Wednesday, 26 August 2015

une piscine caché


《影》

To whom,
is a writer that does not write―
a bard that utters no poems
a dreamer of dreamless dreams?

When does
a piano of soundlessness
sing, and

How does an underwater flower
pass into decay

without blossoming?


Felice Casorati, Ragazza di Pavarolo (1938)

Sunday, 2 August 2015

‘falling is the essence of a flower’


Felice Casorati, La preghiera, 1914 circa, tempera su panno,
Galleria d’Arte Moderna Achille Forti

Self-embrace on Silk Prayer

*With thanks to Hamlet-at-Sea of this incarnation, for being the final catalyst of my poem.


“Is it a blessing for a poet to be a natural poet-magnet?”
The romantic thinker wonders to herself.
‘Oh you Little Fool,’ she whispered,
A foolish thinker I am.

All these men, coming
in and out of me. All this pleasure and pain,
flickering like dying blue flames.
An instant garden trampled upon for hundreds of years
by those he loves with his Life—ah, such blasphemous
Beauty. An instant paradise turned
into the most exquisite ice ablaze.
A bruised garden amidst the flames.
The love and devotion that it takes to create
—such Beauty—
I can never fully comprehend.

Threads of a thousand hues are weaving themselves
in and out of each other; breathing esoteric,
breathing erotic, into
the weakest Bird of the most powerful strength—
A Bird without a name—

Can I be spared—Can I be
abstract like your patterns of this mesmerising nature, again?
I plead with my heart to be
as romantic and as abstract, like
your Little Brother, again.
Tears from the eyes of his heart are still rolling,
shining on my quill
like dews on those pink Oleander flowers—
falling, falling, fallen.

(And in case you were wondering, I was not speaking of
your little brother, I was speaking of
Mine. Like all these quests for Beauty and pleasure—I was
speaking, and thinking, of Mine.)

Breathing erotic. Breathing esoteric.
All these fiery blossoms burning way below sub-zero,
I could faint,
just listening to them.

+

*Title: from Mishima Yukio's last words:

A small night storm blows
Saying ‘falling is the essence of a flower’
Preceding those who hesitate

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

I cannot paint what then I was. The sounding cataract haunted me like a passion.


Five years have past; five summers, with the length
Of five long winters! and again I hear
These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs
With a soft inland murmur.—Once again
Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,
That on a wild secluded scene impress
Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect
The landscape with the quiet of the sky.
The day is come when I again repose
Here, under this dark sycamore, and view
These plots of cottage-ground, these orchard-tufts,
Which at this season, with their unripe fruits,
Are clad in one green hue, and lose themselves
‘Mid groves and copses. Once again I see
These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, little lines
Of sportive wood run wild: these pastoral farms,
Green to the very door; and wreaths of smoke
Sent up, in silence, from among the trees!
With some uncertain notice, as might seem
Of vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods,
Or of some Hermit’s cave, where by his fire
The Hermit sits alone.

                                These beauteous forms,
Through a long absence, have not been to me
As is a landscape to a blind man’s eye:
But oft, in lonely rooms, and ‘mid the din
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them
In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart;
And passing even into my purer mind,
With tranquil restoration:—feelings too
Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps,
As have no slight or trivial influence
On that best portion of a good man’s life,
His little, nameless, unremembered, acts
Of kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust,
To them I may have owed another gift,
Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,
In which the burthen of the mystery,
In which the heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world,
Is lightened:—that serene and blessed mood,
In which the affections gently lead us on,—
Until, the breath of this corporeal frame
And even the motion of our human blood
Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
In body, and become a living soul:
While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things.


                                If this
Be but a vain belief, yet, oh! how oft—
In darkness and amid the many shapes
Of joyless daylight; when the fretful stir
Unprofitable, and the fever of the world,
Have hung upon the beatings of my heart—
How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee,
O sylvan Wye! thou wanderer thro’ the woods,
How often has my spirit turned to thee!
And now, with gleams of half-extinguished thought,
With many recognitions dim and faint,
And somewhat of a sad perplexity,
The picture of the mind revives again:
While here I stand, not only with the sense
Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts
That in this moment there is life and food
For future years. And so I dare to hope,
Though changed, no doubt, from what I was when first
I came among these hills; when like a roe
I bounded o’er the mountains, by the sides
Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams,
Wherever nature led: more like a man
Flying from something that he dreads, than one
Who sought the thing he loved. For nature then
(The coarser pleasures of my boyish days,
And their glad animal movements all gone by)
To me was all in all.—I cannot paint
What then I was. The sounding cataract
Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock,
The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,
Their colours and their forms, were then to me
An appetite; a feeling and a love,
That had no need of a remoter charm,
By thought supplied, nor any interest
Unborrowed from the eye.—That time is past,
And all its aching joys are now no more,
And all its dizzy raptures. Not for this
Faint I, nor mourn nor murmur, other gifts
Have followed; for such loss, I would believe,
Abundant recompence. For I have learned
To look on nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes
The still, sad music of humanity,
Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
To chasten and subdue. And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man;
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods,
And mountains; and of all that we behold
From this green earth; of all the mighty world
Of eye, and ear,—both what they half create,
And what perceive; well pleased to recognise
In nature and the language of the sense,
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being.


