Saturday, July 30


The Elizabethan stage was like the attic I was describing in Hamburg, it was a neutral open platform – just a place with some doors – and so it enabled the dramatist effortlessly to whip the spectator through an unlimited succession of illusions, covering, if he chose, the entire physical world. It has also been pointed out that the nature of the permanent structure of the Elizabethan playhouse, with its flat open arena and its large balcony and its second smaller gallery, was a diagram of the universe as seen by the sixteenth-century audience and playwright – the gods, the court and the people – three levels, separate and yet often intermingling – a stage that was a perfect philosopher's machine... The primary fact is that this theatre not only allowed the playwright to roam the world, it also allowed him free passage from the world of action to the world of inner impressions.

-- Peter Brook The Empty Space

Friday, July 29

Love's Coming

Quietly as rosebuds
Talk to thin air,
Love came so lightly
I knew not he was there.

Quietly as lovers
Creep at the middle noon,
Softly as players tremble
In the tears of a tune;

Quietly as lilies
Their faint vows declare,
Came the shy pilgrim:
I knew not he was there.

Quietly as tears fall
On a warm sin,
Softly as griefs call
In a violin;

Without hail or tempest,
Blue sword or flame,
Love came so lightly
I knew not that he came.

-- John Shaw Neilson

Thursday, July 28

iceberg (or phew, it's hot)

Where the walls entered the water, the surf pounded them, creating caverns, grottoes, and ice bridges, strengthening an impression of sea cliffs. At the waterline the ice gleamed aquamarine against its own gray-white walls above. Where meltwater had filled cracks or made ponds, the pools and veins were milk-blue, or shaded to brighter marine blues, depending on the thickness of the ice. If the iceberg had recently fractured, its new face glistened greenish blue -- the greens in the older, weathered faces were grayer. In twilight the ice took on the colors of the sun: rose, reddish yellows, watered purples, soft pinks. The ice both reflected the light and trapped it within its crystalline corners and edges, where it intensified.

-- Barry Lopez Arctic Dreams


The receptivity of the artist must never be confused with passivity. Receptivity is the artist's holding him- or herself alive and open to hear what being may speak. Such receptivity requires a nimbleness, a fine-honed sensitivity in order to let one's self be the vehicle of whatever vision may emerge. It is the opposite of the authoritarian demands impelled by 'will power.' ...It requires a high degree of attention, as when a diver is poised on the end of the springboard, not jumping, but holding his or her muscles in sensitive balance for the right second. It is an active listening, keyed to hear the answer, alert to see whatever can be glimpsed when the vision or the words do come. It is a waiting for the birthing process to begin to move in its own organic time. It is necessary that the artist have this sense of timing, that he or she respect these periods of receptivity as part of the mystery of creativity and creation.

-- Rollo May The Courage to Create

Tuesday, July 26


I have taken up residency in an egg broken open. Life is a process of being broken open. A silk moth emerges from her heat-resistant cocoon with gunpowdered wings. Let the fires roar.

-- Terry Tempest Williams Leap

Summer Doorway

I come down from the gold mountains
each of them the light of many years
high up the soughing of cold pines among stones
the whole way home dry grass seething
to these sounds I think of you already there
in the house all my steps lead to

you have the table set to surprise me
you are lighting the two candles

-- W.S. Merwin

Monday, July 25


The present remarkable public demand for poetry keeps pace with the growing affluence of life throughout the Western world and the gradual shrinking of the work week. Never before have such efforts been made to satisfy the demand, yet never have there been fewer original poets. "This is a critical, not a poetic age." I am told. "Inspiration is out. Contemporary poems must reflect the prevailing analytic spirit." But I am old-fashioned enough to demand bâraka*, an inspirational gift not yet extinct, which defies critical analysis.

-- Robert Graves, b. 24 July 1895 Oxford Addresses on Poetry (1962)

*bâraka: (Arabic) to bless

Sunday, July 24

The Confirmation

Yes, yours, my love, is the right human face.
I in my mind had waited for this long,
Seeing the false and searching for the true,
Then found you as a traveller finds a place
Of welcome suddenly amid the wrong
Valleys and rocks and twisting roads. But you,
What shall I call you? A fountain in a waste,
A well of water in a country dry,
Or anything that's honest and good, an eye
That makes the whole world bright. Your open heart,
Simple with giving, gives the primal deed,
The first good world, the blossom, the blowing seed,
The hearth, the steadfast land, the wandering sea,
Not beautiful or rare in every part,
But like yourself, as they were meant to be.

