Saturday, May 1, 2010

Behind the Seen


Mansour and his ash @ letter by Azar Zohrabi

اینجا پشت مُشتایِ رندان

Birthday of the internationally renowned Danish philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard: May 5, 1813 - 1855

“What is a poet? An unhappy person who conceals profound anguish in his heart but whose lips are so formed that as sighs and cries pass over them they sound like beautiful music.”


The grave of a political philosopher:

Karl Marx: May 5, 1818 - 1883

“From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.”

Photo from Highgate Cemetary by William J Sumits, no date - LIFE


Birthday of the great father figure of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud (May 6, 1856 - 1939)…

Photo above - Sigmund says: It was not my mother!


Robert Browning (May 7, 1812 - 1889), the great English Victorian poet who revitalised the specific genre of the dramatic monologue, creating a use of poetic voice that allowed the poet to ‘impersonate’ aberrant psychologies…

That’s my last duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now; Fra Pandolf’s hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will’t please you sit and look at her? I said
“Fra Pandolf” by design, for never read
Strangers like you that pictured countenance,
That depth and passion of its earnest glance,
But to myself they turned (since none puts by
The curtain drawn for you, but I)
And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst,
How such a glance came there; so not the first
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, ‘t was not
Her husband’s presence only, called that spot
Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek: perhaps
Fra Pandolf chanced to say “Her mantle laps
Over my lady’s wrist too much” or “Paint
Must never hope to reproduce the faint
Half-flush that dies along her throat:” such stuff
Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough
For calling up that spot of joy. She had
A heart - how shall I say? - too soon made glad,
Too easily impressed: she liked whate’er
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.
Sir, ‘t was all one! My favour at her breast,
The dropping of the daylight in the West,
The bough of cherries some officious fool
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule
She rode with round the terrace -all and each
Would draw from her alike the approving speech,
Or blush,at least. She thanked men - good! but thanked
Somehow - I know not how - as if she ranked
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name
With anybody’s gift. Who’d stoop to blame
This sort of trifling? Even had you skill
In speech - (which I have not) - to make your will
Quite clear to such a one, and say, “Just this
Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss
Or there exceed the mark”- and if she let
Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set
Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse
- E’en then would be some stooping; and I choose
Never to stoop. Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt,
Whene’er I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands
As if alive. Will ‘t please you rise? We’ll meet
The company below, then. I repeat,
The Count your master’s known munificence
Is ample warrant that no just pretence
Of mine for dowry will be disallowed;
Though his fair daughter’s self, as I avowed
At starting is my object. Nay, we’ll go
Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though,
Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity,
Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me.

Photo: Robert Browning by Eveleen Myers (née Tennant), platinum print, 1889 (National Portrait Gallery, London)


Rabindranath Tagore (May 7, 1861 - 1941) was the first Asian Nobel Laureate in Literature, receiving the Prize in 1913 “because of his profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse, by which, with consummate skill, he has made his poetic thought, expressed in his own English words, a part of the literature of the West.”

Tagore was a mystic and a nationalist, continuing and elevating a centuries old tradition of Bengali literature and philosophy. His early European champions included Yeats and Pound, but in latter decade he has fallen out of the canon, for the same reasons that he was palatable to European literati in the first place. Being an anglophone writer, fitting well into a formal tradition of high culture, he is not post-colonial enough for the 21st C…

By strange coincidence I gave a paper today at a seminar in which I discuss American-Indian poet Meena Alexander’s use of Tagore in a poem sequence of hers entitled Fragile Places. She uses this little citation from Tagore:

I lay with you at the water’s edge
a red rose blossomed in my breast.