                                Nor perchance,
If I were not thus taught, should I the more
Suffer my genial spirits to decay:
For thou art with me here upon the banks
Of this fair river; thou my dearest Friend,
My dear, dear Friend; and in thy voice I catch
The language of my former heart, and read
My former pleasures in the shooting lights
Of thy wild eyes. Oh! yet a little while
May I behold in thee what I was once,
My dear, dear Sister! and this prayer I make,
Knowing that Nature never did betray
The heart that loved her; ‘tis her privilege,
Through all the years of this our life, to lead
From joy to joy: for she can so inform
The mind that is within us, so impress
With quietness and beauty, and so feed
With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues,
Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men,
Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all
The dreary intercourse of daily life,
Shall e’er prevail against us, or disturb
Our cheerful faith, that all which we behold
Is full of blessings. Therefore let the moon
Shine on thee in thy solitary walk;
And let the misty mountain-winds be free
To blow against thee: and, in after years,
When these wild ecstasies shall be matured
Into a sober pleasure; when thy mind
Shall be a mansion for all lovely forms,
Thy memory be as a dwelling-place
For all sweet sounds and harmonies; oh! then,
If solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief,
Should be thy portion, with what healing thoughts
Of tender joy wilt thou remember me,
And these my exhortations! Nor, perchance—
If I should be where I no more can hear
Thy voice, nor catch from thy wild eyes these gleams
Of past existence—wilt thou then forget
That on the banks of this delightful stream
We stood together; and that I, so long
A worshipper of Nature, hither came
Unwearied in that service: rather say
With warmer love—oh! with far deeper zeal
Of holier love. Nor wilt thou then forget,
That after many wanderings, many years
Of absence, these steep woods and lofty cliffs,
And this green pastoral landscape, were to me
More dear, both for themselves and for thy sake!


Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye During a Tour, July 13, 1798, by William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

Sunday, 31 May 2015

鴉片夢:Opium


Dishonesty of three gnawed fingers:

To have your attention held
between the lips
of what disinterest stirs,

To fixate upon
and name your obsession
what you do not adore—

This must be the flower’s poison
in the imagination
of a Proustian whore.


I have always loved the mystery/horror genre.
Roses, by David Sims for Visionaire
image by John Mangila

It’s quite an artform for one to stay looking golden on the outside, while feeling so profoundly rotten inside—not even sublimely or spectacularly ugly, merely this arid and lacklustre vapidness.

At some point it has got to start showing.


Roses, by David Sims for Visionaire

As if looking through the glass at a white goldfish with angel wings, swimming in water purified by beautiful sorrow. (image by John Mangila)

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Scene 1: Lacrima / Scene 2: Du Fu Sings


Lacrima: Caruso-san

His pale blue skin, the voice of the flute,
Curtains rise for the Beautiful One’s play—

The role of the bleeding heart
is not to watch over that silver thread
woven callously, vicariously,
into the forgotten tapestry of the world,
but to shield with swan wings,
violently, majestically,
the other role of eternal unhappiness.
So that the arteries can ossify,
so that the obsolescence
of the bleeding heart and his eternal unhappiness
can encase themselves in a serene sleep
and seem obliviously irrelevant
to all but the Beautiful One.

+ + +

Du Fu Sings

Die yourself into a tree
Decant your breaths
A million times over

Would you walk through that door?

+ + +

Hypocrisy is a form of mental masturbation of the weak.



Wednesday, 27 May 2015

弔詭/弔念:Cioran and my fragmented poem (Chinese & English)


By all evidence we are in the world to do nothing.” ~Emil Cioran

The ideal life for a muser and a paresseuse would be: to dream in the absence of dreams, and to dream of the absence of dreams, in other words, to dream nothing at all. The grandest thing to muse upon, would be those intricately-woven, beautifully-entangled illusions of all there is, i.e. nothingness—all of it, that is all there is. It’s just that long and inevitably mundane process (with perhaps some specks of high drama) one has to go through, could seem interminable.

+

Some more words from Emil Cioran to further tickle me:

To live entirely without a goal! I have glimpsed this state, and have often attained it, without managing to remain there: I am too weak for such happiness.”

I don’t understand why we must do things in this world, why we must have friends and aspirations, hopes and dreams. Wouldn’t it be better to retreat to a faraway corner of the world, where all its noise and complications would be heard no more? Then we could renounce culture and ambitions; we would lose everything and gain nothing; for what is there to be gained from this world?

+

the Chinese original of this poem (titled 玉) was written in 1999,
English translation/re-composition (re-titled Celadon) was created in 2011-2


蒼白,是血的原色與美學的逆鱗。
他舌尖的蓮消蝕一如
右頰的月光
聲音是時間與蛇的舞姿
交纏蜿蜒的連綴
而生存,歌詠著水波紊亂
殞落著無性之魅
猩紅,似卵與熱的曲線
錯誤的春花秋月
頹萎之靡交合在古印度的菱鏡
天人於是註定了五衰
水面下的墜


Brett Whiteley, A Day at Bondi, 1984 // etching, black ink on white wove paper

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Calling



... an Elgin marble from a waking dream

Would it not be a marvel
to find your calling—your niche—
to be suffering
(emptily, on empty)
draped over
a marvellous throne
where everyone feels
envy, breathlessly
(superficially)?


