Friday, September 30, 2011
But today I am thinking about his poetry criticism. It introduced me to the work of Kathleen Raine--a boon--and made me appreciate Kenneth Koch and a few others more than I did previously. His essays could also be as hard-hitting and unswerving as the criticism of William Logan, the poet and critic said to be most feared by poets. (I enjoy his writing, even where I have a difference of opinion, but perhaps that is in part because I live in the happy, innocent state of never having been the subject of it.) Disch the critic was good on trends and summing-up, and he was good on individual writers.
You may disagree with him, but he remains challenging and interesting. Try and see:
from THE CASTLE OF INDOLENCE
The myth of risk
"Risk-taking" is my favorite blurb-writing maneuver, since rarely is the risk being taken ever specified. the suggestion is that the poet is somehow a member of that international band of persecuted geniuses on whole behalf PEN sends off protests to the dictatorial regimes of third world countries. Usually, of course, the opposite is true, for the political opinions expressed in the poems of reputedly "risk-taking" poets tend to be such as to make university tenure more likely.
Poets in academia
When bad poetry is valued at the going rate of good poetry, Gresham's law is bound to kick in. Bad poetry will drive out good. For bad poets are likely to be capable careerists, who will have the good sense, when they act in some related bureaucratic capacity, such a judging a contest or hiring a teaching candidate, to favor those as ill favored as themselves. In effect, Cinderella's stepsisters are in charge of the invitation list to the ball.
Hudgins is southern in that enviable sense that imparts to the work of Eudora Welty or Carson McCullers a cruel humor and linguistic crackle that derives ... from a community of, if you'll forgive the pun, wise crackers.
The myth of progress in the arts
The basic myth of the avant-garde (a myth implicit in the "postmodern" label) is that art progresses by historical stages, and each advance is perceived by the uninitiated rabble as sacrilege or nonsense. Painting provides the best paradigm: impressionism, postimpressionism, cubism, abstraction, pop, and then the Babel of the postmodern.
Updike the poet and the upper middle class
If the class that Updike addresses so cogently were in the habit of reading poetry, he would be America's Philip Larkin.
On confessional poetry
...there are no formal challenges, no musicality, no effort to find the mot juste or the telling epithet. There is simply candor, an effort to enlist the reader's sympathy in the circumstances of the poets' lives. All three poets have been award prizes for their confidences, and all three offer thanks to Yaddo on their acknowledgment pages, so however little regard this reviewer can muster for their work, their esthetic respectability is an established fact.
The myriad-minded poet
Once a poet has mastered his instrument, once he is a poet, he is judged--cherished, respected, or ignored--chiefly for his sense of poetic opportunity, for the ways he welcomes or courts his Muse; for his availability, as a poet, to the plenum of experience. Poets distinguish themselves one from the other less by the formal characteristics of their voices than by the occasions they elect to share with us, and while some poets are admired for their judicious cultivation of the same Parnassian half acre, in general the poets we prize most, and read most faithfully, are those whose lives, as reported, seem largest; who are able, in the most diverse moods and circumstances, to map a wide range of experience while maintaining the special alertness and afflatus poetry requires.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
|Photograph: Jar with birds-of-paradise at Siem Reap, Cambodia, 2009|
My distant cousin William Wallace Tabbot, who found me when I posted something about one of my ancestors (Sally Jo Hance, perhaps?), "likes" everything. He is giving my first cousins a run for their facebook money. I am almost as fond of him as of my cousin who writes me letters and tells me what's going on down South without me.
Must say that I don't really mind... I mean, I like being silly. I like silly things. For example, I like chickens. I haven't had a post about chickens in a long time. Maybe I'll talk about chickens tomorrow. Or maybe I won't.
* * *
While I was drinking tea this morning—meditative drink, tea is—I realized that the arc of my life as I approached my mid-thirties slowly turned away from everything valued by the world I grew up in. It’s as if I had to undo everything that I had done and was “supposed” to do in order to be what I am. Even though I began thinking of myself as a writer when I was still a child, I was distracted and absorbed by many things.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Selections from Foliage and Still Life Drawing series
and Urban Fragments Painting series
September 24-November 5, 2011
The Earlville Opera House
Opening September 24th, 6-7:30 p.m.
Note on the photographs:
I took these before the start and after the close of the opening to Yolanda's show in the upstairs gallery. The photograph of two artists speaking with two pieces from The Urban Fragments series shows Lee Yardley with the curator of the Painter Picks Painter show in the East Gallery downstairs at the Opera House. Unfortunately, her name tumbled out of my head... Two other shows are now on display, so a drive to Earlville lets you meet with the work of five artists. The Painter Picks Painter show features Steven Ginsburg, Sarah McCoubrey, and Gary Trento. In the West Gallery is Fleeting Dreams, a solo show of the paintings of Chun Arthur Wang.
