Monday, June 1, 2009

Behind the Seen


irajmirzas house
Iraj Mirzas house


این جا حالا پشت صحنه ی رندآن


June 1, 1857 saw the publication of the most important volume of French poetry up till then: Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal

Baudelaire addresses the reader of the volume with this famous bit of mockery:

It’s Ennui! — his eye brimming with spontaneous tear
He dreams of the gallows in the haze of his hookah.
You know him, reader, this delicate monster,
Hypocritical reader, my likeness, my brother!

Image: Baudelaire’s own annotated 1st ed. copy of Les Fleurs


Karl Gjellerup

Karl Gjellerup (June 2, 1857 – 1919) was a Danish poet and novelist who together with his compatriot Henrik Pontoppidan won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1917. Of the two, Pontoppidan has aged considerably better. I don’t know of anyone who reads Gjellerup these days…


On June 3, 1968 Valerie Solanas shot Andy Warhol…


Allen Ginsberg (June 3, 1926 - 1997) was one of the best American poets to “follow Walt Whitman’s beard…”

Ginsberg’s role in the Beat Generation and subsequently in the counterculture of the 60s and 70s was incomperable. His consistently confessional and political poetry will stand among the best of the 20th C.

Allen Ginsberg: A Supermarket in California

What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for
I walked down the sidestreets under the trees with a headache
self-conscious looking at the full moon.

In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went
into the neon fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations!

What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families
shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the
avocados, babies in the tomatoes!—and you, Garcia Lorca, what
were you doing down by the watermelons?

I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber,
poking among the meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery

I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed the
pork chops? What price bananas? Are you my Angel?

I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans
following you, and followed in my imagination by the store

We strode down the open corridors together in our
solitary fancy tasting artichokes, possessing every frozen
delicacy, and never passing the cashier.

Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in
an hour. Which way does your beard point tonight?
(I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the
supermarket and feel absurd.)

Will we walk all night through solitary streets? The
trees add shade to shade, lights out in the houses, we’ll both be

Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love
past blue automobiles in driveways, home to our silent cottage?

Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher,
what America did you have when Charon quit poling his ferry and
you got out on a smoking bank and stood watching the boat
disappear on the black waters of Lethe?

Berkeley, 1955

Foto:Allen Ginsberg (American, 1926-1997). Sea of Japan, 1963. Gelatin silver print, with inscription in ink by Allen Ginsberg. 11 x 14 in. (27.9 x 35.6 cm). Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, Courtesy Allen Ginsberg Trust, New York.


Federico García Lorca (June 5, 1898 - 1936), Spanish poet - an emblematic member of the Generation of ‘27; murdered at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War…
In 1929-30 García Lorca lived in the city of New York, on the campus of Columbia University. Unable to speak English, he suffered a deep culture shock. However, in his early letters to home he expressed his enthusiasm about contemporary American plays. His suicidal mood was recorded in posthumously published POETA EN NUEVA YORK (1940, Poet in New York), in which he praised Walt Whitman. The poet condemns the frightening, physically and spiritually corrupted city, and escapes to Havana to experience the harmony of a more primitive life. (Source)


Half way down the ravine.
gay with rival blood
the knives of Albacete
shine like fishes.
A light hard as playing cards
in the acid greenness
silhouettes furious horses
and the profiles of riders.
On the crest of an olive tree
two old women cry.
The bull of the dispute
charges up the walls.
Black angels bring
handkerchiefs and snow-water,
angels with big wings
made of knives from Albacete.
Juan Antonio of Montilla
rolls dead down the hill,
his body full of lilies
and a pomegranate at his temples.
Now he rides a cross of fire
on the road of death.

The judge, with the Civil Guards,
comes through the olive groves.
Slippery blood sings
a silent song of serpents.
Honorable Civil Guards:
the same as usual—
four Romans dead
and five Carthaginians.

Crazed with hot rumors and fig trees,
the afternoon falls fainting
on the wounded limbs of the riders.
Black angels fly
through the western air,
angels with long braids
and hearts of oil.

Federico García Lorca, from “Gypsy Ballads,” translated by Langston Hughes (The Beloit Poetry Journal, Fall 1951). Appeared in The New York Times, June 22, 1952.

Drawing by Lorca, 1919 - for one of his own poems…


Friedrich Hölderlin, the great, but mad, German Romantic poet, passed away June 6, 1843, after many years of obscurity and silence…

“Dichterlich wohnt der Mensch.” (Like a poet man lives…)


Gwendolyn Brooks

Gwendolyn Brooks (June 7, 1917 - 2000) was an important American poet, affiliated with the Black Arts movement in Chicago. She was appointed Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1985…

“Brooks’s poetry is marked by some unforgettable characters who are drawn from the underclass of the nation’s black neighborhoods. Like many urban writers, Brooks has recorded the impact of city life. But unlike the most committed naturalists, she does not hold the city completely responsible for what happens to people. The city is simply an existing force with which people must cope.

