Posts Tagged ‘poetry & prose’

Maya Angelou (American Poet)

Posted: April 27, 2009 in creativity
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quote

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Maya Angelou, born April 4, 1928, is an American poet, memoirist, actress and an important figure in the American Civil Rights Movement. Angelou is known for her series of six autobiographies, starting with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which was nominated for a National Book Award and called her magnum opus. Her volume of poetry, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘Fore I Diiie was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

Angelou recited her poem, “On the Pulse of Morning” at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993. She has been highly honored for her body of work, including being awarded over 30 honorary degrees.

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Grief

Posted: March 10, 2009 in creativity
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Grief, that

2-headed beast,

I write from within

my own experience

shouting tears

that open up the abyss

of longing

that shut down

the song.

.

Where is the light

the beacon that

pulses hopeful messages

on a stormy night

You, no longer there

to occupy the hollow

beside me in the bed.

You gentle, soft flesh

presssed against my side,

a leg wrapped round

my thigh.

.

The pillow,

inconsolably wet

as I remember the soft,

warm mist of your

breath on my face.

Gone now to a graveyard

of memories,

i hug my own skinny arms

willing your face beside me

beside my self

with grief.

.

[a poem by Helena Wong]

.

grief

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Through the Amy Stein | Photography | Blog I came across the Australian photographer Graham Miller, which is not surprising given that both artists seem to share a fascination for suburbia, its people and cultural accessories as well as the sense of “isolation from community, culture and the environment” (Stein) that seems to pervade much of the suburban emotional landscape here and probably in the US.

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Miller’s says in an interview with Stein that his work is strongly influenced by short story writer and poet Raymond Carver. Carver’s work reflects the life of the working class, whose characters often experience isolation, marginalisation, sadness and loss as part of everyday existence. The lives of these ordinary people could be aptly described with Henry David Thoreau‘s idea of living lives of “quiet desperation.” 

This is exactly what Miller’s photos capture and express. And like Carver he does it in a way that the former once described as being “inclined toward brevity and intensity”; Stein calls it befittingly “laconic intensity”. When reflecting on Carver’s work and ultimately on his own Miller talks about “… sketching out the bare outlines of a story with telling details and simple dialogue. He lets the reader’s imagination embellish the rest. His stories are lean but powerful, taking fragments from the lives of regular people and putting a magnifying glass on them for a brief period of time. They are stories of loss, broken relationships and struggle, told in a way that pulls at your gut.” And he mentions that Carver’s stories “are often unresolved, leaving you hanging to try and make sense of what has just taken place or what was about to happen”. 

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Miller quotes Carver who in turn quotes V.S. Pritchett’s description of the short story as “something glimpsed from the corner of the eye, in passing. First the glimpse, the glimpse given life, turned into something that will illuminate the moment and just maybe lock it indelibly into the reader’s consciousness.” Carver goes on saying that he very often just catches a brief glimpse of something and a while later then begins to see this hurried image settling into a scene, a stage that he then populates with characters.

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That brings me to a critique apparently levelled at both Miller and Stein: that their images are being staged. What’s wrong with that? We go to see plays or movies; in fact, documentaries are right at the almost imperceptible bottom of public taste. We also read fiction as well as non-fiction, without ever complaining about the former being less valuable than the latter because it’s fantasy. But when it comes to taking photos, we somehow have this illusion of ‘truth’ attached to the actual image. The fact is, there’s never been a single photo in the whole history of photography that stood for truth – and that includes every snap we take and every ‘documentary’ image ever shot. Apart from the artificiality of the discriminatory distinction between photographs and the rest of the world of art objects, the differentiation between photos depicting ‘reality’ and those being staged is complete nonsense – they all are a window into the unique world of the photographer, not into whatever reality might exist out there.

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Back to Miller’s actual work: Amy Stein’s interview with him, by which my own thoughts about Miller’s work have been inspired, has a lot more to say about the artist. In it Miller talks his appreciation of the “theatricality and artifice” in  Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s work, makes reference to other photographic artists and filmmakers and about why he agrees with Stein that there is some ‘American’ about his own photos. The interview is well worth reading.

