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Category: The Other Side of the Brain

a gift from Brain

Leonora Carrington - "The Burning of Giordano Bruno" (1964)

“The Burning of Giordano Bruno (1964)

Leonora Carrington


the last entry at The Other Side of the Brain
was the following poem, which delivers such
thunder that I couldn’t help appropriating it
for my own purposes

forgive me, Brain, but with this one you’ve
been too much of an inspiration



What He Thought

for Fabbio Doplicher

We were supposed to do a job in Italy
and, full of our feeling for
ourselves (our sense of being
Poets from America) we went
from Rome to Fano, met
the mayor, mulled
a couple matters over (what’s
a cheap date, they asked us; what’s
flat drink). Among Italian literati
we could recognize our counterparts:
the academic, the apologist,
the arrogant, the amorous,
the brazen and the glib—and there was one
administrator (the conservative), in suit
of regulation gray, who like a good tour guide
with measured pace and uninflected tone narrated
sights and histories the hired van hauled us past.
Of all, he was the most politic and least poetic,
so it seemed. Our last few days in Rome
(when all but three of the New World Bards had flown)
I found a book of poems this
unprepossessing one had written: it was there
in the pensione room (a room he’d recommended)
where it must have been abandoned by
the German visitor (was there a bus of them?)
to whom he had inscribed and dated it a month before.
I couldn’t read Italian, either, so I put the book
back into the wardrobe’s dark. We last Americans
were due to leave tomorrow. For our parting evening then
our host chose something in a family restaurant, and there
we sat and chatted, sat and chewed,
till, sensible it was our last
big chance to be poetic, make
our mark, one of us asked
“What’s poetry?
Is it the fruits and vegetables and
marketplace of Campo dei Fiori, or
the statue there?” Because I was
the glib one, I identified the answer
instantly, I didn’t have to think— “The truth
is both, it’s both!”, I blurted out. But that
was easy. That was easiest to say. What followed
taught me something about difficulty,
for our underestimated host spoke out,
all of a sudden, with a rising passion, and he said:
The statue represents Giordano Bruno,
brought to be burned in the public square
because of his offense against
authority, which is to say
the Church. His crime was his belief
the universe does not revolve around
the human being: God is no
fixed point or central government, but rather is
poured in waves through all things. All things
move. “If God is not the soul itself, He is
the soul of the soul of the world.” Such was
his heresy. The day they brought him
forth to die, they feared he might
incite the crowd (the man was famous
for his eloquence). And so his captors
placed upon his face
an iron mask, in which
he could not speak. That’s
how they burned him. That is how
he died: without a word, in front
of everyone.
And poetry—
(we’d all
put down our forks by now, to listen to
the man in gray; he went on
poetry is what

he thought, but did not say.

Heather McHugh


this made me think that God is an
adjective not a noun, an attribute,
not a commandment, “God is no
fixed point or central government,
but rather is poured in waves
through all things”

cheers, Richard

psst: I’ve made the choice to leave out
the poem’s purported paragraphs
for their being indiscriminate in
every Internet reproduction


a reply to BookInhabiter, a.k.a. Brain (2)

Wolf Kahn - "Orange Cloud Over the Adriatic Sea" (1996)

Orange Cloud Over rhe Adriatic Sea” (1996)

Wolf Kahn


a reader writes, about “Poème d’amour“,
Hans Hofman

“This is a bizarre painting. It bewilders me. I can’t make sense of it. But maybe that’s the point.”

below is my answer



with the invention of the camera, Brain,
representational art became irrelevant,
unable to present the accuracy a
photograph would it had to discover
for itself an alternate purpose, which
is to say, reinvent itself

the medium became the message,
as Marshall McLuhan would’ve
put it, art began to study itself, it
reached for its sinews, arteries,
its colours, textures, its planar,
dimensional, limitations, limits

its form, in other words, was
becoming its substance

Abstract Expressionism was the
nadir of this movement, after the
less ethereal, more visceral,
German Expressionism, and up
to Andy Warhol, who brought us
back down to earth again with
pictures of Campbell Soup cans,

more matter, less theory

note the residual attachment to flat
colour fields nevertheless

that said, what part of Hofman‘s
Love Poem is indeed a love poem,
search me, I think it’s just pretentious,
failed Miro

but do read the sidebar on the upper
left at the site for less partisan perhaps
insights, just click “Show details” there

I don’t either much like Schönberg,
who did the same kind of thing to
music, eviscerated it, I want to see
the body, not the entrails, these
should be studied at art school,
the conservatory, creative writing

but that is of course just what I think

Schönberg and Abstract Expressionists,
however, have left their indelible marks
on art history, commendable marks for
their theoretical underpinnings, rigours

see for instance the marvellous Wolf
Kahn above
for the evolution of these
ideas, you get it in less than a minute,
and delight in it

that is what real art does

thanks for asking


psst: Wolf Kahn was a student of
Hans Hofman, incidentally, he
just put everyday references
back into the picture, I call it
heart, something organic

my reply to BookInhabiter, a.k.a. Brain

a reader writes

“Hello Richard,
Recently I’ve been watching up on many dance competitions. I knew of the existence of piano competitions but never thought that they would be filmed. I must listen to the top contenders. How did you hear about this competition?”

here is my, admittedly extended, answer, with pertinent links



I haven’t missed So You Think You
Can Dance
Brain, for 11 years, so
we’ve probably been watching the
same “many dance competitions”

“piano competitions” aren’t much
different, just another art, judged
here by professionals throughout,
rather than entire publics

the competitions are fierce, to a
person the competitors are world

the music is often sublime, utterly
transcendent, though more rigorously
intellectual than popcorn – pace
Mozart – this puts some people off

much as you probably find covers of
songs you like, I go out looking for
sonatas, string quartets, concerti I
already know of and admire, I check
out the big names, Chopin, Beethoven,
Rachmaninov, see what might be up

the Internet abounds with nearly
anything you might want to find, the
only obstacle is the quality

the Van Cliburn competition, from
Houston, was dreadful, enough to
put me off it, but looking for musical
counterparts to pieces of interest, I
found the Rubinstein one in Tel
offering sterling performances

I quickly flew across the globe,
virtually, of course, speaking

the experience has been well worth
it, I heard miracles of music, haven’t
had so much fun since reading Proust,
in French of course, but you must
understand I’m an inveterate egghead,
totally chronic

this week I started Edward Gibbon’s
The Decline and Fall of the Roman
, text and, to my delight,
audiotape, its reader is extraordinary

check out the Chopin Competition
for, up to this point anyway in my
investigation, only Chopin, but he’ll
do for a significant while, his music
is consistently breathtaking

I’ll also check out the Russian
Tchaikovsky Competition, which Van
Cliburn made famous for us in the late
, by winning it, despite the rancours
of the Cold War, with a still paramount
rendition of Tchaikovsky’s own
monumental First Concerto

wow, I’ve been hooked ever since

thanks for stopping by my blog, Brain,
you’ll find, incidentally, a lot of excellent
performances highlighted there, several
of the best, in fact, from the most recent
Rubinstein Competition
, none of which,
to my utter consternation, managed to

other recommendations follow, check
it out

I think your blog is wonderful, keep
it up