Wednesday, October 27


So the dead are among us again
even here where Halloween is not celebrated
and the moon flies through the skeletons of trees
and men in rowboats fish for souls on the river
There is a woman with spidery hair swinging a lantern
disappearing down the colonnade
a row of buildings tilted like gravestones
in which a single window is lit
a wall from whose depths shadows emerge
assuming the contours of bodies they will follow
all night and abandon at dawn:
a revelation to you
that each day we take on a new shadow

-- Nicholas Christopher 14 rue Serpentine: A Paris notebook

Faithfulness Verse

Create for yourself a new, indomitable perception of faithfulness. What is usually called faithfulness passes so quickly. Let this be your faithfulness:

You will experience moments—fleeting moments—with the other person.

The human being will appear to you then as if filled, irradiated, with the archetype of his Spirit.

And then there may be—indeed will be—other moments. Long periods of time, when human beings are darkened. But you will learn to say to yourself at such times: "The Spirit makes me strong. I remember the archetype. I saw it once. No illusion, no deception shall rob me of it."

Always struggle for the image that you saw. This struggle is faithfulness.

Striving thus for faithfulness, we shall be close to one another, as if endowed with the protective powers of angels.

-- Rudolf Steiner, quoted by Christopher Schaefer in his introduction (p. xvi) to Reverse Ritual by Rudolf Steiner and Friedrich Benesch

Tuesday, October 26

The Spring

He is thirsty, and is cut off from a spring by a mere clump of bushes. But he is divided against himself: one part overlooks the whole, sees that he is standing here and that the spring is just beside him; but another part notices nothing, has at most a divination that the first part sees all. But as he notices nothing he cannot drink.

-- Franz Kafka
Translated by Willa and Edwin Muir

Monday, October 25

The Voice

One feather is a bird,
I claim; one tree, a wood;
In her low voice I heard
More than a mortal should;
And so I stood apart,
Hidden in my own heart.

And yet I roamed out where
Those notes went, like the bird,
Whose thin song hung in air,
Diminished, yet still heard:
I lived with open sound,
Aloft, and on the ground.

That ghost was my own choice,
The shy cerulean bird;
It sang with her true voice.
And it was I who heard
A slight voice reply;
I heard; and only I.

Desire exults the ear:
Bird, girl, and ghostly tree,
The earth, the solid air --
Their slow song sang in me;
The long noon pulsed away,
Like any summer day.

-- Theodore Roethke


... things happen that destroy everything which forced the person to exist and the identity which was dependent upon the things that were done, does it still exist, yes or no.

Rather yes, a genius is a genius, even when he does not work.

So Picasso ceased to work.

It was very curious.

He commenced to write poems but this writing was never his writing. After all the egoism of a painter is not at all the egoism of a writer, there is nothing to say about it, it is not. No.

Two years of not working. In a way Picasso liked it, it was one responsibility the less, it is nice not having responsibilities, it is like the soldiers during a war, a war is terrible, they said, but during a war one has no responsibility, neither for death, nor for life. So these two years were like that for Picasso, he did not work, it was not for him to decide every moment what he saw, no, poetry for him was something to be made during rather bitter meditations, but agreeably enough, in a cafe.

This was his life for two years, of course he who could write, write so well with drawings and with colors, knew very well that to write with words was, for him, not to write at all. Of course he understood that but he did not wish to allow himself to be awakened, there are moments in life when one is neither dead nor alive, it was not an agreeable period for him, but a period of rest, he, who all his life needed to empty himself and to empty himself, during two years he did not empty himself, that is to say not actively, actually he really emptied himself completely, emptied himself of many things and above all of being subjugated by a vision which was not his own vision ...

The only way to purge himself of a vision which was not his was to cease to express it, so that as it was impossible for him to do nothing he made poetry but of course it was his way of falling asleep during the operation of detaching himself from the souls of things which were not his concern.

To see people as they have existed since they were created is not strange, it is direct, and Picasso's vision, his own vision, is a direct vision.

-- Gertrude Stein Picasso

Happy birthday to Pablo Picasso (b. 25 October 1881)

At 12 O'Clock

At 12 o'clock in the afternoon
in the middle of the street --

Summer had all but brought the fruit
to its perilous end:
& the summer sun & that boy's look

did their work on me.
Night hid the sun.
Your face consumes my dreams.

Others feel sleep as feathered rest;
mine but in flames refigures
your image lit in me.

-- Meleager
Translated by Peter Whigham

sick of goodby's

I was looking at Robert Frank’s photograph Sick of Goodby’s in his book The Lines of My Hand. Moments before I had been listening to a Johnny Cash song called I Wish I Was Crazy Again. Then I thought of the goodbyes in the book to old friends caught once and for all and never again to be seen in life, and I was struck by the intensity of the sadness of life and its redeeming qualities as reflected in these moving photos. With Johnny Cash as well, the desire to see it all again, to go out one more time into the wild flame only to be burned up forever and never be seen again except in these farewell photos, is moving beyond description. The photos speak of an acceptance of things as they are… the inevitable death of us all and the last photo – that last unposed shot to remind us of our friends, of our loss of the times we had in a past captured only on film in black and white Frank has been there, and seen that, and recorded it with such subtlety that we only look in awe, our own hearts beating with the memories of lost partners and songs.

