Wednesday, August 31

the conversation of togetherness

Although each of us is fashioned in careful incompletion, we were created to long for each other. The secret of our completion can only be found in the other. Huge differences may separate us, yet they are exactly what draw us to each other. It is as though forged together we form one presence, for each of us has half of a language that the other seeks. When we approach each other and become one, a new fluency comes alive. A lost world retrieves itself when our words build a new circle. While the call to each other is exciting and intoxicating in its bond of attraction, it is exceptionally complex and tender and, handled indelicately, can bring incredible pain. We can awaken in each other possibilities beyond our wildest dreams. The conversation of togetherness is a primal and indeed perennial conversation.

-- John O'Donohue beauty

Tuesday, August 30

the wrecks of the tempest

Black as a cormorant, the screaming blast,
Between Ocean and Heaven, like an ocean, passed,
Till it came to the clouds on the verge of the world
Which, based on the sea and to Heaven upcurled,
Like columns and walls did surround and sustain
The dome of the tempest; it rent them in twain,
As a flood rends its barriers of mountainous crag:
And the dense clouds in many a ruin and rag,
Like the stones of a temple ere earthquake has passed,
Like the dust of its fall, on the whirlwind are cast;
They are scattered like foam on the torrent; and where
The wind has burst out through the chasm, from the air
Of clear morning the beams of the sunrise flow in,
Unimpeded, keen, golden, and crystalline,
Banded armies of light and of air: at one gate
They encounter, but interpenetrate.
And that breach in the tempest is widening away,
And the caverns of clouds are torn up by the day,
And the fierce winds are sinking with weary wings,
Lulled by the motion and murmurings
And the long grassy heave of the rocking sea;
And overhead glorious, but dreadful to see,
The wrecks of the tempest, like vapours of gold,
Are consuming at sunrise. The heaped waves behold
The deep calm of blue Heaven dilating above,
And, like passions made still by the presence of Love,
Beneath the clear surface reflecting it slide
Tremulous with soft influence; extending its tide
From the Andes to Atlas, round mountain and isle,
Round sea-birds and wrecks, paved with Heaven's azure smile,
The wide world of waters is vibrating.

-- Percy Bysshe Shelley, from "A Vision of the Sea"

About Last Night: Live from Katrina

they will not be alone

Every part of this soil is sacred in the estimation of my people. Every hillside, every valley, every plain and grove, has been hallowed by some sad or happy event in days long vanished. Even the rocks, which seem to be dumb and dead as they swelter in the sun along the silent shore, thrill with memories of stirring events connected with the lives of my people, and the very dust upon which you now stand responds more lovingly to their footsteps than to yours, because it is rich with the blood of our ancestors and our bare feet are conscious of the sympathetic touch. Our departed braves, fond mothers, glad, happy-hearted maidens, and even our little children who lived here and rejoiced here for a brief season, will love these somber solitudes and at eventide they greet shadowy returning spirits. And when the last Red Man shall have perished, and the memory of my tribe shall have become a myth among the White Men, these shores will swarm with the invisible dead of my tribe, and when your children's children think themselves alone in the field, the store, the shop, upon the highway, or in the silence of the pathless woods, they will not be alone. In all the earth there is no place dedicated to solitude. At night when the streets of your cities and villages are silent and you think them deserted, they will throng with the returning hosts that once filled them and still love this beautiful land.

-- Chief Seattle, in Indian Oratory, compiled by W.C. Vanderwerth

Monday, August 29

in and out and in

Novels are free to diverge, to digress, to reflect, to accrete. Proust is a gargantuan soliloquizer. Tolstoy encompasses whole histories. George Eliot pauses for psychological essays. A novel is like the physicist's premise of an expanding universe -- horizon after horizon, firmament sailing past firmament. But a play is just the reverse: the fullness of the universe drawn down into a single succinct atom -- the all-consuming compactness and density of the theorist's black hole. Everything converges in the dot that is the stage.

