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
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
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.
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.
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”
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”
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.
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)