Posts Tagged ‘poetry’

Anaïs Nin November: Daily Batman — Always punished

November 2, 2012


All those who try to unveil the mysteries always have tragic lives.

At the end they are always punished.


(“The Mohican.” Under A Glass Jar, 1944.)

Retread — Burroughs Month: Thanksgiving Prayer

November 24, 2011


“To John Dillinger and hope he is still alive.
Thanksgiving Day. November 28, 1986.”

Thanks for the wild turkey and
the passenger pigeons, destined
to be shat out through wholesome
American guts.

Thanks for a continent to despoil
and poison.


Thanks for Indians to provide a
modicum of challenge and
danger.

Thanks for vast herds of bison to
kill and skin leaving the
carcasses to rot.

Thanks for bounties on wolves
and coyotes.


Thanks for the American dream,
To vulgarize and to falsify until
the bare lies shine through.

Thanks for the KKK.

For nigger-killin’ lawmen,
feelin’ their notches.


For decent church-goin’ women,
with their mean, pinched, bitter,
evil faces.

Thanks for “Kill a Queer for
Christ” stickers.

Thanks for laboratory AIDS.

Thanks for Prohibition and the
war against drugs.


Thanks for a country where
nobody’s allowed to mind their
own business.

Thanks for a nation of finks.

Yes, thanks for all the
memories — all right let’s see
your arms!


You always were a headache and
you always were a bore.

Thanks for the last and greatest
betrayal of the last and greatest
of human dreams.

I do not believe it is as hopeless as all that. This year, I am incredibly thankful to be alive at all, let alone to live where I do with the people I love. I understand Mr. Burroughs’ criticisms, I just think that we must keep caring and trying to win out against the sense of defeat and cynicism, and maybe then the dream can still be saved. I don’t believe people are inherently bad; I believe the opposite, and I won’t get discouraged and filled with bitterness toward all of humanity just because of the publicized exploits and outrages of the bad apples in our barrel. I believe that for each one of the headlines that sends people in to despair over the state of the world, there are a thousand unreported little kindnesses and gestures of love and connection.

And world peace. I know. I get cheesey. I’m just feeling very happy and free and alive.




Almost all photos via Square America.







This post originally appeared on November 26, 2010.

Flashback Friday — Just Another Auden October: Autumn Song

October 28, 2011

This entry originally appeared on October 20, 2010 at 9:19 am.


Photographed by mjagiellicz on the d.a.

Now the leaves are falling fast,
Nurse’s flowers will not last,
Nurses to their graves are gone,
But the prams go rolling on.


Photographed by bittersea on the d.a.

Whispering neighbors left and right
Daunt us from our true delight,
Able hands are forced to freeze
Derelict on lonely knees.


Photographed by leenaraven on the d.a.

Close behind us on our track,
Dead in hundreds cry Alack,
Arms raised stiffly to reprove
In false attitudes of love.


Photographed by cookiemonstah on the d.a.

Scrawny through a plundered wood,
Trolls run scolding for their food,
Owl and nightingale are dumb,
And the angel will not come.


Photographed by redribboninyourhair on the d.a.

Clear, unscalable, ahead
Rise the Mountains of Instead,
From whose cold, cascading streams
None may drink except in dreams.

(Auden, W.H. “VI.:Autumn Song.” Twelve Songs. March 1936.)

If ever there were a view on which to turn your back à la Gertrude Stein, a sweeping vista of the Mountains of Instead would be the one. No going back. Too late. Prams rolling on. Breathtaking strong tide of inevitability that takes all the water with it and leaves you and your petty fears and dreams dragging in the dust.

Time is stolen from us in such tiny ways — although I guess it is scarcely a theft when you never lock the door or look out the window to see if there is a shadow waiting for you to turn your back, as if all you possess are invincible by dint of being yours — and we use landmark occasions to mark the loss, but we only once in a while really look at what momentous and yet totally miniscule shit comprises what is destined to be our one and only, short history.

This Autumn was already weighing as heavily on me as last year. Now all I feel like I can handle doing is to take a hot bath and climb back beneath the covers (you see what I mean about aiding in our own robbery by time?). Thanks a lot, Auden. I guess what scares me most about it is does it always steal up on you? Does it just sneak up and you turn around and cry out, “Oh, not yet. It can’t be time yet. I’m not finished. I thought I would have more time.”


Photographed by disco_ball on the d.a.

Is there any way to escape that, that moment of realization, that punch in the gut when the waste, all the time you wasted suddenly comes rushing up around you so you can’t even breathe? Your life is over and you’re not ready because you thought you could always keep backsliding, that there would be special accounting for prodigal, last minute, golden you, who always slid in under the wire, who always got a second chance if you smiled big enough when you asked. There is no talking or charming or dodging your way out of final reckoning, and no method by which I can imagine escaping the horror of that realization, and you finally turn around and see the Mountains of Instead. You made them that tall. What do you do about the regret which will follow. Is there a way to soften that blow?

I don’t think there is. I can make vows about viewing this poem as a cautionary tale, and shine you on about how I plan on avoiding such a fate by making every moment count, and on and on until the sun goes supernova, but a plucky attitude does not lower the Mountains of Instead even an inch. No changing the past. No erasing regrets. That is just some fucked up shit right there.

Just Another Auden October: A lane to the land of the dead

October 27, 2011


Photographed by Logan White.

The glacier knocks in the cupboard,
The desert sighs in the bed,
And the crack in the tea-cup opens
A lane to the land of the dead.

(W.H. Auden, “As I Walked Out One Evening.” Juvenelia, 1922-1928).

Just Another Auden October: Musee des Beaux Arts

October 25, 2011


“Lady Writing a Letter With Her Maid.” Jan Vermeer, 1677.