Yolanda's note on her encaustics:
The Urban Fragments (2009-2010) painting series examines change and flux when urban environments experience loss. Many of the paintings are remembrances, my meditations of Detroit. Some images invoke billboard image remnants, architecture, and the way natural forces impose upon change and neglect. Non-representational abstractions show visual fragments and cues. The encaustic medium helps to describe passages of time and layers of visual history. Paint layers, objects, and drawing remnants are derived intuitively. Also, Urban Fragments fuses drawing remnants (from my Foliage and Still Life series) with the paintings as objects with physical depth of colors and surfaces. I want the paintings to convey solid forms and shapes that are diaphanous and luminous. This series promotes colors than are pared down to vibrant essentials. While some colors are mixed and layered, others are blunt and vivid.
Yolanda's note on the drawings:
The 2008 drawing designs focused on re-inventions and improvisations by combining fragments of other drawn images. Many of the drawings are part of the still life tradition (using a collection of various objects from the home environment: glass, patterned structures, cloth, metal surfaces, ropes, and woven structures) and nature (foliage and various plant life forms.) Geometric spatial constructs helped to build the compositions and feed my intuitive approach of working. The dominant medium for this series is pen and ink, with some mixed materials.
The wedding of pen and ink with encaustics:
While I had seen pieces from each series separately, it was interesting to see the two groups of works brought together, since fragments of drawings crop up in the encaustics, half seen through layers. Meanwhile the drawings also work in a collage style with images cropped and fitted together, but they often utilize the idea of collage in a playful way. Yolanda feels that she works intuitively, but she brings to bear a keen intelligence and her decisions--while arrived at by instinct, perhaps--are clearly conscious ones. Some of the selvages between fitted pieces appear almost invisible, and yet there are teasing faux selvages that are "artificial" or not selvages at all but simply (or not so simply!) the tantalizing work of pen and ink.
More Yolanda Sharpe:
To look at more of The Urban Fragments, go to my prior post on that series (including poems by Yolanda.) Yolanda is having a big month for shows, as she is also included in the On the Mark group show at the Martin-Mullen Art Gallery (12 artists from The New York Foundation for the Arts Mark Program 2010, including Ashley Norwood Cooper of Cooperstown) at SUNY-Oneonta, September 6-October 15. In addition, she has a large-scale watercolor in Watercolor Revisited: A New Perspective, curated by Linda Mendelson at the Wayne State Art Gallery.
Monday, September 26, 2011
Thursday, September 22, 2011
If you want to see more of her encaustic work, I wrote a post about her "Urban Fragments" here. Her website has much more to see: www.yolandasharpe.com. The image above is view five from her magically folding and unfolding hexaflexagons... (If you would like to see the feature I wrote about another opening featuring an area artist, go here.)
If you are in Earlville-Cooperstown-Oneonta-etc. region, please go! We need to support our local artists and galleries more than we do at present.
|Photograph courtesy of sxc.hu|
and Keith Syvinski aka LeoSynapse
of Franklin, Indiana.
Goldsmith always insists on primacy of the talk about the so-called book--talk about the object rather than any kind of encounter with the text (and since the text might not be nothing but an out-of-date train schedule, say, that is a profound relief to him and us--whereas I'm always thinking that what writers say about their books is interesting and sometimes very delightful or fascinating but in general doesn't really matter because: a. they might be wrong or misleading or have forgotten what they were doing ten years ago; and b. after art goes into the world it belongs to the world.
Of course when I say that, I am still saying something, and I may be entirely wrong... Afte all, I generally feel that I know what I am talking about when I talk about my work.
However, since it's talk about the book that matters and not the book itself in Goldsmith's case and according to his avant garde lights, I shall deal with his entire oeuvre by talking about it and him without reading it or knowing him (though I should very much like to see him in his paisley suit.) In this way, I shall perform an uncreative act in keeping with his own beliefs.
Since Goldsmith likes to talk around his work, perhaps he will show up here in one of those marvelous paisley or striped or polka dot outfits and answer in some circuitous (or direct--he can be direct) fashion. But since nobody has any authority, feel free--whoever and wherever you are--to answer on his behalf and become Goldsmith. In that way, the meaning of Goldsmith will be altered (if you want to give your name and be some hybrid of Goldsmith-and-another, feel free to do that or link to your identity or else encode your real name in the text) and the project will become interestingly muddled. Oh, I like the idea of encoding your name in the text!