Piano Sonata No. 3, Op. 5 by Johannes Brahms (1853)
- Movements I & II

Johannes Brahms (7 May 1833 – 3 April 1897), was the great academic composer of the late Romantic period in Germany - renowned for his 4 symphonies and numerous concertos for orchestra and solo instruments (chiefly the piano - his own instrument - but also violin (with extensive help from the prospective soloist) and numerous other instruments. Here we go back to the very beginning of the big B., with his Opus 1:

Johannes Brahms: Piano Sonata No. 1, Op. 1 (1853) - Peter Rösel: Johannes Brahms: Klavierwerke

(via completebrahms)


Tchaikovsky (R) with his probable lover Kotek, c. 1877

Tchaikovsky composed fantastic music for the stage: Ballets (Swan Lake and Romeo and Juliet) and opera (Eugene Onegin) - but he also managed 6 great symphonies and some of the most successful concertos in terms of lasting popularity (First Piano Concerto, fx.)

Tchaikovsky was a closeted homosexual and his unsuccessful heterosexual marriage was a disastrous strain on his nerves and health (although some argue also a creative booster, causing him to let out his anguish in passionate music)… His death shortly after the premier of the Pathetique Symphony may in fact have been a suicide (or cholera - or another undiagnosed illness).


Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky - Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64 - IV. Andante maestoso— Allegro vivace; Herbert von Karajan, Berlin Philharmonic

(via symphonyno2inem)

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky[a 1] (Russian: About this sound Пётр Ильич Чайковский , tr. Pëtr Il'ich Chaikovskiy, IPA [ˈpʲɵtr ɪlʲˈjitɕ tɕajˈkofskʲɪj]; often called Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky (pronounced /ˈpiːtər ˈɪlɨtʃ tʃaɪˈkɒvski/) in English) (May 7, 1840 [O.S. April 25] – November 6, 1893 [O.S. October 25])[a 2] was a Russian composer of the Romantic era. His wide ranging output includes symphonies, operas, ballets, instrumental and chamber music and songs. He wrote some of the most popular concert and theatrical music in the classical repertoire, including the ballets Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker, the 1812 Overture, his First Piano Concerto, his last three numbered symphonies, and the opera Eugene Onegin.

Born into a middle-class family, Tchaikovsky was educated for a career as a civil servant, despite his obvious musical precocity. He pursued a musical career against the wishes of his family, entering the Saint Petersburg Conservatory in 1862 and graduating in 1865. This formal, Western-oriented training set him apart from the contemporary nationalistic movement embodied by the influential group of young Russian composers known as The Five, with whom Tchaikovsky's professional relationship was mixed.

Although he enjoyed many popular successes, Tchaikovsky was never emotionally secure, and his life was punctuated by personal crises and periods of depression. Contributory factors were his suppressed homosexuality and fear of exposure, his disastrous marriage, and the sudden collapse of the one enduring relationship of his adult life, his 13-year association with the wealthy widow Nadezhda von Meck. Amid private turmoil Tchaikovsky's public reputation grew; he was honored by the Tsar, awarded a lifetime pension and lauded in the concert halls of the world. His sudden death at the age of 53 is generally ascribed to cholera, but some attribute it to suicide.[1]

Although perennially popular with concert audiences across the world, Tchaikovsky's music was often dismissed by critics in the early and mid-20th century as being vulgar and lacking in elevated thought.[2] By the end of the 20th century, however, Tchaikovsky's status as a significant composer was generally regarded as secure.[3]


Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky - Suite from the ballet The Nutcracker, III. Waltz of the Flowers


One of my favourite feminist writers (because she is so funny and fantastic) is Angela Carter (May 7, 1940 - 1992 (cancer)), who rewrote fairy tales, created circus freaks and transcendent angels, Japanese lovers, interventions into male poets’ lives (Baudelaire) - not to mention a learned treatise on Marquis de Sade…

Photo of Carter by Fay Godwin, bromide print, 1976 (National Portrait Gallery)


Today the great Beat/S.F. Renaissance/Eco-shaman poet Gary Snyder turns 80! (born May 8, 1930)

As a poet I hold the most archaic values on earth … the fertility of the soil, the magic of animals, the power-vision in solitude, the terrifying initiation and rebirth, the love and ecstasy of the dance, the common work of the tribe. I try to hold both history and the wilderness in mind, that my poems may approach the true measure of things and stand against the unbalance and ignorance of our times.” — Gary Snyder