Dornröschen (Sleeping Beauty) by Louis Sussmann-Hellborn, 1878, via Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin, Germany

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Diary fragments from Lady Emily’s lethargic life of yearning (i)


To live a life of truths saturated with ugliness and barren of beauty would be an unjustifiable lie.

+

An anonymous billet-doux arrived this morning. Were I not so intimately familiar with the author’s command of composing erotica-in-disguise, I would have assumed this Prince had fallen in lust with his object of affection after hearing my Goncourt comment. But such is not the case, given I am infinitely acquainted with his style:

Yes, the edge of that precipice offers the most pleasing panorama—a valley teeming with verdure, watered by a stream where the hart quenches his thirst with impunity, happily lapping with a tongue glistening in the warm sun of the temptress. Such places are quoted to us by voices that cry in the night, citing the authority of dreams on its riparian seat, of pillowed ivory, the cheek may rest. 
Impunity, impunity only the bank punished with the hart’s burden as it takes its fill. A stream so beneficent one may lift it towards one’s lips rather than bend towards it. A stream whose source one may also devour. A stream whose waters teach lips eloquence. A stream that engenders others by virtue of the thirst it transfigures, whose moan is answerable to the plash of its puddles plied.

As I sat with the Prince many a blue moon ago, ruminating over the ridiculousness of life, I mused upon his poetic prowess in erotica, “You, dear sir, would make a handsome living writing these words.” To which he mischievously replied with a sparkle in his eye, “My tongue is best employed, when hearts rather than coins are cloyed.”

+
Antoon van Welie (Dutch, 1866–1956), Douleur, pastel, 1895

Goncourt tugged on a string in the womb of my heart tonight, and I say, “I have always derived inexplicable pleasure from singing to a virtuous nobleman, leading him in my hand to the edge of sin and leaving him there to live between the temptation and the fear of that sin.”

+

This afternoon, as languid and as annoyed as any other, Baron Gustave spoke to me about a petty—though entertaining—spectacle amongst the court eunuchs, whose comical adventures of trivialities delighted and somewhat intrigued me. On this person’s extraordinary literary competencies, Baron Gustave concluded, “He would have been an effective priest if he knew how to read anything but music.”

+
John William Waterhouse

If death has a way of revealing the essence of things, as the poet Stéphane Mallarmé wrote of Edgar Allan Poe, then some of the essence that has been revealed these days is self-righteousness, bigotry, and above all, hypocrisy. The easy way out, the easy way out—always the easy way out. There is no intrinsic value to anything in this world—nor any intrinsic reality. The double-standard (of humanity) and pretentiousness are overwhelming. And then follows the avalanche of apathy.
Why are we such sheep that only blindly follow?

+

Have no fear of happiness—it exists as an illusion only. (This is not to say that happiness does not exist—it exists, like everything else in this apparent world, but as an illusion only.)

+

Thence began the odyssey of a little fool as he decided to write poems for the rest of his life in that faraway city named after a woman.


Thursday, 7 May 2015

They crave ecstasy, distilled and stilled with Orpheus’ music.


I see a lily on thy brow,
       With anguish moist and fever-dew,
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
       Fast withereth too.

I met a lady in the meads,
       Full beautiful—a faery’s child,
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
       And her eyes were wild.

I made a garland for her head,
       And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She looked at me as she did love,
       And made sweet moan

I set her on my pacing steed,
       And nothing else saw all day long,
For sidelong would she bend, and sing
       A faery’s song.

She found me roots of relish sweet,
       And honey wild, and manna-dew,
And sure in language strange she said—
       ‘I love thee true’.


(from “La Belle Dame sans Merci: A Ballad,” by John Keats)

❤ Workshop of Sandro Botticelli (Italian, 1444/45-1510). Venus, ca. late 1480s. Tempera on canvas, 158 x 68,5cm (62 3/16 x 26 15/16 in.). Photo Credit: Staatliche Museen Berlin, Gemäldegalerie / Photo © Jörg P. Anders

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

as if hope and heart could meet, as if they might dance themselves out of the dark


The paper blushes, beads of sweat from that aftermath of love.


+

La poésie a inventé le monde, le monde, elle l'a oublié.
(Poetry invented the world; the world it then forgot.)


leg image via Mikio Watanabe
The Meaning of Simplicity (translated by Rae Dalven), via Poetry Foundation
艾未未,白瓷花。(via @aiww Instagram)
Ai Weiwei, “Blossom” (via @for_site & @george_fikry Instagram)
image via @nicamille Instagram

Monday, 13 April 2015

Between the mirage hue of Tiepolo Pink linings hides the tempting phantom of Proust’s invisible Venice


Jean François de Troy (French 1679 – 1752), The Abduction of Europa (detail of Europa's hand and cape), 1716, oil on canvas. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

