Love this interview with the poet Hugh Seidman. My Dad just met Seidman under the sad circumstances of sitting shiva for a their mutual close friend and one of my Dad’s oldest colleagues and friends Edward “Eddie” Smith. Here is more on Ed’s impact in his fields of cognitive psychology, cognitive neuroscience and beyond.
During a big clean up of my creative space in our apartment, I uncovered an article about learning how to memorize a poem. In it the writer emphasized the importance of this task. It was like reading an advice column about the importance of taking vitamin D or exercising and I thought I should try it (I do take vitamin D and I try to dance around living room now and then).
I found a poem that I love and I didn’t it think would be too hard to memorize. That said, I don’t remember the last time I tried to memorize anything. It is hard or, like with exercise, I’m out of practice (or was never in practice). I’m still working on this and am now looking into tips on memorizing. I’m guessing repetition is key, but maybe there are some tricks too.
since feeling is first
since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;
wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world
my blood approves,
and kisses are better fate
lady i swear by all flowers. Don’t cry
—the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids’ flutter which says
we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life’s not a paragraph
And death i think is no parenthesis
During the past couple of months for some reason the poet William Wordsworth is in the air around me. First after I bought some early spring daffodils a colleague recited part of the poem “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” with its lovely first line….
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils,
Beside the lake, beneath the trees
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee: –
A poet could not but be gay
In such a jocund company:
I gazed -and gazed -but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought.
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills
And dances with the daffodils.
I just bought a copy of The Complete Poetry Cesar Vallejo (edited and translated by Clayton Eshleman). I’ve previously mentioned my love of Vallejo’s poetry here and posted a poem. Below I’m posting another that I’ve just read today.
Paris, October 1936
From all of this I am the only one who parts.
From this bench I go away, from my pants,
from my great situation, from my actions,
from my number split part to part,
from all of this I am the only one who parts.
From the Champs Elysées or as the strange
backstreet of the Moon curves around,
my death goes away, my cradle parts,
and, surrounded by people, alone, estranged,
my human resemblance turns around
and dispatches its shadows one by one.
And I move away from all, since all
remain to provide my alibi:
my shoe, its eyelet, as well as its mud
and even the elbow bend
of my own shirt buttoned up.
Yesterday I received the best email ever. A first of its kind. A bookstore, Bluestockings in the Lower East Side on Allen Street, emailed me to REORDER my chapbook Between My Teeth. Reorder because they sold out of the first batch. I’m still on cloud nine. It’s the first time I’ve ever sold my work, the first time strangers have chosen to purchase something I’ve created–with help from my wonderful partner Craig who designed the fabulous the cover. It is a wonderful feeling.
Here’s Craig’s cover:
And here’s are a few of my favorite poems below. I don’t have titles, so I separate them with symbols.
The outline of the day,
-smelling of mustard and tears-
stretched to cover my mouth.
Awake, I imagine on my chest,
a small house filled with sleep,
blankets piled high, midnight blue, plush.
Wrapping them around my eyes, around my feet,
I’m sleepy, yet my mind is busy counting
not sleep, not sheep.
My eyelids close and my lashes flutter,
louder than ever.
I walk under a tree,
that fits like a hat,
leaves waving around.
In a bark shirt,
I’m on my knees praying,
for a good new habit.
People are full.
They pull in their feet and hands,
frothing, they carry no weight,
not even their own.
Weariness muscles my eyes.
I am tied up in exhaustion knots, yet
sleep has abandoned my night.
I imagine dreams standing in line at 3 am.
Negotiating with sleep, I hide and seek among the wires,
arguing for time to think all my thoughts.
Perhaps you could unfold me,
place kisses on my forehead, on my cheek,
maybe then I could sleep.
I’m working on some new poems. One that I really like that’s in the works, is this one:
I went on a walk,
with an almost circle, late-in-the-sky moon,
a glow between clouds,
and a branch.
Turning a corner on the way home,
I looked over my shoulder and saw it again,
astoundingly bright near a tree, then behind a veil,
bow down, the bright light.
My wonderful pal Drew told me the other day that he was reading the Greek poet C.P Cavafy‘s work and one of his favorite poems was Hidden Things. Then he promptly read it out loud to me over the phone and I was riveted. I remembered that I had a book of Cavafy’s and went to look for it on the shelf. Finding it, I realized we had different translations and then we read them to each other line by line, liking bits and pieces of each. Below is the 1975 version translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard.
From all I did and all I said
let no one try to find out who I was.
An obstacle was there that changed the pattern
of my actions and the manner of my life.
An obstacle was often there
to stop me when I’d begin to speak.
From my most unnoticed actions,
my most veiled writing—
from these alone will I be understood.
But maybe it isn’t worth so much concern,
so much effort to discover who I really am.