While they are generally insignificant in the great urban universe, her characters gain importance—at least to themselves—in their tiny worlds, whether it be Annie Allen trying on a hat in a milliner’s shop or DeWitt Williams “on his way to Lincoln Cemetery” or Satin-Legs Smith trying to decide what outlandish outfit to wear on Sundays. Just as there is not a strong naturalistic sense of victimization, neither are there great plans for an unpromised future nor is there some great divine spirit that will rescue them. Brooks is content to describe a moment in the lives of very ordinary people whose only goal is to exist from day to day and perhaps have a nice funeral when they die. Sometimes these ordinary people seem to have a control that is out of keeping with their own insignificance.

Although her poetic voice is objective, there is a strong sense that she—as an observer—is never far from her action. On one level, of course, Brooks is a protest poet; yet her protest evolves through suggestion rather than through a bludgeon. She sets forth the facts without embellishment or interpretation, but the simplicity of the facts makes it impossible for readers to come away unconvinced—despite whatever discomfort they may feel—whether she is writing about suburban ladies who go into the ghetto to give occasional aid or a black mother who has had an abortion.” (Wiki)


Nikki Giovanni

Yolande Cornelia "Nikki" Giovanni (born June 7, 1943)

Nikki Giovanni is 66 today!

“The civil rights and black power movements inspired her early poetry that was collected in Black Feeling, Black Talk (1967), Black Judgement (1968), and Re: Creation (1970). She has since written more than two dozen books including volumes of poetry, illustrated children’s books, and three collections of essays.

Giovanni’s writing has been heavily inspired by African American activists and artists. Her book, Love Poems (1997), was written in memory of Tupac Shakur and she has stated that she would “rather be with the thugs than the people who are complaining about them.”

She also tours nationwide and frequently speaks out against hate-motivated violence. At a 1999 Martin Luther King Day event, she recalled the 1998 murders of James Byrd, Jr. and Matthew Shepard: “What’s the difference between dragging a black man behind a truck in Jasper, Texas, and beating a white boy to death in Wyoming because he’s gay?”

Those Who Ride the Night Winds (1983) acknowledged notable black figures. Giovanni collected her essays in the 1988 volume Sacred Cows … and Other Edibles. Her most recent works include Acolytes and On My Journey Now.

In 2004 Giovanni was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards for her album “The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection.” She also featured on the track Ego Trip By Nikki Giovanni on Blackalicious’ 2000 album Nia. In November 2008, a song cycle of her poems, Sounds That Shatter the Staleness in Lives by Adam Hill, was premiered as part of the Soundscapes Chamber Music Series in Taos, New Mexico.

She was commissioned by National Public Radio’s All Things Considered to create an inaugural poem for President Barack Obama. Giovanni read poetry at the Lincoln Memorial as a part of the bicentennial celebration of Lincoln’s birth on February 12, 2009.” (Wiki)


Benjamin Jonson by Abraham van Blyenberch

Benjamin Jonson (c. 11 June 1572 – 1637) was an English Renaissance dramatist, poet and actor. A contemporary of William Shakespeare, he is best known for his satirical plays, particularly Volpone, The Alchemist, and Bartholomew Fair, which are considered his best, and his lyric poems. (Wiki)

“Drink today, and drown all sorrow;

You shall perhaps not do it tomorrow;

Best, while you have it, use your breath;

There is no drinking after death”


Djuna Barnes (June 12, 1892 – 1982) was an American writer who played an important part in the development of 20th century English language modernist writing and was one of the key figures in 1920s and 30s bohemian Paris after filling a similar role in the Greenwich Village of the teens. Her novel Nightwood became a cult work of modern fiction, helped by an introduction by T. S. Eliot. It stands out today for its portrayal of lesbian themes and its distinctive writing style. (Wiki)


Corpse A

THEY brought her in, a shattered small
With a little bruised body like
A startled moon;
And all the subtle symphonies of her
A twilight rune.

Corpse B

THEY gave her hurried shoves this way
And that.
Her body shock-abbreviated
As a city cat.
She lay out listlessly like some small mug
Of beer gone flat.