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position;
how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be


“A Youth Making a Face.” Adriaen Brouwer, 1635.

Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.


“Landscape With the Fall of Icarus”. Pieter Brueghel*, 1558.

In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure;
the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

(W.H. Auden, “Musee des Beaux Artes.” 1938).

*It has been discovered through radiocarbon dating that Landscape With the Fall of Icarus is not by Brueghel the Elder, though it is thought to be based on a lost painting of his, and that association lead to the centuries-long misattribution of the painting’s provenance.

Just Another Auden October: Let music for peace / Be the paradigm

October 24, 2011



Let mortals beware of words
For with words we lie,
Can speak peace
When we mean war.



But song is true.
Let music for peace
Be the paradigm,
For peace means change
At the right time.

(W.H. Auden, “Hymn to the United Nations.” 1971.)

Take-two Tuesday: William Blake Month — “The Fly”

October 4, 2011

This entry originally appeared on June 22, 2010 at 1:44pm.

Late post, am I right? I’ve been invovled in some deep bookfoolery which I will explain below. The heading of each of the chapters in a book I read last night/today is followed by a quote, and one such quote was from this poem of Blake’s.


via

Little Fly,
Thy summer’s play
My thoughtless hand
Has brushed away.

Am not I
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?


For I dance
And drink, and sing,
Till some blind hand
Shall brush my wing.

If thought is life
And strength and breath
And the want
Of thought is death;


via

Then am I
A happy fly,
If I live,
Or if I die.

(William Blake, “The Fly.”)

So — the lateness in the day. Yes. Sorry, but I am not even firing on four let alone six cyllinders today. See, I went against all my usual instincts and quickly finished my yearly series last night wayyy ahead of time and I refuse to let that happen with my other obligations, so when I dropped the last in the series to the floor, I dug in to my pile and instead of snatching up The Tommyknockers (absolutely not touching it until July 2nd or 3rd or I will not be where I need to be for the 4th and I cannot afford any more Bad Days), I started this book my cousin Mary loaned me called The Descent.

I was initially skeptical and, at points, flirting with grogginess from the overabundance of sleep-inducing substances I pour down my throat every night in an effort to quiet the seven-headed rock dragon of my insomnia which makes the Balrog look like a Pound Puppy, but it was amazing shit, full of caves and sci-fi creatures and anthropology and linguistics and religious themes and Hell and mountaineers and Jesuits and everything else that rings my bell, and before I knew it I was completely sucked in to the throat of it. I powered through the layers of tylenol pm, Miller, and a slug of Ny-Quil I’d taken earlier, ignoring my sandy eyelids because I Couldn’t Stop Reading, and, having finally shook off any need for sleep and finished the last sentence and closed the book thoughtfully at around nine this morning, I can confidently say I’m a believer.


via

I slid it under my bed and lay reflecting on what I’d read for a few minutes, because I felt like there had been some unresolved plot points, then I suddenly did this herky jerky twitch and thought, “How many standalone science fiction novels are that long? Plus … it was set in ’99, but the cover was new. No dog-eared pages. Mary would’ve loaned it to me years ago if she hadn’t just recently bought and read it. It’s a new book.” Reprint. Why?


via

Totally excited by this chain of thought, I flipped my ass in the air, dove under my bed and grabbed the book back out of my piles and checked the front. HELL YES: among the author’s other books listed by the publisher is one titled The Ascent, which I think it is fair to conjecture can only be a sequel, so now that I’ve finished all the housework and cooking I’d planned previously to do in the hours of the morning I’d spent reading, I’m going to cruise out to the used book store by my house and see about scaring that bitch up for tonight — and see if there are more. Keep you posted. Don’t worry about the insomnia thing: I’ll get all the sleep I need when I’m dead.

A Personal Digression: For some moments in life there are no words, but I’m going to write some anyway

July 9, 2011


via.

He kept at true good humour’s mark
The social flow of pleasure’s tide:
He never made a brow look dark,
Nor caused a tear, but when he died.

(Thomas Love Peacock.)

I don’t talk much about myself. I do and I don’t. I don’t go in to practical, actual facts, or any great specificity beyond memories distant enough not to hurt when shared. That is the opposite of what this thought experiment was supposed to be. When I thanked everyone for joining me in the last two years, it forced me to confront the fact that I purposely stopped explicitly talking about or analyzing myself at some point along the way, when the original intent of this journal was as an unflinching self-audit. I’m going to try to sort of get back to that from time to time, as well as I can stomach it. But this is not going to become some bullshit vanity plate — I’d hate that. I’m sorry, but you’re never going to know real names of my friends and family, nor see pictures of me slutting it up on here or even obligatory self-held head and shoulder shots with oh-so-quirky expressions. I know I’m kind of hokey with a sweet rack and that my name starts with E. You just have to take my word on it.


via.

I bring up all this by way of explaining that I’m going to talk about myself for a sec, here. If you are not down, I am totally okay with that: skip down the page to the fun stuff. I’m not in the least bothered. This I’m writing for me, because I’m supposed to be doing that and not shying away again and again. No excuses.

So, some shit has gone down for me emotionally in the last few days. I keep the entries of the journal queued up a bit ahead of real time, most of the time, when I’m not being a lazy wretch, so this has happened in the interim of the regularly scheduled posts’ appearances. But the Liberated Negative Space below, in the previous entry, really jolted me, and galvanized me to discuss something immediate that’s been affecting my life: namely, the death of an old friend, with whom I used to be very close in school. I was told about it yesterday, around the early evening.

On the way to my eight-and-some-odd hours examination today, I took the road he was driving when the wreck which killed him happened. I purposely looked straight ahead and listened to my music, focused on the road: I didn’t want to look at the sides of the highway in case I saw pieces of his Mustang. I thought very clearly, I come this way far too often to let this have power over me. I could never drive if I thought of it every time I pass past these spots. This is the strategy I always employ with things that make me feel Ways: I staunchly use deliberately dodgy methods to keep from letting any inanimate thing like a song or stretch of highway get power over my feelings, because I’m not supposed to have those, right?

