The Discomfort of Reading

The Discomfort of Reading

The Discomfort of Evening, by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, 2018. (Translated by Michele Hutchison, 2020.)

It’s a big deal to win The International Booker Prize. It’s a much bigger deal, it seems to me, to do so before you’re 30. Still bigger when the book itself defies convention, adds another step on the ladder of literature, makes us think differently about farms, families, children and their inner worlds, abuse, and the ways we try to cope with this.

They poeticize. They poeticize grief and internalize/externalize it through metaphor. But those metaphors touch everything around them, so the grief never really leaves. They aren’t bridges to unrelated abstractions, existing in some Platonic World of Forms.… Read more “The Discomfort of Reading”

Christopher Bram: From a Journal of Recent Readings, Part II

Christopher Bram: From a Journal of Recent Readings, Part II

Oedipus at Colonus, by Jean-Antoine-Théodore Giroust. 1788.

July 2, 2020

This brings us to Aristotle’s Poetics, which Critchley gives an even closer reading than he gave to The Republic. And why not? It’s shorter, more succinct and more germane. He begins by unpacking that troublesome concept, “catharsis.” Is it life-changing or purgative or disruptive or like menstruation? Many philosophers claim Aristotle uses it to argue directly with Plato about the value of tragic poetry. Critchley thinks it’s just a description of what people feel when they watch a tragedy, then return home and go on with their lives unchanged. (Much the way people now read murder mysteries.) Which actually is a response to Plato.Read more “Christopher Bram: From a Journal of Recent Readings, Part II”

Christopher Bram: From a Journal of Recent Readings, Part I

Christopher Bram: From a Journal of Recent Readings, Part I

School of Athens
School of Athens, by Raphael. 1509-1511

June 29, 2020

Tragedy, the Greeks, and Us by Simon Critchley. A lean, concentrated, engaging, exasperating look at Greek tragedy and “tragedy’s philosophy.” It is so lean that it feels like a fatter, more conventional book that’s been cooked down into a series of zen koans. I can read only so much at a time, usually in the morning, before it turns opaque and incomprehensible. But in this age of plague, a tyrant and the failure of democracy, a visit to ancient Athens feels right.

Here are a few of the ideas from the book:

Tragedy was performed not for individuals but for the city, a civic event more akin to a trial than to private reverie or religious ritual.Read more “Christopher Bram: From a Journal of Recent Readings, Part I”

Songs for Chasms, Saints and Sinners

Songs for Chasms, Saints and Sinners

Sleeping Venus
Sleeping Venus, by Giorgione and/or Titian. 1510

There is always a gap, a canyon, an endless space between what we want and what we attain, and that’s by evolutionary design. It also can make for great poetry, literature, music, and art. Deathless prose. Immortal landscapes. Notes that reach stars and permeate them. It’s at the heart of metaphor, perhaps its very cause. Ruptures, craters, schisms and riffs are what keep us at it, relentlessly charging ahead, with the biological imperative to pass on our genes to the next and the next. We’ve been doing this for at least 3.5 billion years. Perhaps as long as 4.5 billion.

The object of our love, desire, and lust compels us to reproduce, re-enact the Grand Play of plays.… Read more “Songs for Chasms, Saints and Sinners”

Anne Carson’s Eros the Bittersweet

Anne Carson’s Eros the Bittersweet

Book Cover
Eros the Bittersweet, by Anne Carson. 1986

In the beginning, there was Paradox. The end won’t resolve this. It can’t, for obvious reasons. When we’re no longer able to hear the ex-lover cry, the tree fall, or remember the all too familiar trajectory of sweet to bitter, the Paradox remains. Anne Carson, in her beautiful meditation on Sappho, Socrates, Desire, and bridges to more bridges, takes us on a journey to Paradox, and gently, sweetly leaves us wanting more. More Sappho, more love, more.

Which is the key to it all. Or is it?

Wanting, longing, loving, or taming and overcoming these things? Carson presents a battle of competing methods, ideals and philosophies, with a focus on Sappho’s fragments and Plato’s Phaedrus, where she uncovers links to (potentially) bridge internal and external gaps.… Read more “Anne Carson’s Eros the Bittersweet”

Campari Smiles: New Poems by Alessio Zanelli

Campari Smiles: New Poems by Alessio Zanelli

SMILE

 

You often
seem to smile
even when asleep,
light wrinkles on your
forehead, a barely audible
hiss from your nose. Your smile,
by night as by day, emanates not just
from your lips and gaze, but also from your
chin, cheeks and temples, from how your whole
body lies on the bed or moves around. It goes beyond
corporeity, is smoothly metaphysical, and metamental. Your
smile, and your letting me draw so heavily and freely from it, as if
you wished that I stored in me as much as possible of it, for me to smile at
you in turn, is the greatest gift I’ve ever received. It’s why I wake up every night
to stare at you, and I rest my eyes on you each time I can unseen, your smiling face being
all and only what I feel I have been always yearning for.… Read more “Campari Smiles: New Poems by Alessio Zanelli”

Mid-Summer’s Return

Mid-Summer’s Return

Cliffs of Moher. Photo by Douglas Pinson/2003.

Welcome back to Spinozablue, everyone!

The move is all but complete, and we’re fairly close to being back to normal. The main thing needed right now is for our many fine contributors to let us know if there are formatting issues with their works. We did our best to keep the originals intact, but for some of them, especially the poems, the ride was far too bumpy and jostled them out of position, here and there. Please contact us to let us know of any typographical errors, and we’ll fix them ASAP.

We’ve also added two new poems by Doreen LeBlanc, who has graced the pages of Spinozablue before.… Read more “Mid-Summer’s Return”

Doreen LeBlanc: Two Poems

Doreen LeBlanc: Two Poems

Edward’s Pout

Why the pout Edward Hopper?
Your many self portraits interchangeable
Turned down mouth
Empty eyes
Stoic
Sour
Brooding
Not a hint of a punch line
But always impeccably dressed
What lies beneath?

Your marriage to Josephine, Jo
Reads rather contentious, tumultuous
Yet she was your subject
Diminutive
Combative muse
Bedraggled nude
Expressionless
Perhaps eating from tin cans
Transformed you both to granite

Brushstrokes of simplicity
Your artistic gifts portrayed loneliness
Dark shadows
Deep thoughts
Solitude
Isolation
Until you created coastal scenes
Where you found light essence
And release

 

Musings on “Little Goose Girl” by Millet

What have you seen
Simple thatched house
Generations of simple folk
Who patched your humble walls

The geese at your doorstep
Years of harvest and famine
Like the seasons
And phases of the moon

Within, the acrid smells of your hearth
Beside you the giant tree
Your sentinel
Why does this interest me, you ask
Oh, I feel your heartbeat

 

(Poetry Workshop at Boston Museum
of Fine Arts, French Pastels, with Regie Gibson)

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The MFA Is Opening a Dreamy (and Rarely Shown) French Pastels Exhibit

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Copyright© 2020, by Doreen LeBlanc.Read more “Doreen LeBlanc: Two Poems”

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