Saturday, August 12, 2017

What Do These Things Mean [period]

A quick "scrap-sketch" collage has me thinking the phrase, "What do these things mean," not as a question but as a statement meant to exercise my consciousness into articulating the reason(s) for art. Collage provides a of stream-of-consciousness or "scrap association" creativity, and I often find myself drawing parallels between collage and poetry, or at least the processes of collage and poetry.

So what do these things mean.

Beauty for its own sake, resonating in an unspoken and deeply personal place, means everything. Means life.

Connections, whether planned or serendipitous, multiply meaning into belonging.

We are all in there somehow. These things mean us.

A little map. A little text. A little Leonardo. A little face. A little hand. A little flora.

An image here. Then this one.

We are lost. We are found.

What we mean. What I mean.

What do these things matter.


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Reed, Pool[e], River[s]...

"My eyes were covered and closed: eddying darkness seemed to swim round me, and reflection came in as black and confused a flow.  Self-abandoned, relaxed, and effortless, I seemed to have laid me down in the dried-up bed of a great river; I heard a flood loosened in remote mountains, and felt the torrent come: to rise I had no will, to flee I had no strength.  I lay faint, longing to be dead.  [...] It was near: and as I had lifted no petition to Heaven to avert it—as I had neither joined my hands, nor bent my knees, nor moved my lips—it came: in full heavy swing the torrent poured over me.  The whole consciousness of my life lorn, my love lost, my hope quenched, my faith death-struck, swayed full and mighty above me in one sullen mass.  That bitter hour cannot be described: in truth, 'the waters came into my soul; I sank in deep mire: I felt no standing; I came into deep waters; the floods overflowed me.'"
This was my third careful re-reading of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. In graduate school, our discussions of the imagery focused on the reds and scarlets in the seemingly all gray and misty narrative landscape. But this time, on my own, it was the water imagery—and especially rivers—that captivated my mind's eye. I found myself having a conversation with Charlotte about how she deliberately placed the idea of "rivers" into the reader's mind. I did some flipping back and forth between passages and saw all the rivers leading up to her collapse on the doorstep of...St. John Rivers.
How many times does Jane nearly drown, figuratively speaking? How many times is there actual, literal water at hand, and how does it prefigure the metaphorical inundations Jane experiences? The culmination of this water imagery in her relationship with St. John Rivers takes one's breath away.
And yes, we could be having this same discussion about burns and fire, but seriously, St. John Rivers: Has a creepier literary character (who isn't an outright villain) ever been created? Deceptiveness cloaked in Christian charity, though he admits he is cold (soulless, is what he is). He lacks the charm and sex appeal (okay, and fortune) of Newland Archer (the greatest name in all of literature) from Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence, but Rivers and Archer are two of a kind, indulging in self-sacrifice until their own lives and the lives of those closest to them are wasted.

Does Jane escape this River[s] that threatens to pull her under, as she had escaped the Reed and the Pool[e]? Reader—The only thing better than reading Jane Eyre is rereading Jane Eyre.

Thank you, Charlotte Bronte, you trickster you.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Right Arm of the Goddess (A Haibun)

in every museum you find a part of yourself yes memory but form too the shape of an eye the curve of a wrist something self even if especially if broken in fact no one recognizes perfection it is these intimate shards so like life in every museum something of you something of us something of love

such tenderness
right arm of the goddess
a child waves back

Monday, July 24, 2017

More Broken Things

One of my favorite poems: "you scorch us. " That's all that remains of a poem by Sappho. I actually prefer the translation in my Norton Anthology of Western Literature (volume I), "you burn me." (The "scorch" translation is by Philip Freeman in his new book, Searching for Sappho: The Lost Songs and World of the First Woman Poet; the "burn" translator I'll credit in a comment below, when I have a chance to get to my office and check the anthology.) scorch us... burn me...

Either way, is it not what every poem distills down to: an expression of desire, passion, longing, loss, a will to go on despite the pain inherent in living?

Today in the parking lot of my favorite restaurant, my husband and I saw a great blue heron, usually a magnificent bird that will have nothing to do with gravel parking lots. We quickly realized that this bird was injured; worse than a broken wing, a broken leg. I say worse, because the woman at the Avian Wildlife Center said there is little they can do to capture and help a bird that is still able to fly away.

And so, we are thinking once again about broken things, fragments of a poem, a useless leg on a wading bird, a heartache, a helplessness that gives us pause.

For you my lovely ones my thoughts
do not change

                       reads another Sappho fragment. And another:

their hearts grew cold
and they folded their wings

[Those last two fragments trans. Philip Freeman.]

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Shards of Shards

Here's my first attempt at a "shard collage" inspired by the luminous Tiffany glass on display at the Corning Museum of Glass this summer in an exhibit called Tiffany's Mosaics. I learned, while making this collage, that I am seriously challenged when it comes to thinking in gem colors; my eye and hand go right for those earth tones. I will try at least a couple more of these little studies to see if I can expand my palette a little more toward blues and purples.

One display in the Tiffany exhibit was a tray of left-over shards of glass, remnants of mosaics or lamps or other larger works. Pieces about a couple inches long, of varying shapes: squarish, amoeba-esque, arrowhead-ish...random. I wanted to stare at it all day. I took several photos. The glass itself is a work of art, of course. Even broken, it is compelling, drawing you deeper and deeper into a world of color and elegance and possibility and shape and texture.

And here I'm going to repeat myself, going back to a subject I've covered in these blog posts: the beauty of broken things. Because it's all broken: our politics, our capacity for hope, our hearts, our education system (standardized = broken). Loss and fragmentation is the human condition. Entropy happens. And what do some people do when confronting loss and fragmentation? They make from it, art. They make from it, something new, something whole unto itself. They arrange the chaos into a moment of order.

Without visual artists, poets, dancers, musicians, playwrights, novelists...we'd have vanished long ago, our bones little more than shards pawed up by some passing creature. "Death is the mother of invention," wrote Wallace Stevens. That is a poet's world view. Onward we go.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Childish Things, Part 2 (Current Events in Haibun)

How we found refuge as children: a path in the woods; a stage; a box of paints; a baseball diamond; a guitar. Those precious moments with no adult voice ringing in our ears. Your refuge then is probably your refuge now.

In an act of extreme empathy, imagine a childhood deprived of refuge. Imagine the life of Junior, destined to be Junior even when he's in his thirties, forties.... Always in the shadow of Senior. Life a parade of bullies, so one better bully-up or else. A good defense is the only defense. No refuge but in being the one who throws the first punch (either literal or figurative). Money is no refuge. Hell has gold bathroom fixtures.

Strange to feel sorry for that chin-thrusting, lip-pouting, visage-sniveling mock prince. Who would change places with him? Who would trade even the memory of refuge for the reality of the craven?

even in summer
the bare branches
of childhood

Friday, July 14, 2017

Childish Things (in Haiku/Senryu)

These haiku were inspired by a day of too much news (ah, Junior, Junior, if only you could have found your own way) and a beautiful, intense, heartfelt conversation with friends over lunch, of families and how we survive them...

[first word]
still rattling around
the ribcage


each of us her own
[language hopelessly]
worst enemy


a child's [redacted]
so cold [shiver
of recognition]