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Month: July, 2016

up my idiosyncrasies – Plato‏

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      “The School Of Athens (1510-1511)
 
                   Raphael
 
                       _____
 
 
he sounds just like you, my friend said,
who’d bought me the works of Plato
for C***mas maybe, or my birthday, or 
maybe just because he knew I’d very
much appreciate them
 
we were reading him together, as is 
always my inclination, his Meno 
according to my calculations, 
Socrates was doing most of the 
talking, with Meno, a Sophist 
acolyte, a school of philosophy then, 
the Sophists, which claimed it could 
prove anything by using the right 
arguments 
 
lawyers, of course, ensued, politicians
 
and rhetoric, the art of proving anything 
by using the right arguments 
 
philosophy had reached a structural,
indeed an existential, impasse, why, 
they therefore wondered, philosophy
 
wherein it entered a phase of moral 
speculation, StoicismEpicureanism,
ScepticismCynicism, and can you 
blame them, theories about the 
stars, the moon, the world, even 
matter itself, had become so 
questionable, was it fire, air, water, 
atoms, at its source, who knew
 
 
I thought so too, I said, and told 
him that Plato’s were the first   
texts studied in philosophy when 
entered university, that’s where I 
learned to talk like that, philosophy 
from the scratch, as my German 
teacher would’ve said, which is to 
say, from its very beginnings, 
whence I could view, I figured, the 
evolution of received wisdom in 
Western culture
 
I was young then, the young have 
such dreams 
 
 
my father had been agnostic, ever
asking questions, though we were 
being raised Catholic, my sister 
and I, on account of our mother 
tongue, our entire community, 
having been historically linked 
with that religion, and cause my 
parents wanted us to be educated 
in French
 
an existentialist crisis would
eventually follow, I intuited, as
indeed it did, so I majored in 
philosophy
 
 
Socrates taught me to ask 
questions, that no one had  
all the answers
 
Plato, usurping his master’s voice, 
created the paradigm for our present 
version of a Divinity, and Its Paradise
 
there is an ideal version of any 
item we might consider, he spouted,
an ideal table, for instance, exists
of which every material table is an
imperfect example
 
to virtue, love, beauty, truth, he 
applied the same principle, which
early erudite Catholics, Augustine
Thomas Aquinas, for instance, and
others, despite rejecting all of the 
other Greek cultural achievements
appropriated in order to bolster their 
impression of God, the ideal of the 
Ideal
 
this lasted uncontested for just
over a thousand years
 
for a thousand years our salvation
had been extraterrestrial, 
supranatural, this, our very, 
perhaps only, existence, an 
imperfect reflection of somewhere
else an ideal, a mere simulacrum,  
we were, a metaphor
 
Socrates had only asked questions,
what is virtue, what is justice, what
is beauty, truth
 
Plato presumed to have known the 
answers
 
 
Aristotle is making a comeback,
whose method, in opposition to 
his contemporaneous forebear,  
was much more like Charles 
Darwin‘s, working from the facts, 
which proved then, and are 
proving still now, to be multifarious, 
diverse, astonishing, and nearly 
enough to make you believe in 
God/dess again, this time, however, 
through the back door 
 
or in a multiplicity, a panoply, a 
very pavilion, even, of natural 
deities, otherwise known as 
angels, for better or for worse
 
God/dess bless, or angels
 
 
Richard
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up my idiosyncrasies – Albertine‏

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            Wing Seller (2006)

               Stefan Caltia

 

                        _______ 

 
what are you doing, a friend of mine
asked when he called 
 
I’m reading my Proust, I answered,
comfy enough with my textafter 
years waking up side by side, to 
use the possessive adjective 
 
what’s going on, he inquired
 
Albertine is lying on his bed, 
recounted, asleep, she’s been there 
for the past ten pages, and she’s 
just now turned onto her stomach
 
 
there is not so much story as 
paintings, in Proustdetailed 
descriptions applied like strokes of 
colour to a canvas, that of recovered 
time, colours that are specific to a 
place and a period, like photographs 
showing in their very fabric their 
ancestry, their lineage
 
but in the elucidation of what he 
sees, or, more accurately, of what
he remembers, Proust delivers 
a work of the very highest art, a 
mixture of poetry and philosophy,
Beethoven did as much, see his
 
 
Proust’s French is essentially 
immaculate, his tone, however 
intimate, always erudite, aristocratic, 
perspicacious, wise, penetrating,
embracing, which is to say, French,
though German can be also
incidentally, pretty cerebral, English 
is narrative, just the facts, please, 
though often, I think, hilarious
 