But on the way back home, maybe due to the security blanket of the divider in the center so that I could not see the other-bound direction of the road anymore, or perhaps due to the unwanted stress of the exam being off my shoulders, I thought that my earlier deliberate ignorance was actually cowardice, and, if there were ever a time for me to step out of my expressionless shellac vis-a-vis facing down hard feelings, this was the time. This is no thing to put off wading through, I told myself. This is different and deserves better treatment than what you usually give emotions.

Here is what happened: I have a friend named B, B-Dub he liked to jokingly be styled, a good friend of about twelve years, who died in a horrific car accident in the early hours of Friday morning. He was driving his 1998 Mustang along a nearby highway, when, while attempting to pass a slow semi-truck, he lost control of his car and hit the center divider of the road. Not wearing a seatbelt, he was thrown from his car and then run over by a tractor-trailer, after which he died almost instantly.

I know, right? Who the fuck does that actually happen to? It is gruesome as hell. That is action movie shit right there: that is not something that happens to someone who’s squeezed your hand during a pretend seance, or nursed your spins before taking you home. Just unbelievable, unimaginable even. The idea that my friend is dead is hard enough to wrap my mind around, let alone his last seconds of life.


Hang loose? Is that still a Thing?

I don’t really care to go in to safety and hazards in the details of the accident, etc, just now. Those are obvious, I think we can all agree. What I want to say is that, of all my old friends, and I am blessed to have more than I ever dreamt in my lonely childhood I would — which makes them all the more special to me — B was one who was a true comedian, a really blithe spirit. In late adolescence, it seems like some people are very, very funny and still have that dark or serious side off of which you feed while you pick things apart and explore your latent sarcasm and rage. Not B.


Heading out to a call for emergency.

B was all right with listening to you complain, but he was much more evolved than to do so himself, due to his, I came to realize as we grew close, well-chosen and informed, mature good nature. There was no naivete to it, and he never played the fool. He was just a joyful man, a sprite or leprechaun who burst with comic energy and always lifted your spirits. He genuinely loved to make others happy. That he would die in such a way has seemed particularly cruel to me. But why, I ask myself. It’s not a death that “fits” anyone. Doesn’t everyone remark on how vivacious and free-spirited the deceased was in their elegaic, closing remarks? Does any death suit anyone?


B-Dub is on the far right.

No. Christ, of course not. But we don’t get to live forever, at least not that I can tell as yet. People keep saying things to me like, “It just reminds you to live in the present, express your love to those who matter, live life to the fullest, because you never know,” etc., but it’s not very comforting. I guess what they really want to say is, “People die” (which I have already painfully learned) and “– your friend did. You can’t change it” (another thing I know) “So find a way to get okay with it.”


Why not get amped over snack treats?

And I’m going to try. I’m going to listen to my heart instead of suppressing it. I’m going to acknowledge what I’m feeling. What I’m feeling is exactly what everyone tells me, which I want to reject: ie, that my friend is dead, and that there is nothing that I change about it. And as I said, I’m trying to get okay with it.

And I have started by saying I’m pretty fucking well upset about it.


For some moments in life, there are no words.

(Willy Wonka. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Mel Stuart, 1971.)

That is all.

Daily Batman: Bat Life With Batpecker

February 12, 2011


via.

If civilization is ever going to be anything but a grandiose pratfall, anything more than a can of deodorizer in the shithouse of existence, the people are going to have to concern themselves with magic and poetry. …

Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature.

(Tom Robbins. Still Life With Woodpecker. New York: Bantam, 1980.)

Really grok this. My estranged husband loaned me this book when we were dating. This part always stuck out to me. Do I feel like a Robbins month? I’ll need to think about it. Maybe June?

Burroughs Month: Thanksgiving Prayer

November 25, 2010


“To John Dillinger and hope he is still alive.
Thanksgiving Day. November 28, 1986.”

Thanks for the wild turkey and
the passenger pigeons, destined
to be shat out through wholesome
American guts.

Thanks for a continent to despoil
and poison.


Thanks for Indians to provide a
modicum of challenge and
danger.

Thanks for vast herds of bison to
kill and skin leaving the
carcasses to rot.

Thanks for bounties on wolves
and coyotes.


Thanks for the American dream,
To vulgarize and to falsify until
the bare lies shine through.

Thanks for the KKK.

For nigger-killin’ lawmen,
feelin’ their notches.


For decent church-goin’ women,
with their mean, pinched, bitter,
evil faces.

Thanks for “Kill a Queer for
Christ” stickers.

Thanks for laboratory AIDS.

Thanks for Prohibition and the
war against drugs.


Thanks for a country where
nobody’s allowed to mind their
own business.

Thanks for a nation of finks.

Yes, thanks for all the
memories — all right let’s see
your arms!


You always were a headache and
you always were a bore.

Thanks for the last and greatest
betrayal of the last and greatest
of human dreams.

I do not believe it is as hopeless as all that. This year, I am incredibly thankful to be alive at all, let alone to live where I do with the people I love. I understand Mr. Burroughs’ criticisms, I just think that we must keep caring and trying to win out against the sense of defeat and cynicism, and maybe then the dream can still be saved. I don’t believe people are inherently bad; I believe the opposite, and I won’t get discouraged and filled with bitterness toward all of humanity just because of the publicized exploits and outrages of the bad apples in our barrel. I believe that for each one of the headlines that sends people in to despair over the state of the world, there are a thousand unreported little kindnesses and gestures of love and connection.

