Monday, March 1, 2010

Behind the Seen


Virginia Woolf’s writing table at Monk’s House, Sussex, England, 1967. Photo by Gisele Freund.

این جا پشت پرده ی رندآن

Happy 200th Birthday Frédéric Chopin

موسیقی - رضا براهنی

Frédéric Chopin - Prelude In D Flat Major, Op. 28, No. 15 [Raindrop] (from: yama-bato, lapetitebaobab & blogut)


Confessional poet Robert Lowell (Mar. 1, 1917 - 1977), shot by Alfred Eisenstaedt, 1957 - LIFE

Waking in the Blue by Robert Lowell

The night attendant, a B.U. sophomore,
rouses from the mare’s-nest of his drowsy head
propped on The Meaning of Meaning.
He catwalks down our corridor.
Azure day
makes my agonized blue window bleaker.
Crows maunder on the petrified fairway.
Absence! My hearts grows tense
as though a harpoon were sparring for the kill.
(This is the house for the “mentally ill.”)

What use is my sense of humour?
I grin at Stanley, now sunk in his sixties,
once a Harvard all-American fullback,
(if such were possible!)
still hoarding the build of a boy in his twenties,
as he soaks, a ramrod
with a muscle of a seal
in his long tub,
vaguely urinous from the Victorian plumbing.
A kingly granite profile in a crimson gold-cap,
worn all day, all night,
he thinks only of his figure,
of slimming on sherbert and ginger ale—
more cut off from words than a seal.
This is the way day breaks in Bowditch Hall at McLean’s;
the hooded night lights bring out “Bobbie,”
Porcellian ‘29,
a replica of Louis XVI
without the wig—
redolent and roly-poly as a sperm whale,
as he swashbuckles about in his birthday suit
and horses at chairs.

These victorious figures of bravado ossified young.

In between the limits of day,
hours and hours go by under the crew haircuts
and slightly too little nonsensical bachelor twinkle
of the Roman Catholic attendants.
(There are no Mayflower
screwballs in the Catholic Church.)

After a hearty New England breakfast,
I weigh two hundred pounds
this morning. Cock of the walk,
I strut in my turtle-necked French sailor’s jersey
before the metal shaving mirrors,
and see the shaky future grow familiar
in the pinched, indigenous faces
of these thoroughbred mental cases,
twice my age and half my weight.
We are all old-timers,
each of us holds a locked razor.


Oskar Kokoschka (Mar. 1, 1886 – 1980) was an Austrian artist, poet and playwright best known for his intense expressionistic portraits and landscapes…

Artist Oskar Kokoschka in front of self-portraits, 1949

Photographer: Herbert Gehr, LIFE


Richard Wilbur (b. Mar. 1, 1921) is an American poet and literary translator. He was appointed the sixth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1987, and twice received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, in 1957 and again in 1989.

June Light by Richard Wilbur

Your voice, with clear location of June days,
Called me outside the window. You were there,
Light yet composed, as in the just soft stare
Of uncontested summer all things raise
Plainly their seeming into seamless air.

Then your love looked as simple and entire
As that picked pear you tossed me, and your face
As legible as pearskin’s fleck and trace,
Which promise always wine, by mottled fire
More fatal fleshed than ever human grace.

And your gay gift—Oh when I saw it fall
Into my hands, through all that naïve light,
It seemed as blessed with truth and new delight
As must have been the first great gift of all.

Photo by Alice Dunn


Birthday of the great African-American prose stylist, Ralph Ellison: March 1, 1913 - 1994…

“The act of writing requires a constant plunging back into the shadow of the past where time hovers ghostlike.” - R.E.

Original caption: Author Ralph Ellison siitting at typewriter at the American Academy in Italy, 1957

“I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids—and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.” —- Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man, Prologue

Photographer: James Whitmore, LIFE


Voices from the Other World by James Merrill (Mar. 3, 1926 - 1995)

Presently at our touch the teacup stirred,
Then circled lazily about
From A to Z. The first voice heard
(If they are voices, these mute spellers-out)
Was that of an engineer

Originally from Cologne.
Dead in his 22nd year
Of cholera in Cairo, he had KNOWN
NO HAPPINESS. He once met Goethe, though.
Goethe had told him: PERSEVERE.

Our blind hound whined. With that, a horde
Of voices gathered above the Ouija board,
Some childish and, you might say, blurred
By sleep; one little boy
Named Will, reluctant possibly in a ruff

Like a large-lidded page out of El Greco, pulled
Back the arras for that next voice,
Cold and portentous: ALL IS LOST.

Frightened, we stopped; but tossed
Till sunrise striped the rumpled sheets with gold.
Each night since then, the moon waxes,
Small insects flit round a cold torch
We light, that sends them pattering to the porch …

But no real Sign. New voices come,
Dictate addresses, begging us to write;
Some warn of lives misspent, and all of doom
In way’s that so exhilarate
We are sleeping sound of late.

