Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Behind the Seen


Antique Persian Miniature Painting, Watercolor on paper Mid 19th century

پُشت مَشت های اینجا

Blaise Cendrars - Swiss poet: Sep. 1, 1887 - 1961…

Blaise Cendrars: Trans-Siberian Prose and Little Jeanne from France

I was in my adolescence at the time
Scarcely sixteen and already I no longer remembered my childhood

I was 16,000 leagues from my birthplace
I was in Moscow, in the city of a thousand and three belfries and seven railroad stations
And they weren’t enough for me, the seven railroad stations and the thousand and three towers
For my adolescence was so blazing and so mad
That my heart burned in turns as the temple of Epheseus, or as Red Square in Moscow
When the sun sinks.
And my eyes shone upon the ancient routes
And I was already such a bad poet
That I didn’t know how to go all the way to the end.

The Kremlin was like an immense Tatar cake
Crusted with gold,
With great almonds of cathedrals all done in white
And the honeyed gold of the bells…

An old monk was reading to me the legend of Novgorod
I was thirsty
And I was deciphering cuneiform characters
Then, suddenly, the pigeons of the Holy Spirit soared above the square
And my hands also flew up, with the rustling of the albatross
And these, these were the last recollections of the last day
Of the entire last voyage
And of the sea.

But I was a very bad poet.
I didn’t know how to go to all the way to the end.
I was hungry
And all the days and all the women in the cafés and all the glasses
I would have liked to drink and to break them
And all the shop windows and all the streets
And all the homes and all the lives
And all the wheels of the hackney cabs turning in a whirlwind on the bad cobblestones
I would have wanted to thrust them into a furnace of swords
And I would have wanted to crush all the bones
And to tear out all the tongues
And to liquefy all the big bodies strange and naked under the clothing that drives me to madness…
I sensed the coming of the great red Christ of the Russian revolution…
And the sun was a bad wound
That split open like a burnt up inferno



e. e. cummings, poet and artist - died from a stroke on this day in 1962…

Edward Estlin Cummings (October 14, 1894 – September 3, 1962), popularly known as E. E. Cummings, with the abbreviated form of his name often written by others in lowercase letters as ee cummings (in the style of some of his poems), was an American poet, painter, essayist, author, and playwright. His body of work encompasses approximately 2,900 poems, two autobiographical novels, four plays and several essays, as well as numerous drawings and paintings. He is remembered as a preeminent voice of 20th century poetry, as well as one of the most popular.

who knows if the moon's
who knows if the moon's

a balloon,coming out of a keen city
in the sky--filled with pretty people?
(and if you and i should

get into it,if they
should take me and take you into their balloon,
why then
we'd go up higher with all the pretty people

than houses and steeples and clouds:
go sailing
away and away sailing into a keen
city which nobody's ever visited,where

Spring)and everyone's
in love and flowers pick themselves


Hero of the day:

Antonin Artaud, French playwright, actor and theorist of the theatre: (September 4, 1896 – 1948) - one of the great creative madmen of the 20th C.

Above: the famous portrait of Artaud, 1926 - by Man Ray (or a mirror image of it

Vitres de son

Vitres de son où virent les astres,
Verres où cuisent les cerveaux,
Le ciel fourmillant d’impudeurs
Dévore la nudité des astres.

Un lait bizarre et véhément
Fourmille au fond du firmament;
Un escargot monte et dérange
La placidité des nuages.

Délices et rages, le ciel entier
Lance sur nous comme un nuage
Un tourbillon d’ailes sauvages
Torrentielles d’obscénités.

The Panes of Sound

Panes of sound where stars swerve,
the glass where brains are cooking,
the sky, seething with immodesty,
eats the nakedness of the stars.

A strange and violent milk
is seething deep in the sky,
a snail climbs and spoils
the calmness of the clouds.

Ecstacies and angers, the whole sky
hurls over us, like a cloud,
a hurricane of savage winds
pouring with obscenities.

—translated from the French by Paul Zweig (with minor changes)


Juliusz Słowacki (born 4 September, 1809; died 3 April, 1849), portrayed above in a monumental portrait made in 1909 by Wacław Szymanowski (1859-1930); the scupture now resides in Wrocław, where it is the centerpiece of Słowacki Park

‘You, old ocean, tell me how the first mysteries of organisms appeared in your depth. The first developments of nervous flowers into which the spirit was blooming …

I smile today, Lord, seeing an unburied skeleton which does not possess any name in the present language (as it is effaced from among the living forms). I smile seeing the first lizard with the head of a bird, provided with a wing at its foot, starting a flight to explore the world and to find a place for those heavy monsters which were later on to devour whole meadows, whole forests.’