To wish for the crazy times one last time and freeze it in the memory of a camera is the least a great artist can do. Robert Frank is a great democrat. We’re all in these photos. Paint dripping from a mirror like blood. I’m sick of goodbyes. And aren’t we all, but it’s nice to see it said.

-- Lou Reed TATE ETC.

You can see the photograph on TATE ETC.

Sunday, October 24


It is truly beyond human nature to possess wings and fly on high at one's own will. But to receive this gift of wings, almost contrary to nature, this is surely like the possession strengthened by exercise, of a marvelous ability for contemplation, so that you may when you will, penetrate on the wing of clear sight into the difficult regions of secret knowledge, impenetrable to mere human effort. Truly we begin to be winged creatures, when having received the gift of grace divinely, we transcend the bounds of our human state, by the flight of our contemplation ...

Is it not a thing beyond human nature to see past things which are not existing now, or to see future things which are not yet? so also to see present things which are not present to the sense, to see the secrets of another's heart, a thing not subject to any sense; to have knowledge of divine things which are above the sense sphere?

-- Richard of Saint-Victor Benjamin Major
Translated by Clare Kirchberger

Saturday, October 23


There were those brief meetings ...which were of an intensity that, for me at least, was greater than anything before. It was all thanks to that lack of attachment; all my love and sympathy and concern and happiness went out to him, but I made no more demands on him, I wanted nothing from him, I took him as he was and enjoyed him.

-- Etty Hillesum An Interrupted Life

The Whip

After Lu Chi (261 - 303)

Sometimes your writing's a soft tangle of subtleties
undercutting one another, blurring the paths
and you arrive at a washed out bridge or rockslide.
Leave it. Don't try to end what's finished.
The well aimed phrase is a whip, your poem a horse,
stamping and snorting and straining at the bit.
He wants to win as much as you do, and the whip
will serve better than a web of fine thoughts.
Just make sure you know when you've won.

-- Michael Donaghy

Friday, October 22

open mind

DUDARD: My dear Berenger, one must always make an effort to understand. And in order to understand a phenomenon and its effects you need to work back to the initial causes, by honest intellectual effort. We must try to do this because, after all, we are thinking beings. I haven't yet succeeded, as I told you, and I don't know if I shall succeed. But in any case one has to start out favourably disposed -- or at least, impartial. One has to keep an open mind -- that's essential to a scientific mentality. Everything is logical. To understand is to justify.

BERENGER: You'll be siding with the rhinoceroses before long.

DUDARD: No, no, not at all. I wouldn't go that far. I'm simply trying to look the facts unemotionally in the face. I'm trying to be realistic. I also contend that there is no real evil in what occurs naturally. I don't believe in seeing evil in everything. I leave that to the inquisitors.

BERENGER: And you consider all this natural?

DUDARD: What could be more natural than a rhinoceros?

BERENGER: Yes, but for a man to turn into a rhinoceros is abnormal beyond question.

DUDARD: Well, of course, that's a matter of opinion ...

BERENGER: It is beyond question, absolutely beyond question!

DUDARD: You seem very sure of yourself. Who can say where the normal stops and the abnormal begins? Can you personally define these conceptions of normality and abnormality? Nobody has solved this problem yet, either medically or philosophically. You ought to know that.

BERENGER: The problem may not be resolved philosophically -- but in practice it's simple. They may prove there's no such thing as movement ... and then you start walking ... [he starts walking up and down the room] ... and you go on walking, and you say to yourself, like Galileo, 'E pur si muove' ...

DUDARD: You're getting things all mixed up! Don't confuse the issue. In Galileo's case it was the opposite: theoretic and scientific thought proving itself superior to mass opinion and dogmatism.

BERENGER: [quite lost] What does all that mean? Mass opinion, dogmatism -- they're just words! I may be mixing everything up in my head but you're losing yours. You don't know what's normal and what isn't any more. I couldn't care less about Galileo ... I don't give a damn about Galileo.

DUDARD: You brought him up in the first place and raised the whole question, saying that practice always had the last word. Maybe it does, but only when it proceeds from theory! The history of thought and science proves that/

BERENGER: [more and more furious] It doesn't prove anything of the sort! It's all gibberish, utter lunacy!

DUDARD: There again we need to define exactly what we mean by lunacy ...

BERENGER: Lunacy is lunacy and that's all there is to it! Everybody knows what lunacy is. And what about the rhinoceroses -- are they practice or are they theory?


BERENGER: How do you mean -- both?

DUDARD: Both the one and the other, or one or the other. It's a debatable point!