1. Do you believe that every story has been told, and so there is no sense in adding to the world?
2. Is the lyric gush of words from the fount alien to you? Have you ever felt it, or would you manfully (or even womanfully or childishly) suppress such a thing in the interests of the avant garde moment?
3. Goldsmith, some say, is the foremost figure in conceptual writing these days, and I for one am perfectly willing to believe them. A curious thing to me is how your work is considered so new when really it is a deliberate, purposeful recycling of long-familiar ideas, which you appear to claim because written arts are "behind" visual arts--as though art was about progress somehow. Do you think art is about progress? On one hand, the avant garde appears to worship "progress." On the other, the avant garde artists or, as you say, "word processors" seem to believe that there are no new ideas. Duchamp, Warhol, Borges--these are progenitors of the avant garde of 2011?
4. Would you follow Borges's Pierre Menard and steal a novel in that "intellectual" way? Would it have to be in public domain before you had the courage of your convictions? (Are they convictions, or are they just playful? Is conviction utterly irrelevant?) Would your attempt stand up in court if you, say, snitched the latest novel by Danielle Steel or some other empress or emperor of the popular with a lawyer at her or his beck and call?
5. If you knew the world would end (i.e. uncreate) in December, would you still bother with your uncreation? Why or why not?
6. If a student showed up in your "Uncreative Writing" class and insisted on usurping your role as professor and leading the uncreation, would that be all right with you?
7. How about if that student appropriated your signature and then that rectangular text, your paycheck? Would that still be all right--I mean with you, rather than with the eminent University of Pennsylvania? Why or why not?
8. How about if he adopted your Goldsmithian name and tried to go home to your family?
9. I can't find any images of your sculptural work that preceded your verbal uncreations. Why did you stop sculpting--and what was your medium and what were your concerns?
10. Is the avant garde secretly horribly puritanical and adverse to pleasure?
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
The dog Susquehanna is curled up in her hyper-insulated house. That cats are in ouroboros position. Grackles are hopping across the porch, nabbing pebbles of dog food without much fear—hopping back again and toppling down the steps, beaks wide.
A dank Fall has arrived, though I hoped for Indian Summer. Such lovely poems belong to fall: “Autumn is over the long leaves that love us, / And over the mice in the barley sheaves; / Yellow the leaves of the rowan above us, / And yellow the wet wild-strawberry leaves.” “My Sorrow, when she's here with me, / Thinks these dark days of autumn rain / Are beautiful as days can be; / She loves the bare, the withered tree; / She walks the sodden pasture lane.” Going back a little farther brings on this: “Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they? / Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,— / While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day, / And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue; / Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn / Among the river sallows, borne aloft / Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies.” And then there is the marvelous “Margaret, are you grieving / Over Goldengrove unleaving…” and
And here is one of mine from The Throne of Psyche, a poem about the waning of poetic fire and the waning of the year. It was previously published in one of my very favorite online magazins, Mezzo Cammin.
SELF-PORTRAIT AS DRYAD, NO. 2
November, she is
A silvery-gray torment,
Moon snagged in her claws—
A fortune teller’s
Ball, hurled angrily at night.
Snared, held, asked-of glass
Declares: Snarl of twigs,
The deadwood next to your heart,
Cracks foretelling fall—
No worry. Your root
Taps through stone to the fire core,
Your net captures cloud.
The muse, merciless
Boy, will run to you in spring;
He’ll call for poems
Whistle for flower and fruit
Till you’re racked with bloom.
Monday, September 19, 2011
Sunday, September 18, 2011
|Photograph: courtesy of sxc.hu and Jef Bettens of Herk-de-Stad, Limburg, Belgium.|
As Jef Bettens and sxc.hu do not ally themselves with long-dead Duchamp
or with Kenneth Goldsmith, I here acknowledge their rights to this work!
Saturday, September 17, 2011
That's a picture of a tabletop in Cullowhee, North Carolina, with some of my mother's embroidery thread spilled across it and a picture of me in my very early 40's... The other picture is of her brand new 4-harness loom, threaded to make a chenille scarf for my eldest son. From this project she learned that she hates working with chenille! But he has an old chenille scarf that he loves, so chenille it is. When I am 82, I hope to be forging ahead with new creations, as she is.