And world peace. I know. I get cheesey. I’m just feeling very happy and free and alive.




Almost all photos via Square America.

Flashback Friday — Hot Man Bein’ Hot of the Day: Viggo Mortensen Edition

October 29, 2010

This post originally appeared on September 27, 2009 at 6:55 pm.

It’s like bringing a gun to a knifefight.

“The way we present ourselves is a veneer, and beneath that, there are a lot more unpleasant things.” –Viggo Mortensen.

In addition to being an excellent actor, Viggo Mortensen is also a published poet, jazz musician who has released three CDs to favorable reviews, and a gifted painter whose provocative full-wall murals appear in A Perfect Murder, the 1998 adapatation of Hitchcock’s Dial “M” For Murder. Furthermore, your wife, girlfriend, mother, or sister would all leave you for him without a backward glance. Did you know?

According to the wiki, Viggo Mortensen has property near the seat of the teeny little county in the northwestern tip of the United States from which both sides of my family hail, but I have never seen him there even effing once. Total folklore. What gives, man? Next time you are in Bumfuck, Idaho, call a bitch.


“We all experience many freakish and unexpected events—you have to be open to suffering a little. The philosopher Schopenhauer talked about how out of the randomness, there is an apparent intention in the fate of an individual that can be glimpsed later on. When you are an old guy, you can look back, and maybe this rambling life has some through-line. Others can see it better sometimes. But when you glimpse it yourself, you see it more clearly than anyone.” –Viggo Mortensen

Y’all please excuse Viggo Mortensen while he blows ya mind.

Auden October: “I was wrong.”

October 28, 2010


via.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

(W.H. Auden. “Song IX,” Twelve Songs. 1936.)

Auden October: “Autumn Song”

October 20, 2010


Photographed by mjagiellicz on the d.a.

Now the leaves are falling fast,
Nurse’s flowers will not last,
Nurses to their graves are gone,
But the prams go rolling on.


Photographed by bittersea on the d.a.

Whispering neighbors left and right
Daunt us from our true delight,
Able hands are forced to freeze
Derelict on lonely knees.


Photographed by leenaraven on the d.a.

Close behind us on our track,
Dead in hundreds cry Alack,
Arms raised stiffly to reprove
In false attitudes of love.


Photographed by cookiemonstah on the d.a.

Scrawny through a plundered wood,
Trolls run scolding for their food,
Owl and nightingale are dumb,
And the angel will not come.


Photographed by redribboninyourhair on the d.a.

Clear, unscalable, ahead
Rise the Mountains of Instead,
From whose cold, cascading streams
None may drink except in dreams.

(Auden, W.H. “VI.:Autumn Song.” Twelve Songs. March 1936.)

If ever there were a view on which to turn your back à la Gertrude Stein, a sweeping vista of the Mountains of Instead would be the one. No going back. Too late. Prams rolling on. Breathtaking strong tide of inevitability that takes all the water with it and leaves you and your petty fears and dreams dragging in the dust.

Time is stolen from us in such tiny ways — although I guess it is scarcely a theft when you never lock the door or look out the window to see if there is a shadow waiting for you to turn your back, as if all you possess are invincible by dint of being yours — and we use landmark occasions to mark the loss, but we only once in a while really look at what momentous and yet totally miniscule shit comprises what is destined to be our one and only, short history.

This Autumn was already weighing as heavily on me as last year. Now all I feel like I can handle doing is to take a hot bath and climb back beneath the covers (you see what I mean about aiding in our own robbery by time?). Thanks a lot, Auden. I guess what scares me most about it is does it always steal up on you? Does it just sneak up and you turn around and cry out, “Oh, not yet. It can’t be time yet. I’m not finished. I thought I would have more time.”


Photographed by disco_ball on the d.a.

Is there any way to escape that, that moment of realization, that punch in the gut when the waste, all the time you wasted suddenly comes rushing up around you so you can’t even breathe? Your life is over and you’re not ready because you thought you could always keep backsliding, that there would be special accounting for prodigal, last minute, golden you, who always slid in under the wire, who always got a second chance if you smiled big enough when you asked. There is no talking or charming or dodging your way out of final reckoning, and no method by which I can imagine escaping the horror of that realization, and you finally turn around and see the Mountains of Instead. You made them that tall. What do you do about the regret which will follow. Is there a way to soften that blow?

I don’t think there is. I can make vows about viewing this poem as a cautionary tale, and shine you on about how I plan on avoiding such a fate by making every moment count, and on and on until the sun goes supernova, but a plucky attitude does not lower the Mountains of Instead even an inch. No changing the past. No erasing regrets. That is just some fucked up shit right there.

Auden October: Alone about the dreadful wood

October 19, 2010


“Enchanted forest” by ostmo on the d.a.

Alone, alone, about the dreadful wood
Of conscious evil runs a lost mankind,
Dreading to find its Father.

(W.H. Auden, “For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratio.” 1942.)

Auden October: Inaugural edition, “The More Loving One”

October 6, 2010

This month will focus on W.H. Auden. Starting … now.


Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.


How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.


Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.


Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.

(Auden, W.H. “The More Loving One.” Homage to Clio. New York: Random House. 1960.)


via rimbaud-was-a-rolling-stone on the tumblr.

It seems to me, I suppose unfairly, that in a pair there is always a lover and a lovee. My nearly lifelong preference for the safely sheltered harbor of being a lovee has made me deliberately pass over and miss crucial opportunities, not to mention made a secret hypocrite and liar of me many times over, while allowing me never to really share all of myself.


Masculin Féminin (Godard, 1966).

