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Category: parsing art

“Is Art Truth?”

paradise-jpglarge

  “Paradise” 

        Hieronymus Bosch

                   __________

Is Art Truth?“, a friend asks after speaking of 
its benefits, “Art accepts and tells the truth-Is
that it ?“, she inquires, wonders

art, like truth itself and beauty, is in the eye 
of the beholder, I submit, and therefore my 
definition is, once again, entirely personal, 
though I’ve rigorously plumbed it

it requires background

art died for a thousand years, it was 
essentially unrecorded, dormant from 
the fall of Rome to the Renaissance, nor 
promoted but for Catholic purposes, 
hence the majestic cathedrals and the 
magisterial altarpieces, works produced 
by, however, communities until eventually 
certain artisans were recognized as more 
inspired than others, and given autonomy

enter Duccio, for instance

in time these new, necessarily idiosyncratic
perspectives – see Hieronymus BoschDante
Alighieri – dominated, veering in their search 
for truth in their art and beauty – selling points,
incidentally – towards less strictly orthodox 
utterances

see above

art, and its contemporary science, were 
chipping away at ecclesiastical dogma

till God died, and artists continued their 
prescient march forward, shaping our 
zeitgeist, our spirit of the times, with 
their pronouncements for lack of any 
other guides

but the voices grew personal, see Mozart
often profound and prophetic, see 
Beethoven, till the confluence of disparate 
realities gave us secularism, each soul for 
itself as a tenet, a credo, a belief, a truth

what did they have in common

I believe it was their quest for beauty 
through truth, their quest for truth 
through beauty, with a nod here to 
the salient Keats 

art is prayer, a search for, as well as a 
manifestation of, one’s personal 
identification with the sacred

it is not truth, it is not beauty, it is the 
fervent intention itself, linked with a 
correspondent workmanship, craft, 
which inspires 

see for instance van Gogh for this, who, 
remember, nevertheless shot himself, 
artists are mortal, merely, messengers, 
ever, therefore, fallible, unsure, fearful 
even, often, of their, perhaps 
Promethean, fire

for consolation, or even maybe 
transcendence, see again,
pertinently here, Beethoven  

listen

Richard

psst: thanks, Joan

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Rutebeuf’s Lament – Rutebeuf/Ferré

friends-since-childhood-2004-jpglarge

                      Friends Since Childhood” (2004) 

                                  George Stefanescu

                                         __________

having disparaged the only translation
I could find on the Internet of a poem
that is in French as famous as in 
English Elizabeth Barrett Browning‘s
How do I love thee? Let me count the 
ways.“, her 43rd “Sonnet[ ] from the
Portuguese”, I decided to translate 
myself the excerpt from “La Complainte
Rutebeuf“, of Rutebeuf himself, 1245 – 
1285, which became its indelible, and 
apparently timeless, virtual
manifestation

Rutebeuf’s entire poem is written in 
Old French, and excerpts of it were 
adapted into an updated French in 
1956 by Léo Ferré, a French
troubadour of the time, who then 
made it into a song that everyone
French remembers, despite, or 
maybe because of, its archaisms

though Ferré familiarized the French
for his listeners, it was still in an older
French, like rendering Chaucer‘s 
14th-Century English into Shakespeare‘s 
17th-Century counterpart tongue, “But 
look, the morn, in russet mantle clad, / 
Walks o’er the dew of yon high eastern 
hill”, “Hamlet”, act l, scene l, lines 166 
and 167, for instance

in my translation below, I eschew –
Gesundheit – such a daunting
challenge, but have chosen rather
to highlight the humanity that I find
especially compelling in the original
composition

Rutebeuf today would sound 
something of a cross between Harry
Nilsson and Bob Dylan, I think, of my
generationthe one for his 
straightforward simplicity, his crushing 
intimacy, the other for his social 
consciousness and probable greater, 
therefore, longevity

but will even Bob Dylan endure 800 
years

some will, some have, some do 

but who

we will never know

Richard 

           ______________

Rutebeuf’s Lament

What has become of my friends
that I had held to be so close 
and loved so dearly,
they were too carelessly tended
I think the wind has blown them away,
friendship has been forsaken.
And as the wind passed by my door,
took all of them away.

As time strips the trees of their leaves,
when not a leaf on a branch remains 
that will not hasten to the ground,
and poverty befalling me, 
from every corner appalling me,
as winter edges on.
These do not lend themselves well to my telling
of how I courted disgrace,
nor of the manner. 