—from Genesis from the Spirit (Genesis z ducha, 1844; translated from the Polish by Czesław Miłosz)


Darius Milhaud, French (later American) Les Six composer: Sep. 4, 1892 - 1974…

Milhaud was friends with Jean Cocteau (who designed many of his ballets (as did André Derain, Blaise Cendrars and Jean Genet), and wrote librettoes for his operas (as did Paul Claudel and Boris Vian)), and many other Surrealist and avant-garde artists.

Milhaud wrote music to poems and texts by Gide, Rimbaud, Mallarmé, Flaubert, Joyce, Cocteau (of course) - and many, many others…

Favourite bizarre pieces include:

2 Poèmes tupis, Op.52 (1918); 4 female voices and hand-clapping; American Indian text

Machines agricoles, 6 Pastorales for voice and chamber ensemble, Op.56 (1919); Texts taken out of a catalogue for agricultural machines

Le boeuf sur le toit, op. 58 (English title, The Ox on the Roof: The Nothing-Doing Bar) - a Surrealist ballet strongly influenced by Brazilian popular music

(Photo of Milhaud giving a composition class, Alfred Eisenstaedt, 1961 - LIFE)

Darius Milhaud: Sonatina for piano and flute, op. 76 (1922)

Performed by Albert Tipton (fl) & Mary Norris (p), 1969


“I am for the birds, not for the cages people put them in.”

Solo for Voice No. 52 (Aria No. 2), Song—Relevant, a work for voice, sound effects and weather, by John Cage (born 5 September, 1912; died 12 August, 1992); performed here by Paul Hillier on a 1998 harmonia mundi USA recording

Using his late 1950s Solo for Voice works as a conceptual springboard, Cage composed Solo for Voice No, 52 as part of Song Books, a collection of ninety solos for voice written in the late summer and early autumn of 1970.

The underlying theme was, as Cage wrote in 1969, ‘to connect Satie with Thoreau.’ For each solo, Cage used the I Ching to determine whether the text would be relevant to said theme, or irrelevant. Solo No. 52 is ‘relevant,’ and uses brief bits of Satie and Thoreau together with randomly-selected letters and words and phonemes from Armenian, Italian, and Russian.

Kak nad
Goriacheyou zoloi
Qu’il fait bon vivre
Y slushet slushet
Assez villain à voir
Mazert nman rehani
Dolcemente N W M X
Labra oderate
Étrange, n’est-ce pas?
Tolko terzayesh Minya
Tout; je recommencerai tout
Yar nazzani; a puff of wind sets them free
At last; X Z S V M Z S D H N
Amore in the night
O; sans sauce
Mordu; esca la rosa
Tak shtoje
I U E c’est même certain
Moy gehnee, moy ahngehl,
moy druge
In the morning after a debauch
Khrimian hairig
Tough as they are
Allegro sta

"I have nothing to say, I am saying it, and that is poetry."
— John Cage

John Cage: 62 Mesostics Re: Merce Cunningham - performed by Demetrio Stratos (Source: UbuWeb)


Alfred Jarry (born 8 September, 1873; died 1 November, 1907), pictured Jarry, photographed in Paris


Ma fille - ma, car vous êtes à tous,
Donc aucun d’eux ne fut valable maître,
Dormez enfin, et fermons la fenêtre :
La vie est close, et nous sommes chez nous.

C’est un peu haut, le monde s’y termine
Et l’absolu ne se peut plus nier ;
Il est si grand de venir le dernier
Puisque ce jour a lassé Messaline,

Vous voici seule et d’oreilles et d’yeux,
Tomber souvent désapprend de descendre.
Le bruit terrestre est loin, comme la cendre
Gît inconnue à l’encens bleu des dieux.

Tel le clapotis des carpes nourries
A Fontainebleau
A des voix meurtries
De baisers dans l’eau.

Comment s’unit la double destinée ?
Tant que je n’eus point pris votre trottoir
Vous étiez vierge et vous n’étiez point née,
Comme un passé se noie en un miroir.

La boue à peine a baisé la chaussure
De votre pied infinitésimal,
Et c’est d’avoir mordu dans tout le mal
Qui vous a fait une bouche si pure.


My daughter - mine, for you belong to all,
And none is your true master
Sleep at last, and close the window:
Life is sealed and we’re chez nous.

It is a little high, the world over there
And the absolute can no longer deny itself
So grand to have arrived last
Since this day has tired Messalina

Here you are alone, ears and eyes,
Falling often, forgetting how to descend
Earthly sounds are far away, like ashes
Drifting unseen from the blue incense of the gods.

Such was the lapping of the carp fed
At Fontainebleau
By voices
Bruised with watery kisses.

What will bring together the double destiny?
So long as I had not taken your path
You were a virgin and you were not born,
Like a past drowned in a mirror.

The mud barely kissed the shoe
Of your infinitesimal foot,
And it is to bite into so much evil
That you were given a mouth so pure.


