Saturday, April 30

What Are Years

What is our innocence,
what is our guilt? All are
naked, none is safe. And whence
is courage: the unanswered question,
the resolute doubt,--
dumbly calling, deafly listening -- that
in misfortune, even death,
encourages others
and in its defeat, stirs

the soul to be strong? He
sees deep and is glad, who
accedes to mortality
and in his imprisonment rises
upon himself as
the sea in a chasm, struggling to be
free and unable to be,
in its surrendering
finds its continuing.

So he who feels strongly feels,
behaves. The very bird,
grown taller as he sings, steels
his form straight up. Though he is captive,
his mighty singing
says, satisfaction is a lowly
thing, how pure a thing is joy.
This is mortality,
this is eternity.

-- Marianne Moore

learning the words

We sat down and made a nest in the long red grass ... Ántonia pointed up to the sky and questioned me with her glance. I gave her the word, but she was not satisfied and pointed to my eyes. I told her, and she repeated the word, making it sound like "ice." She pointed up to the sky, then to my eyes, then back to the sky, with movements so quick and impulsive that she distracted me, and I had no idea what she wanted. She got up on her knees and wrung her hands. She pointed to her own eyes and shook her head, then to mine and to the sky, nodding violently.

"Oh," I exclaimed, "blue; blue sky."

She clapped her hands and murmured, "Blue sky, blue eyes," as if it amused her. While we snuggled down there out of the wind, she learned a score of words. She was quick, and very eager. We were so deep in the grass that we could see nothing but the blue sky over us and the gold tree in front of us. It was wonderfully pleasant. After Ántonia had said the new words over and over, she wanted to give me a little chased silver ring she wore on her middle finger. When she coaxed and insisted, I repulsed her quite sternly. I didn't want her ring, and I felt there was something reckless and extravagant about her wishing to give it away to a boy she had never seen before.

-- Willa Cather My Ántonia

Thursday, April 28


Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss by Antonio Canova

Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss by Antonio Canova

She gazed again and again upon the beauty of that divine face and her soul drew joy and strength. She beheld the glorious hair of his golden head streaming with ambrosia, and curling locks that strayed over his snow-white neck and crimson cheeks ... and before the lightnings of their exceeding splendor even the light of the lamp grew weak and faint. From the shoulders of the winged god sprang dewy pinions, shining like white flowers, and the topmost feathers, so soft and delicate were they, quivered tremulously in a restless dance, though all the rest were still.

-- Erich Neumann Amor and Psyche: The Psychic Development of the Feminine

Myth of Psyche

Images of Cupid and Psyche

to play

I am fond of works of art, and I collect them. But I do not want to hang them on the wall simply in order to get an electric shock every time that I pass them. I want to hold them, and turn them round and re-hang them -- in short, to play with the images at leisure. And, putting aside what may be no more than a personal prejudice, I rather doubt if an art which depends solely on the first impact on our emotions is permanently valid. When the shock is exhausted, we have nothing to occupy our minds. And this is particularly troublesome with an art which depends so much on the unconscious, because, as we know from the analysis of dreams, the furniture of our unconscious minds is even more limited, repetitive, and commonplace than that of our conscious minds. The blots and stains of modern painting depend ultimately on the memories of things seen, memories sunk deep in the unconscious, overlaid, transformed, assimilated to a physical condition, but memories none the less. Ex nihilo nihil fit. It is not possible for a painter to lose contact with the visible world.

-- Kenneth Clark, "The Blot and the Diagram" Encounter January 1963

Thursday, April 21


A Pair of Shoes by Vincent Van Gogh

A Pair of Shoes by Vincent Van Gogh

From the dark opening of the worn insides of the shoes the toilsome tread of the worker stares forth. In the stiffly rugged heaviness of the shoes there is the accumulated tenacity of her slow trudge through the far-spreading and ever-uniform furrows of the field swept by a raw wind. On the leather lie the dampness and richness of the soil. Under the soles slides the loneliness of the field-path as evening falls. In the shoes vibrates the silent call of the earth, its quiet gift of the ripening grain and its unexplained self-refusal in the fallow desolation of the wintry field. This equipment is pervaded by uncomplaining anxiety as to the certainty of bread, the wordless joy of having once more withstood want, the trembling before the impending childbed and shivering at the surrounding menace of death. This equipment belongs to the earth, and it is protected in the world of the peasant woman. From out of this protected belonging the equipment itself rises to its resting-within-itself.

