The bright obvious

blogging, poetry, Thoughts

My thanks go to my blogging friend across the pond, Martha Stephens who left a comment on my last blog.  I had posted a verse from the poem below accompanied simply by a photograph of mine.  I think Martha was saying ‘Why do that?’ , and on consideration I thought she had a point.  I was taking one verse out of the context of the poem, thus destroying the central point that the poet was making.  So I humbly correct that position and quote the poem in its beautiful entirety.

from 'New York Times Book Review '

from ‘New York Times Book Review

I am no literary critic, I simply read what I like and sometimes I share what I like because I want it to spread in its influence. Listening to Radio 4 I heard a poet quote another poet describing poetry as ‘language in orbit.’  Brilliant.  And listening elsewhen, someone was articulating what I had thought for a long time – that novels can tell us more about the human experience than self help books, and even more than neurology can.  Storytelling is in our D.N. A. let’s not forget.  Back to Wallace Stevens then, who is a self professed philosophical poet, interested in the human experience, and sharing with us the understanding that life is faceted, each living thing having different potentials to experience the same world in different ways. Enjoy.

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

Wallace Stevens


I
Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.

II
I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.

III
The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.

IV
A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird
Are one.

V
I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

VI
Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.

VII
O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?

VIII
I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.

IX
When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.

X
At the sight of blackbirds
Flying in a green light,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.

XI
He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
For blackbirds.

XII
The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.

XIII
It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.


How do I begin?

books, Life, Thoughts

How does anyone begin – anything?  I have hit a wall of some resistance, and somehow I have to find a gate through, or a stile to climb it, or perhaps a big mallet to crush it.  I want to make , and I have a few ideas that meander across my consciousness, but everytime I cast my line to hook one, the line just sort of lies there and the bait isn’t attractive enough. The need nags, creating those ripples that endlessly reverberate , someone is knocking at the door but when I open it no-ones there. 

 

In the absence of focus I try to read – always in the past reading has been a refuge to retreat to, always offering sustenance, growth, and reassurance.  Today and for some previous I have picked up the same book and felt dim, unable to follow the diversions of Daniel Dennet’s arguments.  I can’t follow him at all; he has turned up to take me for a walk and I am legless. I turn to a novel instead, hoping for distraction , it is Artist of the Floating World. Kazuo Ishiguro is right for me – I have read this before and the sparseness of his writing mirrors my mood, the themes of malleability of  memory and the pain of ageing is strangely satisfying.  Nothing happens, and yet something changes.  

“If on a sunny day you climb the steep path leading up from the little wooden bridge still referred to around here as ‘the Bridge of Hesitation’, you will not have to walk far before the roof of my house becomes visible between the tops of two gingko trees.”

 

 

It is fiction then, that is able to steer me quietly to somewhere where I can find some ease.  The philosophy of mind will wait, and so must I . I must remember to put my tools down sometimes and renew.  Renew. 

nightingale

 

 

‘All we have is now’- well, really?

blogging, Thoughts

Time less  Anne CorrI was having to think about the phrase ‘all we have is now’ because I wanted to enter a competition to illustrate it for a brand.  Interesting methought, this is a provocation since on the surface it seems like a pretty motivating soundbite.  But then again…..perhaps this is not quite the positive idea is appears on first encounter. It seems to be a promise that making the current moment the one that matters, but this can only lead inevitably to a recognition of meaninglessness.  Thus a provocation of self expression, something we consider necessary for self-develpment, in actuality results in a despair of existential angst. If ‘all that we have is now’ becomes a mantra of the modern age, then where belong the memories of yesterday, yesteryear and yester aeon – and where do we look for dreams and goals, for outcomes dependant on a complexity of past and present strategies?

Camus shows the emptiness of living purely in the present through his character Meursault in The Stranger, a character whose life is empty of the shade offered by self reflection.

‘This is the paradox Meursault makes flesh; for him, only life lived in the moment – the moment our bodies register sensations sweeping over them- is meaningful.  Yet indifferent to the past and future, he is incapable of grasping whatever meaning there is to be found.’ Zaretsky – A life worth living.

None of us live purely in the present, we live in a landscape inhabited by ghosts and frequented by hopes. The here and now is the vivid, the sensed, the felt; but the here and now can only be valuable in the context of a past and a promise of the future.  We act with conscience and with hope and it is only by knowing the present is not the only moment we have, that  makes the now a beautiful and a tragic experience.

Now how do I illustrate THAT!!