Humoreske in B-flat Major, Op. 101, no.7, composed in the summer of 1894 by Antonín Dvořák (born 8 September, 1841; died 1 May, 1904); composed originally for piano, this transcription for violin and piano by Jascha Heifetz is performed by Renaud Capuçon, violin, and Jérôme Ducros, piano


Italian poet Cesare Pavese, Sep. 9, 1908 - 1950 (suicide by barbiturates)…

“If you wish to travel far and fast, travel light. Take off all your envies, jealousies, unforgiveness, selfishness and fears.”

“We do not remember days, we remember moments. The richness of life lies in memories we have forgotten.” — C.P.

I shall go through the Piazza di Spagna The sky will be clear.
The streets will be open
below the hills of pine and stone.
No din of the streets will
change this motionless air.
The colour-sprinkled flowers
by the fountains
will look on like women
amused. The steps
the terraces the swallows
will sing in the sun.
That street will open,
the stones will sing,
the heart will beat, leaping
like water in fountains—
this will be the voice
climbing your steps.
The windows will know
the smell of stone and the morning
air. A door will open.
The din of the streets,
the din of the heart,
the light is bewildered.

It will be you — firm and clear.

28 March 1950
(translated from the Italian by Margaret Crosland)


Leo Tolstoy (born 9 September, 1828; died 20 November, 1910), in an undated photograph (likely taken in the early to mid 1880s)

In the passage below from The Kingdom of God is Within You, Tolstoy contemplates a local governor, on a train with a small battalion of soldiers, on their way to forcibly remove peasant families from a plot of forest claimed by a rich landowner— ‘a young landowner,’ as Tolstoy writes, ‘who had an income of one hundred thousand, to gain three thousand rubles more by stealing a forest from a whole community of cold and famished peasants, to spend it, in two or three weeks in the saloons of Moscow, Petersburg, or Paris…’

‘The train I met on the 9th of September going with soldiers, guns, cartridges, and rods, to confirm the rich landowner in the possession of a small forest which he had taken from the starving peasants, which they were in the direst need of, and he was in no need of at all, was a striking proof of how men are capable of doing deeds directly opposed to their principles and their conscience without perceiving it.

The special train consisted of one first-class carriage for the governor, the officials, and officers, and several luggage vans crammed full of soldiers. The latter, smart young fellows in their clean new uniforms, were standing about in groups or sitting swinging their legs in the wide open doorways of the luggage vans. Some were smoking, nudging each other, joking, grinning, and laughing, others were munching sunflower seeds and spitting out the husks with an air of dignity. Some of them ran along the platform to drink some water from a tub there, and when they met the officers they slackened their pace, made their stupid gesture of salutation, raising their hands to their heads with serious faces as though they were doing something of the greatest importance. They kept their eyes on them till they had passed by them, and then set off running still more merrily, stamping their heels on the platform, laughing and chattering after the manner of healthy, good-natured young fellows, traveling in lively company.

They were going to assist at the murder of their fathers or grandfathers just as if they were going on a party of pleasure, or at any rate on some quite ordinary business.

The same impression was produced by the well-dressed functionaries and officers who were scattered about the platform and in the first-class carriage. At a table covered with bottles was sitting the governor, who was responsible for the whole expedition, dressed in his half-military uniform and eating something while he chatted tranquilly about the weather with some acquaintances he had met, as though the business he was upon was of so simple and ordinary a character that it could not disturb his serenity and his interest in the change of weather.

At a little distance from the table sat the general of the police. He was not taking any refreshment, and had an impenetrable bored expression, as though he were weary of the formalities to be gone through. On all sides officers were bustling noisily about in their red uniforms trimmed with gold; one sat at a table finishing his bottle of beer, another stood at the buffet eating a cake, and brushing the crumbs off his uniform, threw down his money with a self-confident air; another was sauntering before the carriages of our train, staring at the faces of the women.

All these men who were going to murder or to torture the famishing and defenseless creatures who provide them their sustenance had the air of men who knew very well that they were doing their duty, and some were even proud, were “glorying” in what they were doing.

What is the meaning of it?

All these people are within half an hour of reaching the place where, in order to provide a wealthy young man with three thousand rubles stolen from a whole community of famishing peasants, they may be forced to commit the most horrible acts one can conceive, to murder or torture, as was done in Orel, innocent beings, their brothers. And they see the place and time approaching with untroubled serenity.

To say that all these government officials, officers, and soldiers do not know what is before them is impossible, for they are prepared for it. The governor must have given directions about the rods, the officials must have sent an order for them, purchased them, and entered the item in their accounts. The military officers have given and received orders about cartridges. They all know that they are going to torture, perhaps to kill, their famishing fellow-creatures, and that they must set to work within an hour.

