posted on 25.12.13 Christmas and Poetry

Virgil. Donne. Dante. Longfellow. Frost. Yeats. Dickinson. O’Hara. Rilke. Shakespeare. Cummings. Wordsworth. Williams. Milton. Rossetti. Rumi. Whitman. Stevens. Thomas. Auden. Eliot. Belloc. Heaney. Brodksy (wrote one every year). Oliver. Ryan. Merton. Szybist. Milosz. Patchen. Ruefle. Gilbert— to name but a small, small fraction of them.

Indeed it is difficult to find a poet who has not, like the wise men, felt compelled to follow a distant star to bring their humble gift to the humble manger, despite being unsure of what they would find there.

There is so much more to say.  But let’s just say for now the meeting of Christmas and Poetry is a match made in heaven.

Behold:

I HAVE LIGHTED THE CANDLES, MARY
        

I have lighted the candles, Mary …
How softly breathes your little Son

My wife has spread the table
With with our best cloth. There are apples,
Bright as red clocks, upon the mantel.
The snow is a weary face at the window.
How sweetly does He sleep


“Into this bitter world, O Terrible Huntsman!”
I say, and she takes my hand — “Hush,
You will wake Him.”

The taste of tears is on her mouth
When I kiss her.  I take an apple
And hold it tightly in my fist;
The cold, swollen face of war leans in the window.

They are blowing out the candles, Mary …
The world is a thing gone mad tonight.
O hold Him tenderly, dear Mother,

For His is a kingdom in the hearts of men.

   —Kenneth Patchen

posted on 05.12.13
“If we could but find a rhythm of being which could balance a contemplative grace, a poetry of motion and an accompanying stillness and silence, our pilgrimage through this world would flow in beauty through the most ragged and forsaken heartlands of confusion and dishevelment.”

— John O’Donohue

posted on 18.11.13

Natalie Merchant - Weeping Pilgrim

posted on 22.07.13
“Our need for beauty is not something that we could lack and still be fulfilled as people. It is a need arising from our metaphysical condition, as free individuals, seeking our place in a shared and public world. We can wander through this world, alienated, resentful, full of suspicion and distrust. Or we can find our home here, coming to rest in harmony with others and with ourselves. The experience of beauty guides us along this second path: it tells us that we are at home in the world, that the world is already ordered in our perceptions as a place fit for the lives of beings like us. But—and this is again one of the messages of the early modernists—-beings like us become at home in the world only by acknowledging our ‘fallen’ condition, as Eliot acknowledged it in The Waste Land. Hence the experience of beauty also points us beyond this world, to a ‘kingdom of ends’ in which our immortal longings and our desire for perfection are finally answered. As Plato and Kant both saw, therefore, the feeling for beauty is proximate to the religious frame of mind, arising from a humble sense of living with imperfections, while aspiring towards the highest unity with the transcendental.”

— Roger Scruton, Beauty

-John Muir posted on 22.07.13

-John Muir

posted on 29.05.13 Thimbles and the First Unfairness

In the nursery:

"To induce her to look up he pretended to be going 
away, and when this failed he sat on the end of the bed 
and tapped her gently with his foot. ‘Wendy,’ he said, “don’t withdraw. I can’t help crowing, Wendy, when I’m pleased with myself.’ Still she would not look up, though she was listening eagerly. ‘Wendy,’ he continued in a voice that no woman has ever yet been able to resist, ‘Wendy, one girl is more use than twenty boys.’
     Now Wendy was every inch a woman, though there were not very many inches, and she peeped out of the bedclothes.
     ’Do you really think so, Peter?’
     ’Yes, I do.’
     ’I think it’s perfectly sweet of you,’ she declared, ‘and
I’ll get up again’; and she sat with him on the side of the
bed. She also said she would give him a kiss if he liked,
but Peter did not know what she meant, and he held out
his hand expectantly.
     ’Surely you know what a kiss is?’ she asked, aghast.
'I shall know when you give it to me,' he replied stiffly;
and not to hurt his feelings she gave him a thimble.
     ’Now,’ said he, ‘shall I give you a kiss?’ and she replied
with a slight primness, ‘If you please.’ She made herself
rather cheap by inclining her face towards him, but he
merely dropped an acorn button into her hand; so she
slowly returned her face to where it had been before, and
said nicely that she would wear his kiss on the chain round
her neck. It was lucky that she did put it on that chain,
for it was afterwards to save her life.”

and, in a skirmish with Hook:

     ”Some of the greatest heroes have confessed that just
before they fell to they had a sinking. Had it been so with
Peter at that moment I would admit it. After all, this was
the only man that the Sea-Cook had feared. But Peter had
no sinking, he had one feeling only, gladness; and he
gnashed his pretty teeth with joy. Quick as thought he
snatched a knife from Hook’s belt and was about to drive
it home, when he saw that he was higher up the rock than
his foe. It would not have been fighting fair. He gave the
pirate a hand to help him up.
     It was then that Hook bit him.
     Not the pain of this but its unfairness was what dazed
Peter. It made him quite helpless. He could only stare,
horrified. Every child is affected thus the first time he is
treated unfairly. All he thinks he has a right to when he
comes to you to be yours is fairness. After you have been
unfair to him he will love you again, but he will never
afterwards be quite the same boy. No one ever gets over
the first unfairness; no one except Peter. He often met it,
but he always forgot it. I suppose that was the real differ-
ence between him and all the rest.

