Wednesday, December 31, 2003
THE YEAR IN FULL
I looked for poems that would encompass my voyage during the last year.
2003 - 2004
IN THE NAKED BED, IN PLATO’S CAVE
In the naked bed, in Plato’s cave,
Reflected headlights slowly slid the wall,
Carpenters hammered under the shaded window,
Wind troubled the window curtains all night long,
A fleet of trucks strained uphill, grinding,
Their freights covered, as usual.
The ceiling lightened again, the slanting diagram
Slid slowly forth.
Hearing the milkman’s chop,
His striving up the stair, the bottle’s chink,
I rose from the bed, lit a cigarette,
And walked to the window. The stony street
Displayed the stillness in which buildings stand,
The street-lamp’s vigil and the horse’s patience.
The winter sky’s pure capital
Turned me back to bed with exhausted eyes.
Strangeness grew in the motionless air. The loose
Film grayed. Shaking wagons, hooves’ waterfalls,
Sounded far off, increasing, louder and nearer.
A car coughed, starting. Morning, softly
Melting the air, lifted the half-covered chair
Form underseas, kindled the looking-glass,
Distinguished the dresser and the white wall.
The bird called tentatively, whistled, called,
Bubbled and whistled, so! Perplexed, still wet
With sleep, affectionate, hungry and cold. So, so,
O son of man, the ignorant night, the travail
Of early morning, the mystery of beginning
Again and again,
While History is unforgiven.
From: Summer Knowledge, New and Selected Poems – Doubleday 1959
Edwin Arlington Robinson
Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.
And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
‘Good morning,’ and he glittered when he walked.
And he was rich-yes, richer than a king,
And admirably schooled in every grace;
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.
So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.
From: The Children of the Night – Charles Scribner’s Sons
LIONS in SWEDEN
No more phrases, Swenson: I was once
A hunter of those sovereigns of the soul
And savings banks, Fides, the sculptor’s prize,
All eyes and size, and galled Justitia,
Trained to poise the tables of the law,
Patientia, forever soothing wounds,
And mighty Fortitudo, frantic bass.
But these shall not adorn my souvenirs,
These lions, these majestic images.
If the fault is with the soul, the sovereigns
Of the soul must likewise be at fault, and first.
If the fault is with the souvenirs, yet these
Are the soul itself. And the whole of the soul, Swenson,
As every man in Sweden will concede,
Still hankers after lions, or, to shift,
Still hankers after sovereign images.
If the fault is with the lions, send them back
To monsieur Dufy’s Hamburg whence they came.
The vegetation still abounds with forms.
From: The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens – Alfred A. Knopf
My father didn’t really belong in history.
He kept looking over his shoulder at some mistake.
he was a stranger to me, for I belong.
There never was a particular he couldn’t understand,
but there were too many in too long a row,
and like many another he was overwhelmed.
Today drinking coffee I look over the cup
and want to have the right amount of fear,
preferring to be saved and not, like him, heroic.
I want to be as afraid as the teeth are big,
I want to be as dumb as the wise are wrong:
I’d just as soon be pushed by events to where I belong.
From: Travelling Through the Dark – Harper & Row
THE WINTER PALACE
Most people know more as they get older:
I give all that the cold shoulder.
I spent my second quarter-century
Losing what I had learnt at university
And refusing to take in what had happened since.
Now I know none of the names in the public prints,
And am starting to give offence by forgetting faces
And swearing I’ve never been in certain places.
It will be worth it, if in the end I manage
To blank out whatever it is that is doing the damage.
Then there will be nothing I know.
My mind will fold into itself, like fields, like snow.
From: Collected Poems – Marvell Press – Faber & Faber
From: THE MANNER OF THE WORLD NOWADAYS
John Skelton (1460-1529)
So many cuckold-makers,
So many crakers,
And so many peace-brakers,
Saw I never:
So much vain clothing
With cutting and jagging,
And so much bragging
Saw I never.
So many news and knacks,
So many naughty packs,
And so many that money lacks,
Saw I never:
So many maidens with child
And willfully beguiled,
And so many places untiled,
Saw I never.
So many women blamed
And righteously defamed,
And so little ashamed,
Saw I never:
Widows so soon wed
After their husbands be dead,
Having such haste to bed,
Saw I never.
From: Making Love – The Picador Book of Erotic Verse – Picador
THE HUMAN ABSTRACT
Pity would be no more
If we did not make somebody poor;
And Mercy no more could be
if all were as happy as we.