-- Cynthia Ozick, from "On Being a Novice Playwright" Washington Post Book World (15 Jan 1995)

Sunday, August 28


What is stillness? It is in no way merely the soundless. In soundlessness there persists merely a lack of the motion of entoning, sounding. But the motionless is neither limited to sounding by being its suspension, nor is it itself already something genuinely tranquil. The motionless always remains, as it were, merely the other side of that which rests. The motionless itself still rests on rest. But rest has its being in the fact that it stills. As the stilling of stillness, rest, conceived strictly, is always more in motion than all motion and always more restlessly active than any agitation.

-- Martin Heidegger Poetry, Language, Thought
Translated by Albert Hofstadter

Saturday, August 27

Act Three

Opens in pitch darkness.
Soft sea sounds.

After several seconds of nothing, a voice from the dark...

GUILDENSTERN: Are you there?


GUILDENSTERN (bitterly): A flying start....


ROSENCRANTZ: Is that you?


ROSENCRANTZ: How do you know?

GUILDENSTERN: (explosion): Oh-for-God's-sake!

ROSENCRANTZ: We're not finished, then?

GUILDENSTERN: Well, we're here, aren't we?

ROSENCRANTZ: Are we? I can't see a thing.

GUILDENSTERN: You can still think, can't you?

ROSENCRANTZ: I think so.

GUILDENSTERN: You can still talk.

ROSENCRANTZ: What should I say?

GUILDENSTERN: Don't bother. You can feel, can't you?

ROSENCRANTZ: Ah! There's life in me yet!

GUILDENSTERN: What are you feeling?

ROSENCRANTZ: A leg. Yes, it feels like my leg.

GUILDENSTERN: How does it feel?



ROSENCRANTZ (panic): I can't feel a thing!

GUILDENSTERN: Give it a pinch! (Immediately he yelps.)


GUILDENSTERN: Well, that's cleared that up.

-- Tom Stoppard Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

Thursday, August 25

the chase

still from Buster Keaton's The Navigator

Adrift on a ship which he believes is otherwise empty, he drops a lighted cigarette. A girl finds it. She calls out and he hears her; each then tries to find the other. First each walks purposefully down the long, vacant starboard deck, the girl, then Keaton, turning the corner just in time not to see each other. Next time around each of them is trotting briskly, very much in earnest; going at the same pace, they miss each other just the same. Next time around each of them is going like a bat out of hell. Again they miss. Then the camera withdraws to a point of vantage at the stern, leans its chin in its hand and just watches the whole intricate superstructure of the ship as the protagonists stroll, steal and scuttle from level to level, up, down and sidewise, always managing to miss each other by hair's-breadths, in an enchantingly neat and elaborate piece of timing. There are no subsidiary gags to get laughs in this sequence and there is little loud laughter; merely a quiet and steadily increasing kind of delight. When Keaton has got all he can out of this fine modification of the movie chase he invents a fine device to bring the two together: the girl, thoroughly winded, sits down for a breather, indoors, on a plank which workmen have left across sawhorses. Keaton pauses on an upper deck, equally winded and puzzled. What follows happens in a couple of seconds at most: air suction whips his silk topper backward down a ventilator; grabbing frantically for it, he backs against the lip of the ventilator, jacknifes and falls in backward. Instantly the camera cuts back to the girl. A topper falls through the ceiling and lands tidily, right side up, on the plank beside her. Before she can look more than startled, its owner follows, head between his knees, crushes the topper, breaks the plank with the point of his spine and proceeds to the floor. The breaking of the plank smacks Boy and Girl together.

-- James Agee, on Buster Keaton's The Navigator, in Agee on Film

the Bee

Now a dream of a flame through that dream of a flush is uprolled:
To the zenith ascending, a dome of undazzling gold
Is builded, in shape as a bee-hive, from out of the sea:
The hive is of gold undazzling, but oh, the Bee,
The star-fed Bee, the build-fire Bee,
Of dazzling gold is the great Sun-Bee
That shall flash from the hive-hole over the sea.