BERENGER: Well in that case ... I refuse to think about it!

-- Eugene Ionesco Rhinoceros


Beauty rests on necessities.   The line of beauty is the result of perfect economy.   The cell of the bee is built at that angle which gives the most strength with the least wax; the bone or the quill of the bird gives the most alar strength with the least weight.   “It is the purgation of superfluities,” said Michel Angelo.   There is not a particle to spare in natural structures.   There is a compelling reason in the uses of the plant, for every novelty of color or form: and our art saves material, by more skilful arrangement, and reaches beauty by taking every superfluous ounce that can be spared from a wall, and keeping all its strength in the poetry of column.   In rhetoric, this art of omission is a chief secret of power, and, in general, it is proof of high culture, to say the greatest matters in the simplest way.

-- Ralph Waldo Emerson  The Conduct of Life   

Thursday, October 21

Meeting At Night

The grey sea and the long black land;
And the yellow half-moon large and low;
And the startled little waves that leap
In fiery ringlets from their sleep,
As I gain the cove with pushing prow,
And quench its speed i' the slushy sand.

Then a mile of warm sea-scented beach;
Three fields to cross till a farm appears;
A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch
And blue spurt of a lighted match,
And a voice less loud, thro' its joys and fears,
Than the two hearts beating each to each!

-- Robert Browning


Everything humanity has ever invented is selfish except works of art. Perhaps the meaning of human existence lies in creating works of art, in creative act, purposeless and unselfish one. It's possible us being created in God's image manifests itself through this act.

-- Andrei Tarkovsky Martyrolog 14 April 1986
Translated by Seweryn Kuœmierczyk

Wednesday, October 20


I have to do all the tuning of the violin and only then will it be fit to play.   What can one get from an imperfectly prepared instrument?

... In a practical and spiritual way, the less I am motivated by my ego in every way, in every form, the more I am able to become a receptacle, a vessel, for receiving what is there.   It is there.   It is something in the air.   I have to have an instrument that can pick it up.   We have a soul -- we have it all in us.   We make too much noise.   If I am always listening to myself, I cannot listen to any other thing that passes through me.

... More than that, sometimes I may be doing something that in itself is good, but it is not a thing that I should do.   Sometimes I am trying very hard to do something which is not necessary for me while neglecting to do something which is necessary.   I am speaking about instruments.   You see one person is a violin, another is a cello.

-- Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz  The Vertical Adventure 


They were alone, but not alone as they
Who shut in chambers think it loneliness;
The silent ocean, and the starlit bay,
The twilight glow, which momentarily grew less,
The voiceless sands, and dropping caves, that lay
Around them, made them to each other press,
As if there were no life beneath the sky
Save theirs, and that their life could never die.

They feared no eyes nor ears on that lone beach,
They felt no terrors from the night; they were
All in all to each other; though their speech
Was broken words, they thought a language there --
And all the burning tongues the passions teach
Found in one sigh the best interpreter
Of nature's oracle -- first love -- that all
Which Eve has left her daughters since her fall.

-- Lord Byron Don Juan: Canto the Second

Tuesday, October 19


The really tricky thing -- maybe the trickiest of all -- was that you had to turn yourself completely over to the process before you even knew where it was going. That was the one thing, I now understood, that you just had to do. Because if you didn't -- if you tried to call the shots ahead of time and make the road go the way you thought it should go instead of the way it actually did -- it would just vanish before your eyes ... Like that strange giant fish that had just swum away from us, it would just disappear back to the place from which it had come. A place you could never really see from the normal world no matter how hard you tried, but that was always right out there all the same -- alive, and awake, and watching, for all its invisibility.

-- Ptolemy Tompkins The Beaten Path: Notes on Getting Wise in a Wisdom-Crazy World

The Adult, the Artist and the Circus

When something joyous, which made our childhood particularly worth while, fails to delight us as adults, we go through the apparently serene process of assuming a lofty attitude toward the "outgrown" pleasure. Upon close inspection, however, this process proves to be far from serene. Take our grownup disdain of the circus, for instance ...

[At] the very thought of "circus," a swarm of long-imprisoned desires breaks jail. Armed with beauty and demanding justice and everywhere threatening us with curiosity and Spring and childhood, this mob of forgotten wishes begins to storm the supposedly impregnable fortifications of our Present ... [Under] the influence of a powerful anaesthetic known as Pretend, we forget not only the circus but all our other sorrows, including the immortal dictum of that inexorable philosopher, Krazy Kat: It's what's behind me that I am ...

To the objection that the three-ring circus "creates a confused impression," I beg to reply: "Speaking of confused impressions -- how about the downrush of a first-rate roller coaster or the incomparable yearning of the Parisian balançoirs à vapeur ... ?"

Let us not forget that every authentic "work of art" is in and of itself alive and that, however "the arts" may differ among themselves, their common function is the expression of that supreme aliveness which is known as "beauty" ...