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I f0und this Carver poem on Miller’s website, which wonderfully describes the subtleties that we can imagine underlieing Miller’s imagery, the dreams and hope in that quiet despair of life …

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All these images were taken from Graham Miller’s Suburban Splendour series, and it’s more than worth it having a look at the rest of the series; after all, this is MY subjective selection out of 30 photos. He’s also got two other portfolios: The Performance of Everyday Life and Erick’s Cafe and other stories that are sometimes hilarious but always deeply reflective, meaningful depictions of his take on reality.

After having been harassed for 10 weeks by my o’seas family members 😉 to upload my holiday photos onto Flickr, I’ve finally started with the first batch on Italy and the first installment on Germany. That kept me away from blogging, but in the meantime my bellissimo friend Jeanie *) emailed this poem, which is remarkable because it was written by the father of one of the victims of the London bombings in 2005. And it is remarkable because it doesn’t join the usual chorus of hatred against ‘the other side’ but instead, as a expression of true humanness and deep connectedness to all life, appeals for forgiveness.

No Room for Hate.

There is no room within my heart
for revenge, fire or hate
there is no room within my mind
for any thoughts like these.

I cannot find the words to say
just how it is I feel
but I know from deepest hurt
I must forgiveness find.

The hurt that’s been done to us
cuts sore like a knife,
but we must not, repay in kind
what has been done to us.

Instead we must try and find
the way that is so hard,
and reach out our loving hands
to find some friendship now.

There can be no more healing thing
than opening wide our eyes
and seeing that most other folk
are really just like us.

David wrote this poem a year after his step daughter was killed in the London Bombings of 2005.

By David Gould

November 2006

Helena Wong: Poetry

Posted: August 27, 2008 in creativity
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My friend Helena, whose qualities I have praised before, is also a great poet. I love her notion of poems as dream catchers, and I have been asking her for years to publish at least some of her work on the Net, but with little success so far … maybe that might change now?

anyway, here are a couple of small examples.

and inspired by walking down near Leura Cascades in the Blue Mountains …

Anthony John Gray

Posted: March 16, 2008 in creativity
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SECRET DREAM

Anthony John Gray never had any formal training when he changed his career path from being a British police officer to becoming an artist. I find his work quite fascinating because of its fusion of the surreal with abstract geometry. Apart from giving it a certain Gothic expression, this blend also makes his painting appear aloof and emotionally detached. But the psychedelic coolness of his work, the spacey indifference, does not suggest a certain nonchalance or a lack of approachability; instead most of his paintings seem to convey a level of self-control, indifference bordering on serenity, and unruffled calmness. Gray’s collage-like juxtapositions, which often seem to endow women with power and enigma, fuse structure, lightness and the search for the ultimate freedom into form that emanates from a place beyond subconscious production. In this context, the artist’s own description of his work as “Spiritual Logic” seems to make perfect sense – and so does Gray’s poetry to his works ‘The Magnificent Obsession’ and ‘Liberated Desires’ which I have enclosed below. What makes Gray’s work so special is that its aesthetics is an expression of a quest – the search for meaning as spiritual essence.

 

THE PILGRIMAGE (DIPTYCH – left panel)

THE PILGRIMAGE (DIPTYCH – right panel)

ONCOMING STORM

WOMAN NO. 1

MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION

 

When all is bound and hidden
And life’s freedom is forbidden
Seek the universe within
Keep the ethics and the morals in
And you will find you have a Magnificent Obsession. 


LIBERATED DESIRES 2

 

Gray said about this series: “Liberated Desires first came in 1979 and it is one of those images that will not go away, you keep trying to perfect it. Seated above yourself, ruler over all things and yet possessing total freedom over choice, absolute personal freedom in your own head, that’s Liberated Desires. Thirty pieces so far, maybe when I find that complete freedom I will stop”.

Conjuring up in your mind is fine
holding it there is altogether different.

From the painting LIBERATED DESIRES No 5.

She said
Crossing the universe is impossible
But I have done it lots of times
And I have never left home.

From the painting LIBERATED DESIRES No 4.

There is no way to escape the night
And whatever landscape betrays you
Be sure your judgement is right
For although I am your past
I am your future too.

From the painting LIBERATED DESIRES No 7.

 

SINNENRAUSCH

Dein sünd’ger Mund ist meine Totengruft,
Betäubend ist sein süsser Atemduft,
Denn meine Tugenden entschliefen.
Ich trinke sinnberauscht aus seiner Quelle
Und sinke willenlos in ihre Tiefen,
Verklärten Blickes in die Hölle.