In the 1920s, Paris was the center of modernism in art and literature; as Gertrude Stein remarked, “Paris was where the twentieth century was”. Djuna Barnes first travelled there in 1921 on an assignment for McCall’s Magazine. She interviewed her fellow expatriate writers and artists for U.S. periodicals and soon became a well-known figure on the local scene; her black cloak and her acerbic wit are remembered in many memoirs of the time. Even before her first novel was published, her literary reputation was already high, largely on the strength of her story “A Night Among the Horses”, which was published in The Little Review and reprinted in her 1923 collection A Book.

Barnes arrived in Paris with a letter of introduction to James Joyce, whom she interviewed for Vanity Fair and who became a friend. The headline of her Vanity Fair interview billed him as “the man who is, at present, one of the more significant figures in literature”, but her personal reaction to Ulysses was less guarded: “I shall never write another line…. Who has the nerve to after that?” (Wiki)

Barnes’ drawing of Joyce, illustrating her 1922 interview with him in Vanity Fair.


Another of Djuna Barnes’ drawings…

Once again we celebrate the birthday of the great Irish nationalist and Modernist poet, William Butler Yeats (June 13, 1865 - 1939):

DOWN by the Salley Gardens my love and I did meet;
She passed the Salley Gardens with little snow-white feet.
She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree;
But I, being young and foolish, with her would not agree.

In a field by the river my love and I did stand,
And on my leaning shoulder she laid her snow-white hand.
She bid me take life easy, as the grass grows on the weirs;
But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears.

(Based on an old Irish folk song)


Actually it was Yeats’ birthday last year that originated the format of Ordinary Finds that you (well, some of you, at least) know and love. OF has been around a bit longer than a year, but from June 13, 2008 and onwards I gradually developed the birthday driven system of daily blogging that I have now used for a full year. I celebrate persons and events in the fields of literature, art (including photography), film, music and architecture. I also mention figures that have functioned as cultural heroes in a general sense, as well as those who have rung in the new in areas such as philosophy, politics and science…

Photochrom image of W.B. Yeats (National Library of Ireland)

The location and date of this portrait are not known, but would appear to be contemporaneous with the picture of Maud Gonne (see next post). WBY’s appearance and dress match photographs from the period 1900-02.

(A Photochrom is a color photo lithograph, produced from a black-and-white negative. The final prints were created using different color impressions from multiple lithographic stones.)

Maud Gonne Photochrom…

“In 1889, Yeats met Maud Gonne, then a 23 year old heiress and ardent Nationalist. Gonne was eighteen months younger than Yeats and later claimed she met the poet as a “paint-stained art student.” Gonne had admired “The Isle of Statues” and sought out his acquaintance. Yeats developed an obsessive infatuation with her beauty and outspoken manner, and she was to have a significant and lasting effect on his poetry and his life thereafter.

Looking back in later years, he admitted “it seems to me that she [Gonne] brought into my life those days—for as yet I saw only what lay upon the surface—the middle of the tint, a sound as of a Burmese gong, an over-powering tumult that had yet many pleasant secondary notes.” Yeats’ love remained unrequited, in part due to his reluctance to participate in her nationalist activism. In 1891, he visited Gonne in Ireland and proposed marriage, but was rejected. He later admitted that from that point “the troubling of my life began.” Yeats proposed to Gonne three more times: in 1899, 1900 and 1901. She refused each proposal, and in 1903, to his horror, married the Irish nationalist Major John MacBride.” (Wiki)

From Yeats’ poem, A Man Young and Old:

My arms are like the twisted thorn
And yet there beauty lay;
The first of all the tribe lay there
And did such pleasure take;
She who had brought great Hector down
And put all Troy to wreck.

Yeats’ Golden Dawn notebook, 1893 - 1912

“This notebook was kept by WBY from 1893, when he entered the Inner Order of the Golden Dawn, to 1912, when the Order had ceased to call itself the Golden Dawn following various public scandals.

The section of the notebook shown in the case is copied from a document by MacGregor Mathers, one of the founders of the Order, explaining how to build up the visible form of a name representing an elemental force. WBY has used his artistic training to give a convincing representation of the instructions.” (National Library of Ireland)


Hector de Saint-Denys Garneau
June 13 1912

Today is the birthday of ill-fated French-Canadian poet Hector de Saint-Denys Garneau (June 13, 1912 - 1943)…

He was the cofounder of the important French Canadian literary journal La Relève (1934; “The Relief”). His intense and introspective verse, filled with images of death and despair, set him apart from the prevailing regionalism of Canadian literature and strongly influenced the poets who followed.