“It was the very evening on which Albertine had put on for the first time the indoor gown in gold and blue by Fortuny which, by reminding me of Venice, made me feel all the more strongly what I was sacrificing for her, who showed no corresponding gratitude towards me. If I had never seen Venice, I had dreamed of it incessantly since those Easter holidays which, when still a boy, I had been going to spend there, and earlier still, since the Titian prints and Giotto photographs which Swann had given me long ago at Combray. The Fortuny gown which Albertine was wearing that evening seemed to me the tempting phantom of that invisible Venice. It was overrun by Arab ornamentation, like Venice, like the Venetian palaces hidden like sultan’s wives behind a screen of perforated stone, like the bindings in the Ambrosian Library, like the columns from which the oriental birds that symbolised alternately life and death were repeated in the shimmering fabric, of an intense blue which, as my eyes drew nearer, turned into a malleable gold by those same mutations which, before an advancing gondola, change into gleaming metal the azure of the Grand Canal. And the sleeves were lined with a cherry pink which is so peculiarly Venetian that it is called Tiepolo pink.”

~Marcel Proust, À la recherche du temps perdu // In Search of Lost Time, Volume 5: The Captive, The Fugitive, translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff & Terence Kilmartin, revised by D. J. Enright, p. 531.



Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (Italian, 1696 – 1770), details of An Allegory with Venus and Time, about 1754-8, oil on canvas. The National Gallery, London. 

*“Giovanni Battista Tiepolo: a thematic essay”on The Metropolitan Museum of Art's website
*“Proust & Fortuny”on A Hymn to Intellectual Beauty: Creative Minds and Fashion blog


Saturday, 11 April 2015

this living hand


This living hand, now warm and capable
Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold
And in the icy silence of the tomb,
So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights
That thou wouldst wish thine own heart dry of blood
So in my veins red life might stream again,
And thou be conscience-calm'd—see here it is—
I hold it towards you. 

~John Keats (1795-1821), This Living Hand, 1819?






Friday, 6 February 2015

The music of memento mori:薔薇,無常。


花開花落:The reverie of mono no aware...

Breathing out their swansong. “A flower is perfect, when it is almost old.” An old favourite photograph I took of a rose bouquet I brought home. After having balleted through their beautiful efflorescence, these softly rouged petals dreamed their eventual, eternal slumber scattered upon my piano.

Poetry in the melodies of Eudaimonia’s sigh of bliss.



Monday, 2 February 2015

Was it a vision, or a waking dream? Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?


I.

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
’Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thine happiness,—
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees,
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.

II.

O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been
Cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
Dance, and Provencal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South,
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
And purple-stained mouth;
That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim:

III.

Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,
Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
And leaden-eyed despairs,
Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.

IV.

Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
Already with thee! tender is the night,
And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
Cluster’d around by all her starry Fays;
But here there is no light,
Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.

V.

I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;
White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
Fast fading violets cover’d up in leaves;
And mid-May’s eldest child,
The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.

VI.

Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy!
Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain—
To thy high requiem become a sod.

VII.

Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
The same that oft-times hath
Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

VIII.

Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
To toil me back from thee to my sole self!
Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
As she is fam’d to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades
Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
Up the hill-side; and now ’tis buried deep
In the next valley-glades:
Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?

~John Keats, Ode to a Nightingale



 紫胸佛法僧 Lilac-breasted Roller (Coracias caudatus), image via.
紫胸佛法僧 Lilac-breasted Roller (Coracias caudatus), via.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Saïat Nova’s Love Song


I sigh not, while thou art my soul! Fair one, thou art to me
A golden cup, with water filled of immortality.
I sit me down, that over me may fall thy shadow, sweet;
Thou art a gold-embroidered tent to shield me from the heat.
First hear my fault, and, if thou wilt, then slay this erring man;
Thou hast all power; to me thou art the Sultan and the Khan.

Thy waist is like a cypress-tree, sugar thy tongue, in sooth;
Thy lip is candy, and thy skin like Frankish satin smooth.
Thy teeth are pearls and diamonds, the gates of dulcet tones;
Thine eyes are gold-enamelled cups adorned with precious stones;
Thou art a rare and priceless gem, most wonderful to see;
A ruby rich of Mt. Bedakhsh, my love, thou art to me.

How can I bear this misery, unless my heart were stone?
My tears are blood because of thee, my reason is o’erthrown.
A young vine in the garden fresh thou art to me, my fair,
Enshrined in greenness, and set round with roses everywhere.
I, like the love-lorn nightingale, would hover over thee.
A landscape of delight and love, my queen, thou art to me!

Lo, I am drunken with thy love! I wake, but my heart sleeps.
The world is sated with the world; my heart its hunger keeps.
What shall I praise thee by, when naught is left on earth, save thee?
Thou art a deer, a Pegasus sprung from the fiery sea!

Speak but one word, to say thou art Saïat Nova’s* love,
And then what matters aught to me, in earth or heaven above?
Thy rays have filled the world; thou art a shield that fronts the sun.
Thou dost exhale the perfume sweet of clove and cinnamon,
Of violet, rose, and marjoram; to me, with love grown pale,
Thou art a red flower of the field, a lily of the vale!

___________________
*An Armenian minstrel often weaves his name into the last stanza of his song, in order that he may be known as its composer. The same peculiarity appears in the next poem.