-- Sidney Lanier, from "Sunrise"

Wednesday, August 24


Just as a movie unfolds in real time, so I build the image by exposing one part of the person after another with my tiny light. If I add more light, it emphasizes that body part; conversely, not enough light and that area never becomes visible... In all of the portraits there is an interesting shift in the gaze, from the right eye looking outward, to the left eye looking inward. This is a result of the long interval between exposing the two eyes.

What happens during the session remains private, an intimate act between me and the subject. There is an enormous amount of information collected during the session, both emotional and physical. The accumulation of all this information is impossible to interpret simply or decisively.

-- Gary Schneider Gary Schneider: Nudes

Tuesday, August 23


"There is no accounting for tastes," the old saying goes; the same is true of love. There are no rules. Attraction is a composite whose nature is subtle and different in every case. It is made up of animal humors and spiritual archetypes, of childhood experiences and the phantoms that people our dreams. Love is not a desire for beauty; it is a yearning for completion. Potions and spells have been a traditional explanation of the strange, involuntary nature of amorous attraction. All peoples have legends about this kind of magic... Although the idea that love is a magic lasso that literally captures the will of the lover goes very far back in time, it is an idea that still lives: love is a magic spell, and the attraction that unites the lovers is a bewitchment. What is extraordinary is that this belief coexists with its opposite: love is born of a free decision, the voluntary acceptance of fate.

-- Octavio Paz The Double Flame
Translated by Helen Lane

Monday, August 22

it's beyond reasoning

A great work of art is like a dream; for all its apparent obviousness it does not explain itself and is never unequivocal. A dream never says: "You ought," or: "This is the truth." It presents an image in much the same way as nature allows a plant to grow, and we must draw our own conclusions...

This is why every great work of art is objective and impersonal, but none the less profoundly moves us each and all. And this is also why the personal life of the poet cannot be held essential to his art -- but at most a help or a hindrance to his creative task... His personal career may be inevitable and interesting, but it does not explain the poet.

-- Carl Gustav Jung Modern Man in Search of a Soul
Translated by W.S. Dell and Cary F. Baynes

Friday, August 19

ice cream

'Ice cream!' Sun. Light airy cakes.
A clear glass tumbler of water, icy cold.
Our dreams take flight, into a chocolate world
Of rosy dawns on milky Alpine peaks.

But as the teaspoon tinkles, it is sweet
In some little summerhouse amid the dry acacias,
To gaze, then take gratefully from tearoom Graces,
Little whorled cups with crumbly things to eat...

The street-organ's playmate suddenly appears,
The ice-cream cart, with multicolored covering --
The chest is full of lovely frozen things;
With greedy attentiveness, a small boy peers.

And what will he choose? The gods themselves can't say:
A diamond tart? A wafer filled with cream?
But under his slender spoon the divine ice,
Glittering in the sun, will soon melt away.

-- Osip Mandelstam
Translated by Robert Tracy

Thursday, August 18

congestion of the soul

We wonder if, at their best, all artistic expressions may not find their ultimate meaning as therapeutic agents for human beings weighted down by the overburden of their own institutions. If this is so, then the best of the cowboy songs may do service for a time as purges for congestion of the soul.

-- Austin and Alta S. Fife Cowboy and Western Songs

Wednesday, August 17

Abstract Painting by Ad Reinhardt
Abstract Painting by Ad Reinhardt

A square (neutral, shapeless) canvas, five feet wide, five feet high, as high as a man, as wide as a man's outstretched arms (not large, not small, sizeless), trisected (no composition), one horizontal form negating one vertical form (formless, no top, no bottom, directionless), three (more or less) dark (lightless) no-contrasting (colorless) colors, brushwork brushed out to remove brushwork, a matte, flat, free-hand painted surface (glossless, textureless, non-linear, no hard edge, no soft edge) which does not reflect its surroundings -- a pure, abstract, non-objective, timeless, spaceless, changeless, relationless, disinterested painting -- an object that is self-conscious (no unconsciousness) ideal, transcendent, aware of no thing but art (absolutely no anti-art).