To say, as is usually said, and as they would themselves repeat, that they are acting from conviction of the necessity for supporting the state organization, would be a mistake. For in the first place, these men have probably never even thought about state organization and the necessity of it; in the second place, they cannot possibly be convinced that the act in which they are taking part will tend to support rather than to ruin the state; and thirdly, in reality the majority, if not all, of these men, far from ever sacrificing their own pleasure or tranquillity to support the state, never let slip an opportunity of profiting at the expense of the state in every way they can increase their own pleasure and ease. So that they are not acting thus for the sake of the abstract principle of the state.

What is the meaning of it?

Yet I know all these men. If I don’t know all of them personally, I know their characters pretty nearly, their past, and their way of thinking. They certainly all have mothers, some of them wives and children. They are certainly for the most part good, kind, even tender-hearted fellows, who hate every sort of cruelty, not to speak of murder; many of them would not kill or hurt an animal. Moreover, they are all professed Christians and regard all violence directed against the defenseless as base and disgraceful.

Certainly not one of them would be capable in everyday life, for his own personal profit, of doing a hundredth part of what the Governor of Orel did. Every one of them would be insulted at the supposition that he was capable of doing anything of the kind in private life.

And yet they are within half an hour of reaching the place where they may be reduced to the inevitable necessity of committing this crime.

What is the meaning of it?’

from The Kingdom of God is Within You (first published in German in 1894; translated here from the Russian by Constance Garnett)

This post is for Robert Cooper, who was a passionate reader of Tolstoy, and who would have been celebrating his own birthday today. You are missed.


Jacques Lacan, French psychoanalyst - died this day in 1981 from kidney failure, after a deliberately untreated cancer had slowly left him mute…

“It is up to you to be Lacanians if you wish; I am a Freudian.”

(Photo of young Jacques, working on his cancer…)

Jacques Marie Émile Lacan (French pronunciation: [ʒak lakɑ̃]) (April 13, 1901 – September 9, 1981) was a French psychoanalyst and psychiatrist who made prominent contributions to psychoanalysis, philosophy, and literary theory. Giving yearly seminars in Paris from 1953 to 1981, Lacan influenced France's intellectuals in the 1960s and the 1970s, especially the post-structuralist philosophers. His interdisciplinary work is Freudian, featuring the unconscious, the castration complex, the ego, identification, and language as subjective perception. His ideas have had a significant impact on critical theory, literary theory, twentieth-century French philosophy, sociology, feminist theory and clinical psychoanalysis.


Stéphane Mallarmé, French poet - died this day in 1898 from a series of laryngeal spasms that suffocated him… Between spasms he ordered his wife to burn his papers, exclaiming: «Il n’y a pas là d’héritage littéraire…»

Stéphane Mallarmé (French pronunciation: [malaʁˈme]) (18 March 1842 – 9 September 1898), whose real name was Étienne Mallarmé, was a French poet and critic. He was a major French symbolist poet, and his work anticipated and inspired several revolutionary artistic schools of the early 20th century, such as Dadaism, Surrealism, and Futurism.

Mary Oliver (born 10 September, 1935), in a photograph by Rachel Giese Brown

The Swan

Did you too see it, drifting, all night, on the black river?
Did you see it in the morning, rising into the silvery air -
An armful of white blossoms,
A perfect commotion of silk and linen as it leaned
into the bondage of its wings; a snowbank, a bank of lilies,
Biting the air with its black beak?
Did you hear it, fluting and whistling
A shrill dark music - like the rain pelting the trees - like a waterfall
Knifing down the black ledges?
And did you see it, finally, just under the clouds -
A white cross streaming across the sky, its feet
Like black leaves, its wings Like the stretching light of the river?
And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?



Jubilate Deo, in D, composed in 1694 (for the Cecilian festival) by Henry Purcell (born 10 September, 1659; died 21 November, 1695); performed here by the Choir and Orchestra of the Golden Age, led by Robert Glenton, in a 1995 recording for Naxos


American poet H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) was born today in 1886 (d. 1961)…

Her increasingly female-centred poetry started out as inspired by Ezra Pound and the Imagist group’s aesthetics, but H.D. developed her own subject matter and formal language - largely to accomodate her explorations of bisexual and lesbian love relations, pacifism, psychological trauma, etc. H.D. was also a patient of Sigmund Freud, undergoing analysis with him in Vienna in the 1930s in large part to help her work through her feeling of loss in the aftermath of WWI…


Stars wheel in purple, yours is not so rare
as Hesperus, nor yet so great a star
as bright Aldeboran or Sirius,
nor yet the stained and brilliant one of War;

stars turn in purple, glorious to the sight;
yours is not gracious as the Pleiads are
nor as Orion’s sapphires, luminous;

yet disenchanted, cold, imperious face,
when all the others blighted, reel and fall,
your star, steel-set, keeps lone and frigid tryst
to freighted ships, baffled in wind and blast.