Mein heisser Leib erglüht in seinem Hauch,
Er zittert, wie ein junger Rosenstrauch,
Geküsst vom warmen Maienregen.
– Ich folge Dir ins wilde Land der Sünde
Und pflücke Feuerlilien auf den Wegen,
– Wenn ich die Heimat auch nicht wiederfinde …

MEIN TANZLIED

Aus mir braust finst’re Tanzmusik,
Meine Seele kracht in tausend Stücken!
Der Teufel holt sich mein Missgeschick
Um es ans brandige Herz zu drücken.

Die Rosen fliegen mir aus dem Haar
Und mein Leben saust nach allen Seiten,
So tanz’ ich schon seit tausend Jahr,
Seit meiner ersten Ewigkeiten.

 

[Post inspired by Inga]

ANGORAWEG

Posted: February 18, 2008 in creativity
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Ich wähle den Angoraweg 
aus sanftem Dornenbauch.
 

Das Lindenziel soll meine Kindersonne sein.

So streu ich Glasblumen ihm 
auf die Spiegelstraße, 
und decke sie mit Himbeerwatte zu.

Kein Schnitt mehr kann in seinen Vaterfuß.

Und der Koffer mit Seelenverband
in ferner Höhle 
im Sommerschlaf.

Schrittfüße für Standbeine. 
Keimherzen für Blutseelen.

Und im Cardigan aus meiner Kinderwelt. 

by Inga

Little Infinite Poem

For Luis Cardoza y Aragon

To take the wrong road
is to arrive at the snow,
and to arrive at the snow
is to get down on all fours for twenty centuries and eat the
grasses of the cemeteries.

To take the wrong road
is to arrive at woman,
woman who isn’t afraid of light,
woman who murders two roosters in one second,
light which isn’t afraid of roosters,
and roosters who don’t know how to sing on top of the
snow.

But if the snow truly takes the wrong road,
then it might meet the southern wind,
and since the air cares nothing for groans,
we will have to get down on all fours again and eat the
grasses of the cemeteries.

I saw two mournful wheatheads made of wax
burying a countryside of volcanoes;
and I saw two insane little boys who wept as they leaned on
a murderer’s eyeballs.

But two has never been a number –
because it’s only an anguish and its shadow,
it’s only a guitar where love feels how hopeless it is,
it’s the proof of someone else’s infinity,
and the walls around a dead man,
and the scourging of a new resurrection that will never end.
Dead people hate the number two,
but the number two makes women drop off to sleep,
and since women are afraid of light,
light shudders when it has to face the roosters,
and since all roosters know is how to fly over the snow
we will have to get down on all fours and eat the grasses of
the cemeteries forever.


While Little Infinite Poem seems to be part of Lorca’s more
experimental work, it also seems to carry a signature typical
for most of his work, the idea that became the cornerstone
of his philosophy on art and his view of the Spanish tradition:
‘Duende’. According to The Cortland Review, Little Infinite Poem is
drenched in Duende, which Lorca defines by borrowing Goethe’s
allusion to the ‘mysterious power which everyone senses and
no philosopher explains’. The Duende for Lorca is a force that
is irrational and intuitive; spiritually connected to the earth
and pantheistic; and – quintessentially Spanish – aware of death.
‘All that has black sounds has Duende,’ wrote Andalusian cantaor
Manuel Torre, and Lorca seems to agree. And for him the Duende’s
obsessions with death and so forth bring forth the artist’s
creativity, make it a unique force animating the latter. So indeed:
Little Infinite Poem is drenched in Duende.
 

[the image above is a portrait of Garcia Lorca by Salvatore Dali]