-- Ad Reinhardt Art-As-Art


Creation is not based on experiences we've had, but on things we've imagined, woven, and finished; experiences we have not had.

-- Ned Rorem Paris Diary

Tuesday, August 16

Writing in the Dark

It's not difficult.
Anyway, it's necessary.

Wait till morning, and you'll forget.
And who knows if morning will come.

Fumble for the light, and you'll be
stark awake, but the vision
will be fading, slipping
out of reach.

You must have paper at hand,
a felt-tip pen, ballpoints don't always flow,
pencil points tend to break. There's nothing
shameful in that much prudence: those are our tools.

Never mind about crossing your t's, dotting your i's--
but take care not to cover
one word with the next. Practice will reveal
how one hand instinctively comes to the aid of the other
to keep each line
clear of the next.

Keep writing in the dark:
a record of the night, or
words that pulled you from depths of unknowing,
words that flew through your mind, strange birds
crying their urgency with human voices,

or opened
as flowers of a tree that blooms
only once in a lifetime:

words that may have the power
to make the sun rise again.

-- Denise Levertov

Monday, August 15


Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what it was in nostalgia, nor forward to what it might be in dread or anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now. For relationships, too, must be like islands. One must accept them for what they are here and now, within their limits -- islands, surrounded and interrupted by the sea, continually visited and abandoned by the tides. One must accept the security of the winged life, of ebb and flow, of intermittency.

-- Anne Morrow Lindbergh Gift From the Sea

Sunday, August 14

a slow tenderness

Ce ne sont pas des souvenirs
qui, en moi, t'entretiennent;
tu n'es pas non plus mienne
par la force d'un beau désir.

You don't survive in me
because of memories;
nor are you mine because
of a lovely longing's strength.

Ce qui te rend presénte,
c'est le détour ardent
qu'une tendresse lente
décrit dans mon propre sang.

What does make you present
is the ardent detour
that a slow tenderness
traces in my blood.

Je suis sans besoin
de te voir apparaître;
il m'a suffi de naître
pour te perdre un peu moins.

I do not need
to see you appear;
being born sufficed for me
to lose you a little less.

-- Rainer Maria Rilke, from "Portrait Intérieur"
Translated by A. Poulin, Jr.

the lake at twilight

Here and there, close against the faint water, and at the far end of the lake, where the water lay milky in the last whiteness of the sky, and there was no shadow, solitary, frail flames of lanterns floated from the unseen boats. There was a sound of oars, and a boat passed from the pallor into the darkness under the wood, where her lanterns seemed to kindle into fire, hanging in ruddy lovely globes. And again, in the lake, shadowy red gleams hovered in reflection about the boat. Everywhere were these noiseless ruddy creatures of fire drifting near the surface of the water, caught at by rarest, scarce visible reflections.

-- D.H. Lawrence Women in Love

Saturday, August 13


The voice you hear is not my speaking voice, but my mind's voice. I have not spoken since I was six years old. No one knows why, not even me. My father says it is a dark talent and the day I take it into my head to stop breathing will be my last. Today he married me to a man I've not yet met. Soon my daughter and I shall join him in his own country. My husband said my muteness does not bother him. He writes and hark this: God loves dumb creatures, so why not he! Were good he had God's patience for silence affects everyone in the end. The strange thing is I don't think myself silent, that is, because of my piano. I shall miss it on the journey.

-- Jane Campion, screenplay for The Piano

de la beauté intériure

Both arts [dancing and painting] must learn from music that every harmony and every discord which springs from the inner spirit is beautiful, but that it is essential that they should spring from the inner spirit and from that alone.

The artist must have something to say, for mastery over form is not his goal but rather the adapting of form to its inner meaning.

That is beautiful which is produced by the inner need, which springs from the soul.

-- Wassily Kandinsky Concerning the Spiritual in Art (1914)
Translated by M.T.H. Sadler

Friday, August 12


Words as plain as hen-birds' wings
Do not lie,
Do not over-broider things --
Are too shy.