It’s a journey that lacks the thrill of a rocky climb or winding bridge over water where your hands are clasped and you jump together over giant roots; it’s a dry, smooth, straight path that lacks all scenery and leaves you feeling more alone with someone else than by yourself. To consciously choose to change this behavior (which of course is a shield I long ago threw up to defend against pain down the road and have never fallen out of the habit) is one of my many resolves, but one that I don’t know when I will possibly be ready to put in to practice.


via bleedtoblack on the tumblr.

Oh — I’m coming at this poem from the perspective that it’s about more than stars. But even just the stars layer of meaning is cool, too, I guess.

Daily Batman: Artists are just like delicate little kitties, blah bloggety blah

October 4, 2010

The journal has hit rock-bottom: I’m blogging about cats.


Women, poets, and especially artists like cats; delicate natures only can realize their sensitive nervous systems.

(Helen M. Winslow)

I think that’s horseshit. Me, I’m more of a Dog Guy, and I consider myself all kinds of artistic, introspective, and delicate and shit. Especially in my decorous manner of expression, yes? My deal with cats is I understand them far too well to dote on them: fawning, soft, pretty little big-eyed phonies — I’m a woman, cat; I’m on to your game. My kind invented your act, pal.

Except for my cat. He is pretty rad. He has no name and he purrs right before he bites you.


Self-portrait by hellogoodtaylor on the da.

When I lived in Portland I ended up through my husband’s family finding myself the owner of three cats: Killwhitey, Blackpowerforever, and Sadie. (Guess which one I didn’t name.) They were fine for two and a half or so years and then all three died on me, of different causes and at different points, within a month — October through November, actually, of 2008. Very disturbing. R.I.P. to them and to my short career as a custodian of cats.

My aforementioned original, “real” cat that I’ve always had in California, who has hung around for some twelve-odd years, is his own man and toward him I make no pretensions of ownership. He’s off his nut but I love that fierce little dude.

Movie Moment: Bonnie and Clyde

September 30, 2010

Promised a Movie Moment yesterday on Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn, 1967), and here it is. The night that I first saw this film is one of those instances that really stands, clear, head and shoulders above others in my mind. I was a sophomore in high school and my father and I had got takeout Chinese food and rented Bonnie and Clyde some weekend when my mother was doing some church lady thing (now I’m a church lady, too … time marches on). As an already solid gold Daddy’s Girl, when my father told me it was “a very important movie,” and that “you will love it,” I was set with anticipation. Also, I really like Chinese food.


I had already read, a few years earlier, a good-sized, detailed book about Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker that I’d picked up at a thrift store. Lots of pictures, reprints of Bonnie’s poems, the whole nine. But what I saw was not what I remembered reading. I was surprised at the many deviations in the screenplay from the true accounts of their partnership and crimes that I’d read, yet I found the movie so absorbing and excellent, such a blend of glamour and grit, that I didn’t mind the liberties at all. I was totally taken with it — especially Faye Dunaway and her costumes and styling. Dad warned me to look away at the end, but of course I didn’t, and I gaped at the dancing corpses. This, I knew, was accurate, but to see it on the screen brought the unbelievably vivid violence of it to a shocking level that my imagination had not reached when I only read about their deaths. I thought then, and think now, that it’s one of the best movies ever made.

But not everyone shares my view. Especially initially, some critics outspokenly hated Bonnie and Clyde:

It is a cheap piece of bald-faced slapstick comedy that treats the hideous depredations of that sleazy, moronic pair as though they were as full of fun and frolic as the jazz-age cutups in Thoroughly Modern Millie.

(“Movie Review: Bonnie and Clyde.” Crowther, Bosley. The New York Times. 14 April 1967.)



Such ridiculous, camp-tinctured travesties of the kind of people these desperados were and of the way people lived in the dusty Southwest back in those barren years might be passed off as candidly commercial movie comedy, nothing more, if the film weren’t reddened with blotches of violence of the most grisly sort.

(Ibid.)

Oh, noes. Violence. That has no place in a movie.


Arthur Penn, the aggressive director, has evidently gone out of his way to splash the comedy holdups with smears of vivid blood as astonished people are machine-gunned. And he has staged the terminal scene of the ambuscading and killing of Barrow and Bonnie by a posse of policemen with as much noise and gore as is in the climax of The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

This blending of farce with brutal killings is as pointless as it is lacking in taste, since it makes no valid commentary upon the already travestied truth.

(Ibid.)


“As pointless as it is lacking in taste because it makes no valid commentary on the already travestied truth.” Let’s explore that criticism, shall we?

According to statements made by [posse members] Ted Hinton and Bob Alcorn:
“Each of us six officers had a shotgun and an automatic rifle and pistols. We opened fire with the automatic rifles. They were emptied before the car got even with us. Then we used shotguns … There was smoke coming from the car, and it looked like it was on fire. After shooting the shotguns, we emptied the pistols at the car, which had passed us and ran into a ditch about 50 yards on down the road. It almost turned over. We kept shooting at the car even after it stopped. We weren’t taking any chances.”

(the wiki.)




The lawmen then opened fire, killing Barrow and Parker while shooting a combined total of approximately 130 rounds. Barrow was killed instantly by [an] initial head shot, but Parker had a moment to reflect; Hinton reported hearing her scream as she realized Barrow was dead before the shooting at her began in earnest. The officers emptied the specially ordered automatic rifles, as well as other rifles, shotguns and pistols at the car, and any one of many wounds would have been fatal to either of the fugitives.

(Ibid.)



Officially, the tally in Parish coroner Dr. J. L. Wade’s 1934 report listed seventeen separate entrance wounds on Barrow’s body and twenty-six on Parker’s, including several headshots on each, and one that had snapped Barrow’s spinal column. So numerous were the bullet holes that undertaker C. F. “Boots” Bailey would have difficulty embalming the bodies because they wouldn’t contain the embalming fluid.

(Ibid.)