D. H, Lawrence (born 11 September, 1885; died 2 March, 1930), Bettmann/Corbis

From the end of Sons and Lovers:

‘The town, as he sat upon the car, stretched away over the bay of railway, a level fume of lights. Beyond the town the country, little smouldering spots for more towns—the sea—the night—on and on! And he had no place in it! Whatever spot he stood on, there he stood alone. From his breast, from his mouth, sprang the endless space, and it was there behind him, everywhere. The people hurrying along the streets offered no obstruction to the void in which he found himself. They were small shadows whose footsteps and voices could be heard, but in each of them the same night, the same silence. He got off the car. In the country all was dead still. Little stars shone high up; little stars spread far away in the flood-waters, a firmament below. Everywhere the vastness and terror of the immense night which is roused and stirred for a brief while by the day, but which returns, and will remain at last eternal, holding everything in its silence and its living gloom. There was no Time, only Space. Who could say his mother had lived and did not live? She had been in one place, and was in another; that was all. And his soul could not leave her, wherever she was. Now she was gone abroad into the night, and he was with her still. They were together. But yet there was his body, his chest, that leaned against the stile, his hands on the wooden bar. They seemed something. Where was he?—one tiny upright speck of flesh, less than an ear of wheat lost in the field. He could not bear it. On every side the immense dark silence seemed pressing him, so tiny a spark, into extinction, and yet, almost nothing, he could not be extinct. Night, in which everything was lost, went reaching out, beyond stars and sun. Stars and sun, a few bright grains, went spinning round for terror, and holding each other in embrace, there in a darkness that outpassed them all, and left them tiny and daunted. So much, and himself, infinitesimal, at the core a nothingness, and yet not nothing.

“Mother!” he whispered—”mother!”

She was the only thing that held him up, himself, amid all this. And she was gone, intermingled herself. He wanted her to touch him, have him alongside with her.

But no, he would not give in. Turning sharply, he walked towards the city’s gold phosphorescence. His fists were shut, his mouth set fast. He would not take that direction, to the darkness, to follow her. He walked towards the faintly humming, glowing town, quickly.’

—from Sons and Lovers (1913)


Jessye Norman, singing in an excerpt from Erwartung, Op. 17, composed in 1909 by Arnold Schoenberg (born 13 September, 1874; died 13 July, 1951); here in a production designed by Mimmo Paladino

‘As dreamlike as Erwartung is, its structure and the way it establishes a sense of musical place is remarkable. The mid-point of the work is marked by the woman’s recognition that the corpse [which she has discovered in a wood, where she expects to meet her lover at night] is indeed her lover. Her cry of “Hilfe” (“Help”) stretches an octave and a minor seventh, almost an entire range, from B to C-sharp … The cry reaches out to the world beyond the forest, to the audience itself , but only emphasizes her isolation.’

—from Arnold Schoenberg’s Journey, by Allen Shawn (2002)


The fourth and concluding part, Allegretto, of the Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano, Op. 17, composed in 1847 by Clara Schumann (born 13 September, 1819; died 20 May, 1896); performed here by Micaela Gelius, piano; Sreten Krstič, violin; and Stephen Haack, cello, on a 1999 recording for Arte Nova


An early scene from La Règle du Jeu, the 1939 film by Jean Renoir (born 15 September, 1894; died 12 February, 1979), who also stars in the film as Octave; destroyed by bombs in the Second World War, a print of the film was reconstructed in the 1950s. The film was much criticized at the time of its original release, in part because Renoir had written his own script.


William Carlos Williams (Photograph: WCW, seated, wearing hat and holding kittens from the Yale University Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)
William Carlos Williams (September 17, 1883 – March 4, 1963) was an American poet closely associated with modernism and Imagism. He was also a pediatrician and general practitioner of medicine, having graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. Williams "worked harder at being a writer than he did at being a physician"; but during his long lifetime, Williams excelled at both. (Wikipedia)

The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends


a red wheel


glazed with rain


beside the white



I have eaten

the plums

that were in

the icebox

and which

you were probably


for breakfast

Forgive me

they were delicious

so sweet

and so cold

-- William Carlos Williams


Birthday of a Diva:

Sophia Loren - the grand Dame of Italian film turns 76!

“The two big advantages I had at birth were to have been born wise and to have been born in poverty.”