 

- J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan, 1911

posted on 07.04.13 III Spring

The dogwood
lights up the day

The April moon
flakes the night

Birds, suddenly,
are a multitude

The flowers are ravined
by bees, the fruit blossoms

are thrown to the ground, the wind
the rain forces everything. Noise—

even the night is drummed
by whippoorwills, and we get

as busy, we plow, we move,
we break out, we love. The secret

which got lost neither hides
nor reveals itself, it shows forth

tokens. And we rush
to catch up. The body

whips the soul. In its great desire
it demands the elixir

In the roar of spring,
transmutations…

       -Charles Olson

 

Dream Vision (Apocalyptic Dream): Albrecht Dürer, 1525. Watercolour on paper, 30 x 43 cm. Text written by the artist beneath the watercolour: 


“In 1525, during the night between Wednesday and Thursday after Whitsuntide, I had this vision in my sleep, and saw how many great waters fell from heaven. The first struck the ground about four miles away from me with such a terrible force, enormous noise and splashing that it drowned the entire countryside. I was so greatly shocked at this that I awoke before the cloudburst. And the ensuing downpour was huge. Some of the waters fell some distance away and some close by. And they came from such a height that they seemed to fall at an equally slow pace. But the very first water that hit the ground so suddenly had fallen at such velocity, and was accompanied by wind and roaring so frightening, that when I awoke my whole body trembled and I could not recover for a long time. When I arose in the morning, I painted the above as I had seen it. May the Lord turn all things to the best.” (Kunsthistoriches Museum, Vienna)


All this via Tom Clark, who provides commentary on Dürer’s dream by Marguerite Yourcenar. David Dark on Twitter pointed me to this.(via ayjay) posted on 07.04.13

Dream Vision (Apocalyptic Dream): Albrecht Dürer, 1525. Watercolour on paper, 30 x 43 cm. Text written by the artist beneath the watercolour:

“In 1525, during the night between Wednesday and Thursday after Whitsuntide, I had this vision in my sleep, and saw how many great waters fell from heaven. The first struck the ground about four miles away from me with such a terrible force, enormous noise and splashing that it drowned the entire countryside. I was so greatly shocked at this that I awoke before the cloudburst. And the ensuing downpour was huge. Some of the waters fell some distance away and some close by. And they came from such a height that they seemed to fall at an equally slow pace. But the very first water that hit the ground so suddenly had fallen at such velocity, and was accompanied by wind and roaring so frightening, that when I awoke my whole body trembled and I could not recover for a long time. When I arose in the morning, I painted the above as I had seen it. May the Lord turn all things to the best.” (Kunsthistoriches Museum, Vienna)

All this via Tom Clark, who provides commentary on Dürer’s dream by Marguerite Yourcenar. David Dark on Twitter pointed me to this.(via ayjay)

posted on 29.03.13

Lovely, really. This video says speaks volumes about what TED talks have become. 

But let’s focus in a little with this:

 Ultimately, the TED phenomenon only makes sense when you realise that it’s all about the audience. TED Talks are designed to make people feel good about themselves; to flatter them and make them feel clever and knowledgeable; to give them the impression that they’re part of an elite group making the world a better place. People join for much the same reason they join societies like Mensa: it gives them a chance to label themselves part of an intellectual elite. That intelligence is optional, and you need to be rich and well-connected to get into the conferences and the exclusive fringe parties and events that accompany them, simply adds to the irresistible allure. TED’s slogan shouldn’t be ‘Ideas worth spreading’, it should be: ‘Ego worth paying for’. 
-Martin Robbins

and this:

After his acceptance speech TED curator Chris Anderson turned the auditoriums in Long Beach and La Quinta into a synergistic Baptist revival-style celebration of support. Pledge cards were distributed immediately to everyone in the rooms at both locations — they bear more than a passing resemblance to the envelopes and plates passed around right after the sermons in my old Presbyterian church. Audience members from large and small companies got up to pledge monetary and administrative support, and the mood was electric. Chris Anderson was the fiery yet graceful pastor, his fervor directed not at Jesus but at Mitra’s minimalistic school. This was the new type of religion I’ve often envisioned: the exuberant dedication of emotional and physical resources to a proven force of good, not to an irrational faith-based deity. This was a church without a god. Well maybe Bono is its god but that is a story for a different day.
-Trent Wolbe

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