 
Albertine had been one of the “young
girls in bloom” he’d met at Balbec, a 
seaside resort, with whom he’d 
undertaken an illicit affair, but 
whose faithfulness he doubted
 
as she lay on his bed at his Paris
apartmenthe replays all the 
speculations his imagination could 
provide, an endless set of variations
on his anguish, which is to say, his
jealousy, worthy of a very Othello
 
for ten pages he paints a picture of 
infidelities completely of his making,
which, of course, becomes the world 
he will respond to
 
it is all in our little heads, I surmise, 
however informed, intelligent, that 
we create our little realities, they 
have never been nearly enough, 
though, indeed, our lives depend 
on themhowever dutifully
considered, however unconsciously,
and ever convincingly, contrived   
 
make them, I submit, good ones
  
I imagine myself a poet, for instance,
how’s that for a shot in the improbable 
dark
 
 
Richard

up my idiosyncrasies – Marcel Proust‏

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    “Holy Man (1989)
 
       Eric Fischl
 
          ______
 
 
Marcel Proust is not an easy read, 
of literature it is surely its Everest,
not an easy climb, but from its peak
the world takes on an entirely other
order
 
an English-speaking friend has 
suggested he might try to read it 
again, but not in French this time,
I countered that that way he’d miss
the many crevices and crags, the
slippery slopes and lethal ledges, 
that give shape to the mountain, 
which the French grammar would
apply in all its intricate 
manifestations
 
part of the pleasure in reading 
Proust is the poetry, where style 
and substance coexist to create 
magic, and inspiration  
 
the sentences are long, they wind 
on for often pages, you need to be 
able to tell the subject from the verb
despite sometimes extended
intervening distances
 
but the grammar is sound throughout, 
except for in a couple of isolated
instances, grammar that would test
even a Frenchman
 
indeed Proust is where, I profess, I 
truly learned to speak French
 
there’s another mountain
 
 
the conceit is that someone rings 
the bell at their Combray cottage,
and after 3300 pages someone 
rings at the same door again
 
in between the years have passed,
they are the fruit of Proust’s 
“recherche”, search, investigation,
quest, a term that can’t be fully 
expressed as such in English, 
which doesn’t express the 
confluence of cold science and 
candle-lit spirituality expressed 
in the French word
 
in dissecting the very entrails of a 
flower, a tea cup, a crumpet, an eye, 
a brow, a lip, a gesture, a frown, a 
smile, a gait, Proust describes his 
own world, concocts it, minutely, 
meticulously, until you realize this 
can be only his perception, that 
therefore all of our interpretations 
are but our individual perceptions, 
our myriad unique worlds
 
from which one can begin to 
shape one’s own
 
later with Wittgenstein, the 
philosopher, this became known 
as phenomenology, the idea that 
we are confined for knowledge to 
our private views of the world,
wherein language plays, manifestly, 
a crucial part
 
in the beginning, if you’ll remember, 
was the word
 
curiously, in French, it is the verb, in
the beginning, implicitly suggesting 
a word of action 
 
 
Proust had been prescient as Freud
uncovering an inner world we’d always 
believed was outside us
 
at the top of his priorities Proust
chose art, personal expression,
it’s all that we can return to the 
world
 
and what else could be our purpose
 
 
Richard
 
psst: bonne lecture, Kurt

“Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini” – Rachmaninov‏

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                                      Konstantin Somov
 
                                              _________
 
 
no one plays Rachmaninov better than
Rachmaninov, of which we’ve got aural
representations though no visual live
performances
 
but here’s a Rhapsody on a Theme of 
Paganini to knock your socks off, in 
all its kinetic, electrifying energy
 
you might remember Daniil Trifonov
from my coverage of the XVth 
who has gone on to achieve a 
stunning international reputation, 
entirely, I submit, deservedly
 
watch him set the piece on fire, at 
pace I find faster than most, with 
nevertheless all the requisite 
dexterity, indeed prestidigitation,  
necessary to weave the intricacies 
of Rachmaninovian sound into 
apposite magic, that magic 
Rachmaninov would surely ‘ve 
looked for
 
check them both out
 
 
Richard

up my idiosyncrasies – a bio

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      “Marcel Proust” 
 
       Richard Lindner
 
          ___________
 
 
for a bio with which I’ve been asked 
to provide an online poetry magazine 
I’ve been encouraged to apply to, I’m 
submitting the following text
 