And mutual fear brings peace,
Till the selfish loves increase:
Then Cruelty knits a snare,
And spreads his baits with care.
He sits down with holy fears,
And waters the ground with tears;
Then Humility takes its root
Underneath his foot.
Soon spreads the dismal shade
Of Mystery over his head;
And the caterpillar and fly
Feed on Mystery.
And it bears the fruit of Deceit,
Ruddy and sweet to eat;
And the raven his nest has made
In the thickest shade.
The Gods of the earth and sea
Sought through Nature to find his tree;
But their search was all in vain:
There grows one in the Human brain.
From: Beginnings in Poetry – Scott, Foresman and Company
Tao Te Ching - Lao Tzu - Book one XI
Share one hub.
Adapt the nothing therein to the purpose in hand, and you will have the use of the cart. Knead clay in order to make a vessel. Adapt the nothing therein to the purpose in hand, and you will have the use of the vessel. Cut out doors and windows in order to make a room. Adapt the nothing therein to the purpose in hand, and you will have the use of the room.
Thus what we gain is Something, yet is by virtue of Nothing* that this can be put to use.
*In all three cases, by nothing is meant the empty spaces.
From: Lao Tzu – Tao Te Ching – Penquin Classics
A Shilling life will give you all the facts;
How Father beat him, how he ran away,
What were the struggles of his youth, what acts
Made him the greatest figure of his day;
Of how he fought, fished, hunted, worked all night,
Though giddy, climbed new mountains, named a sea:
Some a of the last researchers even write
Love made him weep his pints like you and me.
With all his honors on, he sighed for one
Who, say astonished critics, lived at home;
Did little jobs about the house with skill
And nothing else: could whistle; would sit still
Or potter round the garden; answered some
Of his long marvelous letters but kept none.
From: Modern English Prose and Poetry – Mac Millan Company
A snake! Though it passes,
eyes that had glared at me
stay in the grasses
Backward I gaze;
One whom I had chanced to meet
is lost in haze
Snail, my little man,
slowly, oh very slowly
climb up Fujisan!
Down it goes, and more and more
up goes its tail!
The usually hateful crow:
he, too-this morning,
on the snow!
From: An Introduction To Haiku – An anthology of poems and poets from Basho to Shiki – Doubleday Anchor Books
posted by Walter at 12/31/2003
Sunday, December 28, 2003
A MUSTACHE WITH a MESSAGE
‘To Gala – Who is the guardian angel of my mustache also’
‘When I was three (A Dali inconsistency in regard to my previous post) I wanted to be a cook. When I was six. I wanted to be Napoleon. Since then my ambition has done nothing but grow. At the age of 29, I undertook my first American Campaign. On the day I disembarked in New York, my photograph appeared on the cover of Time magazine. It showed me wearing the smallest mustache in the world. Since then the world has shrunk considerably while my mustache, like the power of my imagination, continued to grow. Since, I don't smoke, I decided to grow a mustache-it is better for the health. However, I always carried a jewel-studded cigarette case in which, instead of tobacco, were carefully placed several mustaches. Adolphe Menjou style. I offered them politely to my friends:
‘Mustache? Mustache? Mustache?’ Nobody cared to touch them. This was my test regarding the sacred aspect of mustaches. In the Bible great significance is attributed to the growth of human hair. Delila believed in the power of hair: Dali does too. In the 17th Century, Laporte, the inventor of ‘Natural Magic,’ considered mustaches and eyebrows as antennae susceptible of capturing creative inspirations, as do antennae of insects whose instinctive life is more refined. The legendary eyebrows of Plato and, even more, those of Leonardo da Vinci, almost covering his vision, are the most renowned testimony to the glory of facial hair.
But in the 20th Century, in which the most sensational hairy phenomenon was to occur: that of Salvador Dali’s mustache. Many marvelous and inspirational uses of this mustache are shown in this book. But every day I find new ones. This very morning, and just at the moment of not shaving myself, I discovered that my mustache can serve as an ultra-personal brush. With the ponts of its hair, I can paint a fly with all the details of his hair. And while I am painting my fly, I think philosophically of my mustache to which all the flies and all the curiosities of my era came to be monotonously and irresistibly stuck. Some day perhaps one will discover a truth almost as strange as this mustache-namely, that Salvador Dali was possibly a painter.’
