Saturday, February 23, 2019

‘My Great, Great Etc. Uncle Patrick Henry’; poem by James Tate

There's a fortune to be made in just about everything 
in this country, somebody's father had to invent 
everything—baby food, tractors, rat poisoning. 
My family's obviously done nothing since the beginning 
of time. They invented poverty and bad taste
and getting by and taking it from the boss. 
O my mother goes around chewing her nails and 
spitting them in a jar: You shouldn't be ashamed 
of yourself she says, think of your family. 
My family I say what have they ever done but 
paint by numbers the most absurd and disgusting scenes 
of plastic squalor and human degradation.
Well then think of your great great etc. Uncle 
Patrick Henry.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

In Praise of Shadows by Jun'ichiro Tanizaki

This essay by Japanese novelist Tanizaki is a rich and subtle meditation on beauty and aesthetics. His descriptions of light are sublime, or perhaps a more humble relative of sublime, since light for him is best contemplated in its least spectacular effects.  Light is variously described as frail, desolate, dilute, clinging, pensive, limpid, or delicate;  gold leaf in shadow has a dull, sleepy luster, white paper panels have a dreamlike luminescence, the candy yokan is possessed of a cloudy translucenceas if it had drunk into its depths the light of the sun. 
But for Tanizaki it is the magic of shadows that makes light effects visible at all, and he reserves his greatest powers of concentration for them.  Shadows are infinitely graded, always mysterious, uncanny, quiet, cloudy, inky, dull, soft, etc. They fill collars and hollows and folds, they gather, soak, fall, press in
I loved his descriptions of food, of miso soup in a black lacquer bowl, its muddy, claylike color; the viscous sheen of black soy sauce, the soft glow of white fish, of heaped white rice in clouds of steam against black pots ….  Our cooking depends upon shadows and is inseparable from darkness.  Darkness hangs heavy above the No stage like the interior of a huge temple bell; gold leaf and gold dust draw light from the air, glow brighter as you back away.  Women blacken their teeth, wear iridescent green-black lipstick, shave their eyebrows; their black hair is the thread of the great earth spider. 
And Ghosts have no feet …

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Quote: Agnes Martin

’There are no valid thoughts about art. If your sensibilities are awake you will respond. It will be a pleasant experience recalling happy times.. You must see that no talking will help and that no defence is necessary ...’

From ‘Agnes Martin: Her Life and Art,’ by Nancy Princenthal

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Quote: Stephen Nachmanovitch

‘... intuition computes concentrically.’

From ‘Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art’

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Ocean Beach

Now It Is Clear - a poem by WS Merwin

Now it is clear to me that no leaves are mine
no roots are mine
that wherever I go I will be a spine of smoke in the forest
and the forest will know it
we will both know it

and that the birds vanish because of something
that I remember
flying from me as though I were a great wind
as the stones settle into the ground
the trees into themselves
staring as though I were a great wind
which is what I pray for

it is clear to me that I cannot return
but that some of us will meet once more
even here
like our own statues
and some of us still later without names
and some of us will burn with the speed
of endless departures

and be found and lost no more

Quote: Martha Graham

"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.  And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost."

Excerpt in Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art, by Stephen Nachmanovitch