What has become of my friends
that I had held to be so close 
and loved so dearly,
they were too carelessly tended
I think the wind has blown them away,
friendship has been forsaken.
And as the wind passed by my door,
took all of them away.
Sorrows do not show up on their own,
everything that was ever to happen  
has happened.

Not much of common sense, a poor memory
has God granted me, that God of Glory,
not much in sustenance either,
and it’s straight up my butt when the North wind blows, 
sweeping right through me, 
friendship has been forsaken.
And as the wind passed by my door,
took all of them away.

                                 Rutebeuf

listen

Richard

what is poetry

the-poetess

     “The Poetess (1940)

           Joan Miró

                 _____

when Aristotle proceeds to declare the 
parameters of “Poetry” for the ages“, his
definitions of the various poetic 
manner[s] or mode[s] of imitation” 
have already been established, his 
categorizations are not unlike Darwin’s 
categorizations of the species during
a much later age, Aristotle was a natural 
scientist much more than he was our 
notion of an abstract philosopher, he 
traded in facts rather than in the 
esoteric musings that Platofor 
instance, pursued, Virtue, Justice, 
the Good, his conclusions were more 
verifiable

Kant, incidentally, is also famous for 
following a similar form of investigation
as he attempted, nearly, for most, 
inscrutably, to categorize the elements 
of our faculty of understanding

a side story

Kant had stated that at birth we already 
have within our perceptual framework 
implicit understanding of space and 
time, these are not learned through 
experience but are already 
incorporated within us, he said

many years ago, coming out of a 
week-long coma, not knowing where
I was but alone, at that point even
just my consciousness, cause my 
body, were it there, would’ve been 
under the immaculate white sheets 
I could see that would’ve been 
shielding my legs

I looked around, could gather motes 
upon rays of light that were entering 
from what appeared to be a window 
on the right, behind sheer white 
curtains stirred by a soft breeze,  
whirling the shimmering particles 
alive in the light before me like 
miniature spinning galaxies moving 
at the pace of their own infinity

there was no sound

white walls around me stood utterly
still in the purview of my perception,
a door, also white, stood opposite 
me on the opposite wall

where am I, I wondered, could this 
be heaven, an afterlife, I might’ve 
died, I thought, marvelling, no fear, 
regret, nothing other than curiosity, 
absorption, fascination

I tried to answer my question, where 
am I, two dimensions, I figured
after having watched Terence Stamp 
exiled by Marlon Brando to a flat 
intergalactic window pane in 
Superman“, I hadn’t excluded this 
eventualityhowever ingloriously 
transcendental, as a possible 
outcome, I might be in a world with 
only two dimensions, height and 
width, no depth yet without more 
investigation, experience 

ergo, Kant, I concluded, was wrong, 
our knowledge of space is not inborn 
but a product of time and thought like 
everything else 

later, the white door on the far wall
opened, and a nurse walked in, also, 
incidentally, in incandescent white,  
and understood I was alive

Aristotle suggested that our original 
double instincts towards poetry were 
our propensity to imitate, children 
imitating their parents’ even 
idiosyncratic mannerisms, for
instance

and rhythm, repetition, preludes to 
order, coherence

those two

poetry, I read, is expression
reflecting the heartbeat, essentially,
in all its myriad representations

Richard  

Aristotle on poetry

aristotle-jpglarge

      Aristotle” (1653)

        Luca Giordano

          ___________

so what’s a poem

in an attempt to get a clearer picture 
of what a poem should be, rather 
than trust only my own, however 
informed perhaps, opinion – though 
it must be added that we all bring 
something to that word’s definition, 
mine no less worthy than yours, 
yours no less worthy than mine – 
thought I’d go back to authoritative 
sources to see what they might 
have said

and it doesn’t get any earlier and 
authoritative than Aristotlewriting 
in 350 B.C.E., at the height of 
Ancient Greek preeminence, 
dissecting the term in his 
penetrating and perspicacious, 
ahem, Poetics” 

I propose to treat of Poetry in itself and of its various kinds,
noting the essential quality of each, to inquire into the
structure of the plot as requisite to a good poem; into the
number and nature of the parts of which a poem is
composed; and similarly into whatever else falls within
the same inquiry.“, he says in Part 1 of his 
magisterial treatise

and proceeds to declare the parameters 
of “Poetry” for the ages  

Poetry in general seems to have sprung from two causes“, 
he proceeds, imitation and rhythm 

by imitation I think it best to think of 
representation, which is another way, 
anyway, of saying imitation, but 
much more evocative in this instance,
more attuned to our sense of his word 

a poem is a representation then, a 
reproduction of something other than 
itself 

while its rhythm is what George
Gershwin‘s got, and by extension, as  
you can see from this videoGene Kelly

and yes, that means that “Epic poetry and Tragedy, Comedy also
and Dithyrambic poetry, and the music of the flute and of the lyre in
most of their forms, are all in their general conception modes of
imitation.” 