So … maybe that outburst of unthinkable retributive violence on the side of the law had a little something to do with the film’s objectionably grisly ending? Just a very, very belated thought for the late Mr. Crowther, who I must add with real respect was an esteemed and important critic in his time — pretty much until this review. All the cool kids stopped listening to him and assumed he was part of the stuffy establishment, and his reputation suffered. I think he really was not ready for this picture, is all.

Contrary to how he comes off in the review owing to our modern hindsight, Bosley Crowther had a very open mind, wrote against HUAC as curtailing art and freethinking, a brave and dangerous thing to do in the 1950s, and praised films with strong social content while disdaining jingoism and oversimplification of political ideas. Mr. Crowther insisted on the relevancy of foreign film to English-speaking audiences and did great things for the careers of some of my favorite overseas directors, including Fellini, Bergman, and Roberto Rossellini. That — to me — pitch-perfect mix of braggadocio and embellishment, expositorily satirical idealism, and vérité in Bonnie and Clyde, together with the innovative cinematic discourse which has been cited as ushering in a new era in Hollywood, just seems to have put him over the edge.




In any case, Bosley Crowther was not the only reviewer who found himself initially less than thrilled by Bonnie and Clyde.

Beatty, playing the lead, does a capable job, within the limits of his familiar, insolent, couldn’t-care-less manner, of making Barrow the amiable varmint he thought himself to be. Barrow fancied himself something of a latterday Robin Hood, robbing only banks that were foreclosing on poor farmers and eventually turning into a kind of folk hero. But Faye Dunaway’s Sunday-social prettiness is at variance with any known information about Bonnie Parker.

(“Cinema: Low-Down Hoedown.” Time. 25 August 1967.)


Variety disagreed with Time‘s slight of Faye Dunaway, saying

Like the film itself, the performances are mostly erratic. Beatty is believable at times, but his characterization lacks any consistency. Miss Dunaway is a knockout as Bonnie Parker, registers with deep sensitivity in the love scenes, and conveys believability to her role.

(“Film: Bonnie and Clyde.” Kaufman, David. Variety. 9 Aug 1967.)


Overall, however, Mr. Kaufman pans the film, saying,

Warren Beatty’s initial effort as a producer incongruously couples comedy with crime … Conceptually, the film leaves much to be desired, because killings and the backdrop of the Depression are scarcely material for a bundle of laughs. … This inconsistency of direction is the most obvious fault of Bonnie and Clyde, which has some good ingredients, although they are not meshed together well. … Arthur Penn’s direction is uneven, at times catching a brooding, arresting quality, but often changing pace at a tempo that is jarring.

(Ibid.)

Fortunately, not everyone agreed, and more and more people began to “get” the picture. By the time Oscar season rolled around, Bonnie and Clyde received an impressive ten Academy Award nominations and secured two wins. Burnett Guffey received the Oscar for Best Cinematography and Estelle Parsons won Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Blanche, Clyde’s sister-in-law. The other nominations included Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Dunaway), Best Actor (Beatty), Best Supprting Actor (both Gene Hackman and Michael J. Pollard), Best Original Story and Screenplay, and Best Costume Design.


1967 was a banner year for films — some of the movies to which Bonnie and Clyde lost the Oscar were Coolhand Luke, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, The Graduate, and In the Heat of the Night. I said goddamn; what a year.

Modern critical reception of Bonnie and Clyde places it in the category of top films in Hollywood history, a landmark picture not only in the business and art of making movies, but also in the career of director Arthur Penn, whose death yesterday prompted this Movie Moment.



Bonnie and Clyde developed the aesthetic that marked Penn’s high-visibility period: slyly accented, harmonica-hootin’, harvest-gold-patchwork Americana; ever-poised violence; and an open invitation to apply the story as a flexible allegory for the issues of the day.

(“Anthology takes a tour of the Bonnie and Clyde director’s America.” Pinkerton, Nick. The Village Voice. 12 Nov 2008.)


Going back to my own reflections at the beginning of this entry, when I saw the film again in college (after which I regularly re-watch it now), I was able to crystallize exactly why the changes in the screenplay from how the real-life story played out so imperturbed me.

The accuracy of the facts being related is not as important as the yarn being spun, and that yarn needs to be by turns a little soft-focus with family, a little jump the crick in a jalopy while banjos play, a little sexy and simultaneously innocent, teeming with tinfoil chicken and mishaps and stolen laughs besides stolen money, in order for the juxtaposition with the sharp reality of the consequences of that story’s heroes’ actions. Not just at the end, but throughout the film there are these jarring standoffs and murders that shoot the child’s balloon of the idea of what’s happening right out of the sky and back in to the reality of what is happening — and its inevitable conclusion.


Besides that most of the changes between the real story and the script make the tale tighter and better solidify characterization, the embellishments and inflated sense of ego in the main characters and in the cinematic discourse with which we are presented are important to the overall type of story being told. The grand Depression-era myth of the infamous lovers, robbers, and murderers Bonnie and Clyde, as Beatty and Penn have conceived and shot it, is more like the story that Clyde Barrow would have told to cellmates in prison. This is Bonnie and Clyde, so far as we can tell, as they saw themselves, something like folk heroes flying by the seat of their pants, living a ruthless dream and getting real scars from it. This version is a compelling and archetypal campfire story, like the epic outlaw poem that Bonnie Parker wrote about them while they were on the road, “The Trail’s End” (later renamed “The Story of Bonnie and Clyde” by the press), excerpts from which I’d like to use to end this very long — but I think justly so — entry.



They don’t think they’re too smart or desperate,
They know that the law always wins;
They’ve been shot at before,
But they do not ignore
That death is the wages of sin.



Some day they'll go down together;
They'll bury them side by side;
To few it'll be grief —
To the law a relief —
But it's death for Bonnie and Clyde.

