Saturday, 19 April 2014

The Loved One: a triptyque

The Loved One

The wind dared not speak
on the sonorous whispers of those ancient trees:
confusing euphony
sublime cacophony

He too was afraid, of
the marionettes dancing
the deepest shadows
of her eyelashes imperceptible

Stained-glass velvets drawing upon the Parisian dusk
set your eyes ablaze, and
turned the River ravenously technicoloured—
bejewelled everything magnificently martial.
Rilke's Rose-Window, disappearing
into a gluttonously musical sky.

—So much to say—
(that one must pass over in silence)
But is not all fair in Love and War?

I don’t think these [words] are any good,” said she.
You are my poetry,” said he.

~by Ting-Jen Hwang

The Loved One (i)

she is perfect 
in the landscape 
i know 
she is 
that i am 
at beauty 
i feel 
out of 

The Loved One (ii)

there is 
than adding 
a “d” 
to love

~by L.W.P.

*And... Heifetz’s hauntingly electrifying rendition of Vitali’s Chaconne, with organ. It is perhaps my favourite version of this masterpiece.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

From the Poetique-Onirique Archive: The First Poem, for David

Probably one of the most private things in the world is an egg before it is broken.~M. F. K. Fisher


(For my husband, whose lullaby is my breathing every night.)

All the secrets I do not share,
and all the secrets I tell no one;
all the secrets absent in my poems,
and all the secrets I do not sing, even in the silent song
of solitude permeating my veins
like the warmth and gentle scent of your amber,
these secrets are buried deep inside, within
the dreams of your belly.
They melt, and are reborn.
They grow wings, and they fly.

In the blueness of your eyes
is the light of a deep ocean that has lived
a thousand years, a thousand years of
meditative loneliness. In your hair, the golden amber grows
into a transparent flower, fragrance of the night.
The amber flower that connects your mind
with your heart.

One day you discovered a pale feather
of an anonymous bird, colour of a pale rose.
A rare feather,
exquisite and fragile, shining under
an old tree of glittering green leaves.
It was nighttime, but the sun was out.
Your one tender kiss awoke the feather, and turned it
into the bird she once was, in a past life she had already forgotten.
The rare and exquisite and fragile bird.
And she has lived with your heart, in your heart, ever since.

Your surrender to nothingness is expansive, and
the warmest embrace there ever is, ever will be.
Your refined detachment of the closest, dearest attachment of tenderness
It gives meaning to what seems to be void of meanings at all,
resembling a delicately and beautifully
cracked porcelain vase,
its slender neck holding all the secrets which are not remembered.
The unbreaking of a broken egg, in the most perfect shade
of pearlescent ivory, with
not even the faintest lines on a rainbow-hued seashell.
I realise in this moment we are regal.
We are angels.
Your elegance is the reddest of all the red peonies
blooming between our bodies and souls.

You say I can neither understand nor imagine. I close
my eyes and think of
the most beautiful desert moon, or the saddest
love poem, or our daughter
in your arms, in the farthest and nearest yesterday
of our tomorrow.

You spoke to my philosophy professor as if
he was one of your oldest friends.
You talked about Heidegger, and game theory,
and all the dilemmas of life, in a beautiful manner which transcended them all,
as if they were lines from an old poem you had written long ago.
You say the whole life is in The Little Prince, and that you
cannot admire someone who is not an acharya,
however brilliant his thoughts,
however great his legacy.
I look at this perfect man before me, with his
bluest blue eyes and think to myself, “I married
the one rare acharya I know.”

I am your heart, as you are my poetry,
mirror of my aloneness
the soundlessness of my melodies,
the attachment of my detachment,
the meaningfulness of my meaninglessness,
the nothingness of my very own self,

my undefined/undefinable otherness.

You taught me I am myself and I am enough,
in need of no more, like Cocteau's Trinity
that binds my heart in the truest way it longs to be bound.

And so I write, different from how I have ever written poetry,
in the state of being and the state of breathing,
without striving and crafting,
without effort,

as if I was writing
for the very first and the very last time.

~June 2012

Tintype of our wedding photo by Finley & Pollard,
originally taken on 30th June 2007 by Simon Tottman.

Saturday, 22 March 2014


She walks barefoot over ancient city streets, smokes cigarettes, and eats flowersshe is heaven's gesture.