so, according to Aristotle, is dance 

all, therefore, poems

an interesting elaboration about “Tragedy” 
states that it should have the three unities 
that I grew up with during my French 
Canadian upbringing, the unity of time, of
space, and of action the famous French 
Classical dramatists, Racine and Corneille,
applied under the aegis of Louis XlV

not to mention Tragedy’s use of iambic 
pentameter, Shakespeare’s ubiquitous 
beat, a beat that persevered into the very 
Nineteenth Century, in France with 
Rostand‘s Cyrano de Bergerac“, for 
instance, and into the Twentieth Century 
with Eliot‘s Murder in the Cathedral“, 
about the assassination of Archbishop
Thomas Becket at Canterbury in 1170 
under Henry the Second‘s own aegis,
all written as poetry 

the most famous play to follow the 
three unities in the modern era is 
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?“,
the play which I think defines the 
Twentieth Century, which takes 
place overnight somewhere in 
New England college town, mid-
century, at George and Martha’s 

though followed closely by O’Neill‘s 
Long Day’s Journey int Night“, 
which transpires from morning, one 
day in August, 1912, till midnight, at 
the home ofunity of space, note, 
the dysfunctional Tyrones

so it appears not much has changed
about poetry, Aristotle got a lot of 
mileage out of his early definition, 
nearly 2500 years 

makes you wonder  why so much 
attention was paid instead to 
Platohis contemporary, the 
mystic, who would’ve banned
poetry, he thought it was 
subversive
 
Richard

psst: for a modern day application
          of the three unities, watch 
          In Treatment“, a television
          series, which takes place 
          in a psychotherapist’s office,
          each episode a session,  
   

on art, its purpose

poet-with-flower-2008-jpgblog

                                Poet With Flower (2008)

                                          Stefan Caltia

                                                 _____

wherefore art, I’ve long and often wondered,
with only a wink to Juliet’s Romeo, for my
question dug deeper, why, indeed, itself art

we build our souls on the stories we’ve 
heard, the impressions we’ve received
from voices that spoke directly to our 
senses, painters with paint, musicians
with music, writers with words, poets 
with poems

it started with fairy tales, which told of
right and wrong, good and bad, courage,
kindness, responsibility, and dire 
consequences for discord

Biblical stories also took up a lot of my own
childhood, Jesus, Adam and Eve, Moses
and the Ten Commandments, this last 
reinforced by Cecil B. DeMille’s epic

but soon enough it was Oliver TwistLittle
Nell, and by an inescapable authorial leap, 
since these were all by an irresistible 
Charles Dickens for a guy my age, Sydney
Carton, who valiantly stands in for his
friend, Charles Darnay, at the guillotine, a 
quantum, even existential, leap from 
Peter Pan and Mary Poppins 

though I had the good fortune to learn to 
read and write music as a boy, play music, 
learn about Bach, Brahms and Beethoven, 
it didn’t take anyone else much more than
their enthusiasm to see what the Beatles
were similarly doing, the Rolling Stones, 
the Supremes, they were not only singing, 
but making history, shaping it, and us, we 
followed the questions they rose, their 
responses, the effects upon ourselves
for nothing is considered until it’s 
mentioned, spoken, made clear, and they
were those prophets

the same goes for art, we see as we see
cause Monet, Picasso, Warhol showed 
us how to see, what to look at

and of course poets, Shakespeare, 
RostandDanteGoethe, to inform, each,
their individual language, and culture

I have been Philip CareyScarlett O’Hara, 
Blanche DuboisGary Cooper in High
Noon“, both Martha and George in 
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf“, lately 
I’ve been even Hank Williams

as Babette would say, a French doll who 
gets abducted in Raggedy Ann and Andy:
A Musical Misadventure“, an animated 
movie from the Seventies, – oo aahrr yoo 

Richard

psst: all of them have been me too,
      incidentally

“No Ideas But In Things” – Jessica Greenbaum‏

   "Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling" (c.1527) - Hans Holbein the Younger

Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling (c.1527)