[I wish] to state (1) that an extremely intimate connection exists between Con Colleanos' forward somersault (from and to a wire in mid-air) and Homer's Odyssey (2) that a sure method of understanding Igor Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps, is to study the voluminous precision and frugal delicacy of Mr. Ringling's "Ponderous Pachyderms under the direction of the greatest of all animal trainers" (3) that El Greco, in painting, and 'Ernest Clark, in his triple somersaulting double-twisting and reverse flights through space" give strikingly similar performances, and (4) that the fluent techniques of seals and of sea lions comprises certain untranslatable idioms, certain innate flexions, which astonishingly resemble the spiritual essence of poetry.

-- E.E. Cummings Vanity Fair October 1925

Monday, October 18

The Black and White Ball

The evening of this fabled party began inauspiciously. It was raining, although this did nothing to dampen the spirits of the 300 onlookers on the street, the 200 press people in the lobby, or the 540 elect whom [Truman] Capote invited. His guest list read like an international Who's Who: Norman Mailer, Rose Kennedy, Steven Sondheim, Henry Fonda, Lillian Hellman, the Maharaja of Jaipur, Lauren Bacall, John Steinbeck, Lynda Bird Johnson, Arthur Miller, Vivien Leigh, Jerome Robbins, Diana Vreeland, James Michener, and Andy Warhol, among others; ... guest of honor, Kay Graham, and designer Billy Baldwin; ... Frank Sinatra and Mia Farrow -- arguably the couple of the night, as they were newly wed -- linger[ed] in the Ballroom foyer.

The Ballroom had been done in red, with not a flower in sight -- "The people are the flowers," declared Capote. To the accompaniment of Peter Duchin's orchestra, 450 bottles of Taittinger champagne were served, along with a midnight buffet of chicken hash with sherry, spaghetti Bolognese, and scrambled eggs. The masks came off long before midnight, but other than that minor detail, all of Capote's wishes had been realized.

The party cost Capote sixteen thousand dollars, a modest investment for the millions of dollars' worth of publicity it generated for him. The New York Times printed the guest list. CBS aired live coverage. Newspapers across the country offered up editorials debating the meaning of it all. Critic Diana Trilling summed it up neatly, if enigmatically: "a very complicated moment in this country's social history." Magnified by the hyperbolic atmosphere of the 1960s, the Black and White Ball quickly became legendary, and today is a leading candidate for Party of the Century.

-- Curtis Gathje At the Plaza


The romantics were prompted to seek exotic subjects and to travel to far-off places. They failed to realize that, though the transcendental must involve the strange and unfamiliar, not everything strange and unfamiliar is transcendental ...

With us, the disguise must be complete. The familiar identity of things has to be pulverized in order to destroy the finite associations with which our society increasingly enshrouds every aspect of our environment ... For me the great achievement of the centuries in which the artist accepted the probable and familiar as his subjects were the pictures of the single human figure -- alone in a moment of utter immobility ... I do not believe that there was ever a question of being abstract or representational. It is really a matter of ending this silence and solitude, of breathing and stretching one's arms again.

-- Mark Rothko Possibilities No.1, 1947

Sunday, October 17

making art

Some philosophy, some religion, is behind all human works and is their primary instigation. Without some philosophy, some religion, nothing is done, nothing made, because nobody knows what to do or what to make, nobody knows what is good or bad ...

The art of man, though ultimately unimportant, for, like all material things, works of art will return to dust, has therefore two claims to attention. In the first place, it is the only activity of which man is capable which is in itself worth pursuing and, in the second, it is man's sole abiding solace in this vale of tears.

-- Eric Gill A Holy Tradition of Working

Saturday, October 16

shaping perception

Our most immediate experience of things is necessarily an experience of reciprocal encounter -- of tension, communication, and commingling.

-- Maurice Merleau-Ponty

seeing from Böll's window on Achill Island

Beverly was painting the same scene I could see from my window. When I walked back to the studio to visit with her, I knew she was working on the same scene because the shapes she'd painted matched the shapes I had been seeing ... But otherwise, what she saw was nothing like what I saw.

To Beverly the mountain's crest was cobalt green, as though all this rain had spread joy instead of gloom. Personally, I was with [Heinrich] Böll, who wrote about "the mountains dark brown like mahogany." If they'd even been that bright. All I saw was murk, a surreal invasion of bog seeping into every form of life and staining it the way it stained the creeks. The fuschia offered the only color I noticed, an obscene red amidst all the raw umber and gray. Beverly was seeing the foothills grin purple, with scattered folds of alizarin crimson, and she spotted dozens of zinc-white sheep and bog cotton bursting with light.

Back in my room, seated again at the desk by the window, I looked beyond the elderflower and hawthorn and now found calm seas flashing in ultramarine where a moment before all I could find was fog. Just over the top of the sheared fuschia I noticed a movement that must be wheatear. Then there was a sudden lemon-yellow cascade of sunlight, maybe the first I'd seen since we arrived.