~Christopher-Calvin Pollard

Comte de Dalmas, Motif décoratif pour chapelle Funéraire,
Héliogravure, 1924. *via Ma petite Melancolie
Vilhelm Hammershøi, Seated Figure (Anna Hammershoi), 1884

“... For although she was so elegantly modern, she had all the looks of the goddesses of Titian and Veronese. Her long silky curls shone with the same pale golden tint as their tresses; her carriage had that female majesty with which they sit enthroned or dance, and her flesh had the mysterious freshness and lustre of their flesh.

~“The Heroine, from Winter’s Tales, by Isak Dinesen

Andrey Remnev
Alphonse Marie Mucha: Model, Photographic Study, 1908. (via DantéBéa)

It was the gods that put her in my path or put me on her pathshe was the first woman in my life, the first divine womandemigoddessmeaning the first woman to haunt me in that very special muse waythat place between lust and love where fires can burn without melting the blocks of ice they are built upon.

“Ce sont les dieux qui l’ont mis sur mon chemin ou me mettre sur son cheminelle fut la première femme de ma vie, la première femme divinedemigoddessce qui signifie la première femme à me hanter dans cette façon de muse très spécial—que entre la luxure et l’amour où les incendies peuvent brûler sans faire fondre les blocs de glace qu’ils sont construits sur.” 

Julio Romero de Torres
I just woke up from a dream, but this did not mean I was not still dreaming.

I was sitting on a couch at an exclusive nightclub in ancient Egypt... Out of nowhere my perfect woman sat down next to me. [...] After a short time she put her hands on my shoulders and bent her head towards me. Gently, she whispered my name backwards into my ear and stole all of my ideas and hid them in her stomach. I almost fainted as she made her way out of the club...

~Christopher-Calvin Pollard

Edouard Manet, In the Conservatory (detail), 1878-1879

Friday, 21 March 2014

I ripened strangely in every impulse of my unlived youth, and you found yourself beginning a kind of savage childhood in my heart.

The Rose-Window (above), and one of my favourite poems by my beloved Rilke, To Lou Andreas-Salomé, as translated by my personal favourite translator of Rilke's poetry and prose: Stephen Mitchell.


I kept myself too open, I forgot
that outside there are not just Things, not just 
animals at home within themselves,
whose eyes do not reach out from their life’s roundedness
differently than a picture from its frame;
that all along I snatched into myself
glances, opinion, curiosity.
    For all we know, eyes may appear in space,
staring down. Only when hurled in you
is my face not imperiled, as it grows
into you, as it continues darkly
forever onward within your sheltered heart.


As one would hold a handkerchief in front of
one’s piled-up breath . . . no: as one would press it
against the wound from which life, all in one spurt,
is trying to escape—I held you close
till you were red with me. Who can describe 
what happened to us? We made up for all
that there had been no time for. I ripened strangely
in every impulse of my unlived youth,
and you, Beloved, found yourself beginning
a kind of savage childhood in my heart.


Remembering them will not suffice: there must,
from all those moments, still remain a pure
existence in my depths, the sediment
from a measurelessly overfilled solution.
For I am not recalling: what I am
moves me because of you. It’s not that I 
discover you at the sad, cooled-off places
you left; the very fact that you’re not there
is warm with you and realer and is more 
than a privation. Yearning ends so often
in vagueness. Why should I be desperate while
your presence still can fall upon me, gently
as moonlight on a seat beside the window.

~Translated from the German by Stephen Mitchell, from Ahead of All Parting: The Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke, edited and translated by Stephen Mitchell, 1995, The Modern Library, New York.

Kenji Wakasugi, Fusuma – Camellia, 2012, platinum print.
Micheko Galerie, München. *via Artsy
Kenji Wakasugi, Fusuma – White Plum Blossoms, 2012, platinum print.
Micheko Galerie, München. *via Artsy
Kenji Wakasugi, Fusuma – Lily, 2012, platinum print.
Micheko Galerie, München. *via Artsy

Svetlana Zakharova and Edvin Revazov in the ballet 茶花女
(La Dame aux Camélias)

Thursday, 20 March 2014



I think you would understand
my craft of writing, how it makes of me
your king and creature in this no-man's-land
of the moment;
the wide-eye, squint-eye vision that by turns
I loose upon your beauty, my soft palm
and callused fingers of an archer's hand;
and how my introspection bends me to
you, filling the mirror of this blank white sheet
with your circle of renewed virginity
that, by violating, I complete.

Moon, by Martin Edmunds, from Paris Review issue #121, winter 1991.