~“Love Song” by Sayat-Nova, translated into English by Alice Stone Blackwell


Sergei Parajanov's muse, Georgian actress Sofiko Chiaureli, in his 1968 film The Colour of Pomegranates.



Saturday, 6 December 2014


“All I ever asked of life was that it should pass me by without my even noticing it.”

—Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet 


 “Sometimes I sensed that the books I read in rapid succession had set up some sort of murmur among themselves, transforming my head into an orchestra pit where different musical instruments sounded out, and I would realize that I could endure this life because of these musicales going on in my head.”

—Orhan Pamuk, The New Life

fleuriste en Asie (via)

Tuesday, 2 December 2014


light and evanescent but 
held together 
by bolts of 
iron

—Virginia Woolf


Saturday, 22 November 2014

The Dying Swan ~序


Slowly the fruit ripens— 
baskets and baskets from a single tree 
so some rots every year 
and for a few weeks there’s too much: 
before and after, nothing.

~from “Abundance,” a poem by Louise Glück



“In the body certain poetic polarities are revealed: delicacy and inner strength, devotion and defiance, eroticism and asceticism, ecstasy and reverie. The oneiric and the objective are mutually in the mystery of the skin, as a border between intimacy and being into the open/outsideness (intemperie)—evoking in the viewer a feeling of hypnotisation and lucidity at the same time.”

Luis Eduardo Martínez

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Protection


birds fluttering feathers beasts secretly cringing
as if musk spreading in the mists astray, fading
then never a sound in Death/ nor breath/ not even heart
Death seals and stagnates the pale wax of light
in her mouth
as if a tooth-filing ceremony as if anaemia as if bleeding

Rebecca Horn, “The Feathered Prison Fan” (from Der Eintänzer), 1978

It is oblique, magical and ironic, and has none of the in-your-face tone of complaint (men are colonizing thugs, women are victims, and a display of wounds is all you need to make a piece of art) that renders the work of so many of her transatlantic sisters so monotonous.” 
— Robert Hughes, “Art: Mechanics Illustrated.” Time Magazine, 13 Sept 1993; Web. 17 Nov 2009.



蒼白,是血的原色與美學的逆鱗。
他舌尖的蓮消蝕一如
右頰的月光
聲音是時間與蛇的舞姿
交纏蜿蜒的連綴
而生存,歌詠著水波紊亂
殞落著無性之魅
猩紅,似卵與熱的曲線
錯誤的春花秋月
頹萎之靡交合在古印度的菱鏡
天人於是註定了五衰
水面下的墜



Celadon

Paleness, the primary colour of blood,
Aesthetics of one disobedient scale under the Dragon’s throat
The lotus on the tip of his tongue eclipses as if
the moonbeam on his right cheek.
Voices unfold in the dance between Time and the Serpent,
interweaving the movements of musical trills, winding, meandering, murmuring.
And existence, an ode to unquiet rippling, to violent waters,
perishing allures of an androgyne.
Scarlet blood, resembling the curve of an embryo and of heat
I mistake those spring flowers and autumn moon
for the decadently beautiful unison mirrored in ancient India
And angels are thus destined to decline,
falling under the water surface.
Celadon

Rebecca Horn, Dreaming Stones, 2006 (via)

死亡美學(獻詩三島之金閣)

戰後的廢墟,重建
赭色小提琴喤泣聲線
金箔剝蝕的蒸氣與躁動的香

月華清明塗抹石橋
一如滌淨生的 死亡的確知
我兀自佇立文字的金閣
美學修長的眼睫投影
蔭翳,光正自盡。

顫抖顫抖再顫抖,這齣劇本
與血的斑痕纏綿似水
海面痛苦地沉默
光,一如岩礫,一如陰影,光的自縊。

自縊的美學倫理糾結糾結死的似非而,是。
仁波切寂然誦經
呢喃破曉前刻精神與美的歸巢
逐步逐步,緊貼眼睫的哀悽

生的諷刺文體的,死
的潔白墓塚
光正瀉落一湖的私密,若水。

Rebecca Horn, Lenny Silver's Dream, 1990. Sheet music, brass, electric motor. *via Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal
煢煢

半圓形的天頂被一層月華光澤的膜緊緻地拉扯住,像一只充滿著水的氣球,虛擬著生腥的焦慮與一種無所事事的、完完全全脫離精神性的美與憂鬱。那個午后,是薄如蟬翼且裹上銀粉的新生的卵,適於討論命理與禪。雲以敏捷的腳步滑行於透明且虛弱的藍,泡沫似的溫順與漠然。青春其實是極度缺乏生命力的。在旺盛與浮躁之中貪慕假象的匱乏,而後需索從不曾或缺的旺盛;在柔弱的本質中渴求堅強與信仰,之後因對於軟弱愚蠢的不自覺與惑於自我宣稱的虛偽堅強而尋覓所謂謙恭溫潤的中庸。青春是僅只存活於對純粹的堅持下、一種具備了美卻不易碎的浪費。如果死的優雅與精神性建構了藝術中闡釋生命的美學,則生不過是為襯托死的一種附屬的存在。但是生命卻是無法磨滅的,即使蒼白而無意義,卻無止盡地散發出猩紅的血的氣味。印度神濕婆在宇宙的輪迴當中毀滅自己所創造的鏡花水月,而後使之重生,不斷重複操縱著生與死的轉輪;祂是否也感受到生命中那種匱乏虛弱的美,以及死亡中屬於生之投影的愛與信念?藍所象徵的嫌惡與非難,以清澈且充滿靈性的美存在於自然界的蒼穹。隅隅獨行的生,幾人在腐臭中仍吟哦走了調的聖詩,又幾人能擺脫所有倫常的帷幕而誠摯地憎恨與厭惡?然而這一切的思索總似時間過度充裕的青春所編織的蛛網,純白得美麗亦膚淺得軟弱。當青春終於被擺脫後,生命開始進入下一段對死複雜的戀慕和禁忌,與對消逝的水光緬懷的遺憾。