Without a word, she was helping me to see what was right before my eyes, lifting me out of the bog of self-absorption that illness so easily becomes. I am often turned inward by the very nature of the damage to my brain, checking systems, working at remembering, thinking about where I walk, looking hard at the obstacles in my path so they will register and be avoided, reminding myself to breathe. When I listen to people speak, I have to alert myself to block out competing stimuli -- here on Achill the raucous call of a corncrake or cattle lowing on Krinnuck, rain against the windows, the movement of hedge or heather in wind. Each slight peculiarity of sensation, however normal, raises an alarm for someone who is chronically ill ... We become obsessed with the inner world.

So it is good to be brought out of symptom mania, to be brought back to outer life. I realized how much richer Beverly's experience of this place was, how much richer her experience generally was, how open she was ... I realized how much I might be missing.

-- Floyd Skloot In the Shadow of Memory


The sesame oil
you brought for me
to knead into your skin
makes it glisten
in the firelight.

I want to be chaste
and slow with you
now, touching circles
from your pulse points,
calling the blood up
to your surface,
using my hands to bring
ease to your body

hidden here
and there by
a vermilion edge
of quilt.

The sound you make
is new to me and I
think of the sound high
tide makes at the moment
it yields to the ebb
current, a sighing of sea
water under the tug
of a quarter moon.

I do not break
pouring more oil
into the cup
of my palm, knuckles
still to your spine

and realize
it is you
who touches me,

who anoints the dry
places, touching somewhere
has touched before.

-- Floyd Skloot

Friday, October 15

The Letter

Little cramped words scrawling all over the paper
Like draggled fly's legs,
What can you tell of the flaring moon
Through the oak leaves?
Or of an uncurtained window, and the bare floor
Spattered with moonlight?
Your silly quirks and twists have nothing in them
Of blossoming hawthorns.
And this paper is chill, crisp, smooth, virgin of loveliness
Beneath my hand.
I am tired, Beloved, of chafing my heart against
The want of you;
Of squeezing it into little ink drops,
And posting it.
And I scald alone, here under the fire
Of the great moon.

-- Amy Lowell


The sequence of faint marks ran up the paintwork at uneven intervals, together with the numbers which had been scratched with a penknife to indicate the month and year and her son's height. Sometimes they were in the Baron's handwriting, which was bigger, and sometimes in her own, smaller, hand, and sometimes in Aunt Lison's, which was rather shaky. And at once it was as though the child of old was standing there in front of her, with his blond hair, pressing his little forehead to the wall so that they could measure his height.

-- Guy de Maupassant A Life
Translated by Roger Pearson

Thursday, October 14

nikki bungaku

The heritage of the nikki bungaku (poetic or literary diary) can be traced at least to the 8th Century. The highly elliptical, vibrantly allusive, temporally present traits of Japanese literature — familiar to us from the Japanese novel (our form, given back to us, transformed) and such poetic forms as haiku — were nurtured in the interstices of the nikki. There, time, made intimate with being, is entrusted to craft a form for it ...

-- Victor Muñoz The Journal as Art: "Impossible Text"


I went out on the porch. Nothing. Silence. Vast silence of the woods full of fireflies. The stars. Down in the south the huge sign of the Scorpion. The red eye of Regulus. Just stars. Not a light from any house or farm. Only fireflies and stars and silence. A car racing by the road, then more silence. Nothing. Nothing.

When a car goes by you can feel the alien frenzy of it. Someone madly going somewhere for no reason. I am a complete prisoner under these stars. With nothing. Or perhaps with everything.

I sit on the porch and deliberately refuse to rationalize anything, to explain anything or to comment on anything, only on what is there. I am there. Fireflies, stars, darkness, the massive shadows of the woods, the vague dark valley. And nothing, nothing, nothing.

Is she thinking of me? Loving me? Is her heart calling to mine in the dark? I don't know. I can't honestly say that I know. I can't honestly say I know anything except that it is late, that I can't sleep, that there are fireflies all over the place, and that there is not the remotest possibility of making any poetic statement on this. You don't write poems about nothing.

And yet somehow this nothing seems to be everything. I look at the south sky, and for some ungodly reason, for which there is no reason, everything is complete. I think of going back to bed in peace without knowing why, a peace that cannot be justified by anything, by any reason, any proof, any argument, by any supposition. There are no suppositions left. Only fireflies.

... I want to tell you something, but I don't know how to begin to say it. I am afraid that if I start talking and writing, I will confuse everything. Nothing needs to be said.

-- Thomas Merton A Midsummer Diary for M. 19 June 1966

Wednesday, October 13

the bedroom

I'm sending you a little sketch at long last to give you at least some idea of the direction my work is taking. Because I feel quite well again today. My eyes are still tired, but I had a new idea all the same and here is the sketch of it.

As always a size 30 canvas.

This time it's simply my bedroom. Only here everything depends on the colour, and by simplifying it I am lending it more style, creating an overall impression of rest or sleep. In fact, a look at the picture ought to rest the mind, or rather the imagination.