I've collected a list of people who want to hear about my books from facebook and elsewhere, and if you would like to receive a copy but I haven't gathered up your name yet, please leave a note with your e-address or write me an email. I'm having a little spate of new books, starting with The Throne of Psyche, and need all the help passing news on that I can get! I'll be starting a newsletter some time soon--it'll be via email so easily forwarded. I'm also interested in more blog mentions, reviews, features, so forth, so feel free to write me about any of those things as well.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
|Photograph courtesy of sxc.hu |
and Kym McLeod of Cann River, Victoria, Australia.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
|Photo of a gate, Arboretum, Asheville, NC|
And then I read an article from imprint about how many young writers no longer read or see a reason to do so, along with speculations as to why. I have my own ideas as to that, but I find them all rather depressing.
I was pondering how this is what it means to grow older in the postmodern landscape: to see things change until the world no longer seems your own any longer.
And then, just when I was feeling a bit despairing around the edges, I remembered Eliot saying that someone who dedicates his life to writing “may have wasted his time and messed up his life for nothing.” And that’s quite a downer, no? I rooted about and then read a Paris Review interview where an older Eliot talked about that quote. The interviewer asks a question about it: “Seventeen years ago you said, ‘No honest poet can ever feel quite sure of the permanent value of what he has written. He may have wasted his time and messed up his life for nothing.’ Do you feel the same now, at seventy?” And Eliot replies, ‘There may be honest poets who do feel sure. I don't.”
Well, right off I felt a great relief not to be an old T. S. Eliot or even a young T. S. Eliot and working in a bank and marrying terribly wrong. (Not that I did not make more than my fair share of errors when I was young—I was no doubt less wise that Thomas Stearns.) And then I wondered whether it is because I am not a man or not a much-lauded muckety-muck like Mr. Eliot that I feel so very differently from him.
I feel a lot more like Oliver Wendell Holmes’ chambered nautilus. I suppose Holmes (one of those interesting personages who had many roles in early American life) might even have had a nautilus on a mantlepiece somewhere, and so came to write the poem about it with that once often-recited line, “Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul.” It’s a pretty good metaphor, that nautilus. Years of writing poetry and novels and stories have added little nautilus chambers onto the soul of me, and I would not be what I am without them. Art is a soul-making activity for me and for many other people. My life and my self are larger than they would have been without them, like the life and self of the maker of marvels in Hawthorne’s “The Artist of the Beautiful.”
But the other thing that’s left out of a statement like Eliot’s is the whole business of culture. Eliot was a maker and driver of culture, a giver of gifts to his world. Even if we decided today that he was not so important after all—if poets stopped being influenced by him and everyone stopped reading him—he still would have been a major force in the culture of his time. He helped make his world in a big way. (I say that even though I think Modernism pointed into a blind alley and, in its after-effects, has weakened poetry in particular.)
So in the end I think that, yes, the world is rather messed up and people can be surprisingly loveless even though they are really part of one huge family. But no committed poet “messes up” his life and wastes his time by attempting the beautiful. What messes up and warps lives is the pinning of every hope on being recognized and crowned with laurel leaves. So few receive them, those leaves: like the Artist of the Beautiful, many an artist never finds his audience, and that is a great sadness. And so I say that while I like laurel leaves and am glad to have the encouragement they bring, a life in art should make one’s desires larger, not smaller.
Monday, September 12, 2011
|Photograph: courtesy of Ula Kapala |
of Wroclaw, Poland
|"The Black Flower" originally appeared |
in storySouth and was reprinted
in The Throne of Psyche(Mercer University Press, 2011)
Available via your local bookseller
or Amazon and other online sellers.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
|Photograph courtesy of sxc.hu|
and Thomas Rathbone of Chagrin Falls, Ohio.
Create. Imagine a better world. Live.
One might have thought like Macbeth that "virtues will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against / The deep damnation of [such] taking-off; / And pity, like a naked newborn babe, / Striding the blast, or heaven's cherubim, horsed / Upon the sightless couriers of the air, / Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye, / That tears shall drown the wind." Had I not known already that writers were fallible instruments of wisdom, I would have learned it then, when so many American writers jettisoned the love and compassion demanded by the moment and flew to use those losses as a weapon against their own government. Therefore I make no attempt to climb some mount of wisdom and lay some tenth-year wreath of heartsease flowers but remember other words.
Create. Imagine a better world. Live.
"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing." 1 Corinthians 13: 1-3
Create. Imagine a better world. Live.
If I speak with the tongue of man or angel but without love, if I give up all I have and allow my body to be burned without love: how apt these words seem to that bad time! Not long ago, Makoto Fujimura ended an address on the purposes of art with these words of hope that make good instructions for the living: "By continuing to create and imagine a better world, we live."
Create. Imagine a better world. Live.