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Category: Robert Browning

up my idiosyncrasies – a bio

marcel-proust.jpg!Large

      “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

walking in beauty – January 11, 2015 (for Terry)

Paul Gauguin - "The Cellist (Portrait of Upaupa Scheklud)"

The Cellist (Portrait of Upaupa Scheklud) (1894)

Paul Gauguin

_______

what are you reading, Terry asked,
I’d been riffling through the pages
of a book I’d just finished, trying to
find a particular bit I wanted for
firm ground later in conversations

a man in Sarajevo during the siege,
July 5, 1992 to February 29, 1996,
the bit I’d been looking for, had seen
neighbours, 22 of them, killed when
a mortar from the surrounding hills
had, as they waited in line for a much
depleted market, a consequence of
the siege, obliterated them, arms,
feet everywhere, as well as the
wounded

the man, a cellist with a Sarajevo
symphony, probably its finest, had
resolved, in honour of the victims,
to come out to play each day, at
the very time, in the very place of
the atrocity, for 22 days, one for
each of the victims, despite being
each time in the very eye of a
sniper’s bullet, Albinoni’s haunting
Adagio
, listen

he made it out eventually to Ireland,
it is later indicated

The Cellist of Sarajevo“, I replied,
I’m taking it back to the library, I
needed to check some dates, I
write, I want to talk about it

I’ve been talking about walking in
beauty, I said, incorporating it into
one’s life, this man overcame his
fear of death so profoundly as to
deliver a very dirge, an act of
prodigious, even transcendental
meditation, to sit and play midst
the rubble and ashes of his friends
this tribute, how sound must’ve
been his conviction

walking in beauty, I said, it’s a
Navajo prayer

Wordsworth has a poem like that he
said, and recited it word for word

“She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!”, he said

I was flabbergasted, I had only my
few lines of Shakespeare to compare

I’m Richard, I said

Terry, he retorted

I can’t talk now, I’m off, if you can
believe it, to read Shakespeare with
a friend, we’ll meet again, you’re easy
to spot, you’ve got no shoes, you’re
barefoot, my mom has talked about
you, you always say hello, she says,
she thinks you’re a nice man

Terry had his sandals in his hand,
he stood under his umbrella, I
hadn’t opened mine, he was trying
to shield me also from, for me, the
merely mist, not rain, despite a
rod stretched unhooked from his
otherwise sufficient cover from
the wet

can you remember my e-mail, he
offered, it’s easy

I wrote it on the battered flyleaf
of my Shakespeare

that’s a relic, he said

my International Collector’s Library,
I answered, that’s where I got my
literature when I was a boy, in my
little town of Timmins, an outpost,
I’d get a classic every month, each
bound distinctively, their gimmick

you could get money for that, he
suggested

not, like this, I said, it’s in tatters

I’ll tell my mom I talked to you, I said,
she’ll be delighted

Tony, right

Terry, he corrected

Richard, I said

Richard

later he thought I’d been Michael

Richard

psst: it turns out the poem is by Byron,
not Wordsworth, not surprising,from
this distance all the Romantic poets
sound alike, except for, of course,
the Brownings, an inconsequential
gaffe

“Monet Refuses the Operation” – Lisel Mueller‏

Claude Monet - "Rouen Cathedral, Magic in Blue"

Rouen Cathedral, Magic in Blue (1894)

Claude Monet

______

up until now I’ve presented dramatic
monologues
, but only to music, on my
blog
, referring to Robert Browning as
their originator, but not ever producing
any representative spoken work, never
mind any of, themselves, the poet’s
seminal masterpieces, My Last
Duchess
“, “Fra Lippo Lippi“, “How
They Brought the Good News from
Ghent to Aix
“,
for instance, which,
granted, can be daunting now in their
breadth and erudition, the Romantics
didn’t have television, they had to
entertain themselves

here’s a poem for our time, written
in 1996, only two decades ago, gasp,
Lisel Mueller imagines herself Claude
Monet
, an easier concept, after all,
who’s been to Ghent or Aix, why
would anyone want to run there,
whereas Monet‘s another story, who
doesn’t today know Monet