The walls are pale violet. The floor -- is red tiles.

The wood of the bed and the chairs is the yellow of fresh butter, the sheet and the pillows very light lime green.

The blanket scarlet.

The window green.

The washstand orange, the basin blue.

The doors lilac.

And that's all -- nothing of any consequence in this shuttered room.

The sturdy lines of the furniture should also express undisturbed rest.

Portraits on the wall, and a mirror, and a hand towel, and some clothes. The frame -- because there is no white in the picture -- will be white.

This by way of revenge for the enforced rest I have had to take.

I shall work on it again all day tomorrow, but you can see how simple the conception is. The shadows and the cast shadows are left out and it is painted in bright flat tints like the Japanese prints ...

-- Vincent Van Gogh Letter to Théo Van Gogh 3 September 1888
Translated by Arnold Pomerans

Tuesday, October 12

i live my life in widening circles

Ich lebe mein leben im wachsenden Ringen,
die sich über die Dingen ziehen.
Ich werde den letzen vielleicht nicht volbringen,
aber versuchen will ich ihn.

Ich kreise um Gott, um den uralten Turm,
und ich kreise jahrtausendelang;
und ich weiß nocht nicht: bin ich ein Falke, ein Sturm
oder ein großer Gesang.

I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.

I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I've been circling for thousands of years
and I still don't know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?

-- Rainer Maria Rilke
Translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

Monday, October 11


Because films no longer contain the clues to life they once did, I barely watch them now, and when I do I find myself distracted, as in life, by what's in the background, as though that were the real, immutable subject of the film, the equivalent to the invisible cities of which Calvino wrote, its hidden meaning: the importance of the way a street looks, the furniture in a room, the way the extras have been organized, rather than what the actors are saying or doing. It's partly a legacy of the childhood desire to inhabit movies, partly inattentiveness and the wish to let the mind and eyes wander (and wonder). Most films are designed to counter two key modern impulses, boredom and drift, the point at which I usually become interested. Out of this idle fascination I started to take photographs of films but only of the background landscapes or details, because it seemed to me that a view in a film is just as valid a part of a personal landscape as those from life.

-- Chris Petit


Let us speak, then, of love. What else is there that is worth the time or effort? What do we love more, what provokes more love in us, than something elusive and beyond us, something impossible that we just cannot have? What better way to raise love up to a feverish pitch than to be told that what we love is impossible and always slips away? ... Deconstruction’s desire is not satisfied with what presents itself to us as real, for what it loves goes beyond what presents itself as real to an ultra-real for which we pray and weep, towards a hyper-real, something that is not less than real but more, not below the real but beyond.

-- John D. Caputo, "For Love of the Things Themselves: Derrida’s Hyper-Realism" Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory

by way of wood s lot

Sunday, October 10

Location of the Question: Seurat's Ile de la Grande Jatte

He sat before the canvas and asked it, "What is beauty?"
As once he lay on his back to ask the oak, "What is a mind?"
He inquired of the paint, and of the palette behind it.
As once he questioned the oak and the wind threading its leaves.
He believed then that when a tree says hush it doesn't mean it.
He sensed that sensation in art was a penny-ante value.
The oak swept aside his words, and no answer could be detected.
Even if it was called for, if it was truly desired, if he couldn't live without it.
And the black that was not black but Seurat's black defied his eye.
His head above water in the wet air, and the tree throwing out lifelines.
Slap of leaf, scent of cut grass, time and a weed to chew on.
Wait, was he not by the river as others had been pictured by water?
In a mood to ape nature, not to copy but to imitate.
Nights, the leftover nostalgia of dusk smearing the horizon.
Mornings, a leftover moon in which to read the future.
Oh, I confuse myself with myself, now with then, and who spoke.
I imagine myself Seurat and try, and fail, to paint it as he did.
Natural when young to think the leaves whisper.
To suppose that the artists are helpless before the sublime.
Inevitable in youth to believe they tell you their secrets.
And the animals, what are they thinking, is it thought?
Ineffably, the deer stare into your soul before they spook.
The homely groundhog, hastening to cross, looks down in acknowledgment.
While a painting that hugs a century oozes with its lost past.
That to its maker was mote and color--timely, methodical.
A rage to do things others cannot, to make them see it your way.
So I too walked with my neck bent, looking at my shoes.
That is how I came to stay up late to see the moon pale.
The night as I write this is a shadow that will pass, is passing.
And the wild owls my pets, where are they tonight?
They do not question perception, they hunt in the dark.
Have they gone back in time to hoot at that boy I was?
Do they object to his spending his days talking to a tree?
In the belly of its shadow, his face aglow?
We always see something, the owls and I.
The deer at the roses, the fox in the headlights, the bats in distress.
His favorites were the oak and maple, but mine are the willow, the ash and the scruffy box elder.
He grew up is all, and saw that beauty is a sop to terror.
He saw like you that we are but do not know yet what it means to be.
Spring's profusion is blinding to wide eyes.
It was warm and wet, and the leaves dripped ink into his veins.

