Am nearly finished with a wonderful novel, Morgan Llywelyn’s Red Branch. It tells the tale of Cuchulain, the great Irish hero of the Ulster Cycle. Ms. Llywelyn paints an earthy, rugged and raw portrait of Ireland in ancient times, and imagines a passionate life for Cuchulain, along with his wife Emer, Deirdre of the Sorrows, King Conor Mac Nessa, Fergus Mac Roy and Maeve, queen of Connaught.
She does a remarkable job of staying very close to the original source material, though she deviates slightly at times for dramatic effect. And she is very good setting up and foreshadowing pivotal moments in the story. If one already knows the myths, this enriches the telling, because you see new strings in place, new binding chains of fate. I’ve read Lady Gregory and Randy Lee Eikhoff’s versions of the ancient Irish tales, and Ms. Llywelyn holds her own. She has a gift … Click to continue . . .
The river is real and metaphorical at the same time. Or, perhaps, a shade or two off the instant. It is real only before and after the photograph. When I look through the lens, I’m already behind the times and separate from my river. When I look at the photograph, I am further removed in time and space — there and not there. Being as if. Not being as one.
Such musings are more or less obvious. But what is not so obvious is that the river terrorizes me and makes me laugh with joy and fate as well. Or, perhaps, a shade or two this side of terror and omen. I laugh thinking about all the other people through time who have looked at rivers and seen things like that. Metaphors and such. Poetic phrases both profound and banal.
I was walking the other night and fell in love with shadows. The play of shadows on the street, in the lamplight. Thinking, as I walked, what it might look like in a photo, I framed a scene here and there. I abstracted part of reality and placed it inside a box, a rectangle, removing it from its natural place in the scheme of things.
This was wrong, in a nagging, somewhat ambiguous way, and it was perfectly, naturally right all the same. Wrong because it meant I was isolating things and removing them from their relationships to one another, discriminating, splitting up what is whole. Right because this is quite nearly the only way to make art . . .
Though my Zen studies have been put on hold for the last few months, I still think about what I’ve learned so far and what I need to learn, and this followed me as I walked … Click to continue . . .
Spinozablue welcomes the poetry of Virginie Colline, Hilary Sideris, Changming Yuan, Kenneth Pobo, Joan McNerney, and the fiction of Shanna Perplies.
* * * * *
A tip of the hat goes to nnyhav for the link to Tim Parks’ excellent article in the New York Review of Books, The Chattering Mind. While most of the article is about modern literature, there is a section on the Buddhist quest to still the mind which I found brilliantly concise and relevant to past and future discussions here. The entire article being relevant, of course . . . .
Sitting for ten days on a cushion, eyes closed, cross-legged, seeking to empty your mind of words, it’s all too evident how obsessively the mind seeks to construct self-narrative, how ready it is to take interest in its own pain, to congratulate itself on the fertility of its reflection. That chattersome voice will even be pleased with its progressively
Stretching its hair-like limbs As far as it can The ant embracing The tallest Douglas tree In the forest Attempts to shake off All its leaves Branches, and even To uproot it
With a small body Of teeth, you have bitten off Every golden minute From the warm day Hoping to collect and store All the sunlight Of the passing season
Turning, twirling In ever smaller circles A vortex in the stream Seems to be sucking in All the waters on earth Like the black hole Trying to swallow The whole universe
Mind Mudra: A Chan Poem
Legs crossed Sitting straight Still in chan meditation Upon a lotus flower Newly blossoming on my inner pond I perceive myself transforming Slowly but steadily From a monstrous yellow-skinned frog Into an ever bigger, brighter Buddha Until my whole being inside out Bursts into trillions of individual cells… Click to continue . . .
I slipped off my robe, trying to appear casual, as if it wasn’t my first time. I had assured him I’d done this many times before. I tried to look anywhere but his face, because he must know by now I had been lying, the red blush staining my skin and revealing my inexperience and self-consciousness. I looked up at the window, high, forbidding, and remote, then down at my feet on the splintered and peeling wooden boards and lastly, the closed and bolted door. The silence of the room echoed around me broken only by the uneven pattern of my loudly beating heart. I hoped I was the only one who could hear it. I wished I had come more mentally prepared. I told myself not to be nervous about anyone looking at me naked, or whether or not I’d be good at this, or if it would be painful. I was just doing … Click to continue . . .