Monet was blind at the end of his life,
one learns from the website where I
got this
, a blog with plenty of breadth
and already considerable erudition, he
received corrective surgery to be able
to continue with his work

there was, however, a limit

Monet Refuses the Operation

Doctor, you say there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don’t see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.
Fifty-four years before I could see
Rouen cathedral is built
of parallel shafts of sun,
and now you want to restore
my youthful errors: fixed
notions of top and bottom,
the illusion of three-dimensional space,
wisteria separate
from the bridge it covers.
What can I say to convince you
the Houses of Parliament dissolve
night after night to become
the fluid dream of the Thames?
I will not return to a universe
of objects that don’t know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent. The world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
becomes water, lilies on water,
above and below water,
becomes lilac and mauve and yellow
and white and cerulean lamps,
small fists passing sunlight
so quickly to one another
that it would take long, streaming hair
inside my brush to catch it.
To paint the speed of light!
Our weighted shapes, these verticals,
burn to mix with air
and change our bones, skin, clothes
to gases. Doctor,
if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapor without end.

Lisel Mueller

Richard

psst: thanks Brain for this beautiful poem

life lessons from Ethel Merman and Donald O’Connor


just click

is this a dramatic monologue, I asked

it depends on who you think she’s
talking to, I answered

cheers

Richard

“Fernando” – Abba‏

never anticipating a veritable abundance
of dramatic monologues as I undertook
this investigative journey, I started out by
picking out representative, though isolated,
I, naively, thought, examples, Miss Otis
Regrets
“, “Bohemian Rhapsody

here’s Abba doing the irrepressible
Fernando, thanks to the originator
of the idiom, Robert Browning

lest we forget

Richard

“Miss Otis Regrets” (1934) – Cole Porter‏

while we’re on the subject of dramatic
monologue
s, here’s one, performed by
Fred Astaire, which splendidly illustrates
the intention

here’s Bette Midler doing it

and here’s more Bette, irrepressible, and
utterly irresistible, if you can stand it

or, as she would have it, the Divine,
and indeed, Miss M

just click

enjoy

Richard

psst: “Miss Otis Regrets”

Miss Otis regrets, she’s unable to lunch today, madam,
Miss Otis regrets, she’s unable to lunch today.
She is sorry to be delayed,
but last evening down in Lover’s Lane she strayed, madam,
Miss Otis regrets, she’s unable to lunch today.
When she woke up and found that her dream of love was gone, madam,
She ran to the man who had led her so far astray,
And from under her velvet gown,
She drew a gun and shot her love down, madam,
Miss Otis regrets, she’s unable to lunch today.
When the mob came and got her and dragged her from the jail, madam,
They strung her upon the old willow across the way,
And the moment before she died,
She lifted up her lovely head and cried, madam
Miss Otis regrets, she’s unable to lunch today
Miss Otis regrets, she’s unable to lunch today

“Bohemian Rhapsody” – Freddy Mercury‏


the poetic dramatic monologue, which finds
its popular source in Shakespeare, though
they are essentially introspective there,
philosophical rather than strictly narrative,
making them nevertheless, in a play, by
definition, dramatic, rightful claimants
still to that name, and which was
institutionalized as a poetic form by
Robert Browning later in the XlXth Century,
by upending the Shakespearean mode,
turning poems into plays instead of plays
into poems, makes its way into the XXth
Century, probably mostly unobtrusively,
no one really particularly notices, but
powerfully culturally nonetheless when
applied to, for instance, music, which is
to say poetry, of course, with notes

here’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”*, an abridged
version, as sung by Rose Osang Fostanes,
delivering a classic dramatic monologue

here’s Freddy Mercury’s complete version,
with a Greek chorus supplying oracular
even feedback

Richard

* Bohemian Rhapsody

Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide,
No escape from reality.