-- Edwin Muir

Friday, July 22

on Godard

In a dozen films Godard has never made any allusion to the past, even in his dialogue. Think about that: not a single Godard character has talked about their parents or their childhood -- extraordinary. What's more, a study of what is not in Godard's films would be just as intriguing as a study of what he does put in them. He's an intensely modern person, and the fact that he's Swiss is important. One day someone ought to look at the Swiss aspect of Godard's films -- the Switzerland which is the liking for lay-out, watches, modern gadgets, secret bank accounts and all that.

-- François Truffaut, 'Evolution of the New Wave' in Cahiers du Cinema 190 (1967)
Translated by David Wilson

the jug

In the spring the rock dwells, and in the rock dwells the dark slumber of the earth, which receives the rain and dew of the sky. In the water of the spring dwells the marriage of sky and earth. It stays in the wine given by the fruit of the vine, the fruit in which the earth's nourishment and the sky's sun are betrothed to one another. In the gift of water, in the gift of wine, sky and earth dwell. But the gift of the outpouring is what makes the jug a jug. In the jugness of the jug, sky and earth dwell.

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

Thursday, July 21

Take, O Take Those Lips Away

Take, O take those lips away
That so sweetly were foresworn,
And those eyes, the break of day,
Lights that do mislead the morn;
But my kisses bring again,
bring again,
Seals of love, but seal'd in vain,
seal'd in vain.

--William Shakespeare Measure for Measure

Wednesday, July 20


The bed of the river lay largely in the shadows cast by the great trees that grew along its sides. Slowly the two children wandered downstream, jumping from rock to rock. Now and then they startled a vulture, which rose at their approach like a huge cinder, swaying clumsily in the air while they walked by, to realight in the same spot a moment later. There was a particular place that he wanted to show her, where the river widened and had sandy shores, but it lay a good way downstream, so that it took them a long time to get there. When they arrived, the sun's light was golden and the insects had begun to call. On the hill, invisible behind the thick wall of trees, the soldiers were having machine-gun practice: the blunt little berries of sound came in clusters at irregular intervals. Nicho rolled his trouser legs up high above his knees and waded well out into the shallow stream. "Wait!" he called to her. Bending, he scooped up a handful of sand from the river bed. His attitude as he brought it back for her to see was so triumphant that she caught her breath, craned her neck to see it before he arrived. "What is it?" she asked.

"Look! Silver!" he said, dropping the wet sand reverently into her outstretched palm. The tiny grains of mica glistened in the late sunlight.

"Qué precioso!" she cried in delight. They sat on some roots by the water. When the sand was drier, she poured it carefully into the pocket of her dress.

"What are you going to do with it?" he asked her.

"Give it to my grandfather."

"No, no!" he exclaimed. "You don't give away silver. You hide it. Don't you have a place where you hide things?"

Luz was silent; she never had thought of hiding anything. "No," she said presently, and she looked at him with admiration.

He took her hand. "I'll give you a special place in my garden where you can hide anything you want. But you must never tell anyone."

-- Paul Bowles, "Señor Ong and Señor Ha" from Collected Stories of Paul Bowles

Tuesday, July 19


It means 'what lies beneath the surface': the subtle, as opposed to the obvious; the hint, as opposed to the statement. It is applied to the natural grace of a boy's movements, to the gentle restraint of a noble man's speech and bearing. 'When notes fall sweetly and flutter delicately to the ear' that is the yugen of music. The symbol of yugen is 'a white bird with a flower in its beak.' 'To watch the sun sink behind a flower-clad hill, to wander on and on in a huge forest with no thought of return, to stand upon the shore and gaze after a boat that goes hid by far-off islands, to ponder on the journey of wild geese seen and lost among the clouds [Zeami Motokiyo, tr. Whaley]' -- such are the gates of yugen.

-- Arthur Whaley More Translations from the Chinese

meaning beyond meaning

The more a work of art is freighted and fraught with meaning beyond meaning, the more secure its immortality, the more powerful its appeal. For enjoyment, it is not necessary that all these meanings should be fathomed, it is only necessary that they should be felt.

-- Claude Bragdon The Beautiful Necessity

Tuesday, July 12


mi pecho
mientras duermo
y los árboles brotan
de mi sueño.
Despierto, abro los ojos,
y has plantado
dentro de mí
asombradas estrellas
que suben
con mi canto.

my heart
while I sleep
trees bloom
on my dream.
I waken and widen my eyes,
and you plant
in my flesh
the darkening stars
that rise
in my song.)

-- Pablo Neruda, b. 12 July 1904, from "Oda a la jardinera"
Translated by Ben Belitt 


I am certain of nothing but of the holiness of the Heart's affections and the truth of Imagination - What the imagination seizes as Beauty must be truth - whether it existed before or not - for I have the same idea of all our passions as of Love: they are all, in their sublime, creative of essential beauty.