Hussein Chalayan, Sakoku 鎖國, spring/summer 2011

The book is an undefined object that we can discuss only in imprecise terms, an object forever buffeted by our fantasies and illusions. (...) 
Truth destined for others is less important than truthfulness to ourselves, something attainable only by those who free themselves from the obligation to seem cultivated, which tyrannizes us from within and prevents us from being ourselves. (...)
The paradox of reading is that the path toward ourselves passes through books, but that this must remain a passage. It is a traversal of books that a good reader engages in — a reader who knows that every book is the bearer of part of himself and can give him access to it, if only he has the wisdom not to end his journey there. (...) 
Encouraged from our school years onward to think of books as untouchable objects, we feel guilty at the very thought of subjecting them to transformation. It is necessary to lift these taboos to begin to truly listen to the infinitely mobile object that is a literary text. The text’s mobility is enhanced whenever it participates in a conversation or a written exchange, where it is animated by the subjectivity of each reader and his dialogue with others, and to genuinely listen to it implies developing a particular sensitivity to all the possibilities that the book takes on in such circumstances. (...)
All education should strive to help those receiving it to gain enough freedom in relation to works of art to themselves become writers and artists.

—Pierre Bayard, from How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read

Robert Mapplethorpe, Calla Lily, 1984, 1986 & 1985.

Sakoku 鎖國 ("chained country"), by Hussein Chalayan: decentered, wrapping in transition, shadow readings, imminence of water, haiku, floating body.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

“The Tobacco Shop,” by Fernando Pessoa

I'm nothing.
I'll always be nothing.
I can't want to be something.
But I have in me all the dreams of the world.

Windows of my room,
The room of one of the world's millions nobody knows
(And if they knew me, what would they know?),
You open onto the mystery of a street continually crossed by people,
A street inaccessible to any and every thought,
Real, impossibly real, certain, unknowingly certain,
With the mystery of things beneath the stones and beings,
With death making the walls damp and the hair of men white,
With Destiny driving the wagon of everything down the road of nothing.

Today I'm defeated, as if I'd learned the truth.
Today I'm lucid, as if I were about to die
And had no greater kinship with things
Than to say farewell, this building and this side of the street becoming
A row of train cars, with the whistle for departure
Blowing in my head
And my nerves jolting and bones creaking as we pull out.

Today I'm bewildered, like a man who wondered and discovered and forgot.
Today I'm torn between the loyalty I owe
To the outward reality of the Tobacco Shop across the street
And to the inward reality of my feeling that everything's a dream.

I failed in everything.
Since I had no ambition, perhaps I failed in nothing.
I left the education I was given,
Climbing down from the window at the back of the house.
I went to the country with big plans.
But all I found was grass and trees,
And when there were people they were just like the others.
I step back from the window and sit in a chair. What should I think about?

How should I know what I'll be, I who don't know what I am?
Be what I think? But I think of being so many things!
And there are so many who think of being the same thing that we can't all be it!
Genius? At this moment
A hundred thousand brains are dreaming they're geniuses like me,
And it may be that history won't remember even one,
All of their imagined conquests amounting to so much dung.
No, I don't believe in me.
Insane asylums are full of lunatics with certainties!
Am I, who have no certainties, more right or less right?
No, not even me . . .
In how many garrets and non-garrets of the world
Are self-convinced geniuses at this moment dreaming?
How many lofty and noble and lucid aspirations
–Yes, truly lofty and noble and lucid
And perhaps even attainable–
Will never see the light of day or find a sympathetic ear?
The world is for those born to conquer it,
Not for those who dream they can conquer it, even if they're right.
I've done more in dreams than Napoleon.

I've held more humanities against my hypothetical breast than Christ.
I've secretly invented philosophies such as Kant never wrote.
But I am, and perhaps will always be, the man in the garret,
Even though I don't live in one.
I'll always be the one who wasn't born for that;
I'll always be merely the one who had qualities;
I'll always be the one who waited for a door to open in a wall without doors
And sang the song of the Infinite in a chicken coop
And heard the voice of God in a covered well.
Believe in me? No, not in anything.
Let Nature pour over my seething head
Its sun, its rain, and the wind that finds my hair,
And let the rest come if it will or must, or let it not come.
Cardiac slaves of the stars,
We conquered the whole world before getting out of bed,
But we woke up and it's hazy,
We got up and it's alien,
We went outside and it's the entire earth
Plus the solar system and the Milky Way and the Indefinite.

