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Month: October 2009

Fear of the Avant-Garde

Fear of the Avant-Garde

Untitled by Mark Rothko. 1948
Untitled by Mark Rothko. 1948

 Philip Ball’s recent article, Who’s afraid of the avant-garde, provoked much thought. Why do we seem to “get” modern art, but not modern, experimental music? I think the author nears the core of the issue here:

“There are certainly parallels in the way we make sense of acoustic and visual information. Chief among these rules are the “Gestalt principles” identified by a group of German-based psychologists in the early 20th century. These are a series of implicit mental rules that help people to make good guesses at how to interpret complex sensory stimuli by grouping them together. We make assumptions about continuity, for example: the aeroplane that flies into a cloud is the same one that flies out the other side. We group objects that look similar, or that are close together. Although the Gestalt principles are not foolproof, they make the world more comprehensible. Both in sound and in vision, the ability to Click to continue . . .

The Ethereal Response

The Ethereal Response

Pandora, by John William Waterhouse. 1896
Pandora, by John William Waterhouse. 1896

I looked again at one of my poems from the 90s, and tried to place it in context. Then and now. As experiment, as reevaluation. The quotes are new additions and, as always, this is a work in progress . . . .

 

“He talked to her endlessly about his love of horizontals: how they, the great levels of sky and land in Lincolnshire, meant to him the eternality of the will, just as the bowed Norman arches of the church, repeating themselves, meant the dogged leaping forward of the persistent human soul, on and on, nobody knows where; in contradiction to the perpendicular lines and to the Gothic arch, which, he said, leapt up at heaven and touched the ecstasy and lost itself in the divine.”  — D. H. Lawrence

__________

“What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring

Click to continue . . .
The Very Thought of You

The Very Thought of You

Shrink. Directed by Jonas Pate. 2009
Shrink. Directed by Jonas Pate. 2009

 

 The forms of why
The reasons for pauses

Ellipses of the body
Stutter forth like breaking trains

Art does know
But then someone tries to say
What and where

Art knows without ever
Belaboring the point
If we explain we kill

So movies about suicide
Movies about making movies
Shrink when they should see!
Expand everything

And keep quiet about it

Normally, I’d write a longer, more traditional review, but the poem above will take its place, for the most part. Shrink stars Kevin Spacey as a Hollywood therapist in need of a therapist. Sinking into oblivion after the suicide of his wife, he drowns himself in a sea of booze and a ton of pot, no longer believing in what he does, or anything else for that matter. The movie strings together several stories, several lives that cross paths, ideas, dreams, phobias and obsessions, with the therapist as the focal point. Because it … Click to continue . . .

Toronto: Poetry Event in November

Toronto: Poetry Event in November

Annex Style home, University of Toronto Campus. Photo by SimonP
Annex Style home, University of Toronto Campus. Photo by SimonP

For those of you living in Canada, or thinking about a visit, Desis Di Nardo sends this invitation. It sounds like a great gathering:

 

I want to let you know about a poetry event I will be co-hosting with Canada’s Poet Laureate – Pierre DesRuisseaux on Sunday, November 8, 2009 at 7 p.m. There will be readings by Pierre DesRuisseaux, Max Layton, Armand Garnet Ruffo, and Toronto’s new Poet Laureate – Dionne Brand. In addition, the night will feature live jazz, an art exhibit, and the winners of a high school poetry contest. Details can be found below.

Poetry Parade
Sunday November 8, 2009 at 7 pm
The Annex Live (296 Brunswick Avenue – just south of Bloor Street).

*Pierre DesRuisseaux
*Dionne Brand
*Max Layton
*Armand Garnet Ruffo

*Music: Local Jazz duo Norm Amadio & Julie McGregor

*Artwork: Canadian landscape art pieces by Mario Ricci

*High School Poetry Contest: Click to continue . . .

The Land of Green Plums

The Land of Green Plums

The winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2009 is . . . . Herta Müller. I confess. I do not know her work, had not heard of her prior to yesterday, but so far, the reviews indicate she is well worth knowing. The Swedish Academy said of her: “with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed.”

Born in Romania in 1953, in the German-speaking town of Niţchidorf, Herta’s family was a part of the German minority, and they carried some heavy baggage for her. Her father served in the Waffen SS, and her mother survived five years of slave labor in the Soviet Union, from 1944-1949. Her family lived under the dictatorial rule of Nicolae Ceauşescu, which is the subject of much of her writing. She and her husband, the writer Richard Wagner, left Romania for Germany in 1987.

She is still being forced to fight old battles. In an … Click to continue . . .

Another Fine Frenzy

Another Fine Frenzy

Alison Sudol has a new album out, and it’s a bit of a departure from her first. It’s more up-tempo, but retains her trademark vocals, her sweetness, intelligence and vulnerability. For some, it may be somewhat too sweet, too pixie-like. But a few listens reduces that effect and gives space to a fine singer/songwriter — one who has been greatly influenced by Lewis Caroll and C.S. Lewis, among writers, and Johny Cash, Bob Dylan and The Talking Heads, among musicians. She has also toured with Rufus Wainright and Brandi Carlile, who must have influenced the young singer as well.

Beautiful pixies need a place to express themselves, too, and Alison makes her case for that in her sophomore effort, and especially in her video, Blow Away. She says in her notes:

This album is dedicated to the thunderous king, the muse, the mad scientist . . . the beacon. Wherever our paths may lead us, this, and always

Click to continue . . .