-- John Keats Letter to Benjamin Bailey 22 November 1817

Monday, July 11


I worked with zest, composing mentally every morning from eight to noon while butterfly hunting in the hot hills, which, except for some remarkably skittish individuals of a little-known Wood Nymph, produced nothing noteworthy, but per contra teemed with rattlers whose hysterical performance in the undergrowth or in the middle of the trail was more comical than alarming. After a leisurely lunch, prepared by the German cook who came with the house, I would spend another four-hour span in a lawn chair, among the roses and mockingbirds, using lined index cards and a Blackwing pencil, for copying and recopying, rubbing out and writing anew, the scenes I had imagined in the morning.

-- Vladimir Nabokov, in the Foreword to Lolita: A Screenplay

Sunday, July 10

on borders

For me, it is musically interesting that paintings exist on a canvas with borders. A piece of music unfolds in time and ends in silence. A painting is continually in the present, unaffected by time, yet it is always in the process of ending at each edge of the canvas. A painting, if rectangular, has four endings. It may have a frame around it, which further complicates the concept of endings. Certainly the wall around the frame is an overwhelming irrelevance that must be blocked out by the viewer, like extraneous sounds during a concert. Endings in the visual arts and music can suggest varying degrees of completeness: a smooth sculpture that leaves some part of stone in its natural confusion; a painting that allows drips and patches of naked canvas; or a piece of music that vanishes without a conclusive cadence, fades out while repeating or slides into silence.

-- Bruce Adolphe Of Mozart, Parrots and Cherry Blossoms in the Wind


All night
the dark buds of dreams

In the center
of every petal
is a letter,
and you imagine

if you could only remember
and string them all together
they would spell the answer.
It is a long night,

and not an easy one --
you have so many branches,
and there are diversions --
birds that come and go,

the black fox that lies down
to sleep beneath you,
the moon staring
with her bone-white eye.

Finally, you have spent
all the energy you can
and you drag from the ground
the muddy skirts of your roots

and leap awake
with two or three syllables
like water in your mouth
and a sense

of loss -- a memory
not yet of a word,
certainly not yet the answer --
only how it feels

when deep in the tree
all the locks click open,
and the fire surges through the wood,
and the blossoms blossom.

-- Mary Oliver

Saturday, July 9


Resplendent wings are they, wherein they can shroud themselves from head to foot in a panoply of glistering glory. By these wings alone, it may frequently be judged in what seasons, and under what aspects they were born. From those that came in winter, go great white wings, white as snow; the edge of every feather shining like the sheen of silver, so that they flash and glitter like frost in the sun. But underneath, they are tinged with a faint pink or rose-colour. Those born in spring have wings of a brilliant green, green as grass, and towards the edges the feathers are enamelled like the surface of the grass-blades. These again are white within. Those that are born in summer have wings of a deep rose-colour, lined with pale gold. And those born in autumn have purple wings, with a rich brown on the inside. But these colours are modified and altered in all varieties, corresponding to the mood of the day and hour, as well as the season of the year, and sometimes I found the various colours so intermingled, that I could not determine even the season, though doubtless the hieroglyphic could be deciphered by more experienced eyes. One splendour, in particular, I remember -- wings of deep carmine, with an inner down of warm gray, around a form of brilliant whiteness. She had been found as the sun went down through a low sea-fog, casting crimson along a broad sea-path into a little cave on the shore, where a bathing maiden saw her lying.

-- George MacDonald Phantastes


The meaning of any beautiful thing is, at least, as in the soul of him who looks at it, as it was in his soul who wrought it.

-- Oscar Wilde The Critic as Artist

Friday, July 8


We forget three fourths of ourselves to be like other people.

-- Arthur Schopenhauer

Moon Night

It was as if the sky
Had quietly kissed the earth,
So that she in her shimmer of blossoms
Would dream of nothing but him.

Breezes blew over the field,
Gently the corn ears swayed,
Soft rustles ran through the forest,
So starry and clear was the night.

And my soul spread
Its wings out wide
And flew through the peaceful country,
As though it were flying home.

-- Joseph von Eichendorff
Translated by John White

Thursday, July 7


Tenderness contains an element of sadness. It is not the sadness of feeling sorry for yourself or feeling deprived, but it is a natural situation of fullness. You feel so full and rich, as if you were about to shed tears. Your eyes are full of tears, and the moment you blink, the tears will spill out of your eyes and roll down your cheeks. In order to be a good warrior, one has to feel this sad and tender heart.