He developed a heart problem while very young and interrupted his university studies to devote himself full-time to poetry, living out the role of the poète maudit. At the time of his death in 1943, he was living with his parents in Quebec: he was canoeing alone and died of an apparent heart attack, aged a mere 31…

Cage d’oiseau

Je suis une cage d’oiseau
Une cage d’os
Avec un oiseau

L’oiseau dans sa cage d’os
C’est la mort qui fait son nid

Lorsque rien n’arrive
On entend froisser ses ailes

Et quand on a ri beaucoup
Si l’on cesse tout à coup
On l’entend qui roucoule
Au fond
Comme un grelot

C’est un oiseau tenu captif
La mort dans ma cage d’os

Voudrait-il pas s’envoler
Est-ce vous qui le retiendrez
Est-ce moi
Qu’est-ce que c’est

Il ne pourra s’en aller
Qu’après avoir tout mangé
Mon cœur
La source de sang
Avec la vie dedans

Il aura mon âme au bec.

Translation (composite of John Glassco, George Dance and my versions):

Bird Cage

I am a bird cage

A cage of bone

With a bird


The bird in the cage of bone

Is death building his nest


When nothing is happening

One can hear him ruffle his wings


And when one has laughed a lot

If one suddenly stops

One can hear him cooing

Deep down

Like a small bell


It is a bird held captive

Death in my cage of bone


Wouldn’t he like to fly away

Are you holding him back

Am I

What is it


He cannot fly away

Until he has eaten all

My heart

The source of blood

With its life inside


He will have my soul in his beak

Hector de Saint-Denis Garneau: Manus of his poem “Un bon coup de guillotine”, undated (Source)


Fernando Pessoa, the great Portuguese Modernist, who invented multiple poetic personae, was born June 13, 1888 (d. 1935)…

“Pessoa created autonomous poets, with complete biographies, literary styles and identities wholly separable, and separate, from his own. The occurrence was instinctive, born from earlier smaller attempts, and was ultimately as psychologically necessary as it was artfully constructed. He felt the birth within him, as he put it, of a school of poets: all wholly individual, corresponding with each other, arguing over their differing styles and literary approaches.

Pessoa was the shy metaphysical; Alberto Caeiro (1889-1915) the Whitmanesque master of facts (’even stone is too metaphorical’) who died young of TB; Alvaro de Campos (1890-1935?) the vortical modernist trained in Glasgow as a ship engineer; Ricardo Reis (1888-1919) the Epicurean classicist, full of strict measure and looser living.” (Simon Jenner - source)

Fernando Pessoa befriended the great Satanist, Aleister Crowley, even aiding and abetting Crowley in setting up his fake suicide…

“The dossier includes voluminous correspondence with Crowley, and hundreds of pages of an unfinished novel about Crowley’s faked suicide. The work is called Boca do Inferno, (Hell’s Mouth) after a rocky inlet near the Portuguese resort of Cascais.

Pessoa, intrigued by Crowley’s mysticism, struck up a correspondence with the Englishman. The flamboyant Crowley visited Lisbon in 1930, and the friends played chess together. Crowley then disappeared, leaving his cigarette case and a handwritten suicide note on the clifftop above the crashing waves at Hell’s Mouth.

It was a trick, apparently to elude a discarded lover. Crowley slipped across the border to Spain, emerged weeks later in Berlin and died in Hastings, Sussex, in 1947, penniless and addicted to heroin. Pessoa mounted a polemical play about the “suicide” and doubts swirled over his role in the affair, and the nature of his relationship with Crowley.” (Source)

“Much could be written about Pessoa’s occult interests – his exploration of the post-Paracelsian spheres that gave rise, for instance to that explosive orchestral modernist masterpiece, Varese’s Arcana of 1927. Pessoa’s interlinking of his literary and symbolist life are elements that challenge the embarrassed academics who can hardly credit, for instance, that the two greatest Irish poets of the 20th century – Yeats and MacNeice – wrote serious astrology books. Much else is, as Pessoa would have wished, hidden from us. It’s difficult to assess how much he wished the initiate to research him, but his essential genius crosses these as it does either his Portuguese or his Jacobean English (not to mention his French heteronyms). But scholars will have to address such understandings if they wish to approach Pessoa’s ferociously private but not forbidding self. He was kind and close to his friends, and his aunt, a life-long friend, was his astrological confidant.” (Source)

Photo: A chess game between Crowley and Pessoa…


Yasunari Kawabata (June 14, 1899 - 1972) was a Japanese short story writer and novelist whose spare, lyrical, subtly-shaded prose works won him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968 (“for his narrative mastery, which with great sensibility expresses the essence of the Japanese mind”), the first Japanese author to receive the award. His works have enjoyed broad international appeal and are still widely read.” (Wiki)

Kawabata’s Nobel Lecture is a bizarre crash course in Japanese literature and Zen philosophy with a particular emphasis on the frequency of suicide among Japanese artists (Read it here…) He quotes Akutagawa (suicide at 35): “I am living in a world of morbid nerves, clear and cold as ice… I do not know when I will summon up the resolve to kill myself. But nature is for me more beautiful than it has ever been before. I have no doubt that you will laugh at the contradiction, for here I love nature even when I am contemplating suicide. But nature is beautiful because it comes to my eyes in their last extremity.”