Last night the teacup shattered in a rage.
Indeed, we have grown nonchalant
Towards the other world. In the gloom here,
our elbows on the cleared
Table, we talk and smoke, pleased to be stirred

Rather by buzzings in the jasmine, by the drone
Of our own voices and poor blind Rover’s wheeze,
Than by those clamoring overhead,
Obsessed or piteous, for a commitment
We still have wit to postpone

Because, once looked at lit
By the cold reflections of the dead
Risen extinct but irresistible,
Our lives have never seemed more full, more real,
Nor the full moon more quick to chill.

Already established in the 1970s among the finest poets of his generation, Merrill made a surprising detour when he began incorporating occult messages into his work with the 500+ page book, The Changing Light at Sandover, which incorporated messages derived via Ouija boards. Sometimes described as a postmodern apocalyptic epic, the poem was published in three separate installments between 1976 and 1980, and in its entirety in 1982…

(this post was reblogged from lumpy-pudding)


Poet-doctor (as LIFE Magazine insists on titling him) William Carlos Williams, died March 4, 1963

The Hurricane by William Carlos Williams

The tree lay down
on the garage roof
and stretched, You
have your heaven,
it said, go to it.

(Photo of Williams w. baby, 1954 by Lisa Larsen, LIFE)


To sing you a good-night:

Miriam Makeba - Nonggonggo

(via toosweet4rnr)


March 9, 1892 was the birthday of Vita Sackville-West (d. 1962) - English novelist, poet and muse to many writers and painters…

Vita Sackville-West was a bi-sexual woman whose husband also favoured an open marriage. This allowed her to follow her desires to an unusual extent for a Victorian woman (of course being upper class helped…)

Vita Sackville-West’s relation to Virginia Woolf has been of particular interest to scholars and readers in general. Woolf to some extent wrote one of her best novels, Orlando, as a long love letter to Vita…

Photo of Vita by John Gay, 1948 - bromide fibre print (National Portrait Gallery, London)


Samuel Barber (Mar. 9, 1910 - 1981), American composer…

Photo by Gordon Parks, 1955 - LIFE



Samuel Barber - Adagio For Strings - New Zealand Symphony Orchestra ( Thank you, symphonyno2inem & parkuhr)


Giorgos Seferis (Mar. 13, 1900 - 1971) was one of the most important Greek poets of the 20th century, and the 1963 Nobel laureate (“for his eminent lyrical writing, inspired by a deep feeling for the Hellenic world of culture”). He was also a career diplomat in the Greek Foreign Service, culminating in his appointment as Ambassador to the UK, a post which he held from 1957 to 1962.

“I think that poetry is necessary to this modern world in which we are afflicted by fear and disquiet. Poetry has its roots in human breath - and what would we be if our breath were diminished? Poetry is an act of confidence - and who knows whether our unease is not due to a lack of confidence?” — Seferis in his Nobel Speech

The Jasmin

Whether it’s dusk
or dawn’s first light
the jasmin stays
always white.


Mahmoud Darwish (Mar. 13, 1941 – 2008) was a Palestinian poet and author who won numerous awards for his literary output and was regarded as the Palestinian national poet.

In Jerusalem by Mahmoud Darwish
(Translated by Fady Joudah)

In Jerusalem, and I mean within the ancient walls,
I walk from one epoch to another without a memory
to guide me. The prophets over there are sharing
the history of the holy … ascending to heaven
and returning less discouraged and melancholy, because love
and peace are holy and are coming to town.
I was walking down a slope and thinking to myself: How
do the narrators disagree over what light said about a stone?
Is it from a dimly lit stone that wars flare up?
I walk in my sleep. I stare in my sleep. I see
no one behind me. I see no one ahead of me.
All this light is for me. I walk. I become lighter. I fly
then I become another. Transfigured. Words
sprout like grass from Isaiah’s messenger
mouth: “If you don’t believe you won’t believe.”
I walk as if I were another. And my wound a white
biblical rose. And my hands like two doves
on the cross hovering and carrying the earth.
I don’t walk, I fly, I become another,
transfigured. No place and no time. So who am I?
I am no I in ascension’s presence. But I
think to myself: Alone, the prophet Mohammad
spoke classical Arabic. “And then what?”
Then what? A woman soldier shouted:
Is that you again? Didn’t I kill you?
I said: You killed me … and I forgot, like you, to die.


Mircea Eliade (March 13, 1907 – 1986) was a Romanian historian of religion, fiction writer, philosopher, and professor at the University of Chicago…

From Myth and Reality, 1963:

“Myth is an extremely complex cultural reality, which can be approached and interpreted from various and complementary viewpoints. Speaking for myself, the definition that seems least inadequate because most embracing is this: Myth narrates a sacred history; it relates an event that took place in primordial Time, the fabled time of the “beginnings.” In other words myth tells how, through the deeds of Supernatural Beings, a reality came into existence, be it the whole of reality, the Cosmos, or only a fragment of reality — an island, a species of plant, a particular kind of human behavior, an institution. Myth, then, is always an account of a “creation”; it relates how something was produced, began to be. Myth tells only of that which really happened, which manifested itself completely. In short, myths describe the various and sometimes dramatic breakthroughs of the sacred (or the “supernatural”) into the World. It is this sudden breakthrough of the sacred that really establishes the World and makes it what it is today. Furthermore, it is as a result of the intervention of Supernatural Beings that man himself is what he is today, a mortal, sexed, and cultural being.”