(Eat your chocolates, little girl,
Eat your chocolates!
Believe me, there's no metaphysics on earth like chocolates,
And all religions put together teach no more than the candy shop.
Eat, dirty little girl, eat!
If only I could eat chocolates with the same truth as you!
But I think and, removing the silver paper that's tinfoil,
I throw it on the ground, as I've thrown out life.)

But at least, from my bitterness over what I'll never be,
There remains the hasty writing of these verses,
A broken gateway to the Impossible.
But at least I confer on myself a contempt without tears,
Noble at least in the sweeping gesture by which I fling
The dirty laundry that's me–with no list–into the stream of things,
And I stay at home, shirtless.

(O my consoler, who doesn't exist and therefore consoles,
Be you a Greek goddess, conceived as a living statue,
Or a patrician woman of Rome, impossibly noble and dire,
Or a princess of the troubadours, all charm and grace,
Or an eighteenth-century marchioness, decollete and aloof,
Or a famous courtesan from our parent's generation,
Or something modern, I can't quite imagine what–
Whatever all of this is, whatever you are, if you can inspire, then inspire me!
My heart is a poured-out bucket.
In the same way invokers of spirits invoke spirits, I invoke
My own self and find nothing.
I go to the window and see the street with absolute clarity.
I see the shops, I see the sidewalks, I see the passing cars,
I see the clothed living beings who pass each other.
I see the dogs that also exist,
And all of this weighs on me like a sentence of exile,
And all of this is foreign, like everything else.)

I've lived, studied, loved, and even believed,
And today there's not a beggar I don't envy just because he isn't me.
I look at the tatters and sores and falsehood of each one,
And I think: perhaps you never lived or studied or loved or believed
(For it's possible to do all of this without having done any of it);
Perhaps you've merely existed, as when a lizard has its tail cut off
And the tail keeps on twitching, without the lizard.
I made of myself what I was no good at making,
And what I could have made of myself I didn't.
I put on the wrong costume
And was immediately taken for someone I wasn't, and I said nothing and was lost.
When I went to take off the mask,
It was stuck to my face.
When I got it off and saw myself in the mirror,
I had already grown old.
I was drunk and no longer knew how to wear the costume hat I hadn't taken off.
I threw out the mask and slept in the closet
Like a dog tolerated by the management
Because it's harmless,
And I'll write down this story to prove I'm sublime.

Musical essence of my useless verses,
If only I could look at you as something I had made
Instead of always looking at the Tobacco Shop across the street,
Trampling on my consciousness of existing,
Like a rug a drunkard stumbles on
Or a doormat stolen by gypsies and it's not worth a thing.

But the Tobacco Shop Owner has come to the door and is standing there.
I look at him with the discomfort of a half-twisted neck
Compounded by the discomfort of a half-grasping soul.
He will die and I will die.
He'll leave his signboard, I'll leave my poems.
His sign will also eventually die, and so will my poems.
Eventually the street where the sign was will die,
And so will the language in which my poems were written.
Then the whirling planet where all of this happened will die.

On other planets of other solar systems something like people
Will continue to make things like poems and to live under things like signs,
Always one thing facing the other,
Always one thing as useless as the other,
Always the impossible as stupid as reality,
Always the inner mystery as true as the mystery sleeping on the surface.
Always this thing or always that, or neither one thing nor the other.

But a man has entered the Tobacco Shop (to buy tobacco?),
And plausible reality suddenly hits me.
I half rise from my chair–energetic, convinced, human–
And will try to write these verses in which I say the opposite.

I light up a cigarette as I think about writing them,
And in that cigarette I savor a freedom from all thought.
My eyes follow the smoke as if it were my own trail
And I enjoy, for a sensitive and fitting moment,
A liberation from all speculation
And an awareness that metaphysics is a consequence of not feeling very well.
Then I lean back in the chair
And keep smoking.
As long as Destiny permits, I'll keep smoking.

(If I married my washwoman's daughter
Perhaps I would be happy.)
I get up from the chair. I go to the window.

The man has come out of the Tobacco Shop (putting change into his pocket?).
Ah, I know him: it's unmetaphysical Esteves.
(The Tobacco Shop Owner has come to the door.)
As if by divine instinct, Esteves turns around and sees me.
He waves hello, I shout back "Hello, Esteves!" and the universe
Falls back into place without ideals or hopes, and the Owner of the Tobacco Shop

Translated from the Portuguese by Richard Zenith

Medardo Rosso, “Enfant malade (Sick child),” c.1909, aristotype, 7.9 x 6.3cm. Private Collection.