But perhaps it is only in the picture that we notice all this about the shoes. The peasant woman, on the other hand, simply wears them.

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

Wednesday, April 20


The theatre, when it was still part of religion, was already theatre: it liberated the spiritual energy of the congregation or tribe by incorporating myth and profaning or rather transcending it. The spectator thus had a renewed awareness of his personal truth in the truth of the myth, and through fright and a sense of the sacred he came to catharsis.

-- Jerzy Grotowski Towards a Poor Theatre
Translated by T.K.Wiewlorowski

Tuesday, April 19


The sky was blue, but as we flew from the plains in over the stony and bare lower country, all colour seemed to be scorched out of it. The whole landscape below us looked like delicately marked tortoise-shell. Suddenly, in the midst of it was the lake. The white bottom, shining through the water, gives it, when seen from the air, a striking, an unbelievable azure-colour, so clear that for a moment you shut your eyes at it; the expanse of water lies in the bleak tawny land like a big bright aquamarine. We had been flying high, now we went down, and as we sank our own shade, dark-blue, floated under us upon the light-blue lake. Here live thousands of Flamingoes, although I do not know how they exist in the brackish water, -- surely there are no fish here. At our approach they spread out in large circles and fans, like the rays of a setting sun, like an artful Chinese pattern of silk or porcelain, forming itself and changing, as we looked at it.

-- Isak Dinesen Out of Africa


The only fertile research is excavatory, immersive, a contraction of the spirit, a descent. The artist is active, but negatively, shrinking from the nullity of extracircumferential phenomena, drawn into the core of the eddy.

- Samuel Beckett Proust

Sunday, April 17


The only valid thing in art is the one thing that cannot be explained, to explain away the mystery of a great painting would do irreplaceable harm, for whenever you explain or define something you substitute the explanation or the definition for the image of the thing.

-- Henri Matisse, quoted in The Meanings of Modern Art by John Russell

Saturday, April 16

The Two of You

Don't run anymore. Quiet. How softly it rains
On the roofs of the city. How perfect
All things are. Now, for the two of you
Waking up in a royal bed by a garret window.
For a man and a woman. For one plant divided
Into masculine and feminine which longed for each other.
Yes, this is my gift to you. Above ashes
On a bitter, bitter earth. Above the subterranean
Echo of clamorings and vows. So that now at dawn
You must be attentive: the tilt of a head,
A hand with a comb, two faces in a mirror
Are only forever once, even if unremembered,
So that you watch what is, though it fades away,
And are grateful every moment for your being.
Let that little park with greenish marble busts
In the pearl-gray light, under a summer drizzle,
Remain as it was when you opened the gate.
And the street of tall peeling porticoes
Which this love of yours suddenly transformed.

-- Czeslaw Milosz
Translated by the author and Robert Hass

Gluck's manifesto

I have tried to restrict music to its true role of serving poetry through expression and by following the situation of the story, without interrupting the action or smothering it with useless, superfluous ornaments; and I believe that it should do this in the same way that telling colours affect a correct and well organized drawing, by a well matched contrast of light and shade, which animates the figures without altering their shapes.

-- Christoph Willibald Gluck, writing in the preface to the published score of Alceste

Friday, April 15

the world

Thou believest thyself to be nothing,
And yet it is in thee that the world resides.

-- Avicenna



The Ford whizzes by us on two wheels, the land yacht does almost the same.


He is in a little side road at its juncture with the main highway. Some mud and water from the side road has leaked onto the highway. He lowers his newspaper and turns his head in astonishment as the Ford races past and splatters him with mud. He throws his newspaper to the ground and his leg over the saddle. As he throws his weight up to start the motorcycle, the land yacht roars by and really gives him some mud.