Photo: Loomis Dean, 1957 - LIFE


Poet Donald Hall is 82 today! A former US Poet Laureate (2006-7) and author of many volumes of poetry and criticism, Hall is perhaps best characterised as a neo-Frostian…

Here is one of his poems for Jane Kenyon, his poet-wife…

Donald Hall: Retriever

Two days after Jane died
I walked with our dog Gus
on New Canada Road
under birchy green
April shadows, talking
urgently, trying
to make him understand.
A quick mink scooted past
into fern, and Gus
disappeared in pursuit.
The damp air grew chill
as I whistled and called
until twilight. I thought
he tried to follow her
into the dark. After an hour
I gave up and walked home
to find him on the porch,
alert, pleased to see me,
curious over my absence.
But Gus hadn’t found her
deep in the woods; he hadn’t
brought her back
as a branch in his teeth.


Poet Stevie Smith was born today, Sep. 20, 1902 (d. 1971)… Famous for her poem “Not Waving but Drowning”, she influenced many younger female poets, including Sylvia Plath.

“We’re taught to believe death is the greatest calamity. It’s the greatest blessing” … John Gale interviews Stevie Smith in 1969. Photograph: Jane Bown

Stevie Smith: My Heart Goes Out

My heart goes out to my Creator in love
Who gave me Death, as end and remedy.
All living creatures come to quiet Death
For him to eat up their activity
And give them nothing, which is what they want although
When they are living they do not think so.

(Photo: Jane Bown, 1969 - silver gelatin print, National Portrait Gallery - London)


Kansas - Dust In The Wind

I close my eyes, only for a moment, and the moment’s gone
All my dreams, pass before my eyes, a curiosity
Dust in the wind, all they are is dust in the wind
Same old song, just a drop of water in an endless sea
All we do, crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see

Dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind

Don’t hang on, nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky
It slips away, and all your money won’t another minute buy

Dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind
Dust in the wind, everything is dust in the wind


William Faulkner (born 25 September, 1897; died 6 July, 1962), pictured above in a 1962 photograph by Carl Mydans, for LIFE

‘By noon he was far beyond the crossing on the little bayou, farther into the new and alien country than he had ever been, travelling now not only by the compass but by the old, heavy, biscuit-thick silver watch which had been his father’s. He had left the camp nine hours ago; nine hours from now, dark would already have been an hour old. He stopped, for the first time since he had risen from the log when he could see the compass face at last, and looked about, mopping his sweating face on his sleeve. He had already relinquished, of his will, because of his need, in humility and peace and without regret, yet apparently that had not been enough, the leaving of the gun was not enough. He stood for a moment—a child, alien and lost in the green and soaring gloom of the markless wilderness. Then he relinquished completely to it. It was the watch and the compass. He was still tainted. He removed the linked chain of the one and the looped thong of the other from his overalls and hung them on a bush and leaned the stick beside them and entered it.

When he realised he was lost, he did as Sam had coached and drilled him: made a cast to cross his backtrack. He had not been going very fast for the last two or three hours, and he had gone even less fast since he left the compass and watch on the bush. So he went slower still now, since the tree could not be very far; in fact, he found it before he really expected to and turned and went to it. But there was no bush beneath it, no compass nor watch, so he did next as Sam had coached and drilled him: made this next circle in the opposite direction and much larger, so that the pattern of the two of them would bisect his track somewhere, but crossing no trace nor mark of his feet or any feet, and now he was going faster though still not panicked, his heart beating a little more rapidly but strong and steady enough, and this time it was not even the tree because there was a down log beside it which he had never seen before and beyond the log a little swamp, a seepage of moisture somewhere between earth and water, and he did what Sam had coached and drilled him as the next and the last, seeing as he sat down on the long the crooked print, the warped indentation in the wet ground which while he looked at it continued to fill with water until it was level full and the water began to overflow and the sides of the print began to dissolve away. Even as he looked up he saw the next one, and, moving, the one beyond it; moving, not hurrying, running, but merely keeping pace with them as they appeared before him as though they were being shaped out of thin air just one constant pace short of where he would lose them forever and be lost forever himself, tireless, eager, without doubt or dread, panting a little above the strong rapid little hammer of his heart, emerging suddenly into a little glade and the wilderness coalesced. It rushed, soundless, and solidified—the tree, the bush, the compass and the watch glinting where a ray of sunlight touched them. Then he saw the bear. It did not emerge, appear: it was just there, immobile, fixed in the green and windless noon’s hot dappling, not as big as he had dreamed it but as big as he had expected, bigger, dimensionless against the dappled obscurity, looking at him. Then it moved. It crossed the glade without haste, walking for an instant into the sun’s full glare and out of it, and stopped again and looked back at him across one shoulder. Then it was gone. It didn’t walk into the woods. It faded, sank back into the wilderness without motion as he had watched a fish, a huge old bass, a sink back into the dark depths of its pool and vanish without even any movement of its fins.’
—from ‘The Bear’ in Go Down, Moses (1942)


Glenn Gould (born 25 September, 1932; died 4 October, 1982), performing the Galliard No. 6 by William Byrd (1540-1623)


Dmitri Shostakovich, Russian composer, Sep. 25, 1906 - 1975…

Dmitri Shostakovich’s work has been surrounded by controversy, largely because of Stalin-era interference with his right to compose freely as he pleased.