(Photo by Chris Felver)

What You Should Know to Become a Poet

all you can know about animals as persons.
the names of trees and flowers and weeds.
the names of stars and the movements of planets
and the moon.
your own six senses, with a watchful elegant mind.
at least one kind of traditional magic:
divination, astrology, the book of changes, the tarot;

the illusory demons and the illusory shining gods.
kiss the ass of the devil and eat sh*t;
fuck his horny barbed cock,
fuck the hag,
and all the celestial angels
and maidens perfum’d and golden-

& then love the human: wives husbands and friends
children’s games, comic books, bubble-gum,
the weirdness of television and advertising.

work long, dry hours of dull work swallowed and accepted
and lived with and finally lovd. exhaustion,
hunger, rest.

the wild freedom of the dance, extasy
silent solitary illumination, entasy

real danger. gambles and the edge of death.

- Gary Snyder

Gary Snyder, his small house-garden on Nishinomiya-cho, Kita-ku section near Dai-Tokuji Temple, in monk’s traveling outfit, wearing Unsui’s indigo-dyed cotton training robe (koromo), square hand-sewn Rakusu cloth hung round neck symbolic of older Indian Buddhist Patchwork robes, thick belt to guard zazen sitting posture & belly-warmth, and dark-browned Ajirokasa basket-hat stained with juice of green persimmons. Kyoto, Japan July 1963. (Ginsberg caption)


Today the great American feminist poet, Adrienne Rich, turns 81.she was born on May 16, 1929 in Baltimore, Maryland.


Strangers are an endangered species

In Emily Dickinson’s house in Amherst
cocktails are served the scholars
gather in celebration
their pious or clinical legends
festoon the walls like imitations
of period patterns

(…and, as I feared, my “life” was made a “victim”)
The remnants pawed the relics
the cult assembled in the bedroom
and you whose teeth were set on edge by churches
resist your shrine
are found
unless in words
(your own)

All we are strangers—dear—The world is not
acquainted with us, because we are not acquainted
with her. And Pilgrims!—Do you hesitate? and
Soldiers oft—some of us victors, but those I do
not see tonight owing to the smoke.—We are hungry,
and thirsty, sometimes—We are barefoot—and cold—

This place is large enough for both of us
the river-fog will do for privacy
this is my third and last address to you

with the hands of a daughter I would cover you
from all intrusion even my own
saying rest to your ghost

with the hands of a sister I would leave your hands
open or closed as they prefer to lie
and ask no more of who or why or wherefore

with the hands of a mother I would close the door
on the rooms you’ve left behind
and silently pick up my fallen work


Richard Wagner’s birthday today: May 22, 1813 - 1883

Carte de visite, ca. 1863


Richard Wagner - Tristan und Isolde, Act 1: Prelude

Royal Swedish Opera Orchestra

(via symphonyno2inem)


Theodore Roethke (May 25, 1908 - 1963 was a nature poet, whose master image was that of the greenhouse. His book The Waking won the 1954 Pulitzer for Poetry…

Theodore Roethke - Epidermal Macabre

Indelicate is he who loathes
The aspect of his fleshy clothes, —
The flying fabric stitched on bone,
The vesture of the skeleton,
The garment neither fur nor hair,
The cloak of evil and despair,
The veil long violated by
Caresses of the hand and eye.
Yet such is my unseemliness:
I hate my epidermal dress,
The savage blood’s obscenity,
The rags of my anatomy,
And willingly would I dispense
With false accouterments of sense,
To sleep immodestly, a most
Incarnadine and carnal ghost.

Photo by Imogen Cunningham, 1959

(this post was reblogged from lumpy-pudding)


Walt Whitman — May 31, 1819 - 1892

This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body… — Preface to Leaves of Grass, 1855

(Photo of Uncle Walt, 1866)

(this post was reblogged from lumpy-pudding)


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