 

Calling Martha Stephens, keeping my promise!

blogging, poetry, Thoughts, United Kingdom

cropped-oldnorth.jpgOne of my favourite poems is by Stanley Kunitz.  I came across his poems by reading his obituary a few years ago.  I had a very curious reaction to the article I read about the poet, and immediately was drawn to read some of his work.  Before I had done so at any depth, the curious part of this story identified itself – I wrote a poem about a poet I knew very little of, it arrived all by itself really.  Now I am going to share this poem with you because in the space that we inhabit internetwise, I have been delighted to make a new acquaintance Martha Stephens via this blog page.  I recommend her blog to you, and in our conversation I remarked how striking it is that an artist can connect regardless of the time or location they are writing in.  So I present my poem to her, and to you as a comment on that everyday miracle.  I don’t think it is a particularly good poem, but the provenance of it is interesting.  Then I want to share one of my favourite poems of Stanleys.

In memory of Stanley Kunitz

Hear this; all poets, would-be wordsmiths,
Stanley is gone. Stanley Kunitz, died 101.
(Read and grieve, grieve and read)

A magician amongst wizards, Auden,
Cummins, Ginsberg went before,
overshadowing Stan, but not outliving;
the man , as was the poet, worthy
of our awe.

His lifetime lived in query,
of a father never known;
death by suicide, and Stan
warm in the womb.

(Read and grieve, grieve and read)

His muse played amongst
beloved plants and flowers,
man of spirituality,
knowing the depth
of their heavenly powers.
‘Desire and desire
and desire’ his hand me down,
a way to live, a tinderbox
to ignite others fire.

Loving Keats, and Blake and
struggling, as poets do.,
the chaos of being here,
and now;  the conundrum.
Hear this; all poets, would-be wordsmiths,

Stanley is gone. Stanley Kunitz, died 101.

And this is the poem that I put to music and image, the poem that is playing continously in the background of my life.  A wonderful evocation of how change is inevitable , and how as humans we need to be able to  accept ourselves as we are, as we have been and knowing there will be new challenges to face.

The Layers

BY STANLEY KUNITZ

I have walked through many lives.
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

 

With an eye made quiet

Art, blogging, Life, Thoughts, United Kingdom

Wherever you are  Anne Corr

The conscious mind hungers for success and prestige. The unconscious mind hungers for those moments of transcendence, when the skull line disappears and we are lost in a challenge or a task — when a craftsman feels lost in his craft, when a naturalist feels at one with nature, when a believer feels at one with God’s love. That is what the unconscious mind hungers for. And many of us feel it in love when lovers feel fused. – David Brooks

This passage from David Brook’s excellent book came to mind this morning, as I lose myself in the playfulness of adjusting photographs mainly captured by my husband , and turning them into images with digital tools.  I hope to enhance the power of the image by using a variety of techniques, but most probably the best image is the one that is left alone.  It really doesn’t matter, because what I am getting from the process is something Brooks terms as limerence.  And I have sought it all my life. I am full of gladness that I have the privilege of time to use pursuing it. I was a young teen probably when I first became conscious of those moments of transcendence – it may have been earlier but my memory of my young childhood is barely apparent. What I do remember is making my way through a local park, violin in hand on the way to my lesson when I suddenly became aware of the smallest area of grass at my feet, and the overwhelming feeling of delightedness and joy.  It felt as though I had been in touch with magic, and for some time , years , I assumed it to be quasi religious.  That moment made me connect to a universe in a way that I wanted to do again and again.  What I didn’t know then was that those moments can’t be sought, they are of their own time, outside of any control by me. There have been others, but few and too far between – but the upshot of me feeling that moment was that it informed me about my choices, and it informs me still.

And that is why I love the opportunity to practice my craft – I only wish I could create the same peacefulness and abandon in the kitchen, but sadly not.

If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal — that is your success. All nature is your congratulation, and you have cause momentarily to bless yourself. The greatest gains and values are farthest from being appreciated. We easily come to doubt if they exist. We soon forget them. They are the highest reality. Perhaps the facts most astounding and most real are never communicated by man to man. The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening. It is a little star-dust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched.
Henry David Thoreau in Walden

 

Lost

Art, photogaphy, poetry, Thoughts

trees

 

Love has gone and left me and the days are all alike;
Eat I must, and sleep I will,—and would that night were here!
But ah!—to lie awake and hear the slow hours strike!
Would that it were day again!—with twilight near!

Love has gone and left me and I don’t know what to do;
This or that or what you will is all the same to me;
But all the things that I begin I leave before I’m through,—
There’s little use in anything as far as I can see.

Love has gone and left me,—and the neighbors knock and borrow,
And life goes on forever like the gnawing of a mouse,—
And to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow
There’s this little street and this little house.