After two denunciations of his work as ‘formalist’ (a hanging offence under Stalin), Shostakovich began to dedicate some of his compositions to pleasing the rulers, whereas his more serious work was kept in ‘the desk drawer’ for better times…


Dmitri Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 110: II. Allegro Molto - The Emerson Quartet


Poet and Nobel Laureate T.S. Eliot was born Sep. 26, 1888 in St. Louis, Missouri. He became a British subject in 1927 - the same year that he converted to the Anglican Church. Increasingly conservative and bloated with self-importance as his life progressed, occasionally anti-Semitic and regularly misogynist, T.S. Eliot is not a person I am ever comfortable celebrating - yet his poetry is rich and full of manifold meanings far beyond those of ideology.

Photo: Ida Kar, 1956 - National Portrait Gallery

T.S. Eliot: Sweeney Among the Nightingales

Apeneck Sweeney spreads his knees
Letting his arms hang down to laugh,
The zebra stripes along his jaw
Swelling to maculate giraffe.

The circles of the stormy moon
Slide westward toward the River Plate,
Death and the Raven drift above
And Sweeney guards the horned gate.

Gloomy Orion and the Dog
Are veiled; and hushed the shrunken seas;
The person in the Spanish cape
Tries to sit on Sweeney’s knees

Slips and pulls the table cloth
Overturns a coffee-cup,
Reorganized upon the floor
She yawns and draws a stocking up;

The silent man in mocha brown
Sprawls at the window-sill and gapes;
The waiter brings in oranges
Bananas figs and hothouse grapes;

The silent vertebrate in brown
Contracts and concentrates, withdraws;
Rachel née Rabinovitch
Tears at the grapes with murderous paws;

She and the lady in the cape
Are suspect, thought to be in league;
Therefore the man with heavy eyes
Declines the gambit, shows fatigue,

Leaves the room and reappears
Outside the window, leaning in,
Branches of wisteria
Circumscribe a golden grin;

The host with someone indistinct
Converses at the door apart,
The nightingales are singing near
The Convent of the Sacred Heart,

And sang within the bloody wood
When Agamemnon cried aloud,
And let their liquid droppings fall
To stain the stiff dishonoured shroud.


Walter Benjamin,(15 July 1892 – 27 September 1940) Jewish-German philosopher, critic and writer - killed himself in the border town of Portbou, Spain on this day in 1940 by taking an overdose of morphine tablets, having despaired of being permitted to remain in Spain and make good his escape from the Nazis to the US…

“Death is the sanction of everything the story-teller can tell. He has borrowed his authority from death.” — W.B.



Anonyme, Portrait d’André Breton au festival Dada (s.d.).

André Breton, French poet, collector and father figure of Surrealism - died this day in 1966 ( 19 February 1896 – 28 September 1966) from a respiratory disease…

Epitaph: «Je cherche l’or du temps»

Less time than it takes to say it, less tears than it takes to die; I’ve taken account of everything,there you have it.

I’ve made a census of the stones, they are as numerous as my fingers and some
others; I’ve distributed some pamphlets to the plants, but not all were willing to accept them.

I’ve kept company with music for a second only and now I no longer know what to think of suicide, for if I ever want to part from myself, the exit is on this side and, I add mischievously, the entrance, the re-entrance is on the other.

You see what you still have to do.

Hours, grief, I don’t keep a reasonable account of them; I’m alone, I look out of the window; there is no passerby, or rather no one passes (underline passes).

You don’t know this man? It’s Mr. Same.

May I introduce Madam Madam? And their children.

Then I turn back on my steps, my steps turn back too, but I don’t know exactly what they turn back on.

I consult a schedule; the names of the towns have been replaced by the names of people who have been quite close to me.

Shall I go to A, return to B,change at X? Yes, of course I’ll change at X.

Provided I don’t miss the connection with boredom!

There we are: boredom, beautiful parallels, ah! how beautiful the parallels are under God’s

André Breton


Herman Melville, American prose whale - died this day in 1891(August 1, 1819 – September 28, 1891) of “cardiac dilation” - having battled alcoholism and mental & marital problems for years…

Photo of Melville, mellow…


Miguel de Unamuno, Basque writer and philosopher, was born Sep. 29 1864 (d. 1936). One of the great writers of Modernism, Unamuno was an important cultural figure in early 20th century Spain, where he sided with humanism against fascism in all its forms, whether political or aesthetical…

On intelligence Unamuno had this to say in The Tragic Sense of Life (1913):

“Man is said to be a reasoning animal. I do not know why he has not been defined as an affective or feeling animal. Perhaps that which differentiates him from other animals is feeling rather than reason. More often I have seen a cat reason than laugh or weep. Perhaps it weeps or laughs inwardly — but then perhaps, also inwardly, the crab resolves equations of the second degree.”


