancholy coursing through his poetry. A sometimes strange combination that worked, that merged sound and sense better than any other poet in English — to my mind.

The Magritte of poets, Stevens worked for an insurance company, the Hartford, rising eventually to VP. Most, if not all of his coworkers knew nothing of his genius for poetry until after his death.

More on the 92Y series, here, with a response by Helen Vendler. An earlier recording is presented below. . . . Read more. “The Idea of Order is Key”

Akhmatova

Akhmatova

Anna Akhmatova, by Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin. 1922.
Anna Akhmatova, by Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin. 1922.

 I love the sound of Russian names. And words in general in Russian. Can’t speak a word of it. But when I hear it, I love the sound. The sound fascinated Rilke as well. I think he wanted to be Russian, but didn’t really know how to work that. It’s more than interesting to ponder if Tsvetaeva and Rilke had a love child, and if that child grew up to be a poet, merging the sounds of German and Russian, the lyrical beauty of his or her parents.

Akhmatova’s poetry is direct, often startling, original. She lived through tumultuous and dangerous times, to put it mildly. . . . Read more. “Akhmatova”

More Questions

More Questions

What is sacred? Knowing that the sacred has changed across time and space, knowing that it will change again and again and again, how do we deal with the quandary of holding certain things above the fray, versus switching the sacred as new evidence appears? Or as empires collapse?

Detail of the Acropolis. By Aaron Logan. 2004
Detail of the Acropolis. By Aaron Logan. 2004

 There is a quandary. Rather, one of a multitude of quandaries. That we should cling to the sacred despite change, or the accumulated wisdom of centuries, or hold nothing above the fray. In other words, live in the moment, for the moment, with no hierarchies of the sacred, or remain locked in those hierarchies. . . . Read more. “More Questions”

The Question

The Question

Humans have two choices. Well, we actually have millions of choices, but for the purpose of this post, we have two.

Believe in a divinity that guides our lives and controls the universe, or in a universe that guides itself, leaving us basically on our own.

Strike that. There may just be a third choice in there somewhere. Yes. At least for the purpose of this post. The belief in a divine entity that no organized religion has yet described, defined, or even remotely gotten close to. Remember, there have been thousands of organized religions throughout the centuries, and thousands of deities on display. Putting them side by side for a moment, letting them hash out their differences across time and space, might just bring us the world’s greatest jam session. . . . Read more. “The Question”

On the Edge of Endurance

On the Edge of Endurance

 

Górecki‘s Symphony #3

Like Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, Górecki‘s Symphony No. 3 brings us to the extreme of grief, holds us there, locks us in that eternal space, with no escape, no way out, except through a kind of mysterium of hope. A mystery of overcoming something no one can overcome.

In this piece, motherhood is the focus, extreme suffering is the focus, cruelty is the plague. The Holocaust is a driving force for one of the movements, and it drives the vocalist to express something that can’t be expressed outside of music.

Theodor Adorno once said that “to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.” . . . Read more. “On the Edge of Endurance”

Six Degrees of Symbolism

Six Degrees of Symbolism

John Wayne in Rio Bravo
John Wayne in Rio Bravo

 

Watched Rio Bravo the other night. You remember. The story that just wouldn’t die for Howard Hawks. Good film, made three times. Rio Bravo; El Dorado; and Rio Lobo. Added back story each time. Complications. As John Wayne aged, the younger characters gained more importance. From Ricky Nelson, to James Caan, to Christopher Mitchum, son of Robert, who starred in the second film. The cast grew over time, and the core story of The Exchange was embellished, nearly hidden.

Why bring Poe into all of this? Well, because James Caan’s character recites part of Poe’s poem. Possibly because he thinks of Wayne’s character as the person in the poem:

Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe

 

Gaily bedight,
   A gallant knight,
In sunshine and in shadow,   
   Had journeyed long,   
   Singing a song,
In search of Eldorado.
. . . Read more. “Six Degrees of Symbolism”
The Script, Context, and Lit Crit

The Script, Context, and Lit Crit

El Greco's View of Toledo. 1596-1600. The Met, NYC.
El Greco’s View of Toledo. 1596-1600. The Met, NYC.

Context is everything and nothing. But mostly always everything when we think. Its importance is critical, when it comes to utilizing the past as prologue, or avoiding that entirely. Without examining context, in full, rationally, holistically, we will stumble about in the dark, without a view of anything. We will fail to see crossroads and convergences. We will fail to see crosscurrents and cross purposes. We will fail.

When studying literature, I like to concentrate on aesthetics, on expressive properties, on the quality of prose. I like to study the characters, their stories and interaction. The dynamics on display. How it all comes together. . . . Read more. “The Script, Context, and Lit Crit”

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