Later, in a more perfect society,
someone else made just like me
is certain to appear and act freely.
Some poems I’ve placed on my wall at work.
1. Love this one from Emily Dickinson. I read it on the subway!
Tell all the Truth but tell it slant—
Success in Cirrcuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightening to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind—
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on; nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.
Two poetry books of Anne Carson (more here at The Poetry Foundation) have been on table for many months, looking at me. And I finally opened them and I have been thrilled. I was a little intimidated as she is very erudite and also tosses in essays. But it all flows. And if something is a bit much for the moment, I just turn the page. I can return later!
One of my favorite poems at the moment is below. It is from Men in the Off Hours:
FIRST CHALDAIC ORACLE
There is something you should know.
And the right way to know it
is by cherrying of your mind.
Because if you press your mind towards it
and try to know
as you know a things,
you will not know it.
It comes out of red
with kills on both sides,
it is scrap, it is nightly,
it kings your mind.
No. Scorch is not the way
that thing you must know.
But use the hum
of your wound
and flamepit out everything
right to the edge
of that thing you should know.
The way to know it
is not by staring hard.
But keep chiselled
keep Praguing the eye
of your soul and reach–
towards that thing you should know
until you get it.
That thing you should know.
Because it is out there (orchid) outside your and, it is.
I must be starving for words, because there’s a reading frenzy going on in my home. Books were quietly piling up and now I can Not Stop Reading. (Not that this is a bad thing, but it’s kinda hilarious to have four books going at once and a stack waiting, albeit many of the books are the kind of non-fiction that I need to stop and start to digest.)
Here is my reading list, all of which I can Highly Recommend, especially if the topic interest you.
–THE REST IS NOISE, Alex Ross: I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It’s, hands down, one of the best books I’ve ever read on music and simply one of the best non-fiction books I’ve ever read. Ross makes a somewhat difficult topic, the history of 20th century music, incredibly accessible. I hear and feel the music he is discussing.
–EVERYTHING IS CINEMA, Richard Brody: Again not an easy topic, at least for me…Godard’s life and work. But this extensive look at Godard’s history is very enlightening, especially for me as I found him intellectually stimulating but kinda like homework. This book is helping me see the spectacular level of innovation and thinking behind his films.
[fyi: Both Brody and Ross write for The New Yorker, as does James Wood, whose book HOW FICTION WORKS, I recently finished and was similarly impressed by…those New Yorker dudes know how to write a book! Big thanks to Jen Lam for the recommendation and for the actual book!]
THE ZEN OF CREATIVITY, John Daido Loori: During my meditation research I came across information about the Zen Fire Lotus Temple in Brooklyn which is connected to the Zen Mountain upstate. These are both headed by Loori who is also a photographer. I was curious to read something by him.
WALKING MEDITATION, Thich Nhat Hanh: Hanh is a master in this form and I wanted to learn more about it.
BACK TO BEGINNINGS, REFLECTIONS ON THE TAO, Huanchu Daoren: A lovely book of short meditations on life from the late 16th century. I found many to be quite practical and useful.
DESIGN AS ART, Bruno Munari: Munari illustrated this childrens book that I still have and probably treasure the most: CIRCUS IN THE MIST. I recently read a bit more on him and ordered a few of his educational books. This one looks great–I can’t wait to delve into it.
NOTES ON THE CINEMATOGRAPHER, Robert Bresson: I’ve been in the thrall of a Bresson love-fest for a while, with DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST at the top of my list. But I just watched both MOUCHETTE and PICKPOCKET and was blow away too. Wanting to learn more about Bresson, I found this book of his working memos.
INDIGNATION, Philip Roth: On the pile, a recommendation from Sandy. He’s one of my fav. living authors, so am looking forward to it…am going in blind, as I haven’t read about the story line.
Poetry I’ve been dipping into/wanting to read more of:
ELIZABETH BISHOP, a book of her complete works.
DECREATION: POETRY, ESSAYS, OPERA, Ann Carson
THE WASTELAND and other poems, T.S. Eliot
I’m also revisiting this classic that I read many many moons ago:
TO THE LIGHTHOUSE, Virginia Woolf: I’m flabbergasted by the poetry, philosophy, simple magic of her vision. I have to read each page very slowly–Not Easy for Ms. Skimmer–to savour this one. I got some little post-its and I keep sticking them on pages.
For our coming two week-I can’t believe it’s happening–California trip in August:
MY ANTONIA, Willa Cather: Another reread and our next book group pick
BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL, Fredrick Nietzsche: My pal in life and books Drew read this for his new philosophy reading partnership. He just told me that he was surprised how readable it was….which is why I’m choosing to take it along.
And a book I always have around and dip into now and then:
THE BOOK OF DISQUIET, Fernanda Pessoa: I can never read more than a page or two of this journal-like book by one of Portugal’s most important poets. You deeply sense his life experience which is infused with melancholy.