SULLIVAN: Can a whippet tank make a sharp turn?

BUD: What?

SULLIVAN: (Hollering) Can a whippet tank go up a side road?

BUD: A whippet tank can go anywhere. Hang on!

There is a terrible screeching, the car lurches and the background swings ninety degrees. Now the car bumps down a country lane.



He takes a mighty grip and spins the wheel. As the four other occupants slide toward him --


Jones, the doctor, and the young man with the earphones flop over to the side of the body then bounce back.


He is upside down on the floor. Another pile of dishes fall on him.


It is listing badly as it completes the turn. The girl screams.


He is scooping mud out of his eyes.


As he disappears down the road the CAMERA PANS and LOOKS UP THE LANE. The land yacht is moving AWAY FROM US in a series of leaps.

-- Preston Sturges Sullivan's Travels

The Coen Brothers went on to make the movie within this movie as O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Thursday, April 14

the wind

You realize that you had heard the drum from the distance, also the deep, distant roar and boom of the singing, but that you had not heeded, as you don't heed the wind.

-- D.H. Lawrence, "The Dance of the Sprouting Corn" The Later D.H. Lawrence

the dance

The foraging bee, having got rid of her load, begins to perform a kind of "round dance." On the part of the comb where she is sitting she starts whirling around in a narrow circle, constantly changing her direction, turning now right, now left, dancing clockwise and anti-clockwise in quick succession, describing between one and two circles in each direction. This dance is performed among the thickest bustle of the hive. What makes it so particularly striking and attractive is the way it infects the surrounding bees; those sitting next to the dancer start tripping after her, always trying to keep their outstretched feelers in close contact with the tip of her abdomen. They take part in each of her manoeuvrings so that the dancer herself, in her madly wheeling movements, appears to carry behind her a perpetual comet's tail of bees. In this way they keep whirling round and round, sometimes for a few seconds, sometimes for as long as half a minute, or even a full minute, before the dancer suddenly stops, breaking loose from her followers to disgorge a second or even a third droplet of honey while settling on one, or two other parts of the comb, each time concluding with a similar dance. This done, she hurries towards the entrance hole again to take off for her particular feeding-place, from where she is sure to bring back another load; the same performance being enacted at each subsequent return.

-- Karl von Frisch Dancing Bees: An Account of the Life and Senses of the Honeybee

Wednesday, April 13

Devotion Is a Heavy Cross

Devotion is a heavy cross,
but you are lovely and direct;
the mystery of your attractions
is powerful as the key to life.

Scuffling of dreams is heard in spring,
rustle of news and truths. And your
family sprang from such beginnings.
Your mind's impartial as the air.

Lightly to waken, see again,
shake from the heart its wordy litter
and live in future days unchoked,
surely all that needs no great cunning.

-- Boris Pasternak
Translated by J.M. Cowen

Tuesday, April 12


I keep thinking that we need a new language, a language of the heart, a language, as in the Polish forest, where language wasn't needed -- some kind of language between people that is a new kind of poetry, that is the poetry of the dancing bee, that tells us where the honey is.

-- André Gregory and Wallace Shawn My Dinner With André

standing back

Nailed side by side on to the wall were several unstretched canvases on all of which, to my astonishment, [Pierre] Bonnard was working at the same time. Once he had collected a touch of laque de garance, or cadmium yellow, with his nervous, deft fingers, he would then examine each canvas to find the one and only place to put it. In this way, he could nourish several canvases at once until they all came to life. Economy of gesture? The procedure might have seemed a rational one had his 'palette' not obliged him to make a tiresome trip back and forth for each colour -- for the paints were laid out far behind him on a low table. However, he had obviously set this onerous task for himself deliberately. By moving away from the canvases after each stroke, he was better able to judge the effect he was obtaining and to seize the colour relationships, as well as to keep an eye out for any empty spaces.