Open your eyes,
Look up to the skies and see,
I’m just a poor boy, I need no sympathy,
Because I’m easy come, easy go,
Little high, little low,
Anyway the wind blows doesn’t really matter to me, to me.

Mama, just killed a man,
Put a gun against his head,
Pulled my trigger, now he’s dead.
Mama, life had just begun,
But now I’ve gone and thrown it all away.

Mama, ooh,
Didn’t mean to make you cry,
If I’m not back again this time tomorrow,
Carry on, carry on as if nothing really matters.

Too late, my time has come,
Sends shivers down my spine,
Body’s aching all the time.
Goodbye, everybody, I’ve got to go,
Gotta leave you all behind and face the truth.

Mama, ooh (anyway the wind blows),
I don’t wanna die,
I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all.

I see a little silhouetto of a man,
Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?
Thunderbolt and lightning,
Very, very frightening me.
(Galileo) Galileo.
(Galileo) Galileo,
Galileo Figaro
Magnifico.

I’m just a poor boy and nobody loves me.
He’s just a poor boy from a poor family,
Spare him his life from this monstrosity.

Easy come, easy go, will you let me go?
Bismillah! No, we will not let you go. (Let him go!)
Bismillah! We will not let you go. (Let him go!)
Bismillah! We will not let you go. (Let me go!)
Will not let you go. (Let me go!)
Never, never let you go
Never let me go, oh.
No, no, no, no, no, no, no.
Oh, mama mia, mama mia (Mama mia, let me go.)
Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me, for me, for me.

So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye?
So you think you can love me and leave me to die?
Oh, baby, can’t do this to me, baby,
Just gotta get out, just gotta get right outta here.

(Oh, yeah, oh yeah)

Nothing really matters,
Anyone can see,
Nothing really matters,
Nothing really matters to me.

Anyway the wind blows.

Freddy Mercury

“good news from Ghent”‏

the only thing that rang in my ears ever
about Ghent until contemplating the van
Eyck Altarpiece was Robert Browning‘s
poem about it, “How They Brought the
Good News from Ghent to Aix
“, the
idea, like in his “Pheidippides“, of
dying valiantly for a cause had mightily
impressed me

that cause is incidental, of course,
dependent on the beliefs and situation
of that particular stalwart person

it might make you unforgettable, that
unfettered and irevocable devotion, as
it did for me, for instance, the heroes
of these two poems, such an exalted
mission is an ambition for lots of folks,
very much for a young boy, especially,
such as I was when I read these

Rose Valland rose indeed to the occasion
when it came to saving priceless art before
the onslaught of ruthless Naziism, wherein
the very van Eyck Altarpiece, and also even
Raphael‘s incandescent “Sistine Madonna“,
to my utter horror, from another, and opposite,
corner of Europe, Dresden, could’ve been
forever lost

but the “good news” was in kind returned
to Ghent, eventually, in this fascinating
documentary, “Hitler’s Museum: The Secret
History of Art Theft During World War II”,
part 1, part 2, just click, from its hiding place
in Altaussee, a mountain fortress in Austria

The Adoration of the Lamb” now resides in
its rightful Ghent, even more, after so fraught
a trek, a wonder

also returned to Dresden, incidentally, the
Sistine Madonna“, that city’s own defining
artwork

it is to be noted that a task force had been
set up by no less than the Americans to
save the purloined art of Europe in that
however fraught time

this hasn’t been at all the case in their
recent military forays, what do you gain,
I ask, if you lose your ideals, what exactly
do you conquer

Richard

psst: Browning‘s “news”, if you’re wondering,
was of the “Pacification of Ghent“, 1576