Further: “If you meet a Buddha, kill him. If you meet a patriarch of the law, kill him.” “I shall not take a single disciple.” In these two statements, perhaps, is the rigorous fate of art.

“Kawabata apparently committed suicide in 1972 by gassing himself, but a number of close associates, including his widow, consider his death to have been accidental. Many theories have been advanced as to his reasons, among them poor health (the discovery that he had Parkinson’s disease), a possible illicit love affair, or the shock caused by the suicide of his friend Yukio Mishima in 1970. Unlike Mishima, Kawabata left no note, and since (again unlike Mishima) he had not discussed significantly in his writings the topic of taking his own life, his motives remain unclear. However, his Japanese biographer, Takeo Okuno, has related how he had nightmares about Mishima for two or three hundred nights in a row, and was incessantly haunted by the specter of Mishima. In a persistently depressed state of mind, he would tell friends during his last years that sometimes, when on a journey, he hoped his plane would crash.” (Wiki)

Above: A sublime photo of Kawabata by the great master Yousuf Karsh


The venerable Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges, of course wrote all of his books himself. Then, also of course, he wrote and reviewed the imaginary books of a lot of other people as well…

We lost Borges June 14, 1986…

(Photo :Jorge Luis Borges Mexico 1973)

“Borges employed two very unusual literary forms: the literary forgery and the review of an imaginary work. Both constitute a form of modern pseudo-epigrapha.

Borges’s best-known set of literary forgeries date from his early work as a translator and literary critic with a regular column in the Argentine magazine El Hogar. Along with publishing numerous legitimate translations, he also published original works after the style of the likes of Emanuel Swedenborg or The Book of One Thousand and One Nights, originally passing them off as translations of things he had come upon in his reading. Several of these are gathered in the Universal History of Infamy. He continued this pattern of literary forgery at several points in his career, for example sneaking three short, falsely attributed pieces into his otherwise legitimate and carefully researched anthology El matrero.

At times, confronted with an idea for a work that bordered on the conceptual, rather than write a piece that fulfilled the concept, he wrote a review of a nonexistent work, as if it had already been created by some other person. The most famous example of this is “Pierre Menard, author of the Quixote”, which imagines a twentieth-century Frenchman who tries to write Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote verbatim—-not by having memorized Cervantes’ work, but as an “original” narrative of his own invention. Initially he tries to immerse himself in sixteenth-century Spain, but dismisses the method as too easy, instead trying to reach Don Quixote through his own experiences. He finally manages to (re)create “the ninth and thirty-eighth chapters of the first part of Don Quixote and a fragment of chapter twenty-two.” Borges’s “review” of the work of the fictional Menard uses tongue-in-cheek comparisons to discuss the resonances that Don Quixote has picked up over the centuries since it was written, by way of overtly discussing how much “richer” Menard’s work is than that of Cervantes, even though the actual words are exactly the same.” (Wiki)


Geoffrey Hill. Photograph-Eamonn McCabe
Geoffrey Hill. Photograph-Eamonn McCabe

Geoffrey Hill (b. June 18, 1932) is an English poet, professor emeritus of English literature and religion, and former co-director of the Editorial Institute, at Boston University.

Hill is often described as a “difficult” poet. He makes circumspect use of traditional rhetoric (as well as that of modernism), but he also transcribes the idioms of public life, such as those of television, political sloganeering, and punditry. Hill has been consistently drawn to morally problematic and violent episodes in British and European history, though it should be noted that his accounts of landscape (especially that of his native Worcestershire) are as intense as his encounters with history. (He has written perhaps the most important poetic responses to the Holocaust in English, ‘Two Formal Elegies’, ‘September Song’ and ‘Ovid in the Third Reich’.) In an interview in The Paris Review (2000), which published Hill’s early poem ‘Genesis’ when he was still at Oxford, Hill defended the right of poets to difficulty as a form of resistance to the demeaning simplifications imposed by ‘maestros of the world’. Hill also argued that to be difficult is to be democratic, equating the demand for simplicity with the demands of tyrants.” (Wiki)

Requiem for the Plantagenet Kings by Geoffrey Hill

For whom the possessed sea littered, on both shores,
Ruinous arms; being fired, and for good,
To sound the constitution of just wards,
Men, in their eloquent fashion, understood.