Thoughts that shuffle round like pence
Through each reign,
Wear down to their simplest sense,
Yet remain.

Weeds are not supposed to grow,
But by degrees
Some achieve a flower, although
No one sees.

-- Philip Larkin

Thursday, August 11

the changing view

On the mountaintop gilded by the peaceful rays of the setting sun, I see myself surrounded by a chain of hills covered by undulating wheat, and the olive trees and the elms are richly festooned with swaying vines: the distant crags and ridges grow steadily upward as if one were piled upon the other. Below me the mountainsides are furrowed by barren ravines among which the evening shadows gather as they gradually rise up; the dark and horrible background looks like the mouth of an abyss. On the southern slope the view is dominated by the wood that overhangs and obscures the valley where the sheep graze in the open and scattered goats cling to the steep crags. The birds sing feebly as if weeping for the dying day, the heifers low, and the wind seems to enjoy murmuring among the foliage. But to the north the hills divide, and a boundless plain opens out before the eye: in the nearby fields you can descry the oxen returning home: the weary farmer accompanies them leaning on his staff... Meanwhile the view is fading away, and after a long series of trees and fields it ends at the horizon where all dwindles and merges into one. The setting sun throws out a few rays, as if they were its last farewell to nature; the clouds glow pink, then slowly languish into pallor before they darken: then the plain is lost and the shadows spread out over the face of the earth, and I, as if in the middle of the ocean, can find only the sky.

-- Ugo Foscolo The Last Letters of Jacopo Ortis
Translated by Alastair McEwen

Tuesday, August 9

painting motions

Painting is scratching, waving, jabbing, pushing, and dragging. At times the hand moves as if it were writing, but in paint; and other times it moves as if the linen canvas were a linen shirt, and the paint was a stain that had to be rubbed under running water. Some painting motions are like conversations, where the hands keep turning in the air to make a point. Others are slow careful gestures, like touching someone's eye to remove a fleck of dirt.

-- James Elkins What Painting Is

Monday, August 8

the reason

Ultimately, there is only one reason for love. That grand reason, which was seen so clearly by the ancients but has gotten lost in the modern stress on individual autonomy, is "because we bring out the best in each other."

-- Robert C. Solomon About Love

From the Back of the Room

From the back of the room,
the bed,
only a pallor spread,
the starry window
surrendering to the greedy window
announcing the day.
But here comes the one who hurries,
who leans, and stays:
After night's abandonment,
it's this new and heavenly
girl's turn to say yes!

At nothing else in the morning sky,
the tender lover stares.
at nothing
but the enormous example of the sky himself:
the heights and depths!
Only doves making round arenas in the air,
where their flight flashing in soft arcs parades
a return of gentleness.

-- Rainer Maria Rilke
Translated by A. Poulin Jr.

Sunday, August 7

Captain Nemo's pearl

The shells were a little open; the captain came near, and put his dagger between to prevent them from closing; then with his hand he raised the membrane with its fringed edges, which formed a cloak for the creature. There, between the folded plaits, I saw a loose pearl, whose size equaled that of a coconut. Its globular shape, perfect clearness, and admirable luster made it altogether a jewel of inestimable value. Carried away by my curiosity, I stretched out my hand to seize it, weigh it, and touch it; but the captain stopped me, made a sign of refusal, and quickly withdrew his dagger, and the two shells closed suddenly. I then understood Captain Nemo's intention. In leaving this pearl hidden in the mantle of the tridacne, he was allowing it to grow slowly. Each year the secretions of the mollusk would add new concentric circles.

-- Jules Verne Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

Saturday, August 6

for then

However much I have blotted our
Waking love, its memory is still
There. And I know the web, the net,
The blind and crippled bird. For then, for
One brief instant it was not blind, nor
Trapped, nor crippled. For one heartbeat the
Heart was free and moved itself. O love,
I who am lost and damned with words,
Whose words are a business and an art,
I have no words. These words, this poem, this
Is all confusion and ignorance.
But I know that coached by your sweet heart,
My heart beat one free beat and sent
Through all my flesh the blood of truth.