-- Brassaï The Artists of my Life
Translated by Richard Miller

Monday, April 11


... truth, life, or reality is an organic thing which the poetic imagination can represent or suggest, in essence, only through transformation, through changing into other forms than those which were merely present in appearance.

-- Tennessee Williams The Glass Menagerie Production Notes

the river

Often they sat together in the evening on the tree trunk by the river. They both listened silently to the water, which to them was not just water, but the voice of life, the voice of Being, of perpetual Becoming. And it sometimes happened that while listening to the river, they both thought the same thoughts, perhaps of a conversation of the previous day, or about one of the travellers whose fate and circumstances occupied their minds, or death, or their childhood; and when the river told them something good at the same moment, they looked at each other, both thinking the same thought, both happy at the same answer to the same question.

-- Herman Hesse Siddhartha
Translated by Hilda Rosner

Saturday, April 9

meaning of things

What more could be needed to suffuse the world with the deepest meaning and beauty? The attention is fixed upon a well-defined object, and all the effects it produces in the mind are easily regarded as powers or qualities of that object. But these effects are here powerful and profound. The soul is stirred to its depths. Its hidden treasures are brought to the surface of consciousness. The imagination and the heart awake for the first time. All these new values crystallize about the objects then offered to the mind. If the fancy is occupied by the image of a single person, whose qualities have had the power of precipitating this revolution, all the values gather about that one image. The object becomes perfect, and we are said to be in love. If the stimulus does not appear as a definite image, the values evoked are dispersed over the world, and we are said to have become lovers of nature, and to have discovered the beauty and meaning of things.

-- George Santayana The Sense of Beauty


"Sometimes I remember it was a boy, and sometimes it was a girl. And when he was born, I wrapped him up in cambric and lace, and put pink ribbons on him, strewed him with flowers, got him ready, said prayers over him. I took him away unchristened and carried him through the forest, and I was frightened, and what I weep for most is that I had a baby and I never had a husband."

"Perhaps you had one?" Shatov queried cautiously.

"You're absurd, Shatushka, with your reflections. Perhaps I had, but what's the use of my having had one if it is just the same as though I hadn't. There's an easy riddle for you, guess it," she smiled.

"Where did you take your baby?"

"I took it to the pond," she said with a sigh.

Shatov nudged me again: "And what if you never had a baby and all this is only a wild dream?"

"You ask me a hard question, Shatushka," she answered dreamily, without a trace of surprise at such a question. "I can't tell you anything about that. Perhaps I hadn't: I think it's only your curiosity. I shan't leave off crying for him; anyway, I couldn't have dreamt it ...." And big tears glittered in her eyes.

-- Fyodor Dostoevsky The Possessed
Translated by Constance Garnett

Friday, April 8

Equations of a Villanelle

The breath within us is the wind without,
In interchange unnoticed all our lives.
What if the same be true of world and thought?

Air is the ghost that comes and goes uncaught
Through the great system of lung and leaf that sieves
The breath within us and the wind without;

And utterance, or inspiration going out,
Is borne on air, on empty air it lives
To say the same is true of world and thought.

This is the spirit's seamless fabric wrought
Invisible, whose working magic gives
The breath within us to the wind without.

O great wind, blow through us despite our doubt,
Distilling all life's sweetness in the hives
Where we deny the same to world and thought,

Till death, the candle guttering to naught,
Sequesters every self as it forgives
The breath within us for the wind without;
What if the same be true of world and thought?

-- Howard Nemerov

via Modern Kicks


When there is too much going on, more than you can bear, you may choose to assume that nothing in particular is happening, that your life is going round and round like a turntable. Then one day you are aware that what you took to be a turntable, smooth, flat, and even, was in fact a whirlpool, a vortex.

-- Saul Bellow Something to Remember Me By: Three Tales

Thursday, April 7


MARY: The cold spring now is the time
For the ache in the moving root
The agony in the dark
The slow flow throbbing the trunk
The pain of the breaking bud.
These are the ones that suffer least:
The aconite under the snow
And the snowdrop crying for a moment in the wood.