Relieved of soul, the dropping-back of dust,
Their usage, pride, admitted within doors;
At home, under caved chantries, set in trust,
With well-dressed alabaster and proved spurs
They lie; they lie; secure in the decay
Of blood, blood-marks, crowns hacked and coveted,
Before the scouring fires of trial-day
Alight on men; before sleeked groin, gored head,
Budge through the clay and gravel, and the sea
Across daubed rock evacuates its dead.


Vikram Seth (b. June 20, 1952) is an anglophone Indian poet, novelist, travel writer, librettist, children’s writer, biographer and memoirist - perhaps best known for his novel from 1993, A Suitable Boy

A famous polyglot, Seth detailed in an interview (in the year 2005) in the Australian magazine Good Weekend that he has studied several languages, including Welsh, German and, later, French in addition to the oft-noted Mandarin, English (which he describes as “my instrument” in answer to Indians who query his not writing in his native Hindi), Urdu (so useful to him during the travels in Sinkiang and Tibet detailed in From Heaven Lake), which he reads and writes in Nasta’liq script, and Hindi, which he reads and writes in the Dēvanāgarī script. He plays the Indian flute and the cello and sings German lieder, especially Schubert. (Wiki)

A playful poem by Seth:

Some men like Jack and some like Jill
I’m glad I like them both but still
I wonder if this freewheeling
Really is an enlightened thing,
Or is its greater scope a sign
Of deviance from some party line?
In the strict ranks of Gay and Straight
What is my status: Stray? Or Great?

Photo of Vikram Seth © 1990 Aradhana Seth

Charming interview here


Paul Muldoon (b. June 20, 1951) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet from County Armagh, Northern Ireland. Muldoon has lived in the United States since 1987; he teaches at Princeton University and is an Honorary Professor in the School of English at the University of St Andrews. He held the chair of Professor of Poetry at Oxford University for the five-year term 1999–2004, and he is an Honorary Fellow of Hertford College, Oxford University. In addition, he teaches in Vermont at The Bread Loaf School of English, Middlebury College’s graduate program. Muldoon also writes rock lyrics and performs with his own band, Rackett. (Wiki)

Good intro here

Photo by Mitsu Yasukawa

Paul Muldoon - Paul Klee: They’re Biting

The lake supports some kind of bathysphere,
an Arab dhow

and a fishing-boat
complete with languorous net.

Two caricature anglers
have fallen hook, line and sinker

for the goitred,
spiny fish-caricatures

with which the lake is stocked.
At any moment all this should connect.

When you sent me a postcard of They’re Biting
there was a plane sky-writing

I LOVE YOU over Hyde Park.
Then I noticed the exclamation-mark

at the painting’s heart.
It was as if I’d already been given the word

by a waist-thick conger
mouthing NO from the fishmonger’s

otherwise-drab window
into which I might glance to check my hair.


The poem is from Paul Muldoon’s Meeting the British. Copyright © 1987

Ill.: Paul Klee: Sie beissen an (They’re Biting), 1920. Drawing and oil on paper (Tate)


Machado de Assis

Machado de Assis (June 21, 1839 — 1908) was a Brazilian novelist, poet and short story writer. Machado’s works had a great influence on Brazilian literary schools of the late 19th century and 20th century. José Saramago, Carlos Fuentes, Susan Sontag and Harold Bloom are among his admirers, and Bloom calls him “the supreme black literary artist to date.”

Machado de Assis began by writing popular novels which sold well. His style changed in the 1880s, and it is for the sceptical, ironic, comedic but ultimately pessimistic works he wrote after this that he is remembered: the first novel in his “new style” was Epitaph of a Small Winner, known in the new Gregory Rabassa translation as The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas (a literal translation of the original title, Memórias Póstumas de Brás Cubas). In their brilliant comedy and ironic playfulness, these resemble in some ways the contemporary works of George Meredith in the United Kingdom, and Eça de Queirós in Portugal, but Machado de Assis’ work has a far bleaker emotional undertone. Machado’s work has also been compared with Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy.

Machado de Assis could speak English fluently and translated many works of William Shakespeare and other English writers into Portuguese. His work contains numerous allusions to Shakespearean plays, John Milton and influences from Sterne and Meredith.” (Wiki)

Anne Carson

The brilliant Canadian poet Anne Carson is 59 today.

“A professor of the classics, with background in classical languages, comparative literature, anthropology, history, and commercial art, Carson blends ideas and themes from many fields in her writing. She frequently references, modernizes, and translates Greek mythology. She has published ten books as of 2006, all of which blend the forms of poetry, essay, prose, criticism, translation, dramatic dialogue, fiction, and non-fiction.” (Wiki)

“You can get used to eating breakfast with a man in a fedora. You can get used to anything, my mother was in the habit of saying.”
— Anne Carson (Plainwater: Essays and Poetry)

“Why does tragedy exist? Because you are full of rage. Why are you full of rage? Because you are full of grief.”