I thought you might enjoy it
 
 
Richard
 
           ______________
 
 
my name is Richard Bisson, from
which you’ll intuit my French 
Canadian background, though I 
write mostly in English, with no 
trouble however in French, my 
mother tongue is le français  
 
I am thus imbued, undoubtedly,
with that sensibility, my peers 
have been HugoFlaubert, and
most of all Marcel Proust, whom 
I imbibed for 33 years, in French,
page by page, reading each out 
loud as though it were my own, I 
cannot but be replicating now his 
rhythms, his aesthetic, his view 
of the world
 
it didn’t take me as long to read 
Homer, in the thunderous Robert  
Fitzgerald translation, – a mighty
roar resounding still from the 
ninth century before the Christian 
Era – from him I learned to speak 
from the heart, it’s not one’s style  
one has to master, but one’s 
humanity
 
Robert Browning gave me the 
dramatic monologue as a poetic
device, a gift he’d received from
 
Shakespeare himself, of course,
the unbridled freedom of his own 
literary imagination
 
Carl Sandburg‘s Chicago taught 
me to talk about every wo/man, 
about things even my own folks 
were doing
 
Collapsed showed me that even 
apparently inconsequential acts
can be poetry, poetry in the 
apparently humdrum 
 
Mary Oliver is a strong present 
influence
 
the cadence is entirely Beethoven,
with some help, I must admit, from 
the atonalists, SchoenbergBerg,
and Weberncommas are my bar 
lines
 
 
I call what I do prosetry, a word so 
new my computer won’t even let 
me write it, I’m a prosetrist, this 
word either
 
I want to link everyday experience 
with poetry, make poetry in the eye 
of the beholder, where truth and 
beauty lie
 
if people can see what I see, they 
can see that way themselves, it’s 
something one learns, and it’s all 
in the way one entrenches words 
and ideas
 
I eliminated the word “if” from my 
vocabulary once, for being then
too speculative, it changed my life, 
I’ve replaced it since with the word 
“miracle”, that has also changed 
my life
 
I am 67 years old
 
I live in Vancouver, Canada
 
I consider myself to be, at this 
point in my life, bibliosexual, I
sleep with my books, and we’re
all still getting along just fine 
 
may you be so blessed
 
 
Richard
 
psst: also Anaïs Nin, for the 
          intimacy of her diaries
 
          o, and Woody Allen, for
          giving up before his  
          nihilism and just 
          laughing

on buying designer honey

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                Piero di Cosimo
 
                   ___________
 
 
it’s not every day that someone changes 
your outlook on, well, everything
 
I was at the supermarket, needed honey
for my recipe for carrot soup, with Brie
also, and nuts, an intriguing combination,
I’d thought
 
but I couldn’t place the honey in the 
umpteenth reorganization of the food
store
 
where’s the honey, I asked the clerk, 
who serendipitously was standing 
in front of me, this aisle or the one  
over, I added, not expecting anything 
more than cursory directions, and 
giving him thereby a feel for my 
attendant capabilities
 
but he took me, impressively, 
thought, the one aisle over to the 
honey spot, ahem
 
 
there was a modest selection there,
plastic honey bears, the white honey
you need to crank out of the jar, other 
honeys in less appealing packages,
several of the wild berry and grain
varieties
 
but I wanted the honey that melts in 
your mouth, instinctively, the one 
infused with clove, cardamom and 
cinnamon, the one that clings to 
your tongue lasciviously, leaving, 
with every lick of your lips, very bliss, 
though not, notably, at an especially 
conducive price
 
why not, you only live once, I’d 
devised already, despite the cost,
to validate my more cavalier 
expenses 
 
someone else was ogling, however,  
my honey, reaching for the larger of 
the two options, there was some
space, I reached up, into a kind of 
shopper’s no man’s land, how do  
you impinge on someone’s pending 
decision when you already know 
what you want, and not create 
confusion, if not distress
 
and he was bigger than me
 
looks good enough not to resist,
I said, you only live once, why not, 
rejoindered, falling back on my 
default position, my broken record, 
which sent nevertheless a strong 
existential message, I think
 
how can we know, he congenially 
replied, catching me up on my 
unexamined assertion, how do 
we know for sure we don’t have 
another, others
 
imagine that, I marvelled, I’ve never 
heard anyone else ever say that,
everyone ‘s always ceded, it’s 
something to profoundly, and 
inevitably have to, ponder
 
but not enough right now to not  
buy the honey, I added, however 
unphilosophically, though I’d think 
about it further for consequences, 
it could change everything, 
declared, my life, this life
 
and we waved each other goodbye 
from our present incarnations
 
 
Richard