-- Marvin Bell

that's enough

self portrait by John Lennon

At Woolton village fete I met him. I was a fat schoolboy and, as he leaned an arm on my shoulder, I realised that he was drunk. We were twelve then, but, in spite of his sideboards, we went on to become teenage pals.

Aunt Mimi, who had looked after him since he was so high, used to tell me how he was cleverer than he pretended, and things like that. He had written a poem for the school magazine about a hermit who said: 'as breathing is my life, to stop I dare not dare.' This made me wonder right away -- 'Is he deep?' He wore glasses so it was possible, and even without them there was no holding him. 'What 'bus?' he would say to howls of appreciative laughter.

He went to Quarry Bank High School for Boys and later attended to the Liverpool Art College. He left school and played with a group called the Beatles, and, here he is with a book. Again I think -- 'Is he deep?' 'Is he arty, with it or cultured?'

There are bound to be thickheads who will wonder why some of it doesn't make sense, and others who will search for hidden meanings.

'What's a Brummer?'

'There's more to 'dubb owld boot' than meets the eye.'

None of it has to make sense and if it seems funny then that's enough.

-- Paul McCartney, Introduction, In His Own Write by John Lennon (b.9 October 1940)

Friday, October 8

act now

There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat, and we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.

-- William Shakespeare Julius Caesar


I crave liberation and sensual trips and intuitional adventure as much as the next flowering puritan. I am sure, for example, there are more and subtler ways of talking than words can ever express, and vibrations are in the air like radio waves just waiting for receivers. We are communicating like crazy, trying to go through and beyond words; all the wild, compulsive dialogues about sex are a first step. In movies, every way is possible, even backwards, and often, as a movie like Claire's Knee shows, the apparently oldest is the newest.

-- Molly Haskell "From Caligari to Consciousness III" The Village Voice

Thursday, October 7

A Light Left On

In the evening we came back
Into our yellow room,
For a moment taken aback
To find the light left on,
Falling on silent flowers,
Table, book, empty chair
While we had gone elsewhere,
Had been away for hours.

When we came home together
We found the inside weather.
All of our love unended
The quiet light demanded,
And we gave, in a look
At yellow walls and open book.
The deepest world we share
And do not talk about
But have to have, was there,
And by that light found out.

-- May Sarton


Words in a poem, sounds in movement, rhythm in space, attempt to recapture personal meaning in personal time and space from out of the sights and sounds of a depersonalised, dehumanised world. They are bridgeheads into alien territory. They are acts of insurrection. Their source is from the Silence at the centre of each of us. Wherever and whenever such a whorl of patterned sound or space is established in the external world, the power that it contains generates new lines of forces whose effects are felt for centuries.

The creative breath "comes from a zone of man where man cannot descend, even if Virgil were to lead him, for Virgil would not go down there."

This zone, the zone of no-thing, of the silence of silences, is the source. We forget that we are all there all the time.

An activity has to be understood in terms of the experience from which it emerges. These arabesques that mysteriously embody mathematical truths only glimpsed by a very few - how beautiful, how exquisite - no matter that they were the threshing and thrashing of a drowning man.

We are here beyond all questions except those of being and non-being, incarnation, birth, life and death.

Creation ex nihilo has been pronounced impossible even for God. But we are concerned with miracles. We must hear the music of those Braque guitars (Lorca).

From the point of view of a man alienated from his source creation arises from despair and ends in failure. But such a man has not trodden the path to the end of time, the end of space, the end of darkness, and the end of light. He does not know that where it all ends, there it all begins.

-- R.D. Laing (b. 7 October 1927) The Politics of Experience

Wednesday, October 6


Poincaré made it clear that he was not speaking of romantic beauty, the beauty of appearances which strikes the senses. He meant classic beauty, which comes from the harmonious order of the parts, and which a pure intelligence can grasp, which gives structure to romantic beauty and without which life would be only vague and fleeting, a dream from which one could not distinguish one's dreams because there would be no basis for making the distinction. It is the quest of this special classic beauty, the sense of harmony of the cosmos, which makes us choose the facts most fitting to contribute to this harmony. It is not the facts but the relation of things that results in the universal harmony that is the sole objective reality.

-- Robert M. Pirsig Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance


At first glance, writing may seem not nearly so much an art of the body as, say, dancing or gardening or carpentry. And yet language is the most intimately physical of all the artistic means. We have it palpably in our mouths; it is our langue, our tongue. Writing it, we shape it with our hands. Reading aloud what we have written -- as we must do, if we are writing carefully -- our language passes in at the eyes, out at the mouth, in at the ears; the words are immersed and steeped in the senses of the body before they make sense in the mind. They cannot make sense in the mind until they have made sense in the body.

-- Wendell Berry What Are People For?

