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Category: parsing art

“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

“Le merle noir” – Olivier Messiaen‏

common blackbird (turdus merula)

common blackbird (turdus merula)

________________

while we’re on the subject of birdsong,
it would be incorrect not to mention
Olivier Messiaen, the composer I think
to be the most representative of the
late XXth-Century, with the addition,
however, of George Crumb only lately,
whom I blush to say I’d never heard
of till then, a lacuna culturala, as
we say in Italian, of the very
greatest proportions

Le merle noir is Messiaen‘s earliest
work specifically devoted to birds,
his later Catalogue d’oiseaux lists
thirteen birds, and lasts nearly
three hours

listen to Le merle noir first, you’ll
even want to watch it for taking place
in the Église du Bon Secours in Paris,
June 7, 2012, flanked by dour,
though highly decorative, clergy

Yvonne Loriod, Messiaen’s wife, plays
the entire Catalogue…“, but behind a
detail from Bosch’s Garden of Earthly
Delights
“,
which remains throughout
glumly static

if we think of this as music, which
indeed I do do, where are tempi,
where are tonalities, where even are
identifiable repetitions, how do we
define, then, music

this is not an easy proposition

think about it

good luck

Richard

re: songs of some birds

a friend writes

Date: Sun, 16 Nov 2014 21:30:02 -0800
Subject: Re: songs of some birds
From: lynne……
To: richibi……….

The other day on CBC Quirks and Quarks program they played the song of a type of thrush who’s name escapes me at the moment. It sounded like a nice bird song and then they slowed it way down and it sounded a lot like whale sounds but a far more musical with quite discernible notes.

hmmm..
.if I were to break up the sentences
in the foregoing paragraph
in some artistic fashion
would it then be poetry?
(I know, I’m such a cretin)

__________________

interesting

I think that good grammar is already
a move towards poetry, if not, indeed,
the quintessential ingredient, good
grammar has already in its stipulations
a cadence and an expressive flexibility,
in its declensions and conjugations

we are sloppy grammarians generally

your statement, “The other day on CBC Quirks and Quarks program they played the song of a type of thrush who’s name escapes me at the moment. It sounded like a nice bird song and then they slowed it way down and it sounded a lot like whale sounds but a far more musical with quite discernible notes.“,
corrected for grammatical aberrations,
The other day on [the] CBC Quirks and Quarks program they played the song of a type of thrush who’s name escapes me at the moment. It sounded like a nice bird song and then they slowed it way down and it sounded a lot like whale sounds but […] far more musical with quite discernible notes.“,
sounds already musical when you
speak it out loud, cadential and
probably properly emotionally
inflected, if you put your intention
into it

a few artful turns could make it
luminous, even a poem

hmmm..” yourself

Richard

songs of some birds‏


untitled-1939-1.jpg!BlogPablo Picasso - "Untitled" (1939)

Untitled (1939)

Pablo Picasso

_________

having wondered only recently about
bird song, whale song
, can these be
considered singing when they are
essentially language, we think, and
not codified, technically constricted,
I see pertinently appear a study
suggesting birds follow a pentatonic
scale, our own musical basis,
harmonics between birds and
humans are apparently identical

this suggests that harmonics in
nature are as fundamental as
mathematics, we have somehow,
humans, diverged from what we
think of as singing, left rhythm
and tonality from our conversation
to produce uninflected prose and
monotony, language at the level
of atonal, arhythmic expression,
for better or for worse, corruption,
or refinement, evolution

I wonder, again, if prose is not
bad poetry, or has poetry evolved
into prose

should we feel shame or ingenuity,
do birds have their own divergent
degrees of poetry, do some, most
maybe, veer also towards the less
exacting prose

do some birds not sing, in other
words, or only sometimes maybe,
when mating, for instance,
something like how we croon
when we’re dating, put on our
very best airs

Richard

Vox Balaenae (Voice of the Whale) – George Crumb‏

whales

whales

____

we say that birds sing, despite the
fact that it is their ordinary language,
whales, upon our hearing them, seem
also to be singing

when we sing we alter our voices to
fit pitches and volume and rhythms
intentionally, otherwise we’re talking

what, then, is music, is bird song
music, whale song, is Vox Balaenae“,
a composition by George Crumb, from
1971

if so, what do we mean by music, which
used to be, a long time ago it appears
now, melodic, recurrent and rhythmic

in Vox Balaenae“, where is the music
we used to think of as music, though
harmonious it has the elements rather
of language, communication, instead
of the ordered outlay of composition

it is, however, indeed Classically laid,
with movements and everything, even
a set of variations, though interestingly
attended on either side, these, by, as it
were, book ends, a prologue and an
epilogue, literary terms, to reinforce
the idea of narration, there are three
movements

Prologue: Vocalise (…for the beginning of time)

Variations on Sea-Time [Sea Theme]
Archeozoic
Proterozoic
Paleozoic
Mesozoic
Cenozoic

Epilogue: Sea-Nocturne (…for the end of time)

a blue light in the performance suggests
a marine environment, masks dehumanize,
render everything “[a]rcheozoic”, extended
technique, unusual use of the instruments,
are instructions stated in the score

for a while I’ve been saying that prose is
just bad poetry, for a while I’ve been trying
to make poetry out of prose

how are we doing

Richard

another Tony treasure


the Tony Award Medallion

the Tony Award Medallion

___________

from the 1974 Tonys, you’ll want to
watch this skit, Mrs Snodgrass has
had 27 children, Nancy Walker is
Mrs Snodgrass

should the video not come up at the
right position, as it should, find Mr
and Mrs Snodgrass at 1:42:00 on
the time strip

enjoy

Richard