Hans Holbein the Younger

__________

it’s been a while since I’ve offered
up a poem, it’s been a while since
I’ve read one, and I miss them

but this one inadvertently this
morning struck a conversational
tone I found particularly engaging,
easy to read, though with cadences

no paragraphs

Jessica Greenbaum uses longer
iambic pentameters than I do, you
might note, decidedly more
punctuation

but she sings her lines, her daily
prose, as if they were poems

that’s what I especially like

Richard

_____________

No Ideas But In Things

We checked the vents and hidden apertures of the house,
then ran out of ideas of where it might be open to the world.
So we couldn’t figure out how the squirrel was getting in.
We each had methods that succeeded in shooing him,
or her, out the door—but none of them lasted. Whether
it was the same squirrel—terrified when in the house, and
persistently so—or various we couldn’t tell because,
tipped off by a glance, he zigzagged from froze-to-vapor,
vanishing, Zorro-like, until signs would tell us he had
revisited the sideboard to dig in the begonia. (Escaping
Newcastle in a search for coal.) We plotted his counter-
escape, laying a path of pecans to a window opening
on the yard. A few days would pass, and, believing him
gone, we felt inexplicably better than when we began.
Then, from another room, the amplified skritch of nutmeg
being grated—and, crash. Bracelets off dresser tops, bud
vases, candy dishes, things houses have that the back yard
doesn’t. You don’t think of squirrels knocking things over,
but inside it was like living with the Ghost and Mrs. Muir.
When we couldn’t trust the quiet or prove his absence,
we cast him as that hapless shade: worry. Our own gray
area, scat-trailing proof of feral anxiety. But after a few
cycles of release-and-catch I grew bored with the idea,
with its untamed projections. Since he dashes up walls,
(yanked, like a pulley), or seeks treasure in a five-inch pot,
daily, why not adopt him as optimism’s travelling rep?
I tried. But the sun comes up, we step toward the stove,
and he shoots out like a cue ball, banks off the kitchen door
—what mayhem is caused by going to make coffee!—
and the day, again, begins with a shriek. We are now in
week three and I accept that, inside, the squirrel is going
to stand for something else. And so is the May rain
and so is the day you took off your coat and the tulips
joined in with the cherry blossoms and the people came out
and the pear-tree petals floated down in polka dots
around the tulips, and even around the cars. We name life
in relation to whatever we step out from when we
open the door, and whatever comes back in on its own.

Jessica Greenbaum

Freedom

Alexandru Ciucurencu - "May Day in Freedom" (1958)

May Day in Freedom (1958)

Alexandru Ciucurencu

__________

two events took place after the fall
of the Berlin Wall, which have
remained cultural landmarks since,
nothing much comes close to their
historical significance, music to
declare a new world order

on December 25, 1989, Leonard
Bernstein conducts Beethoven’s
Ninth Symphony at the
Schauspielhaus in the former
East Berlin, it is remembered as
the “Freedom Concert” for having
replaced the word “Joy” in
Schiller’s poem during the “Ode
to Joy”,
the vocal novelty of the
Ninth, also its triumph, with the
word “Freedom”, a whim of the
conductor, not inappropriately

on July 21, 1990, Roger Waters
puts on The Wall“, Pink Floyd’s
20th-Century counterpart for the
Beethoven, the clarion call to do
away with barriers, fences, it’s
hard to dismiss its prescience
when the piece had been written
eight years earlier, seven years
before the fall of the Wall, as
though Pink Floyd had been
prophetic

like Beethoven had been, not
at all coincidentally here
, in
his own day

both concerts are beyond
description, extraordinary

just click

watch for unexpected guest
appearances in either of,
everywhere, the very highest
quality

Richard

 

“How I Didn’t Get Myself to a Nunnery” – Suzanne Lummis‏

"Ophelia" - Arthur Hughes

Ophelia (1852)

Arthur Hughes

_________

according to Suzanne Lummis Ophelia
“g[o]t outta town”

Suzanne Lummis is Ophelia here, this
is a dramatic monologue, I can’t tell you
how much I find that exciting

you’ll want to run to the source, of course,
to find pertinent references, so I’ve linked
a few for you from the text below to their
counterparts in Hamlet“, if it’s coloured,
just click, otherwise a couple of asterisks
explain two probably too obvious items,
in which case you’ll forgive me my
infelicitous impertinence, my unintended
and hapless presumption

thanks

How I Didn’t Get Myself to a Nunnery

That girl they found ensconced in mud and loam,
she wasn’t me. Small wonder, though, they jumped.
To a conclusion. Water puffs you up,
and we pale Slavic girls looked much alike—
back then. Deprivation smooths you out.
Yes, that was the season of self-drowned maids,
heart-to-hearts with skulls, great minds overthrown.
And minds that could be great if they could just
come up for air. Not in that town. Something stank. *

But me, I drifted on. I like rivers.
And I’m all right with flowers. I floated
on a bed of roses—well, O.K., rue
and columbine
. It bore me up not down.
That night I made a circle with my thumb
and finger, like a lens, and peered through it
at the moon—mine, all mine. My kissed-white moon.
“Moon River wider than a . . .” Mancini/
Mercer wrote that, sure, but I wrote it first.