Detail from Van Gogh’s “Roses”

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Poetic Essence: Erotikos Logos/青玉案

清 郎世寧 畫瓶花 (Giuseppe Castiglione, Flowers in a Vase, Qing dynasty)


Rose of fate, you looked for ways to wound us
yet you bent like the secret about to be released
and the command you chose to give us was beautiful
and your smile was like a ready sword.

The ascent of your cycle livened creation
from your thorn emerged the way’s thought
our impulse dawned naked to possess you
the world was easy: a simple pulsation.


The secrets of the sea are forgotten on the shores
the darkness of the depths is forgotten in the surf;
the corals of memory suddenly shine purple. . .
O do not stir. . . listen to hear its light

motion. . . you touched the tree with the apples
the hand reached out, the thread points the way and guides you. . .
O dark shivering in the roots and the leaves
if it were but you who would bring the forgotten dawn!

May lilies blossom again on the meadow of separation
may days open mature, the embrace of the heavens,
may those eyes alone shine in the glare
the pure soul be outlined like the song of a flute.

Was it night that shut its eyes? Ashes remain,
as from the string of a bow a choked hum remains,
ash and dizziness on the black shore
and dense fluttering imprisoned in surmise.

Rose of the wind, you knew but took us unknowing
at a time when thought was building bridges
so that fingers would knit and two fates pass by
and spill into the low and rested light.


O dark shivering in the roots and the leaves!
Come forth sleepless form in the gathering silence
raise your head from your cupped hands
so that your will be done and you tell me again

the words that touched and merged with the blood like an embrace;
and let your desire, deep like the shade of a walnut tree, bend
and flood us with your lavish hair
from the down of the kiss to the leaves of the heart.

You lowered your eyes and you had the smile
that masters of another time humbly painted.
Forgotten reading from an ancient gospel,
your words breathed and your voice was gentle:

‘The passing of time is soft and unworldly
and pain floats lightly in my soul
dawn breaks in the heavens, the dream remains afloat
and it’s as if scented shrubs were passing.

‘With my eyes’ startling, with my body’s blush
a flock of doves awakens and descends
their low, circling flight entangles me
the stars are a human touch on my breast.

‘I hear, as in a sea shell, the distant
adverse and confused lament of the world
but these are moments only, they disappear,
and the two-branched thought of my desire reigns alone.

‘It seemed I’d risen naked in a vanished recollection
when you came, strange and familiar, my beloved
to grant me, bending, the boundless deliverance
I was seeking from the wind’s quick sistrum. . .’

The broken sunset declined and was gone
and it seemed a delusion to ask for the gifts of the sky.
You lowered your eyes. The moon’s thorn blossomed
and you became afraid of the mountain’s shadows.

. . . In the mirror how our love diminishes
in sleep the dreams, school of oblivion
in the depths of time, how the heart contracts
and vanishes in the rocking of a foreign embrace. . .


Two serpents, beautiful, apart, tentacles of separation
crawl and search, in the night of the trees,
for a secret love in hidden bowers;
sleepless they search, they neither drink nor eat.

Circling, twisting, their insatiable intent
spins, multiplies, turns, spreads rings on the body
which the laws of the starry dome silently govern,
stirring its hot, irrepressible frenzy.

The forest stands as a shivering pillar for night
and the silence is a silver cup where moments fall
echoes distinct, whole, a careful chisel
sustained by carved lines. . .

The statue suddenly dawns. But the bodies have vanished
in the sea in the wind in the sun in the rain.
So the beauties nature grants us are born
but who knows if a soul hasn’t died in the world.

The parted serpents must have circled in fantasy
(the forest shimmers with birds, shoots, blossoms)
their wavy searching still remains,
like the turnings of the cycle that bring sorrow.


Where is the double-edged day that had changed everything?
Won’t there be a navigable river for us?
Won’t there be a sky to drop refreshing dew
for the soul benumbed and nourished by the lotus?

On the stone of patience we wait for the miracle
that opens the heavens and makes all things possible
we wait for the angel as in the age-old drama
at the moment when the open roses of twilight

disappear. . . Red rose of the wind and of fate,
you remained in memory only, a heavy rhythm
rose of the night, you passed, undulating purple
undulation of the sea. . . The world is simple.