(“The Trail’s End.” Parker, Bonnie. April 1933.)

R.I.P. again to Arthur Penn, who had the courage to make this fantastic piece of cinema his way and received just due for it within his lifetime. May we all be so brave, visionary, and fortunate.

All screencaps via the wonderful screenmusings collection.

Burroughs Month: Fear and the Monkey

September 27, 2010

Holy shit, have I ever inadvertently shortchanged the month that was supposed to belong to William S. Burroughs. And myself, because I wanted to know more about him and his work. He is going to have to get another month since September went to pieces. Let’s say November so I can put up his famously controversial Thanksgiving poem. So this’ll be the last Burroughs entry ’til November, when I positively absolutely will not allow myself to forget.


Author’s Note: This text arranged in my New York loft, which is the converted locker room of an old YMCA. Guests have reported the presence of a ghost boy. So this is a Oui-Ja board poem taken from Dumb Instrument, a book of poems by Denton Welch, and spells and invocations from the Necronomicon, a highly secret magical text released in paperback. There is a pinch of Rimbaud, a dash of St-John Perse, an oblique reference to Toby Tyler with the Circus, and the death of his pet monkey.


Photographed by Logan White.

Turgid itch and the perfume of death
On a whispering south wind
A smell of abyss and of nothingness
Dark Angel of the wanderers howls through the loft
With sick smelling sleep
Morning dream of a lost monkey
Born and muffled under old whimsies
With rose leaves in closed jars


Photographed by Alexander Bergström.

Fear and the monkey
Sour taste of green fruit in the dawn
The air milky and spiced with the trade winds
White flesh was showing
His jeans were so old
Leg shadows by the sea


Photographed by Anna Morosini, via feaverish.

Morning light
On the sky light of a little shop
On the odor of cheap wine in the sailors’ quarter
On the fountain sobbing in the police courtyards
On the statue of moldy stone
On the little boy whistling to stray dogs.


Photographed by Kelsey Reckling, via feaverish.

Wanderers cling to their fading home
A lost train whistle wan and muffled
In the loft night taste of water
Morning light on milky flesh


Light as a feather, stiff as a board.

Turgid itch ghost hand
Sad as the death of monkeys
Thy father a falling star
Crystal bone into thin air
Night sky
Dispersal and emptiness.

— August 1978.

(William S. Burroughs, “Fear and the Monkey,” Pearl 6 (Odense, Denmark: Fall/Winter 1978). Collected in The Burroughs File, City Lights, 1984. Published by the extraordinary RealityStudio in August 2010. Retrieved 27 Sept 2010.)


Henry Fuesli, “Nightmare.”

Okay, first of all, wow.

Second. “Fear and the Monkey” is done in the cut-up style which Burroughs pioneered with his friend Brion Gysin. A lot of short-entry, quick explanations of cut-up technique will solely list Burroughs and his Dadaist inspirations as the origin of the style, but I think it’s important to mention the painter and musician Mr. Gysin because Mr. Burroughs (I think very honorably) always cites Mr. Gysin as an influence and co-creator of cut-up when asked about his use of the technique in literature. If it is important to him to insistently give co-credit, then it is important to me.


Burroughs and Gysin.

Cut-up is an example of aleatoricism, in which art is randomly created from other sources or by means of automatic generation. You know, found sounds, collage from old grocery lists, even the paintings Mr. Burroughs himself liked to do by firing a gun full of paint at the canvas (oh, him and his guns) — all of these fall beneath the aegis of aleatory techniques. I gave aleatoric poetry a try a few years back when I collected the subject lines of the emails in my spam box for about a year. I was not so strict that I kept in nonsense letter combinations nor drug names with 0’s and x’s, etc.; just actual phrases. It was an experiment from which I did not expect much but what emerged was a genuinely interesting collection of wordplay. I wanted badly to break from the lack of form and arrange the lines in a way that would be even more effective (some of the lines juxtaposed with surprising impact) but I felt like within the parameters of the project I’d set down that would be breaking my rules and making the work too deliberate. In any case, it was all lost in the Great Crash of 2009, which I deeply regret. Perhaps I’ll try again soon.


via stupidandcontagious right here on the wordpress. Girls like a boy who reads.

Anyway, that’s not cut-up. Sorry for the sidetrack. Cut-up is where you take a complete, “linear” text, and literally cut it up into short phrases, then re-arrange it. In placing and rearranging the original linear narrative into this new context, deeper messages can emerge. Form and content, langue and parole, deconstruction — etc. Pretty rad shit, in my book.

In the 1950s, painter and writer Brion Gysin more fully developed the cut-up method after accidentally discovering it. He had placed layers of newspapers as a mat to protect a tabletop from being scratched while he cut papers with a razor blade. Upon cutting through the newspapers, Gysin noticed that the sliced layers offered interesting juxtapositions of text and image. He began deliberately cutting newspaper articles into sections, which he randomly rearranged.

(the wiki)


Isn’t it just?

Gysin introduced Burroughs to the technique at the Beat Hotel. The pair later applied the technique to printed media and audio recordings in an effort to decode the material’s implicit content, hypothesizing that such a technique could be used to discover the true meaning of a given text. Burroughs also suggested cut-ups may be effective as a form of divination saying, “When you cut into the present the future leaks out.”

(Ibid.)

After cut-up, Burroughs started doing fold-in, but that’s for another day. A day in the lonesome November.


Photographed by Logan White.

“When you cut into the present the future leaks out.” I really grok that. I do believe that is my Idea For Today. Beautiful.

Daily Batman: Heroes and Villains

September 26, 2010


by celphaneflwer on the deviantart.

Life is not simple, and people can’t be boxed into being either heroes or villains.

(Jessica Tarahata Hagedorn.)