-- Kenneth Rexroth, from 'She Is Away'

Friday, August 5

poetic justice

We cannot write the order of the variable winds. How can we penetrate the law of our shifting moods and susceptibility? Yet they differ as all and nothing. Instead of the firmament of yesterday, which our eyes require, it is to-day an eggshell which coops us in; we cannot even see what or where our stars of destiny are. From day to day, the capital facts of human life are hidden from our eyes. Suddenly the mist rolls up, and reveals them, and we think how much good time is gone, that might have been saved, had any hint of these things been shown. A sudden rise in the road shows us the system of mountains, and all the summits, which have been just as near us all the year, but quite out of mind. But these alterations are not without their order, and we are parties to our various fortunes. If life seems a succession of dreams, yet poetic justice is done in dreams also.

-- Ralph Waldo Emerson The Conduct of Life

Thursday, August 4


The small truth has words that are clear; the great truth has great silence.

-- Rabindranath Tagore Stray Birds


On the way there a couple of startled wings fluttered, and that was all. One goes there alone. It is a lofty building made entirely of open spaces, a building which sways all the time, but is never able to fall. The sun, changed into a thousand suns, drifts in through the open slivers. And an inverse law of gravity takes hold in the play of light: this house floats anchored in the sky, and what falls falls upward. It makes you turn around. In the woods it is all right to grieve. It's all right to see the old truths, which we usually keep packed away in the luggage... [There is a] childlike light around the terrifying trophies. Woods are mild that way.

-- Tomas Tranströmer, from "A Place in the Woods"
Translated by Robert Bly

Wednesday, August 3

on being shaped

Artists are controlled by the life that beats in them, like the ocean beats in on the shore. They're almost pursued; there's something constantly acting upon them from the outside world that shapes their existence.

-- Dorothea Lange

Tuesday, August 2

To My Mountain

Since I must love your north
of darkness, cold and pain,
the snow, the lovely glen,
let me love true worth,

the strength of the hard rock,
the deafening stream of wind
that carries sense away
swifter than flowing blood.

Heather is harsh to tears
and the rough moors
give the buried face no peace
but make me rise,

and oh, the sweet scent, and purple skies!

-- Kathleen Raine


The Leroy Hotel is an okay place. It has a particular smell which I find hard to identify, but it is a smell that seems to be appropriate to a seaside hotel and indeed reminds me of some hotel I have stayed in sometime and somewhere. I can't remember which one.

Venetian blinds, stone floors, coconut palms making a green shade in the room: the smell is a sort of musty smell of the inside of a wooden and stucco building cooler inside than out. It is a smell that has something of the beach about it too, a wet and salty bathing-suit smell, a smell of dry palm leaves, suntan oil, rum, cigarettes. It has something of the mustiness which that immense and shabby place in Bermuda, the Hotel Hamilton, had: the salt air had got into the wood and the walls of that place. It smells also like the Savoy Hotel in Bournemouth, which stood at the top of a cliff overlooking a white beach on the English Channel. It had fancy iron balconies, and even when the dining room was full you could feel the blight of winter coming back upon it and knew very well how it would look all empty with all the chairs stacked.

-- Thomas Merton Run to the Mountain

Monday, August 1

the little tune

Mary Wigman

My Pastorale was developed in the following way: I came into my studio one day and sank down with a feeling of complete relaxation. Out of a sense of deepest peace and quietude I began slowly to move my arms and body. Calling to my assistants I said, "I do not know if anything will come of this feeling, but I should like a reed instrument that would play over and over again a simple little tune, not at all important, always the same one." Then with the monotonous sound of the little tune, with its gentle lyric suggestion, the whole dance took form. Afterwards we found that it was built on six-eighths time, neither myself nor the musician being conscious of the rhythm until we came to the end.

-- Mary Wigman, "Composition in Pure Movement" in Modern Music (1946)