                                          Athens, October ’29—December ’30

George Seferis, "Erotikos Logos" translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard, from Collected Poems (George Seferis). Copyright © 1995 by George Seferis, Princeton University Press. *via The Poetry Foundation

Sun Jun, Still Life series, Photography of New Literati Painting, 2013.
Sun Jun, Still Life series, 2013, Photography of New Literati Painting.
孫郡,明月清風系列:微花 3-1;新文人畫攝影。
Sun Jun, Small Flower, 2012, Photography of New Literati Painting.

Lastly, something I came upon which very much agrees with what I consider the "poetic essence" in literature, in words (last sentence in particular):

'That behind every word a whole world is hidden that must be imagined. Actually, every word has a great burden of memories, not only just of one person but of all mankind. Take a word such as bread, or war; take a word such as chair, or bed or Heaven. Behind every word is a whole world. I'm afraid most people use words as something to throw away without sensing the burden that lies in a word. Of course, that is what is significant about poetry, or the lyric, in which this can be brought about more intensively than in prose, although prose has the same function.' 

~Heinrich Böll, on language and the power of imagination,
 via The Paris Review

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Coracias Caudatus (lilac-breasted roller)

With a wide beautiful smile she walks back into his arms, the home of their hearts, like a black swan sweating out of the sweet tropics’ heat and humid scentsshe is dressed too warm for the sun and for his embrace. No one can understand the intense ivory in her voice, the aroused gem inside her body, save him, and his eyes: there is wind in the sky, there is gentleness that day in his usually inescapably fiery gaze.

Soon after they live their love she sleeps for two days. When she wakes, she covers herself with a white cashmere shawl. He wonders why she feels cold during a time when her body temperature should naturally be raised a few degrees. “I am always cold. I am a sickly child.” She says in a tone whose intention is to seduce more words from him. He strokes her face and says, “You look goodyou look rested.” All she can think about is his hands and his face and how much she longs for a cheesecake made with rose petals.


At night, in bed, her thoughts are racing, without logic, with no real purpose. She thinks he has fallen asleep next to her. “What is your emotional state after coming back to me?" Out of the blue he says. Stunned, and almost as if she was a child caught stealing candy from the glass jar, she stays silent for a while, breathing very quietly. “_________________”

She isn’t sure if he is convinced by her answer.

(To be continued...?)

Detail of a gown by Alexander McQueen, Spring 2007 Ready-to-Wear collection.

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, born 1948), Bust of Venus,
November 26, 1840, 2009. Gelatin silver print.
Image: 36 7/8 x 29 1/2 in. Framed: 48 7/8 x 41 1/2 in. © Hiroshi Sugimoto

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

我的美麗與哀愁:some fragments on poetry and soul

Often the object of a desire, when desire is transformed into hope, becomes more real than reality itself.” 
—Umberto Eco, The Book of Legendary Lands

A poet's soul is written down in words and expressed through the soul of his poetry. A sigh becomes the poetic essence of his soul, a recognition of this delicate and evanescent beauty that is universal, paradoxically transient and eternal at the same time. A breath, the pearlescent powder on a butterfly's wing, an evening breeze, colours of the world at dusk, a mirage on sand, a thought, a melody, a poem lasting for as long as it is sung silently, soundlessly. The efflorescence of fallen petals on a floating piano in slumber of emptiness, nonchalantly awaiting reveille from repose.

A poet's soul can always foresee the aching sadness that comes with/after beauty-something that "is," and not "caused"-the featherlight imprint of a butterfly's kiss upon one's heart that weighs heavier than the blood of a velvety scarlet rose...

This is the moon's phosphorescence... As exquisite and mysterious as the poetry of the moon, of the stirring illusion of crazing inside jade.

I shall quote from one of the poems dearest to my heart-“Invitation to the Harp” by Rafael Alberti (translated by Mark Strand):

Go even farther away than that.
Where the moon is torn between a poplar leaf and a passionate book,
where there are midnight frosts that candelabra conceal
and where death shivers in the unsteady sleep of the candles,
where a puppet in mourning dies over a tuberose,
where a voice from oblivion stirs the sleeping water of pianos.

Go always farther away, farther away.

Go where floors retain the echoes and shadows of footsteps,
where moths watch over the silence of neckties,
where a hundred years is a harp that has been forgotten.

film x-ray radiograph of roses, by bionerd (via flickr)

“Today in my heart
a vague trembling of stars
and all roses are
as white as my pain.”