— Anne Carson (Grief Lessons: Four Plays by Euripides)


Robert Hunter

Robert Hunter (b. June 23, 1941) is an American lyricist, singer-songwriter, translator, and poet, best known for his association with Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead.

About his early LSD experiences:

“Sit back picture yourself swooping up a shell of purple with foam crests of crystal drops soft nigh they fall unto the sea of morning creep-very-softly mist…and then sort of cascade tinkley-bell like (must I take you by the hand, every so slowly type) and then conglomerate suddenly into a peal of silver vibrant uncomprehendingly, blood singingly, joyously resoundingbells….By my faith if this be insanity, then for the love of God permit me to remain insane.”

From Ripple:

“If my words did glow with the gold of sunshine
And my tunes were played on the harp unstrung
Would you hear my voice come through the music
Would you hold it near as it were your own?

It’s a hand-me-down, the thoughts are broken
Perhaps they’re better left unsung
I don’t know, don’t really care
Let there be songs to fill the air


Anna Akhmatova (June 23, 1889 — 1966) was the pen name of Anna Andreevna Gorenko, a Russian/Soviet poet credited with a large influence on Russian poetry.

“Akhmatova’s work ranges from short lyric poems to universalized, ingeniously structured cycles, such as Requiem (1935-40), her tragic masterpiece about the Stalinist terror. Her work addresses a variety of themes including time and memory, the fate of creative women, and the difficulties of living and writing in the shadow of Stalinism. She has been widely translated into many languages and is one of the best-known Russian poets of 20th century.” (Wiki)

The early glory is like smoke,
I wanted much more than this.
In all my lovers I evoked
The feelings of joy and bliss.
One is still in love somewhere
With a friend from long ago,
The other stands in the city square,-
A statue of bronze in the snow.


Ingeborg Bachmann

Ingeborg Bachmann (June 25, 1926 – 1973) was an Austrian poet and author. While living in Austria she was a member of the legendary literary circle known as Gruppe 47, whose members also included Ilse Aichinger, Paul Celan, Heinrich Böll, Marcel Reich-Ranicki and Günter Grass.

“In 1953, she moved to Rome, Italy, where she spent the large part of the following years working on poems, essays, opera libretti and short stories which soon brought with them international fame and numerous awards. Her relationship with Max Frisch, the Swiss author who was 15 years older than her, took her to Switzerland and bestowed the role of the second protagonist in Frisch’s Mein Name sei Gantenbein upon her.” (Wiki)

Bachmann died a sad death in Rome as a result of a fire in her apartment, possibly exacerbated by her enforced drug withdrawal while in hospital with injuries incurred during the fire…

In The Storm of Roses

Wherever we turn in the storm of roses,
the night is lit up by thorns, and the thunder
of leaves, once so quiet within the bushes,
rumbling at our heels.


Shams Aghajani (born June 25th, 1968)


“Laurie Lee (June 26, 1914 – 1997) was an English poet, novelist, and screenwriter, raised in the village of Slad, Gloucestershire. His most famous work was an autobiographical trilogy which consisted of Cider with Rosie (1959), As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning (1969) and A Moment of War (1991). While the first volume famously recounts his childhood in the idyllic Slad Valley, the second deals with his leaving home for London and his first visit to Spain in 1934, and the third with his return in December 1937 to join the Republican International Brigade.” (Wiki)

Lee was a talented musician and musicologist, and early on in his life he used the violin he always carried with him to break the ice and come into contact with people everywhere. He also had quite a way with the ladies - from Wilma Gregory who sponsored him when he first went to Spain, and later helped him get an education - to his on and off lover Lorna Wishart, with whom he had a daughter, and of whom her biographer says:

“Lorna, the baby of the family, was perhaps the most flamboyant of the fabulous Garmans. She wore beautiful and unusual clothes and smelled of Chanel No. 5, went riding on her horse at night, drove a chocolate-brown Bentley, and would strip naked to swim in inviting lakes or rivers or 10-metre waves. At 14 she seduced the man who would become her husband when she was 16, the publisher Ernest Wishart.”

Photo of Laurie Lee by Larry Burrows, 1951 at The Eccentrics Corner of the Lion and Unicorn pavilion for the Festival of Britain…


“Aimé Césaire (June 26, 1913 – 2008) was an Afro-Martinican francophone poet, author and politician.

