Saturday, April 4, 2020

Small Joys

Bal du moulin de la Galette, by Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

Do you remember where you were when you first heard the word quarantine? For me it was October 22, 1962 when President Kennedy spoke about preventing the Soviet Union from placing nuclear weapons in Cuba. The weaponry came in by ship, and Kennedy decided that a “quarantine” of the island nation was the best course of action. 

The administration called it a quarantine, because the term "blockade" would symbolize war.

Today there is what Fady Joudah calls “the quarantine on small joys.”

And because I thrive on small joys, I’m a bit off balance. Small joys are a major part of my minimalist livelihood.

Here are some small joys sans quarantine, from Lawrence Durrell:

A bureaucrat: “the endearing solemnity of a talking watermelon just down from Cambridge.”

Another official: “his starched cuffs rattled crisply.”

A group of people: “the disconsolate air of a family of moulting turkeys.”

Pigeons suddenly taking flight: “with the sharp wingflap of a thousand closing books.”

From an airplane: “The slow loops and tangents of the brown river lay directly below, with small craft drifting about upon it like seeds.”

Wearing a bulky, heavy uniform: “It was like being dressed in a boxing glove.”

Late afternoon: “the violet light of dusk was already in the air…gnats rose into the eye of the dying sun in silver streams, so store the last memories of the warmth upon their wings.”

Shop talk: “You thought you would somehow sneak by the penalties without being called upon to do more than demonstrate your skill with words. But words…they are only an Aeolian harp, or a cheap xylophone. Even a sea lion can learn to balance a football on its nose or to play the slide trombone in a circus.”

And from the world of music: Alondra de la Parra 

And from the world of art: Deborah Roberts 

Please visit my website at and my page at Write Up The Road.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

The Symphonies of Johannes Brahms

Links to videos of the four symphonies by Johannes Brahms, here played by the Frankfurt Radio Symphony. These beautiful orchestral works are good for the soul.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Mai Veri Spacial Day of Science

I studied with Dr. Science, Dr. George, Mr. Wizard, and Bill Nye.

A collection of 31 new poems by Randy Stark

(Cover by Neil D. Novello)

Mai Veri Spacial Day of Science

I lernd of a thing I never new.
Grubs crawl on their back
Because there legs are not strong
So there hair on there back move.
Today was one of mai favrit days ever.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Expecting rain by midweek

It had been an enchanted final week of February; Mardi Gras, and the following Saturday Leap Year Day. I had a good time writing and reading and listening to music. Now, while I wait in line for my ration of toilet paper I have these comments: 

“…art is not frivolous, an indulgence or luxury, an embellishment of what is most central: it is the most vital and direct form of impact on and through the body, the generation of vibratory waves, rhythms, that traverse the body and make of the body a link with forces it cannot otherwise perceive and act upon. This explains art's cultural or human universality and ubiquity: it is culture's most direct mode of enhancement or intensification of bodies, culture's mode for the elaboration of sensations, and thus culture's most intense debt to the chaotic forces it characterizes as nature. While there is no universal art, no art form, no music or painting, that appeals everywhere in the same way, it is also true that there is no culture without its own arts, without its own forms of bodily enhancement and intensification.”  (from Chaos, Territory, Art by Elizabeth Grosz.)

Recent reading:

Transit, by Anna Seghers.  People trying to get the hell out of France in the 1930’s, ahead of the German occupation, hindered by bureaucracy and logistics. A sad and frightening story about the dehumanizing outcomes for refugees; Kafkaesque, Orwellian, with parallels to today but very much its own tale of the banality of horror. And the timeless struggle of being a refugee. The writing at times is surrealistic, at times gothic, always attention grabbing.

Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Katherine Anne Porter. Three short novels. Some thematic similarities to Transit, especially the sense of being out of step with the norm, and the concomitant feelings of fear, frustration and helplessness. A fictional account of “The chaotic indeterminacy of the real” is a description from Elizabeth Grosz (above). Terrific writing. Thanks to Susan Harlan Slater for going to Bard Street Books and buying this copy for me.

And I came across the poet, Dorothy Chan

Because of the buzz about the current movie, “The Call of the Wild,” I decided to first read the book by Jack London before I went to the theater. It’s a classic most American students encounter during their school years. Somehow I missed it. Reading it now at my advanced age I do not understand it's honored place on the bookshelf. I found it to be well-written but ridiculous--a dog thinking just like a human--and I wouldn’t be surprised if the movie has the cartoon animals talking. I'll pass. No wonder the line for toilet paper is lengthening.

One of these days real soon I’ll stop quoting Robert Louis Stevenson, but until then, here’s something to combat political correctness and snowflake syndrome: “A human truth, which is always very much a lie, hides as much of life as it displays. It is men who hold another truth, or, as it seems to us, perhaps, a dangerous lie, who can extend our restricted field of knowledge, and rouse our drowsy consciences.”

And classical music I’ve particularly enjoyed recently: Insomnia by Esa-Pekka Salonen; Concerto for Bandoneon by Astor Piazzolla, and Tabula Rasa by Arvo Part. Composers from Finland, Argentina, and Estonia.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Rub Out Erasure

Erasure (or blackout) poetry as a style bores me. Erasure poetry consists of taking a text and selectively erasing words; instead of writing a new text, what’s left of the original becomes the poem. (The image accompanying this post gives an example of erasure. More on the image later.) 

Advocates and practitioners say erasure is not, but it is: censorship, under a guise such as appropriation.

Others justify erasure for being used politically, but the authorities justify erasure, too; they call it redaction. Blacking out parts of the Mueller report and calling it art? I think not, Cisco. 

BigPo praises some poet for “creating striking ‘erasure poems’ out of the apologies of Louis C.K., Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and others and posting them on her Instagram.” Striking? Actually, valorizing and glamorizing redaction is more like it, while claiming to be a voice for the voiceless or some crap like that (all on “her” Instagram!). 

Search for erasure poems on poets dot org. Consider the image used for this post is a snap of a magazine advert from 1998, erasure promoting a major capitalist corporation.

I'm not a fan of erasure.