―Federico García Lorca, from “Canción Otoñal” (Autumn Song)

i expect nothing
i want what you are how you are
who you are
i want the unseen

“Truths crawl up my spine as easily as lies braid my hair. I am acted upon with such great force by this world and the next--that I am paper thin--blown thusly--my will, is no will at all. I am wadded up and tossed, written upon, burned, folded, ripped, rolled, glued, torn, dogeared, shredded, erased, recycled and much more--in the end I am a thing that is used which no one knows who made it in the first place. The poet who makes his own paper is very careful with what gets put onto it.”

(poetry & words by Christopher-Calvin Pollard)

Mughal gem set gold mounted jade mirror, Northern India, 18th century.

We hardly ever see the moon any more
                                                          so no wonder
   it’s so beautiful when we look up suddenly
and there it is gliding broken-faced over the bridges
brilliantly coursing, soft, and a cool wind fans
       your hair over your forehead and your memories
              of Red Grooms’ locomotive landscape
I want some bourbon/you want some oranges/I love the leather
                jacket Norman gave me
                                                and the corduroy coat David
     gave you, it is more mysterious than spring, the El Greco
heavens breaking open and then reassembling like lions
                                                 in a vast tragic veldt
     that is far from our small selves and our temporally united
passions in the cathedral of Januaries

     everything is too comprehensible
these are my delicate and caressing poems
I suppose there will be more of those others to come, as in the past
                                                  so many!
but for now the moon is revealing itself like a pearl
                                                  to my equally naked heart

Avenu A, by Frank O’Hara

One's heart can be a riddle to oneself. Is it possible, could it be an intimation of not loving one's own soul would there be a soulmate out there with whom one was not in love?

“La noche habla suspiros de hojas.
En el silencio,
una sombra camina la huella de mi susurro.

"Walk my sigh.
I knew there was none reflected in each step."

It was the night sea
deep breathing silence.

The message of the conch you told in your look from sirens
where dream gorges of fire.

Ancestral Elixir
walking the stone beating.

~Three poems: Untitled i & ii, and Deep Blue by Nube Alix

from the series Dialog, 1973, by Rudolf Bonvie (via)

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Musicality in Poetic Narratives

“It was counterpoint in a narrative form.

I’m just using polyphony as an analogy here. Let’s say there are two musical lines, a treble and a bass line, that you’re hearing simultaneously. You’re experiencing each one, but you’re also experiencing what’s happening between them. Each line has complete integrity, but the space between them, the harmonic relationship, is just as critical an element, and it’s that tension, the way it all works together—that is what is uncannily exciting. How I would love to be able to do something like that! I would love to make some experience for the reader that entails the words and could not be made with other words, but that is much more, and other, than what the words are. And I would love to make some experience that creates all kinds of reverberations between different elements. /.../

But the message that is found cannot be exactly the message you’ve sent. Whatever bunch of words the writer transmits requires a person, a consciousness on the other end, to reassemble it. You know how it feels when you read something that opens up a little sealed envelope in your brain. It’s a letter from yourself, but it’s been delivered by somebody else, a writer.

Nothing is more fortifying than learning that you have a real reader, a reader who truly responds both accurately and actively. It gives you courage, and you feel, I can crawl out on the branch a little further. It’s going to hold.”

~Deborah Eisenberg, The Art of Fiction No. 218, interviewed by Catherine Steindler; from Paris Review Spring 2013 issue, No. 204

The Intelligence of Flowers, 1907, by Alvin Langdon Coburn

I would like to give you the silver
branch, the small white flower, the one
word that will protect you
from the grief at the center
of your dream, from the grief
at the center I would like to follow
you up the long stairway
again & become
the boat that would row you back
carefully, a flame
in two cupped hands
to where your body lies
beside me, and as you enter
it as easily as breathing in

I would like to be the air
that inhabits you for a moment
only. I would like to be that unnoticed

& that necessary.

~from “Variation on the Word Sleep,” by Margaret Atwood

Pierre-Ambroise Richebourg, Paysage russe (Russian Landscape), c.1859

Antoine's Women; Rosalba's Muse

“Watteau’s women do not care to represent Womanhood or Love or Beauty, certainly not with a capital W or L or B. They are not the sort of women who want to be regarded as forces of nature. They are not interested in being idealized or idolized. They are too much at ease to be caught up in such fantasies.

They stand apart from their own beauty and their amorous adventures, as if they felt free to consider the value of love or beauty, but only the value it might have for them, for now—a private matter. They are in some sense natural aristocrats, with a freedom from social constraints that gives them the aura of supernatural beings, even of goddesses.