Arthur Rimbaud

Posted: December 20, 2007 in creativity
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When he was not yet 17, Arthur Rimbaud (1854-91) electrified Paris’s literary society with the incendiary poems that later made him the guiding saint of 20th-century rebels, from Pablo Picasso to Jim Morrison. “A Season in Hell,” “The Drunken Boat,” and the prose poems of Illuminations were epochal works that changed the nature of an art form–and yet their author abandoned poetry at age 21 and spent the rest of his short life as a colonial adventurer in Arabia and Africa. “He was writing in a void,” explains British scholar Graham Robb. “In 1876, most of Rimbaud’s admirers either were still in the nursery or had yet to be conceived.” Hardly surprising, since the poet was a difficult and frequently unpleasant person to actually know. The Parisian poets who took him under their wing soon discovered that Rimbaud was ungrateful, crude, and as scornful of their precious verse as he was of the Catholic Church, bourgeois proprieties, and everything else his disapproving mother held dear. Rimbaud’s stormy affair with Paul Verlaine estranged the older poet from his wife and, eventually, from most of his artistic friends as well. In Robb’s depiction, the poet possessed from his earliest youth a restless, searching intellect that permitted no compromise with convention nor tenderness for others’ weaknesses. The author doesn’t soften Rimbaud’s “savage cynicism” or gloss over his frequently obnoxious behavior, yet Robb arouses our admiration for “one of the great Romantic imaginations, festering in damp, provincial rooms like an intelligent disease.” Like Robb’s excellent biographies of Hugo and Balzac, this sharp, subtle, unsentimental portrait is both erudite and beautifully written. – [Wendy Smith on “Arthur Rimbaud – A Biography” by Graham Robb]

[thank you to Famous Poets & Poems]

Sun and Flesh (Credo in Unam)

 

I

The Sun, the hearth of affection and life,
Pours burning love on the delighted earth,
And when you lie down in the valley, you can smell
How the earth is nubile and very full-blooded;
How its huge breast, heaved up by a soul,
Is, like God, made of love, and, like woman, of flesh,
And that it contains, big with sap and with sunlight,
The vast pullulation of all embryos!

And everything grows, and everything rises!

– O Venus, O Goddess!
I long for the days of antique youth,
Of lascivious satyrs, and animal fauns,
Gods who bit, mad with love, the bark of the boughs,
And among water-lilies kissed the Nymph with fair hair!
I long for the time when the sap of the world,
River water, the rose-coloured blood of green trees
Put into the veins of Pan a whole universe!
When the earth trembled, green,beneath his goat-feet;
When, softly kissing the fair Syrinx, his lips formed
Under heaven the great hymn of love;
When, standing on the plain, he heard round about him
Living Nature answer his call;
When the silent trees cradling the singing bird,
Earth cradling mankind, and the whole blue Ocean,
And all living creatures loved, loved in God!

I long for the time of great Cybele,
Who was said to travel, gigantically lovely,
In a great bronze chariot, through splendid cities;
Her twin breasts poured, through the vast deeps,
The pure streams of infinite life.
Mankind sucked joyfully at her blessed nipple,
Like a small child playing on her knees.
– Because he was strong, Man was gentle and chaste.

Misfortune! Now he says: I understand things,
And goes about with eyes shut and ears closed.
– And again, no more gods! no more gods! Man is King,
Man is God! But the great faith is Love!
Oh! if only man still drew sustenance from your nipple,
Great mother of gods and of men, Cybele;
If only he had not forsaken immortal Astarte
Who long ago, rising in the tremendous brightness
Of blue waters, flower-flesh perfumed by the wave,
Showed her rosy navel, towards which the foam came snowing
And, being a goddess with the great conquering black eyes,
Made the nightingale sing in the woods and love in men’s hearts! 

 

II

I believe! I believe in you! divine mother,
Sea-born Aphrodite! – Oh! the path is bitter
Since the other God harnessed us to his cross;
Flesh, Marble, Flower, Venus, in you I believe!
– yes, Man is sad and ugly, sad under the vast sky.
He possesses clothes, because he is no longer chaste,
Because he has defiled his proud, godlike head
And because he has bent, like an idol in the furnace,
His Olympian form towards base slaveries!
Yes, even after death, in the form of pale skeletons
He wishes to live and insult the original beauty!
– And the Idol in whom you placed such maidenhood,
Woman, in whom you rendered our clay divine,
So that Man might bring light into his poor soul
And slowly ascend, in unbounded love,
From the earthly prison to the beauty of day,
Woman no longer knows even how to be a Courtesan!
– It’s a fine farce! and the world snickers
At the sweet and sacred name of great Venus!

III

If only the times which have come and gone might come again!
– For Man is finished! Man has played all the parts!
In the broad daylight, wearied with breaking idols
He will revive, free of all his gods,
And, since he is of heaven, he will scan the heavens!
The Ideal, that eternal, invincible thought, which is
All; The living god within his fleshly clay,
Will rise, mount, burn beneath his brow!
An when you see him plumbing the whole horizon,
Despising old yokes, and free from all fear,
You will come and give him holy Redemption!
– Resplendent, radiant, from the bosom of the huge seas
You will rise up and give to the vast Universe
Infinite Love with its eternal smile!
The World will vibrate like an immense lyre
In the trembling of an infinite kiss!