-Edna St Millay

 

Cosmic orphans

Art, blogging, culture, earth, Life, Thoughts

the creation James Tissot 1836 -1902 Teh Jewish Museum

 

Nearly beginning a new year , and that seems to me to be a good time for some reflection in the company of a reknown anthropologist Loren Eiseley.  He wrote a piece to introduce part of the fifteenth edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, and I have included two small quotes to whet your appetite.

It appears to me that what the author is suggesting , is that the human condition is significantly different to that of other species because of the size of our brain which has adapted to intellectual capacities which we ourselves  do not understand or always put to good use.  The future of mankind has often in our history appeared to be either dangerously under threat, or at some sort of crossroads that changes how we live.  These are times we live in too, technology is driving change at a rate that once could not have been dreamt of.  We have threats of climate change which are not inconsiderable.  Everyday living makes demands on all of us that we forget to question, and decisions are multiplied exponentially across the globe which continuously aggravates the existing problems of consumption and availablility of food, water, resources.

Sometimes reflection is necessary, to stop and consider how best we can lead our lives individually and as societies.  Loren narrates how his father explained some of the deeper questions to him as a youngster, after he had come across a turtle that had been riddled with shot.  In that story, LOren’s father describes mankind as a cosmic orphan, struggling to find his way in a difficult, challenging world.

Because man was truly an orphan and confined to no single way of life, he was, in essence a prison breaker. But in ignorance his very knowledge sometimes led from one terrible prison to another. Was the final problem then, to escape himself, or, if not that, to reconcile his devastating intellect with his heart? All of the knowledge set down in great books directly or indirectly affects this problem. It is the problem of every man, for even the indifferent man is making, unknown to himself, his own callous judgment.

I love the power of his storytelling and the insight he displays in his writing, a poetic sensibility which enhances his anthropology.

 “None there be, can rehearse the whole tale.” That phrase, too, contains the warning that man is an orphan of uncertain beginnings and an indefinite ending. All that the archaeological and anthropological sciences can do is to place a somewhat flawed crystal before man and say: This is the way you came, these are your present dangers; somewhere, seen dimly beyond, lies your destiny. God help you, you are a cosmic orphan, a symbol-shifting magician, mostly immature and inattentive without humility of heart. This the old ones knew long ago in the great deserts under the stars. This they sought to learn and pass on. It is the only hope of men.

The whole article can be found here

 http://library.eb.co.uk/original?content_id=1325&pager.offset=0

Image is Tissot  The Creation

Happy New Year to everyone!

 

 

 

From Yu to you. Nine Follies.

culture, Life, Thoughts

 

mountains-8

A long time ago, so the legend has it,  a young man followed in his father’s footsteps and made such a good job of engineering the Chinese landscape to prevent the catastrophic flooding that plagued their land, that he was made an Emperor.  Not a bad promotion, but one he declined at first ,  agreeing when he was aged 53 . To put a date on it, we are talking about two millennia before we started counting time as a positive number.

One of the few men to earn the posthumous accolade of  ‘the Great’, Yu was applauded by Confucius amongst others as a deeply virtuous and moral man.  Few records exist from the time, and ballads were a predominant measure of popular thought, this is one  verse of many ballads at the time praising Yu for giving the people back their land to farm,

Very grand is Mt. Liang,

     Its cultivation being made possible by Yu.
     The waters of the Fung flow on to the east.
         Through the meritorious work of Yu.
     The people of the four quarters have the same
         opinion; He is truly a great ruler.

Yu had a right hand man, chief minister Kao-Yao who was responsible for defining the codes of behaviour .  I particularly admire his list below – what society would not benefit from such a list?  Though I suspect the list came a long time after, since there are virtually no historical records from that period in China.

The Nine Follies:

• To think oneself immortal
• To think investments are secure
• To mistake conventional good manners for friendship
• To expect any reward for doing right
• To imagine the rich regard you as an equal
• To continue to drink after you have begun to declare that you are sober
• To recite your own verse
• To lend money and expect its return
• To travel with too much luggage

Further reading :

http://http://www.amazon.co.uk/Rogersons-Book-Numbers-miscellany-Valhalla/dp/1781250995/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1378981721&sr=1-1&keywords=book+of+numbers+barnaby+rogerson/ct.asp?xItem=124885&CtNode=124

http://taiwantoday.tw/ct.asp?xItem=124885&CtNode=124

 

 

Ironing out the detail – what we need to know.

literature, philosophy, Thoughts, United Kingdom

St Augustine quotation Anne Corr

Good to remember , and the thought holds whilst I tackle the daily chores of ironing and domestic doery before I can settle down to the more pleasurable tasks awaiting me on the p.c.

Two commissions to do before Christmas, and one is a delight . I can’t tell you or I would have to kill you. Don’t want to do that.

Thanks St Augustine –  your words are duly digested.