But Watteau’s women are not goddesses in any classical sense. They have none of the traditional responsibilities of goddesses. They do not personify some value or virtue. They do not have supernatural powers. And that is precisely their charm, the key to their comic exuberance. They are goddesses who are freed from all responsibility. They are goddesses who have resigned from their roles.

They are goddesses on the lam.”

~Jed Perl, Antoine’s Alphabet: Watteau and His World

A Muse, by Rosalba Carriera, Italian, about 1725,
pastel on laid blue paper, 12 3/16 x 10 1/4 in., via The Getty Museum.
Portrait of Archduchess Maria Isabella, from The History of Florence: From 59 B.C. to 1966: the two-thousand-year story of a unique city, whose way of life has influenced the world, by Marcello Vannucci.
Lady Beatrice, by George Clausen
Combing Hair, by Torii Kotondo (Japanese, 1900-1976). Japan, October, 1929. Prints; woodcuts. Color woodblock print; embossed. Image: 16 1/8 x 10 5/16 in. (41 x 26.2cm); Sheet: 18 9/16 x 11 3/4in. (47.2 x 29.8cm)

Ideal Female Heads, French, 1769-1770,
by Jacques Augustin Pajou (1730-1809),
Terracotta on white marble socle, via The Getty Museum.

Detail of Bacchante tenant un tambour de basque, avec deux enfants 
(Bacchante holding a tambourine, with two children),
by Jacques Augustin Pajou (1730-1809); Marble, Musée du Louvre.

Helene Caroline Therese, Duchess in Bavaria (4 April 1834 – 16 May 1890) of the House of Wittelsbach, nicknamed Néné, was a Bavarian princess and, through marriage, temporarily the head of the Thurn and Taxis family.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

soundless music (to the new year) & Emily

W. S. Merwin's poetry never ceases to move me... his words and images create a realm of soundless music where I long to be, where poetic yearning is such poignant and yet quiet beauty.

With what stillness at last
you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
as though they had not noticed
and did not know you at all
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away in itself
to the hush of the morning

so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible

~"To the New Year," by W. S. Merwin


And my beloved Emily... on this new day.

It's all I have to bring today— 
This, and my heart beside— 
This, and my heart, and all the fields— 
And all the meadows wide— 
Be sure you count—should I forget 
Some one the sum could tell— 
This, and my heart, and all the Bees 
Which in the Clover dwell.

~"It's all I have to bring today," by Emily Dickinson

A fine and rare celadon-glazed shell-shaped brush washer, seal mark and period of Qianlong.
Photo credit: Sotheby's.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

"Ars Poetica" & "You, Andrew Marvell"

~two poems by Archibald MacLeish

A poem should be palpable and mute  
As a globed fruit,

As old medallions to the thumb,

Silent as the sleeve-worn stone
Of casement ledges where the moss has grown—

A poem should be wordless  
As the flight of birds.


A poem should be motionless in time  
As the moon climbs,

Leaving, as the moon releases
Twig by twig the night-entangled trees,

Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves,  
Memory by memory the mind—

A poem should be motionless in time  
As the moon climbs.


A poem should be equal to:
Not true.

For all the history of grief
An empty doorway and a maple leaf.

For love
The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea—

A poem should not mean  
But be.

{more ars poetica poems here}

Detail from Boy Blowing Soap Bubbles: Allegory on the Transitoriness and the Brevity of Life, Karel Dujardin, 1668.


And here face down beneath the sun   
And here upon earth’s noonward height   
To feel the always coming on
The always rising of the night:

To feel creep up the curving east   
The earthy chill of dusk and slow   
Upon those under lands the vast   
And ever climbing shadow grow

And strange at Ecbatan the trees   
Take leaf by leaf the evening strange   
The flooding dark about their knees   
The mountains over Persia change

And now at Kermanshah the gate   
Dark empty and the withered grass   
And through the twilight now the late   
Few travelers in the westward pass

And Baghdad darken and the bridge   
Across the silent river gone
And through Arabia the edge
Of evening widen and steal on

And deepen on Palmyra’s street
The wheel rut in the ruined stone   
And Lebanon fade out and Crete
High through the clouds and overblown

And over Sicily the air
Still flashing with the landward gulls   
And loom and slowly disappear   
The sails above the shadowy hulls

And Spain go under and the shore   
Of Africa the gilded sand
And evening vanish and no more   
The low pale light across that land

Nor now the long light on the sea:

And here face downward in the sun   
To feel how swift how secretly
The shadow of the night comes on ...
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