Nick Knight, Roses (via)
奔馬

夢先於現實。
而純粹
似花,似血,似詩
,似枯腐前消逝的生。


Runaway Horses (Realistically Synaesthetic Purity)   

Dreams, a priori, then reality.
And purity
Resembles a flower, resembles blood, resembles poetry,
Resembles life, a priori, disappearing before decay.

荒木経惟,花。

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Water Nymphs’ Preludes


III
You tossed a blanket from the bed,
You lay upon your back, and waited;
You dozed, and watched the night revealing
The thousand sordid images
Of which your soul was constituted;
They flickered against the ceiling.
And when all the world came back
And the light crept up between the shutters
And you heard the sparrows in the gutters,
You had such a vision of the street
As the street hardly understands;
Sitting along the bed’s edge, where
You curled the papers from your hair,
Or clasped the yellow soles of feet
In the palms of both soiled hands.

IV
His soul stretched tight across the skies
That fade behind a city block,
Or trampled by insistent feet
At four and five and six o’clock;
And short square fingers stuffing pipes,
And evening newspapers, and eyes
Assured of certain certainties,
The conscience of a blackened street
Impatient to assume the world.

I am moved by fancies that are curled
Around these images, and cling:
The notion of some infinitely gentle
Infinitely suffering thing.

Wipe your hand across your mouth, and laugh;
The worlds revolve like ancient women
Gathering fuel in vacant lots.

~from “Preludes,” by T. S. Eliot

“When she got out of the water, what a change was seen in her!”
(I am in love with this water nymph-esque beauty.)

*From Folk-Tales of Bengal, by the Rev. Lal Behari Day, with 32 illustrations in colour by Warwick Goble, Macmillan & Co., Ltd, 1912, London.

“She rushed out of the palace... and came to the upper world.”
*From Folk-Tales of Bengal, by the Rev. Lal Behari Day, with 32 illustrations in colour by Warwick Goble, Macmillan & Co., Ltd, 1912, London.

A woman drew her long black hair out tight
And fiddled whisper music on those strings
And bats with baby faces in the violet light
Whistled, and beat their wings.
— T.S.Eliot, The Wasteland.

“Coming up to the surface they climbed into the boat.”
*From Folk-Tales of Bengal, by the Rev. Lal Behari Day, with 32 illustrations in colour by Warwick Goble, Macmillan & Co., Ltd, 1912, London.


Sunday, 1 June 2014

A Frightening Angel


I was in high school when I read Rilke for the first time, in an underground “indie” bookstore (a real treasure trove for books) near the National University of Taiwan—an area full of “book caves” and “sequestered nooks for books”—catering for university students and academics alike. It was his Duino Elegies translated into Chinese by a famous poet, and my love affair with Rilke thus began. The verses were heartrendingly powerful in such a way that I was instantly blown away.

My senior high school years were a time I do not care much to remember: the first thing I would do after school everyday, was to go straight into a bookstore—only then would I feel able to breathe. But it was also during that time when I started writing poetry intensely, and my passion for poetry bloomed like wild roses as if they knew there were no tomorrow.

English translation by Stephen Mitchell (my personal favourite translator of Rilke’s works), from the First Elegy of Duino Elegies
Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1992.
ʻA Guardian of the Kingdom’ from a Persian version of Qazwini’s ʻAjāʼib al-makhlūqāt wa-gharāʼib al-mawjūdāt,’ “The marvels of creation and the oddities of existence,” commonly known as “The cosmography of Qazwini,”
circa 1500-1550 CE. (image via)

A poem is to be developed from these musings and words which arrived this early evening, and something has been on the back of my mind for quite some time—to work on “Dialogue Poetry”—quite a special genre both in a literary and visual/aesthetic sense.

So, for now, to be continued...




The fifty poems that were published by Albert Giraud (born Emile Albert Kayenbergh) as Pierrot lunaire: Rondels bergamasques in 1884 quickly attracted composers to set them to music, especially after they were translated, somewhat freely, into German (1892) by the poet and dramatist Otto Erich Hartleben. (Hartleben later went on to write his own Pierrot poems—"The Harp" and five rondels titled Pierrot, Married Man.) The best known of these settings is the atonal song-cycle derived from twenty-one of the poems (in Hartleben's translation) by Arnold Schoenberg in 1912: Dreimal sieben Gedichte aus Albert Girauds Pierrot lunaire (Thrice-Seven Poems from Albert Giraud's Pierrot lunaire—Schoenberg was numerologically superstitious). But the poems have dense histories as songs and sets of songs both before and after Schoenberg's landmark Opus 21. The bullet-point that follows lists early twentieth-century musical settings chronologically and notes how many poems were set by each composer (all, except Prohaska's, are in the Hartleben translations) and for which instruments.