Photo of Eliade as ‘the myopic adolescent’…


Paul Heyse (March 15, 1830 - 1914) was a German poet, playwright and fiction writer who received the Nobel Prize in 1910 at age 80 - “as a tribute to the consummate artistry, permeated with idealism, which he has demonstrated during his long productive career as a lyric poet, dramatist, novelist and writer of world-renowned short stories.”

Photo of Heyse c. 1878 by Franz Hanfstaengl


César Vallejo was a Peruvian poet, born March 16, 1892. He came to Europe as an exile in 1923 after running afoul of the government for instigating partisan activity at home. He spent his remaining 15 years in Europe, mainly Paris, but also visiting the Soviet Union and Spain…

Paris, October 1936

From all of this I am the only one who leaves.
From this bench I go away, from my pants,
from my great situation, from my actions,
from my number split side to side,
from all of this I am the only one who leaves.

From the Champs Elysées or as the strange
alley of the Moon makes a turn,
my death goes away, my cradle leaves,
and, surrounded by people, alone, cut loose,
my human resemblance turns around
and dispatches its shadows one by one.

And I move away from everything, since everything
remains to create my alibi:
my shoe, its eyelet, as well as its mud
and even the bend in the elbow
of my own buttoned shirt.


Sully Prudhomme, the very first Nobel Literature Laureate (1901), was born Mar. 16, 1839 (d. 1907).

His poetry has not aged well…


Urmuz (Mar. 17, 1883 - 1923), Romanian author of absurd prose and provocative avantgarde nonsense…

This has not been translated into English yet, as far as I know:


Cică nişte cronicari
Duceau lipsă de şalvari.
Şi-au rugat pe Rapaport
Să le dea un paşaport.
Rapaport cel drăgălaş
Juca un carambolaj,
Neştiind că-Aristotel
Nu văzuse ostropel.
“Galileu! O, Galileu!”
Strigă el atunci mereu –
“Nu mai trage de urechi
Ale tale ghete vechi.”
Galileu scoate-o sinteză
Din redingota franceză,
Şi exclamă: ”Sarafoff,
Serveşte-te de cartof!”

(Once the historians were in need of slippers, so they begged Rapaport to give them a passport. Rapaport, the cutey, was playing a game of billiards without knowing that Aristotle had not seen the stew. “Galileo, oh Galileo” - he would often yell - “Stop pullling the ears off your old boots.” Galileo pulled a synthesis out of his French smoking jacket and exclaimed: “Sarafoff, why don’t you serve yourself some potatoes!”)

Portrait of Urmuz by Mirela Muscan


French symbolist poet, Stéphane Mallarmé: Mar. 18, 1842 - 1898

The Tomb of Edgar Allan Poe

Such as eternity at last transforms into Himself,
The Poet rouses with two-edged naked sword,
His century terrified at having ignored
Death triumphant in so strange a voice!

They, like a spasm of the Hydra, hearing the angel
Once grant a purer sense to the words of the tribe,
Loudly proclaimed it a magic potion, imbibed
From some tidal brew black, and dishonourable.

If our imagination can carve no bas-relief
From hostile soil and cloud, O grief,
With which to deck Poe’s dazzling sepulchre,

Let your granite at least mark a boundary forever,
Calm block fallen here from some dark disaster,
To dark flights of Blasphemy scattered through the future.

(Etching by Gaugain…)


Russian composer, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov: Mar. 18, 1844 - 1908


The grand old man of New England poetry, Robert Frost was born March 26, 1874 (d. 1963). His poetry captured the colloquial speech patterns of the people of his day with unerring accuracy.

Photo: Robert Frost, 1959 - Gordon Parks, LIFE


Gregory Corso, the brat of the Beat circle, b. March 26, 1930 - d. 2001…

Photo of Corso at Acropolis, 1959 - James Burke, LIFE


March 26 is also the birthday of a great American dramatist, Tennessee Williams (1911 - 1983), author of classic plays such as The Glass Menagerie (1945), A Streetcar Named Desire in 1948, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1955 and The Night of the Iguana (1961)…

Photo of TW by Eliot Elisofon, 1947 - LIFE


On March 26, 1892 Walt Whitman died at the age of 72…

“Nothing now remains but a sweet & rich memory - now more beautiful, all time, all life, all the earth.” — Walt Whitman


On March 28, 1941 British feminist author committed suicide by drowning in the River Ouse near her home.

"But oh how entirely I live in my imagination; how completely dependent upon spurts of thought, coming as I walk, as I sit; things churning up in my mind and so making a perpetual pageant, which is to be my happiness."

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