Notes on Zerfiro Torna, the most stunning piece by Monteverdi
This post is dedicated to my Step-Mutterlein Sarahchen Davies, PhD-writer extraordinaire, who introduced me to Monteverdi and much more and deserves a gold star every minute.
-Here’s a beautiful version by the astounding William Christie and his Les Arts Florissants, but my favorite is by the early music ensemble Artek and is on their work “I Don’t Want to Love”. For more on Artek, click on their name.
-Zefiro Torna is based on a sonnet that begins with “Zefiro torna e di soavi accenti l’aer fa grato” and is from a late XVI century poet, Ottavio Rinuccini, a member of the Camerata de’ Bardi. Here’s more on the madrigal from the All Music Guide: This work is one of two madrigals composed by Monteverdi with the title Zefiro torna and is not to be confused with his five-voice a cappella setting of a sonnet by Petrarch published in his Sixth Book of Madrigals in 1614. This madrigal sets a text by Ottavio Rinuccini, the poet who authored the librettos for the first two surviving operas, Peri’s La Dafne and Euridice, as well as Monteverdi’s lost opera, Arianna. It was published in the collection Scherzi Musicali, and in the composer’s Ninth Book of Madrigals (1632). Scored for two tenors and continuo, most of the piece is in the form of a ciaccona or passacaglia, which uses a constantly recurring bass line, and it is the first known example of a vocal duet that uses a ciaccona accompaniment. Although it is sometimes performed in a “straight” manner, it is most frequently interpreted as a comic parody of madrigals as they had evolved by the early seventeenth century, particularly the mannered conventions of the seconda prattica, in which the musical setting is largely driven by the text, and dissonance is used with extreme freedom as an expressive tool.
The poem, a sonnet, is a rhapsodic pastoral ode to Zephyr, the west wind that brings Spring and its attendant opportunities for romance, or at least dalliance. Here, as in many of his madrigals, Monteverdi’s exceptionally fluid text-setting skillfully subverts the structure of the sonnet so that its poetic effusions seem spontaneously improvised rather than constructed according to strict formal standards. The catchy repeated figure of the ciaccona, the springy rhythms, and the graceful but florid vocal lines give the work an infectious exuberance. The composer’s playful tweaking of the seconda prattica is evident throughout in his exaggeratedly obvious text painting. “Mormorando,” (murmuring), for instance, is set to a wavery, murmuring figure that runs on for a little longer than is strictly necessary. Later, the first voice sings “e da monti” to a line that leaps upward to the extremes of the singer’s range, while the second voice’s “e da valli” precipitously tumbles down in the opposite direction. In the final tercet of the sonnet, the mood changes and the author gives in to despair because he has not found his beloved. The ciaccona figure halts, and these lines are set as a slow quasi-recitative. In the final line, “piango” (weep), is given a balefully pathetic treatment with a harmonic progression that droops almost irretrievably below the home key, before recovering on the final word, “canto” (sing), which brings a return of the ciaccona figure and the original mood of joy and optimism. These and many other examples give performers the opportunity to showcase the music’s humor, making Zefiro torna one of the composer’s most popular and frequently performed madrigals. ~ All Music Guide
-Sarahchen told me it was a Huge Hit in the 17th century. So this was the Brittney Spears of those times?!?
(The poem used by Claudio Monteverdi, first in Italian then translated into English.)
ORIGINAL ITALIAN VERSION:
Zefiro torna e di soavi accenti
l’aer fa grato e’il pié discioglie a l’onde
e, mormoranda tra le verdi fronde,
fa danzar al bel suon su’l prato i fiori.
Inghirlandato il crin Fillide e Clori
note temprando lor care e gioconde;
e da monti e da valli ime e profond
raddoppian l’armonia gli antri canori.
Sorge più vaga in ciel l’aurora, e’l sole,
sparge più luci d’or; più puro argento
fregia di Teti il bel ceruleo manto.
Sol io, per selve abbandonate e sole,
l’ardor di due begli occhi e’l mio tormento,
come vuol mia ventura, hor piango hor canto.
Return O Zephyr, and with gentle motion
Make pleasant the air and scatter the grasses in waves
And murmuring among the green branches
Make the flowers in the field dance to your sweet sound;
Crown with a garland the heads of Phylla and Chloris
With notes tempered by love and joy,
From mountains and valleys high and deep
And sonorous caves that echo in harmony.
The dawn rises eagerly into the heavens and the sun
Scatters rays of gold, and of the purest silver,
Like embroidery on the cerulean mantle of Thetis.
But I, in abandoned forests, am alone.
The ardour of two beautiful eyes is my torment;
As my Fate wills it, now I weep, now I sing.