-- Chögyam Trungpa Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior


I like a work to be a labyrinth -- one should be able to lose oneself in it. A work whose course reveals itself completely at one hearing is flat and lacking in mystery. The mystery of a work resides precisely in its being valid at many different levels. Whether it be a book, a picture, or a piece of music, these polyvalent levels of interpretation are fundamental to my conception of the work.

-- Pierre Boulez, quoted in Visions and Voices by Jonathan Cott

Wednesday, July 6


In love, we are speechless; in awe, we say, words fail us.

-- Pico Iyer "The Eloquent Sounds of Silence"

at the National Gallery

Dora was always moved by the pictures. Today she was moved, but in a new way. She marvelled, with a kind of gratitude, that they were all still here, and her heart was filled with love for the pictures, their authority, their marvellous generosity, their splendour. It occurred to her that here at last was something real and something perfect. Who had said that, about perfection and reality being in the same place? ...But the pictures were something real outside herself, which spoke to her kindly and yet in sovereign tones, something superior and good whose presence destroyed the dreary trance-like solipsism of her earlier mood. When the world had seemed to be subjective it had seemed to be without interest or value. But now there was something else in it after all.

...She looked at the radiant, sombre, tender, powerful canvas of Gainsborough and felt a sudden desire to go down on her knees before it, embracing it, shedding tears.

-- Iris Murdoch The Bell

Tuesday, July 5


It may be that we exist and cease to exist in alternations, like the minute dots in some forms of toned printing or the succession of pictures on a cinema film. It may be that consciousness is an illusion of movement in an eternal, static, multidimensional universe. We may be only a story written on a ground of inconceivable realities, the pattern of a carpet beneath the feet of the incomprehensible.

-- H.G. Wells The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind

Monday, July 4


There's the whump when they're fired, the rising sigh
they climb, then the stark thump by which they blow
their safes. The fire then shinnies down the sky
like so many dark spiders on glowing
filaments. As thanks for each bright lull, we
loft, not high and not for long, a squadron
of soft, pleased cries. Also we can secede
from this to skulk, to brood sullenly on
the jingo bells, the patriotic gore,
the shattering violence these airy
filibusters flatly mimic on the lake.
Soon we'll unclump and disperse to the dark.
We're home. Lights on. We brush our teeth. Then we
douse the lights and sleep loads its projector.

-- William Matthews

Sunday, July 3

once more

Franz Kafka

Well dearest, the doors are shut, all is quiet, I am with you once more. How many things does 'to be with you' mean by now? I have not slept all day, and while I duly went about all the afternoon and early evening with a heavy head and a befogged brain, now, as night sets in, I am almost excited, feel within me a tremendous desire to write; the demon inhabiting the writing urge begins to stir at most inopportune moments.

-- Franz Kafka (b. 3 July 1883) Letter to Felice Bauer December 1912
Translated by James Stern and Elizabeth Duckworth

The Diaries of Franz Kafka


Sometimes, everywhere I look,
O my love, I see your radiant face.
With you ever present,
how could I close my eyes to anything?

-- Kabir
Translated by Sam Hamill


For centuries, poets, lovers, and mystics have been praising one form or another of music as eternal. These paeans were premature since sound lasts only a few seconds. But when the first radio wave music escaped Earth's ionosphere, it literally did become eternal. As it filtered out through Earth's atmosphere, light began a journey into the places between the stars. Music... has been converted from sound into the clarity of pure light.

-- Leonard Shlain Art & Physics

Saturday, July 2


We really have to understand the person we want to love. If our love is only a will to possess, it is not love. If we only think of ourselves, if we know only our own needs and ignore the needs of the other person, we cannot love. We must look deeply in order to see and understand the needs, aspirations, and suffering of the person we love. This is the ground of real love. You cannot resist loving another person when you really understand him or her.

-- Thich Nhat Hanh

One always loves the person who understands you.

-- Anaïs Nin


The purest form -- that in which the whole body serves the aroused soul and in which each of the soul's risings and bendings creates a visible symbol corresponding to it, allowing one image of enraptured meaning to emerge out of a thousand waves of enraptured movement -- is the dance... Or the soul lays hold of the voice of a man and makes it sing what the soul has experienced in the heights, and the voice does not know what it does.

-- Martin Buber Hasidism and Modern Man
Translated by Maurice Friedman

*Hebrew: inner fervor

Friday, July 1


Good Lord! What have I to do with the laws of Nature, or with arithmetic, when all the time those laws and the formula that twice two make four do not meet with my acceptance! Of course, I am not going to beat my head against a wall if I have not the requisite strength to do so; yet I am not going to accept that wall merely because I have run up against it, and have no means to knock it down.

-- Fyodor Dostoevsky Letters from the Underworld
Translated by C.J. Hogarth