XLlV. Belovèd, thou hast brought me many flowers – Elizabeth Barrett Browning‏

from Sonnets from the Portuguese

XLlV. Belovèd, thou hast brought me many flowers

Belovèd, thou hast brought me many flowers
Plucked in the garden, all the summer through
And winter, and it seemed as if they grew
In this close room, nor missed the sun and showers.
So, in the like name of that love of ours,
Take back these thoughts which here unfolded too,
And which on warm and cold days I withdrew
From my heart’s ground. Indeed, those beds and bowers
Be overgrown with bitter weeds and rue,
And wait thy weeding; yet here’s eglantine,
Here’s ivy! – take them, as I used to do
Thy flowers, and keep them where they shall not pine.
Instruct thine eyes to keep their colours true,
And tell thy soul, their roots are left in mine.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

________________________

let me, much as Elizabeth is doing here,
submit these comments which I’ve been
sending you, all 44 of them specifically
on these sonnets, their very entirety,
not to mention other opinions I’ve
delivered on several other topics, they
are what I can return of what the world
has given me, the world has “brought
me many flowers”

“these thoughts which here unfolded
[for me] too,” while all of this was
happening, “And which on warm and
cold days I withdrew / From my heart’s
ground.”,
through “bitter [even] weeds
and rue”
sometimes indeed also,
despite, unreasonably perhaps, the
abundance of flowers, for I succumb
easily also, as poets often do, to
crushing despair – who’d o’ thunk it –
and can be categorically unforgiving
at times of an ungorgiving God

see Philip Larkin for instance on this one
before seeing even Nietzsche, and I could
name, of course, several others

“yet here’s eglantine, / Here’s ivy!”, I’ve
also found, and have concluded that
their example is the one to follow

be splendid, it is the only honourable
answer, I’ve devised, which God could
not easily dishonour

these verses have been as my flowers,
“take them, ….. / …. , and keep them
where they shall not pine. / Instruct
thine eyes to keep their colours true,
/ And tell thy soul, their roots are left
in mine.”

yours ever truly

Richard

XLlll. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways – Elizabeth Barrett Browning‏

from Sonnets from the Portuguese

XLlll. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, – I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! – and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

__________________________

there are two lines of verse in English
poetry which are early trumpeted by even
those who would have no truck in general
with poems, one about life, one about love,
paraded by already youths with all the
passion of their unbridled years, if not
oratorically advocating, at least sardonically
making fun of perhaps too mannered, even
irrelevant, in their opinion, I would think,
matter, namely Shakespeare‘s To be, or
not to be
and Elizabeth Barrett Browning‘s
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways

nothing much of the rest of these two
poems generally is known, though their
introductions be, even at the level of the
succeeeding ages, panoramic, neither,
either, incidentally, has ever, in its
substance, been equalled

To be, or not to be upon first exploring
it surprises for being, not, as supposed,
a paean to glory, for its declamatory, I
suspect, and engaging, cadences, but a
treatise on the very value of life, Hamlet,
despairing of the state of Denmark, where,
“something”, if you’ll remember, “is rotten”,
where his mother and murderous stepfather
have evilly, he imagines, conspired to steal
his real father’s throne, who hovers now
as a disturbing, and exhortative, presence,
keeping the action, or inaction in this case,
going, can never reach an answer, come to
a decision, To be, or not to be“, “that is the
[inexorable] question”

more specifically, “Whether ’tis nobler
in the mind to suffer”,
he asks, “The slings
and arrows of outrageous fortune, / Or to
take arms against a sea of troubles, /
And by opposing end them:”,
is life
worth living if the cost is so dire

Hamlet will not do the deed himself,
ultimately, of securing his own demise,
but will actively eventually allow it

one will wonder then, is life worthwhile,
Shakespeare never gives us a direct
answer

Elizabeth, however, talks about love, its,
essentially, apotheosis, an expression,
yet unrivalled of how we would like to
love, be loved

her declamation becomes somewhat
elaborate, even morbid, at the end,
macabre, but the force of the initial
statement has weathered already
several unforgiving ages, fresh and
true and captivating, fundamentally,
as ever

Richard