E.E. Cummings Month: “All in green went my love riding”

August 25, 2010

The following Cummings poem is not much like his usual at first blush, but is really full of simple wordplay and tricksy manipulation of conventions that conceals a more complex meaning than simple medieval ballad — which is much more in keeping with what you’d expect, yes? “All in green went my love riding” has been set to music and sung by, among many, Warren Kinsella and one of my patronessiest of patron saints, Joan Baez. The most widely accepted meaning of the poem is that it is a subtle retelling of the myth of Artemis and Actaeon. (Variations of the myth here.)


Modesty Blaise.

As far as I can tell, in the version on which Cummings has based “All in green went my love riding,” Actaeon is a merciless hunter who desires to marry Artemis after he sees her bathing. The virgin warrior goddess is furious at this cheek, particularly that he would spy on her and then imply she owes him marriage (she fiercely protected her physical privacy and chastity).


The lovely and talented Marguerite Empey.

Artemis punishes Actaeon by warning him that, if he ever speaks, he will be transformed in to a stag and devoured by his own bitches, which is where it seems Cummings picks up the thread. Here it is.

All in green went my love riding
on a great horse of gold
into the silver dawn.

four lean hounds crouched low and smiling
the merry deer ran before.


Fleeter be they than dappled dreams
the swift sweet deer
the red rare deer.

Four red roebuck at a white water
the cruel bugle sang before.


Horn at hip went my love riding
riding the echo down
into the silver dawn.

four lean hounds crouched low and smiling
the level meadows ran before.


via sabino on the tumblr.

Softer be they than slippered sleep
the lean lithe deer
the fleet flown deer.

Four fleet does at a gold valley
the famished arrow sang before.


Photographed by Neil Krug.

Bow at belt went my love riding
riding the mountain down
into the silver dawn.

four lean hounds crouched low and smiling
the sheer peaks ran before.


Paler be they than daunting death
the sleek slim deer
the tall tense deer.

Four tell stags at a green mountain
the lucky hunter sang before.


Amber Weber for I.D., September 2008.

All in green went my love riding
on a great horse of gold
into the silver dawn.

four lean hounds crouched low and smiling
my heart fell dead before.

(E.E. Cummings, “All in green went my love riding.” Tulips and Chimneys. 1923.)

He just had to sing all triumphantly, didn’t he, in front of the green mountain? Heart = hart. A synonym for stag. Pretty sure that between the line about stags and the repetition of “all in green,” Artemis changed him in to one of the “Four tell stags” and his own dogs ripped him to pieces.


Liv Tyler.

Also I noticed on this re-read that she dwells longer than I remembered over her four dead does. This makes sense because besides being the ruler of nature and the hunt, she held deer and cypress as her closest animal and plant brethren. The victims of Actaeon’s arrow and his ravaging dogs, those four deer emerge in her description unquestionably as females: they are slender, pale, lithe, slippered — red and rare. Virginal language, am I right? That purity and feminity gives the “Four” power and deserves honor, just as does Artemis’s own virginity, which bathtime-peeping Actaeon and his sleazy, brutish hounds do not seem to understand or respect.


via thechocobrig on the tumblr. fabulous photojournal.

By contrast, in all of the lines which describe his four animals, Actaeon’s “four” appears in lowercase letters — the only Cummingsish punctuation-play in the poem, as the four remain in lowercase despite following periods, which Cummings otherwise obeys with great restraint for the rest of the poem. Actaeon’s four are the four hounds; the miniscule rather than majuscal “f” usage denotes the speaker’s low opinion of them and bodes very badly for them, considering Artemis’s usual respect for nature. The number four, besides paralleling the count of her lost deer, is suggestive of pursuit of living creatures in all four of the cardinal directions, a kind of inescapable squared threat in terms of the swath a disrespectful hunter might cut through the planet of a goddess who considers herself the mother of nature — because of its relationship to “four corners,” “four winds,” etc, the total of four hounds is exactly the right number to appear confounding and problematic. An unignorable affront which must be dealt with.


Abbey Lee Kershaw for Dazed and Confused.

The four hounds may also perhaps be a reference to the Horsemen of the Apocalypse who accompany Death in the Revelation of St. John: the hunter brings destruction to what Artemis is sworn to protect; she is the patroness of life on earth, a mother-warrior figure who gives her attention to springs and deer, and Actaeon is that life’s death, a sanguine, horn-blowing archer with attendantly destructive hell hounds that tear her living creatures apart. An essentially unforgivable encroachment on all that Artemis stands for. Those four lean crouching motherfuckers act as a smirking antithesis to her binding and symbiotic method of mothering the earth, by dismantling and devouring everything they encounter, famished agents of a chaos she is sworn to repel. They tear things up.

In this case, their master, too. Does the punishment fit the crime?

I’ve read that there are allusions here to “The Knight’s Tale” in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. I never make it far through those. I know as a happy medievalist I’m supposed to read and adore them and that what I’m about to tell you could get me yelled at and kicked out of the society of nerds who read material that predates van Leeuwenhoek, the inventor of the very lenses the best of the best wear to strain our eyes over the stuff we love, but I feel that poring over Chaucer is something akin to people in a thousand years venerating the script of Rat Race. Great movie, solidly entertaining, good cast with varied backstories, but, like, how dire is reading it to the quest of accurately intrepreting society in this era? Not much. (Commence lambasting, Chaucer-lovers. Change my mind?)


Journey Into Perplexity right here on the wordpress.

Anyway. If you follow that link to the wiki list of variations on the Artemis and Actaeon story, you can see that different authors have spent time cataloguing the precise names of the up-to-fifty hounds involved in Actaeon’s punishment.

I guess the lesson here is that, if you want even a chance with Artemis, you need to be green in deed as well as dress. Keep your elbows out and for god’s sake recycle, dudes.