In Paris, Césaire, who in 1935 passed an entrance exam for the École normale supérieure, created, with Léopold Sédar Senghor and Léon Damas, the literary review L’Étudiant Noir (The Black Student) which was a forerunner of the Négritude movement. In 1936, Césaire began work on his book-length poem Cahier d’un retour au pays natal - Notebook of a Return to My Native Land - (1939), a vivid and powerful depiction of the ambiguities of Caribbean life and culture in the New World and this upon returning home to Martinique.

Césaire married fellow Martinican student Suzanne Roussi in 1937. Together they moved back to Martinique in 1939 with their young son. Césaire became a teacher at the Lycée Schoelcher in Fort-de-France, where he taught Frantz Fanon and served as an inspiration for, but did not teach, Édouard Glissant. He would become a heavy influence for Fanon as both a mentor and a contemporary throughout Fanon’s short life.

The years of World War II were ones of great intellectual activity for the Césaires. In 1941, Aimé Césaire and Suzanne Roussi founded the literary review Tropiques, with the help of other Martinican intellectuals like René Ménil and Aristide Maugée, in order to challenge the cultural status quo and alienation that then characterized Martinican identity. Many run-ins with censorship did not deter Césaire from being an outspoken defendant of Martinican identity. He also became close to French surrealist poet André Breton, who spent time in Martinique during the war.

In 1947 he was finally able to publish his book Cahier d’un retour au pays natal (Notebook of a Return to My Native Land), which he had actually finished in 1940. The book mixes poetry and prose to express his thoughts on the cultural identity of black Africans in a colonial setting. Breton contributed a laudatory introduction to the 1947 edition of Cahier…, saying that “this poem is nothing less than the greatest lyrical monument of this time.” (“ce poème [n’est] rien moins que le plus grand monument lyrique de ce temps”)” (Wiki)

From Notebook of a Return to My Native Land:

At the end of daybreak…

Beat it, I said to him, you cop, you lousy pig, beat it,
I detest the flunkies of order and the cockchafers of hope.
Beat it, evil grigri, you bedbug of a petty monk. Then I turned
toward paradises lost for him and his kin, calmer than the face
of a woman telling lies, and there, rocked by the flux of a
never exhausted thought I nourished the wind, I unlaced the
monsters and heard rise, from the other side of disaster, a
river of turtledoves and savanna clover which I carry forever
in my depths height-deep as the twentieth floor of the most
arrogant houses and as a guard against the putrefying force
of crepuscular surroundings, surveyed night and day by a cursed
venereal sun.

At the end of daybreak burgeoning with frail coves, the hungry
Antilles, the Antilles pitted with smallpox, the Antilles dyn-
amited by alcohol, stranded in the mud of this bay, in the dust
of this town sinisterly stranded.

At the end of daybreak, the extreme, deceptive desolate eschar
on the wound of the waters; the martyrs who do not bear witness;
the flowers of blood that fade and scatter in the empty wind
like the screeches of babbling parrots; an aged life mendacious-
ly smiling, its lips opened by vacated agonies; an aged poverty
rotting under the sun, silently; an aged silence bursting with
tepid pustules, the awful futility of our raison d’être.

At the end of daybreak, on this very fragile earth thickness
exceeded in a humiliating way by its grandiose future—the vol-
canoes will explode, the naked water will bear away the ripe
sun stains and nothing will be left but a tepid bubbling pecked
at by sea birds—the beach of dreams and the insane awakening.

At the end of daybreak, this town sprawled-flat, toppled from
its common sense, inert, winded under its geometric weight of
an eternally renewed cross, indocile to its fate, mute, vexed
no matter what, incapable of growing with the juice of this
earth, self-conscious, clipped, reduced, in breach of fauna
and flora.


Gaston Bachelard (June 27, 1884 - 1962) was a French philosopher and poet, best known for his unique work The Poetics of Space (1958)

“There is no original truth, only original error.”

“Ideas are invented only as correctives to the past. Through repeated rectifications of this kind one may hope to disengage an idea that is valid.”

“Two half philosophers will probably never a whole metaphysician make.”

“The words of the world want to make sentences.”

“Poetry is one of the destinies of speech…. One would say that the poetic image, in its newness, opens a future to language.”

“To live life well is to express life poorly; if one expresses life too well, one is living it no longer.”

“If I were asked to name the chief benefit of the house, I should say: the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.”


Lucille Clifton (b. June 27, 1936) is an American poet, writer, and educator from New York. Common topics in her poetry include the celebration of her African American heritage, and feminist themes, with particular emphasis on the female body. (Wiki)

Homage to My Hips

these hips are big hips.
they need space to
move around in.
they don’t fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don’t like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top


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