Pfohl, Ferdinand: 5 poems ("Moon-rondels, fantastic scenes from 'Pierrot Lunaire'") for voice and piano (1891); Marschalk, Max: 5 poems for voice and piano (1901); Vrieslander, Otto: 50 poems for voice and piano (46 in 1905, 4 more in 1911); Graener, Paul: 3 poems for voice and piano (c. 1908); Marx, Joseph: 4 poems for voice and piano (1909; 1 of 4, "Valse de Chopin", reset for voice, piano, and string quartet in 1917); Schoenberg, Arnold: 21 poems for speaking voice, piano, flute (also piccolo), clarinet (also bass clarinet), violin (also viola), and violoncello (1912); Kowalski, Max: 12 poems for voice and piano (1913); Prohaska, Carl: 6 poems for voice and piano (1920); Lothar, Mark: 1 poem for voice and piano (1921).

*extract of information on Pierrot Lunaire via Wikipedia

Saturday, 24 May 2014

To the Muses


Whether on Ida’s shady brow,
         Or in the chambers of the East,
The chambers of the sun, that now
         From ancient melody have ceasd;

Whether in Heavn ye wander fair,
         Or the green corners of the earth,
Or the blue regions of the air,
         Where the melodious winds have birth;

Whether on crystal rocks ye rove,
         Beneath the bosom of the sea
Wandring in many a coral grove,
         Fair Nine, forsaking Poetry!

How have you left the ancient love
         That bards of old enjoy’d in you!
The languid strings do scarcely move!
         The sound is forc’d, the notes are few!

~“To the Muses,” by William Blake

Women rest at the Parthenon whose damaged structure is under repair, December 1930. Photograph by Maynard Owen Williams, National Geographic.

Friday, 23 May 2014

藍曬情人:Cyanotype of a Lover


I can’t really remember the days. The light of the sun blurred and annihilated all color. But the nights, I remember them. The blue was more distant than the sky, beyond all depths, covering the bounds of the world. The sky, for me, was the stretch of pure brilliance crossing the blue, that cold coalescence beyond all color. Sometimes, it was in Vinh Long, when my mother was sad she’d order the gig and we’d drive out into the country to see the night as it was in the dry season. I had that good fortune―those nights, that mother. The light fell from the sky in cataracts of pure transparency, in torrents of silence and immobility. The air was blue, you could hold it in your hand. Blue. The sky was the continual throbbing of the brilliance of the light. The night lit up everything, all the country on either bank of the river as far as the eye could reach. Every night was different, each one had a name as long as it lasted. Their sound was that of the dogs, the country dogs baying at mystery. They answered one another from village to village, until the time and space of the night were utterly consumed.

― Marguerite Duras, L’Amant (translated by Barbara Bray)

Les Noces de Pierrette (The Marriage of Pierrette), by Pablo Picasso, 1905.

Painted in 1905, ‘Les Noces de Pierrette’ is considered as a Blue Period masterpiece―it is by no means Pablo Picasso’s most famous painting, although it does have a notorious history. The painting depicts a group of well-to-do families socialising at a wedding, however the figures are rendered with blank, emotionless faces and hollow eye-sockets. It was created during a critical period in Picasso’s life (his friend and fellow artist Carlos Casagemas had just committed suicide, and the famous painter was facing destitution). Deeply depressed, Picasso spent several months in isolation, developing the piece from sketches―using deep hues of blue to create an oppressively gloomy mood. When he finally emerged from his study, Picasso was said to be bitter and violent―aggressively refusing to let any family or friends see his work. After some weeks, his mistress Fernande Olivier was able to sneak into his study and finally observe the painting. What she saw was so traumatic that the couple separated shortly afterwards. Reportedly, a hysterical Olivier spent the remainder of her life in the care of her mother and sister.

Picasso then spent a further six months trying to salvage his canvas―painting over certain ‘offending’ elements, and removing one figure entirely. In a 1949 interview, the artist briefly mentioned the painting, commenting that “I don’t talk about it.  It’s not mine”.

The painting currently resides in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, where historians are using technology to view Les Noces’ lower layers.






It has been my face. It’s got older still, of course, but less, comparatively, than it would otherwise have done. It’s scored with deep, dry wrinkles, the skin is cracked. But my face hasn’t collapsed, as some with fine features have done. It’s kept the same contours, but its substance has been laid waste. I have a face laid waste.

I’ve known you for years. Everyone says you were beautiful when you were young, but I want to tell you I think you’re more beautiful now than then. Rather than your face as a young woman, I prefer your face as it is now. Ravaged.

“Very early in my life it was too late.

― Marguerite Duras, The Lover (translated by Barbara Bray)

Saturday, 10 May 2014

A little piece of philosophy I wrote for my love a decade ago...


*Chiliogon in Descartes’ and Leibniz’s Theories of Knowledge: What is a Chiliogon?