-Salvador Dali- in his complete foreword to the second edition in 1994 of ‘Dali’s Mustache’ a joint collaboration with his close friend- the French/American photographer Philippe Halsman. This charismatic little book (14 x 17 cms in size) was originally published in 1954 and enjoyed a cult status until it was republished. ‘Dali’s Mustache’- subtitled ‘A Photographic Interview’ is a playful collaboration between Dali and Halsman-an innovator of photographic techniques well ahead of his time. The book gives full license to the prankster and poseur Dali, and the observant and philosophical Philippe Halsman.
In a postface to the book Philippe Halsman explains how the couple came across their bright idea:
‘There were times when deeds were less important than whiskers. Remember Barbarossa? Everybody knows about his beard, but only historians know about his achievement. With the death of Kaiser Wilhelm, Hitler and Stalin, with Chaplin’s withdrawal from the screen, the era of great mustaches seemed to have come to an end. A desolate, whiskerless vacuum followed.
But when, last November, I saw that Dali’s mustache had suddenly reached his eyebrows. I realized that Dali had stepped into this vacuum. This great painter had become the great mustache of our times.’
The collection of photographs selected for the book is whimsical and ironic, Dali and Halsman are cleverly exploiting Dali’s iconic narcissism, mixing it with the dynamics of photographic innovation. The resulting book is a still fresh- and alluring portfolio of visual wit. Much of the pre-eminent visual effects employed by Halsman in the making of the book have only recently become available for professional photographers. Some of the publisher’s notes are noteworthy for the technical conditions surrounding the shoot.
Question: ‘Dali, I know there is a raging bull hidden in you, as there is in every Spaniard, is there anything that would bring it out?’
Dali: ‘Only one thing, Swiss cheese’
Dali’s visual response is a picture which obscures the top half of his face from the upper lip upwards behind a piece of Swiss cheese. His right eye protrudes partly from a hole in the cheese’ surface- looking up quizzically. Two smaller holes allow his mustache to fork out to both sides like a rat’s nose-hairs. His open mouth makes his lower lip and chin collapse onto a big Swiss cheese underneath.
Of this picture Halsman comments: ‘Dali also showed surprising patience and a capacity for suffering. The photograph of Dali through Swiss cheese presented unexpected difficulties. The cheese affected Dali’s mustache in a mysterious way. The mustache lost its spring and drooped. Two assistants had to pull it through the cheese holes and held it up, while Dali tried vainly to peer with his eye through a third hole.. It took over an hour to get the picture. Dali’s face was covered with a mixture of sweat and Swiss cheese. Half of his eyelashes and a third of his mustache were lost, imbedded in the cheese. But he did not complain.’
Question: ‘Why do you wear a mustache?’
Dali: ‘In order to pass unobserved’
The resulting picture shows Dali straightening the tips of his mustache with both of his hands, resulting in a slightly undulating straight line. His facial features have been erased leaving merely his mustache and tie in lieu for facial expression.
The publisher’s note: ‘This was made as a regular portrait. Before printing the negative, Halsman painted out the face with New Coccine, a red chemical which, in printing, can be made to obliterate all detail on the negative.’
This image appears to be a pivotal clue to Dali’s public- and artistic persona. Dali is seen clinging on to his mustache- making it both a PR tool and an existential handlebar that his whole being is connected to. Dali has made a habit of diffusing his private image in full front of the public eye, whether he is playing a covert madman, an art charmer, or the posturing mimic who is camouflaging his darker truths.
Halsman when asked what he thought of Dali’s mustache and psychographic antics elaborates:
'For Dali’s mustache has become a symbol. André Gide ended his Nourritures terrestres with the word: ‘…et crée de toi, impatiemment ou patiemment, ah! le plus irremplacables des etres.’
The great lesson of Dali’s mustache is that we all must patiently or impatiently grow within us something that makes us different, unique and irreplaceable.’
The cover image of this joint publication- placed under the scribbled headline ‘Dali’s Mustache’- is a montage of Dali’s right face-half. The resulting cyclops, narrowed and elongated like a Kebab stick, stares the reader in the face. Dali’s mustache is cropped like the horns of a Spanish fighting bull. The resulting 3D potatohead-like shape dominates the cover’s black and grey space like a Mars kosmonaut prying for intelligent life.
Of this picture the publisher comments:
‘Dali fell so much in love with this picture that when the mayor of Malaga, Spain, asked him for permission to build a statue of him, Dali gave this picture as the model to be used. A three-dimensional effigy was built, 30 feet high, showing his face on both sides. It was erected in the public square, and then burned on March 10th, 1954, in honor of St Marcarius.’
Dali’s Mustache – by Salvador Dali and Philippe Halsman – 1994 Flammarion
posted by Walter at 12/28/2003