Tuesday, October 5

Le Front aux Vitres

Le front aux vitres comme font les veilleurs de chagrin
Ciel dont j'ai dépassé la nuit
Plaines toutes petites dans mes mains ouvertes
Dans leur double horizon, inerte indifférent

Le front aux vitres comme font les veilleurs de chagrin
Je te cherche par-delà l'attente
Par-delà moi-même
Et je ne sais plus tant je t'aime
Lequel de nous deux est absent.

With My Forehead

With my forehead against the pane as a vigil of sorrow
Sky whose night I have overtaken
Tiny plains in my open hands
In their double horizon indifferent language

With my forehead against the pane as a vigil of sorrow
I search for you beyond expectation
Beyond myself
I love you so much that I no longer know
Which one of us is absent.

-- Paul Eluard
Translated by Richard A. Branyon


Ages before men had lived on the earth there had been the creatures of the wilderness, and the holes of the rocks, and the nests of the trees, and rain, frost, heat, dew, sunlight and night, storm and calm, the honey of the wildflower and the instinct of the bee -- all the beautiful and multiple forms of life with their inscrutable design. To know something of them and to love them was to be close to the kingdom of earth -- perhaps to the greater kingdom of heaven. For whatever breathed and moved was a part of that creation. The coo of the dove, the lichen on the mossy rock, the mourn of a hunting wolf, and the murmur of the waterfall, the ever-green and growing tips of the spruces, and the thunderbolts along the battlements of the heights -- these one and all must be actuated by the great spirit -- that incalculable thing in the universe which had produced man and soul.

-- Zane Grey The Man of the Forest

Monday, October 4


What motivates us is mystery,
how the aloof stone desires more than anything
to be opened, shivering and wet with love.

-- Joy Harjo The Map to the Next World

Sunday, October 3

for you who struggle

Deep peace of the Running Wave to you.
Deep peace of the Flowing Air to you.
Deep peace of the Quiet Earth to you.
Deep peace of the Shining Stars to you.
Deep peace of the Son of Peace to you.

-- Gaelic blessing

the misfits

ROSLYN: Thanks. I mean thanks for not laughing at me.

He looks at her mystified.

ROSLYN: People do, you know. I don't know why.

GAY: I could guess why.


GAY: Well ... people are mostly kiddin' -- even when they ain't kiddin'. But you -- even when you're kiddin' you ain't kiddin'. What you got to do is put it on a little bit, and you could go places. It's only a game, y'know -- and you takin' it like its serious. People always laugh at that.

ROSLYN: Is it a game to you?

GAY: Well, I don't mix much -- and when I do, I just let 'em talk. I mean I'm friendly, but I ain't with them. (He gets up) Let's go outside -- sun is warm by now.

-- Arthur Miller The Misfits

Saturday, October 2


That penetrating ray of contemplation is always suspended near something because of greatness of wonder, yet it operates neither always nor uniformly in the same mode. For that vitality of understanding in the soul of a contemplative at one time goes out and comes back with marvelous quickness, at another time bends itself, as it were, into a circle, and yet at another time gathers itself together, as it were, on one place and fixes itself, as it were, motionless. Certainly if we consider this rightly, we see the form of this thing daily in the birds of the sky. Now you may see some raising themselves up on high; now others plunging themselves into lower regions and often repeating the same manner of their ascent and descent. You may see some turning to the side, now to the right, now to the left, and while coming down a little ahead now in this part, now in that, or advancing themselves almost not at all, repeating many times with great constancy the same changes of their movements.

-- Richard of St. Victor The Mystical Ark
Translated by Grover A. Zinn

Friday, October 1

©Richard Avedon

Richard Avedon 1923-2004

A photographic portrait is a picture of someone who knows he's being photographed, and what he does with this knowledge is as much a part of the photograph as what he's wearing or how he looks.

-- Richard Avedon by way of James Tata


What is 'strong writing'? What isn't 'strong writing'? Should writing be 'strong'? I wish people would tell me these things. I don't think you should refer to the 'vantage place which only a woman's mind provides' any more than you could say 'the vantage place which only a man's mind provides'. Or can you?

-- Fay Weldon, quoted in The Guardian, Letter to Bill Buford of Granta


I see a household cat in my despairing,
Who makes no noise and knows how to behave.
Her needs are few -- a scratch will start her purring,
A scrap to eat and whispered words: "Be brave!"
My throat escapes her claws' unlooked for pricking,
She never interferes if I have guests.
The minute-hand enchants her with its ticking
And brings her consolation, even rest.
She climbs up on my knee when sensing nightfall,
And childlike, noses round and falls asleep
As on my book I see the patterned light fall,
Those meaningless cast-iron shadows creep.
But in the darkness, like a mouse a-chewing,
She stirs as if in sleep she seemed to see
A dwelling that sets off her tiny mewing,
The house of warmth that you will build for me.

-- Irina Ratushinskaya Grey Is the Colour of Hope