In the fourth Meditation, Descartes uses the example of a chiliogon (a polygon with a thousand equal sides) as a thought-experiment to prove that we have at least two approaches to knowledge: imagination and conception. The chiliogon example illustrates this important distinction by showing that while we are able to conceive (or to think of) a chiliogon, we are not able to truly imagine (or to visualise) one. Our mental representation of a chiliogon would either be closer to a 20 to 30-sided polygon, or a circle. However this does not mean we do not possess the concept of a chiliogon.

... I remark, in the first place, the difference that subsists between imagination and pure intellection [or conception]. For example, when I imagine a triangle I not only conceive (intelligo) that it is a figure comprehended by three lines, but at the same time also I look upon (intueor) these three lines as present by the power and internal application of my mind (acie mentis), and this is what I call imagining. But if I desire to think of a chiliogon, I indeed rightly conceive that it is a figure composed of a thousand sides, as easily as I conceive that a triangle is a figure composed of only three sides; but I cannot imagine the thousand sides of a chiliogon as I do the three sides of a triangle, nor, so to speak, view them as present [with the eyes of my mind]. (Descartes: Meditation VI)

In arguing that all things which “we clearly and distinctly perceive are true” (Meditations 83), Descartes attempts to understand how one can be led to make a false assertion. According to Descartes, one does not perceive everything around him distinctly, and yet one continues to make judgements based on his perceptions, regardless of whether they are clear or not. Although any assertion based upon a clear and distinct perception must be true, falsity can occur when one makes a judgement based on confused perceptions.

And although, in accordance with the habit I have of always imagining something when I think of corporeal things, it may happen that, in conceiving a chiliogon, I confusedly represent some figure to myself, yet it is quite evident that this is not a chiliogon, since it in no way differs from that which I would represent to myself, if I were to think of a myriogon, or any other figure of many sides; nor would this representation be of any use in discovering and unfolding the properties that constitute the difference between a chiliogon and other polygons. (Ibid.)




Leibniz also uses the example of a chiliogon in his metaphysics and epistemology, to illustrate the fourth division of knowledge, which shall be discussed later on. In his 1684 essay Meditations on Knowledge, Truth and Ideas, he sets out four divisions of knowledge. The first division is that all knowledge is either obscure or clear. Knowledge is obscure if it fails to provide its holder with enough information to identify the object of that knowledge, while clear knowledge is the opposite. [Knowledge is clear, therefore, when it makes it possible for me to recognise the thing represented. (p. 449)] His second division further sets clear knowledge into confused and distinct forms. Clear and distinct knowledge is that of which one is able to detail the features sufficiently to separate it from all others. According to Leibniz, we have such knowledge for “all concepts of which we have a nominal definition [nominalism asserts that abstract concepts, general terms, or universals have no independent existence but exist only as names], which is nothing but the enumeration of sufficient marks” (ibid). These sufficient marks refer to every detailed feature required to identify the substance or concept. The third division he claims is a sub-division of clear and distinct knowledge: it can either be adequate or inadequate. Clear and distinct knowledge can only be called adequate “when every ingredient that enters into a distinct concept is itself known distinctly, or when analysis is carried through to the end” (p. 250). Here Leibniz uses the example of gold to illustrate his argument: one may know the properties of gold well enough to separate it from other bodies and therefore possesses clear and distinct knowledge of gold. However, without carrying out an analysis to such an extent that every predicate of gold is understood distinctly, that clear and distinct knowledge of gold is still inadequate.

The fourth division is another sub-division within clear and distinct knowledge (independent of whether the knowledge is adequate or inadequate), which is the distinction between intuitive and symbolic knowledge. This division is employed when it comes to a complex concept. Here Leibniz uses the Cartesian example of a chiliogon to illustrate his fourth division of knowledge. While Descartes uses a chiliogon to explain the distinction between our two approaches to knowledge – imagination and conception (i.e. what we can imagine and what we can understand/conceive), Leibniz is not concerned with the ability to actually form a mental image (visualisation as imagination). For Leibniz, knowledge is intuitive when it is possible to perceive, clearly and distinctly, all of the parts within this complex concept. While knowledge is symbolic when one possesses clear and distinct knowledge of the entire concept, but fails to hold the same for all the individual parts of the complex whole. Leibniz's chiliogon aims to show how one can have knowledge which is clear and distinct in respect to the whole; yet also have knowledge of this object (a chiliogon) which is said to be symbolic, for it is impossible to think simultaneously of all the concepts involved in this extremely complex geometrical shape (p.450).

This is where Leibniz identifies the truth of an idea with the logical possibility of its existence, and falsity with an idea that contains a contradiction (p. 452). He attacks Descartes’ Cartesian position of establishing truth or falsity of a predication upon the distinctness and clarity of a perception. Leibniz claims that his precise definition and usage of clarity and distinctness are necessary in making useful the Cartesian axiom of “whatever I perceive clearly and distinctly in some thing is true, or may be predicated of it.” Leibniz also insists that an idea is not to be confused with an item of consciousness (a concept). An idea is the foundation of a concept (or an item of consciousness); in other words, concepts are produced by or founded on ideas.

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