You wonder where I’m going with all this?
Where water goes. It empties into sea.
Sold! I’d take it—the sea or a fresh life.
Some other life. A good man—good enough,
fair—fished me out. He’d come to quench his thirst.
No sun-god prince,* of course, like him I’d loved,
still loved. (Some loves don’t die; not even murder
kills them.) I married his thatched hut, hatched chicks—
kids running underfoot. Don’t cry for me,

Denmark. I’d learned the art of compromise
back there, in the black castle—then came blood,
ghosts. Something in me burst. If not lover,
father, king, ** then whom can you trust? Alone,
I took up some playing cards. I played them
into skinny air. A voice said, Swim or drown.
It said: Your house caught fire, flood, caught fear—
it’s coming down. No one loves you now, here.
By land or water, girl, get outta town.

Suzanne Lummis

* i.e. Hamlet, of course, prince of Denmark
** Hamlet, Polonius, Claudius

our debt to Shakespeare in literature
is enormous, after even 400 years –
“Hamlet” was written in 1602 – his
literary form, his countless neologisms,
his stories, his blueprints, transformed
into ballets, paintings as above, operas,
have become our myths, our moral and
philosophical standard, our modern
Olympus, the measure of our time,
our epoch, Shakespeare is our Iliad

only Beethoven in music has ever
matched this, in the visual arts, no
one

you’ll notice that the poem itself is a
monologue, in answer, in homage, to
Shakespeare, it’s in iambic pentameter,
also his wont

mine too, incidentally

Richard

 

on numbers

Rogier van der Weyden - "Polyptych with the Nativity"

Polyptych with the Nativity

Rogier van der Weyden

____________

one is a lonely number

but let there be four – 11:11 – and the
angels are passing, a.m. or p.m.

two is the natural minimum from which
grows three, a pyramid, also a trinity,
or even a Trinity

then four, which is solid, foursquare,
even cubic, therefore a house

five, a pentagon, authority

many is a polyptych, representing a
multiplicity, metaphysically a polis, a
community, from the Greek for “many
folds”, or, extrapolating, manifold

twelve, a dozen, and so forth

numbers, in other words, talk, signify
within a context something specific to
that context that is not stated but
instinctively ever understood, animals
flee when confronted with uncomfortable
numbers

but countless they also shimmer, like
stars, a panoply, a myriad

also like works of art

therefore the polyptych above, do click,
for a magnificent reproduction, see it
bring together parts of a whole, in one
place, at one time, and transcending
imaginatively even earthly dimensions,
for our contemplation

therefore also Vingt regards sur l’Enfant
Jésus
“,
which I spoke of in my last posting,
my first to this, my second day of C…mas

you get art and music through the senses,
instinctively, unlike the murkier medium
of words, which can be cryptic

numbers speak louder, which is to say,
than ever words

read my lips

Richard

“Le Jazz Hot” – Henry Mancini‏

  John Cage - "Mozart Mix" (1991)

Mozart Mix (1991)

John Cage

_______

in a movie,“Victor Victoria”, that should’ve
gotten more Oscars than it finally did,
Le Jazz Hot sizzles, Henry Mancini
received one for the music, Lesley Anne
Warren should’ve too for her incandescent
moll

lock the door, she says to Julie Andrews,
in an otherwise compromising moment,
a line one should never forget

in Julie Andrews’ category, who could’ve
taken it away from Meryl Streep for
“Sophie’s Choice”

but jazz here is a misnomer, jazz merely
dolls up in this number an otherwise
entirely Classical structure, the melody
is right out of Mozart, rigid rhythm,
unflinching tonality, and repetition after
repetition, you can sing along just as you
can for Mozart, try doing that with anyone
after him, try to hum along with real jazz

but I’ll entirely agree that this
whatever-it-is is hot, steaming

catch the astounding vocal glissando
at the very end, just before the final
whispered recitative, riveting

Richard