HARRY: Spring is an issue of blood
A season of sacrifice
And the wail of the new full tide
Returning the ghosts of the dead
Those whom the winter drowned
Do not the ghosts of the drowned
Return to land in the spring?
Do the dead want to return?

MARY: Pain is the opposite of joy
But joy is a kind of pain
I believe the moment of birth
Is when we have knowledge of death
I believe the season of birth
Is the season of sacrifice
For the tree and the beast, and the fish
Thrashing itself upstream:
And what of the terrified spirit
Compelled to be reborn
To rise toward the violent sun
Wet wings into the rain cloud
Harefoot over the moon?

HARRY: What have we been saying? I think I was saying
That it seemed as if I had been always here
And you were someone who had come from a long distance.
Whether I know what I am saying, or why I say it,
That does not matter. You bring me news
Of a door that opens at the end of a corridor,
Sunlight and singing; when I had felt sure
That every corridor only led to another,
Or to a blank wall; that I kept moving
Only so as not to stay still. Singing and light.

-- T.S. Eliot The Family Reunion

what happened to the new poem

It exploded like the crack of doom, and it kicked (as Peter had well foreseen) like a carthorse. Gun and gunman rolled together upon the hearth, entangled inextricably in the folds of the drape. As Bunter leaped to the rescue, the loosened soot of centuries came plunging in a mad cascade down the chimney; it met the floor with a soft and deadly violence and mushroomed up in a Stygian cloud, while with it rushed, in a clattering shower, masonry and mortar, jackdaws' nests and the bones of bats and owls, sticks, bricks and metalwork, with fragments of tiles and potsherds. The shrill outcry of Mrs. Ruddle and Miss Twitterton was drowned by the eruptive rumble and boom that echoed from bend to bend of the forty-foot flue.

"Oh rapture!" cried Peter, with his lady in his arms. "Oh, bountiful Jehovah! Oh, joy for all its former woes a thousand-fold repaid!"

-- Dorothy L. Sayers Busman's Honeymoon

Wednesday, April 6


I am that supreme and fiery force that sends forth all the sparks of life. Death has no part in me, yet do I allot it, wherefore I am girt about with wisdom as with wings. I am that living and fiery essence of the divine substance that flows in the beauty of the fields. I shine in the water, I burn in the sun and the moon and the stars. Mine is that mysterious force of the invisible wind. I sustain the breath of all living. I breathe in the verdure, and in the flowers, and when the waters flow like living things, it is I. I found those columns that support the whole earth ... I am the force that lies hid in the winds, from me they take their source, and as a man may move because he breathes, so doth a fire burn but by my blast. All these live because I am in them and am of their life. I am wisdom. Mine is the blast of the thundered word by which all things were made. I permeate all things that they may not die. I am life.

-- Hildegard of Bingen Hildegard of Bingen: Scivias
Translated by Mother Columba Hart

Tuesday, April 5


RAYMOND: So what is your opinion on modern art?

CATHY: It's hard to put into words really. I just know what I care for and what I don't. Like this -- I'm not sure how you pronounce it -- Mirra?


CATHY: Miró. I don't know why but I just adore it. The feeling it gives. I know that sounds terribly vague.

RAYMOND: No. It actually confirms something I've always wondered about modern art, abstract art.

CATHY: What is that?

RAYMOND: That perhaps it's just picking up where religious art left off. You know. Trying to somehow show you divinity, put it up there on the wall. The modern artist just pares it down to the most basic elements of shape and color. But when you look at that Miró, you feel it just the same.

CATHY: Why, that's lovely, Raymond.

We hear the brief shriek of a woman's laugh. CATHY turns to see MONA LAUDER, MR. FARNSWORTH, and two other women snickering among themselves over CATHY and her friend.

ELEANOR, who is standing listening to an ELDERLY WOMAN, also notices the commotion.

ELDERLY WOMAN: To tell you the truth, I was rather shocked by the prices. But then I've always preferred the work of the masters ... Rembrandt, Michelangelo --

ELEANOR spots CATHY saying good-bye to RAYMOND and starting off down the hall.

ELEANOR: I'm terribly sorry -- Would you excuse me a moment?