– The World thirsts for love: you will come and slake its thirst.

…………………………………………….

O! Man has raised his free, proud head!
And the sudden blaze of primordial beauty
Makes the god quiver in the altar of the flesh!
Happy in the present good, pale from the ill suffered,
Man wishes to plumb all depths, – and know all things! Thought,
So long a jade, and for so long oppressed,
Springs from his forehead! She will know Why!…
Let her but gallop free, and Man will find Faith!
– Why the blue silence, unfathomable space?
Why the golden stars, teeming like sands?
If one ascended forever, what would one see up there?
Does a sheperd drive this enormous flock
Of worlds on a journey through this horror of space?
And do all these worlds contained in the vast ether,
tremble at the tones of an eternal voice?
– And Man, can he see? can he say: I believe?
Is the langage of thought anymore than a dream?
If man is born so quickly, if life is so short
Whence does he come? Does he sink into the deep Ocean
Of Germs, of Foetuses, of Embryos, to the bottom
of the huge Crucible where Nature the Mother
Will resuscitate him, a living creature,
To love in the rose and to grow in the corn?…

We cannot know! – We are weighed down
With a cloak of ignorance, hemmed in by chimaeras!
Men like apes, dropped from our mothers’ wombs,
Our feeble reason hides the infinite from us!
We wish to perceive: – and Doubt punishes us!
Doubt, dismal bird, beat us down with its wing…
– And the horizon rushes away in endless flight!…

……………………………………………….

The vast heaven is open! the mysteries lie dead
Before erect Man, who folds his strong arms
Among the vast splendour of abundant Nature!
He sings… and the woods sing, the river murmurs
A song full of happiness which rises towards the light!…
– it is Redemption! it is love! it is love!…

……………………………………………….. 

 

IV

O splendour of flesh! O ideal splendour!
O renewal of love, triumphal dawn
When, prostrating the Gods and the Heroes,
White Callipyge and little Eros
Covered with the snow of rose petals, will caress
Women and flowers beneath their lovely outstretched feet!
– O great Ariadne who pour out your tears
On the shore, as you see, out there on the waves,
The sail of Theseus flying white under the sun,
O sweet virgin child whom a night has broken,
Be silent! On his golden chariot studded with black grapes,
Lysios, who has been drawn through Phrygian fields
By lascivious tigers and russet panthers,
Reddens the dark mosses along the blue rivers.
– Zeus, the Bull, cradles on his neck like a child
The nude body of Europa who throws her white arm
Round the God’s muscular neck which shivers in the wave.
Slowly he turns his dreamy eye towards her;
She, droops her pale flowerlike cheek
On the brow of Zeus; her eyes are closed; she is dying
In a divine kiss, and the murmuring waters
Strew the flowers of their golden foam on her hair.
– Between the oleander and the gaudy lotus tree
Slips amorously the great dreaming Swan
Enfloding Leda in the whiteness of his wing;
– And while Cypris goes by, strangely beautiful,
And, arching the marvellous curves of her back,
Proudly displays the golden vision of her big breasts
And snowy belly embroidered with black moss,
– Hercules, Tamer of beasts, in his Strength,
Robes his huge body with the lion’s skin as with glory
And faces the horizons, his brow terrible and sweet!

Vaguely lit by the summer moon,
Erect, naked, dreaming in her pallor of gold
Streaked by the heavy wave of her long blue hair,
In the shadowy glade whenre stars spring in the moss,
The Dryade gazes up at the silent sky…
– White Selene, timidly, lets her veil float,
Over the feet of beautiful Endymion,
And throws him a kiss in a pale beam…
– The Spring sobs far off in a long ectasy…
Ii is the nymph who dreams with one elbow on her urn,
Of the handsome white stripling her wave has pressed against.
– A soft wind of love has passed in the night,
And in the sacred woods, amid the standing hair of the great trees,
Erect in majesty, the shadowly Marbles,
The Gods, on whose brows the Bullfinch has his nest,
– the Gods listen to Men, and to the infinite World!

Arthur Rimbaud, May 1870 

 

[thank you to mag4]