W.H. Auden, English poet - died this day in 1973 (21 February 1907 – 29 September 1973) in Vienna after suffering a heart attack in his sleep…

He disappeared in the dead of winter:
The brooks were frozen, the airports almost deserted,
And snow disfigured the public statues;
The mercury sank in the mouth of the dying day.
What instruments we have agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.

Photo: Cecil Beaton, 1953 - National Portrait Gallery, London


Miguel de Cervantes (born 29 September, 1547; died 23 April, 1616), pictured above in a posthumous portrait by Frederick Mackenzie (1788-1854)

From Cervantes’s preface to Don Quixote:

‘Idle reader: thou mayest believe me without any oath that I would this book, as it is the child of my brain, were the fairest, gayest, and cleverest that could be imagined. But I could not counteract Nature’s law that everything shall beget its like; and what, then, could this sterile, illtilled wit of mine beget but the story of a dry, shrivelled, whimsical offspring, full of thoughts of all sorts and such as never came into any other imagination—just what might be begotten in a prison, where every misery is lodged and every doleful sound makes its dwelling? Tranquillity, a cheerful retreat, pleasant fields, bright skies, murmuring brooks, peace of mind, these are the things that go far to make even the most barren muses fertile, and bring into the world births that fill it with wonder and delight. Sometimes when a father has an ugly, loutish son, the love he bears him so blindfolds his eyes that he does not see his defects, or, rather, takes them for gifts and charms of mind and body, and talks of them to his friends as wit and grace. I, however—for though I pass for the father, I am but the stepfather to “Don Quixote”—have no desire to go with the current of custom, or to implore thee, dearest reader, almost with tears in my eyes, as others do, to pardon or excuse the defects thou wilt perceive in this child of mine. Thou art neither its kinsman nor its friend, thy soul is thine own and thy will as free as any man’s, whate’er he be, thou art in thine own house and master of it as much as the king of his taxes and thou knowest the common saying, “Under my cloak I kill the king;” all which exempts and frees thee from every consideration and obligation, and thou canst say what thou wilt of the story without fear of being abused for any ill or rewarded for any good thou mayest say of it.

My wish would be simply to present it to thee plain and unadorned, without any embellishment of preface or uncountable muster of customary sonnets, epigrams, and eulogies, such as are commonly put at the beginning of books. For I can tell thee, though composing it cost me some labour, I found none greater than the making of this Preface thou art now reading. Many times did I take up my pen to write it, and many did I lay it down again, not knowing what to write. One of these times, as I was pondering with the paper before me, a pen in my ear, my elbow on the desk, and my cheek in my hand, thinking of what I should say, there came in unexpectedly a certain lively, clever friend of mine, who, seeing me so deep in thought, asked the reason; to which I, making no mystery of it, answered that I was thinking of the Preface I had to make for the story of “Don Quixote,” which so troubled me that I had a mind not to make any at all, nor even publish the achievements of so noble a knight.’

—from the author’s preface, Don Quixote (1605-1615; translated here from the Spanish by John Ormsby, 1885)


W. S. Merwin (born 30 September, 1927), pictured above in a 2010 photograph by Tom Sewell for The New York Times

The Night Surf

Of tomorrow I have nothing to say
what I say is not tomorrow

tomorrow no animals
no trees growing at their will
no one in the White House
the words gone out

the end of our grasp and rage
and of our knowledge
what is between us and tomorrow

in the deep shade blue irises are open
we are barefoot in the airy house
after dark the surf roars on the cliffs

(first published in The New Yorker, April 1984)


David Oistrakh (born 30 September, 1908; died 24 October, 1974), performing the second movement (Andante tranquillo; Vivace; Andante; Vivace di piu; Andante; Vivace) from the Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano (Op. 100), by Johannes Brahms; Sviatoslav Richter (1915-1997) is the pianis


Come, come, whoever you are.
Wonderer, worshipper, lover of leaving.
It doesn’t matter.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vow
a thousand times
Come, yet again, come, come.

—Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Balkh, or Rumi (September 30, 1207 – December 17, 1273), was a 13th-century Persian Muslim poet, jurist, theologian, and Sufi mystic.

Ill.: The Mathnawi of Jalāl ad-Dīn Rumi (1207–1273) is composed of twenty-seven thousand couplets in six books. Devoted to the “intrinsic meaning of all things,” the Mathnawi is an encyclopedic work of Sufi philosophy and ethics. The double-page painting A Prince Enthroned was added to Book 5 of the manuscript at the Safavid court of Shah Tahmasp (r. 1524–76) around 1530 - Opaque watercolor, ink and gold on paper (Smithsonian Museums of Asian Art)


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