ELEANOR starts after CATHY.

ELEANOR: Cathleen!

CATHY: El, honey. It all looks just marvelous --

ELEANOR whisks CATHY to the side.

ELEANOR: Cathy, who on earth was that man? You have the whole place in a clamor!

CATHY: Oh for heaven's sake, why? Because of that ridiculous story?

ELEANOR: (squinting off at RAYMOND) Who is he?

RAYMOND is now introducing SARAH to a smiling, middle-aged woman in a hat.

CATHY: His name's Raymond Deagan. He's Otis Deagan's son.

ELEANOR: Your gardener?

-- Todd Haynes Far From Heaven

the creative act

The creative act takes another aspect when the spectator experiences the phenomenon of transmutation; through the change from inert matter into a work of art, an actual transubstantiation has taken place, and the role of the spectator is to determine the weight of the work on the esthetic scale.

All in all, the creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act.

-- Marcel Duchamp, "The Creative Act" ArtNews 56, no. 4

Monday, April 4


Philosophy is said to begin in wonder and end in understanding. Art departs from what has been understood and ends in wonder. In this end, the human contribution in art is also the quickened work of nature in man ... Art is the extension of the power of rites and ceremonies to unite men, through a shared celebration, to all incidents and scenes of life. This office is the reward and seal of art.

-- John Dewey Art as Experience

Sunday, April 3


The huge endless bivouac that had previously resounded with the crackling of camp-fires and the voices of many men had grown quiet, the red camp-fires were growing paler and dying down. High up in the lit sky hung the full moon. Forests and fields beyond the camp, unseen before, were now visible in the distance. And farther still, beyond those forests and fields, the bright oscillating, limitless distance lured one to itself. Pierre glanced up at the sky and the twinkling stars in its far-away depths. "And this is me, and all that is within me, and it is all I!" thought Pierre. "And they caught all that and put it into a shed boarded up with planks!" He smiled, and went and lay down to sleep...

-- Leo Tolstoy War and Peace
Translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude

Saturday, April 2


What is the phrase for the moon? And the phrase for love? By what name are we to call death? I do not know. I need a little language such as lovers use, words of one syllable ...

-- Virginia Woolf The Waves

Friday, April 1

novel writing

1st Announcer: Novel writing which comes today from the west country from Dorset ....

2nd Announcer: (we hear the sound of a crowd in the background) Hello and welcome to Dorchester, where a very good crowd has turned out to watch local boy Thomas Hardy write his new novel The Return of the Native on this very pleasant July morning. This will be his eleventh novel and the fifth of the very popular Wessex novels…. and here he comes! Here comes Hardy walking out to his desk, he looks confident, he looks relaxed, very much the man in form as he acknowledges this very good natured Bank Holiday crowd. And the crowd goes quiet now as Hardy settles himself down at the desk, body straight, shoulders relaxed, pen held lightly but firmly in the right hand, he dips the pen in the ink (the announcer becomes excited) and he's off, it's the first word, but it is not a word….. oh no, it's a doodle way up on top of the left hand margin. It is a piece of meaningless scribble, and he's signed his name underneath it.... oh dear what a disappointing start, but he is off again and he goes, the first word of Thomas Hardy’s new novel, at 10:35 on this very lovely morning, it's three letters, it's the definite article and it's THE, Dennis.

Dennis: Well this is true to form, no surprises there. He started five of his eleven novels with the definite article, we've had two of them with the IT, there has been one BUT, two ATs, one ON, and a Delorios. Oh that, of course, was never published.

2nd Announcer: I am sorry to interrupt you there Dennis, but he’s crossed it out. Thomas Hardy on the first day of his new novel has crossed out the only word he has written so far and he is gazing off into space…. Ohh! Oh dear, he’s signed his name again.

-- Monty Python's Flying Circus Matching Tie and Handkerchief

Side B of Matching Tie and Handkerchief had two grooves, unbeknownst to people who bought the record. Depending on where they dropped the needle, they could hear side two or side three with different tracks.