Happy Saint Patrick’s Day
A Poem for Today
“Sailing to Byzantium”
By William Butler Yeats
That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees,
—Those dying generations—at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.
An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.
O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.
Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.
Musings in Winter: James Joyce
“I will tell you what I will do and what I will not do. I will not serve that in which I no longer believe, whether it calls itself my home, my fatherland, or my church: and I will try to express myself in some mode of life or art as freely as I can and as wholly as I can, using for my defense the only arms I allow myself to use — silence, exile, and cunning.”
American Art – Part I of VII: William Bailey
Artist Statement: “I admire painters who can work directly from nature, but for me that seems to lead to anecdotal painting. Realism is about interpreting daily life in the world around us. I’m trying to paint a world that’s not around us.”
In the words of one historian, “(Kelly) came to prominence through his reporting on the first Gulf War, and was well known for his political profiles and commentary… Kelly was the first US journalist to be killed while covering the invasion of Iraq, in 2003.”
In the words of one writer, “Wang Niandong was born in 1978 in Zigong, Sichuan Province, China. He attended Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing from 1997 to 1998. He did his graduate study at the oil painting department of Sichuan Fine Art Institute in Chongqing from 1998 to 2002. Wang currntly teaches in Sichuan Fine Art Institute. He splits his time in Chongqing and Beijing.”
A Second Poem for Today
“Chain of Women”
By Annie Finch
These are the seasons Persephone promised
as she turned on her heel—
the ones that darken, till green no longer
bandages what I feel.
Now touches of gold stipple the branches,
promising weeks of time
to fade through, finding the footprints
she left as she turned to climb.
Musings in Winter: Rosalia de Castro
From the Music Archives – Part I of III: John Sebastian
“I certainly hear the Trombones Unlimited version of ‘Daydream’ in a lot of elevators.” – John Sebastian, American singer, songwriter, guitarist, and founder of The Lovin’ Spoonful, who was born 17 March 1944, on success.
American Art – Part II of VII: Edgar Bryan
Artist Statement: “When I am making a figure, I always come to two roads- I can make it sympathetic or I can make it funny and make it reflect back on the viewer. I usually choose the second; a little bit of humor.”
A Third Poem for Today
By Jeffrey Harrison
It wasn’t until we got the Christmas tree
into the house and up on the stand
that our daughter discovered a small bird’s nest
tucked among its needled branches.
Amazing, that the nest had made it
all the way from Nova Scotia on a truck
mashed together with hundreds of other trees
without being dislodged or crushed.
And now it made the tree feel wilder,
a balsam fir growing in our living room,
as though at any moment a bird might flutter
through the house and return to the nest.
And yet, because we’d brought the tree indoors,
we’d turned the nest into the first ornament.
So we wound the tree with strings of lights,
draped it with strands of red beads,
Musings in Winter: Gilbert K. Chesterton
From the Music Archives – Part II of III: Ringo Starr
17 March 1972 – Ringo Starr releases “Back Off Boogaloo” in the United Kingdom.
A Fourth Poem for Today
By Judith Slater
Four weeks in, quarreling and far
from home, we came to the loneliest place.
A western railroad town. Remember?
I left you at the campsite with greasy pans
and told our children not to follow me.
The dying light had made me desperate.
I broke into a hobbled run, across tracks,
past warehouses with sun-blanked windows
to where a playground shone in a wooded clearing.
Then I was swinging, out over treetops.
I saw myself never going back, yet
whatever breathed in the mute woods
was not another life. The sun sank.
I let the swing die, my toes scuffed earth,
and I was rocked into remembrance
of the girl who had dreamed the life I had.
Through night, dark at the root, I returned to it.
Musings in Winter: Leonardo da Vinci
“Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else.”
American Art – Part III of VII: Rob Harrell
Artist Statement: “For the past twelve years, I’ve worked as a fine artist, cartoonist, and freelance illustrator.
My figurative paintings are currently represented by the Wally Workman Gallery in Austin, TX, and the Hespe Gallery in San Francisco, CA.”
From the Music Archives – Part III of III: Billy Corgan and Melissa Auf der Maur
“It’s gonna be loud and beautiful and poetic and dumb. Just the way I like it.” – Billy Corgan, American musician and lyricist best known as a member of The Smashing Pumpkins, who was born 17 March 1967.
“He’s not so huggable, but I love him.” – Melissa Auf der Maur, Canadian musician, singer-songwriter, actress, photographer, and a member of The Smashing Pumpkins, who was born 17 March 1972, on Billy Corgan.
A Fifth Poem for Today
By Tim Nolan
Thanks for the Italian chestnuts—with their
tough shells—the smooth chocolaty
skin of them—thanks for the boiling water—
itself a miracle and a mystery—
thanks for the seasoned sauce pan
and the old wooden spoon—and all
the neglected instruments in the drawer—
the garlic crusher—the bent paring knife—
the apple slicer that creates six
perfect wedges out of the crisp Haralson—
thanks for the humming radio—thanks
for the program on the radio
about the guy who was a cross-dresser—
but his wife forgave him—and he
ended up almost dying from leukemia—
(and you could tell his wife loved him
entirely—it was in her deliberate voice)—
thanks for the brined turkey—
the size of a big baby—thanks—
for the departed head of the turkey—
the present neck—the giblets
(whatever they are)—wrapped up as
small gifts inside the cavern of the ribs—
thanks—thanks—thanks—for the candles
Musings in Winter: Shirley Abbott
From the Dance Archives: Rudolf Nureyev
“I don’t care if Margot (Fonteyn) is a Dame of the British Empire or older than myself. For me she represents eternal youth; there is an absolute musical quality in her beautiful body and phrasing. Because we are sincere and gifted, an intense abstract love is born between us every time we dance together.” – Rudolf Nureyev, one of the most celebrated twentieth century practitioners of ballet and modern dance, who was born 17 March 1938 near Irkutsk, Russia.
Here is the Artist Statement of Argentinean painter
Santiago H. Michalek: “As an artist, I celebrate the things that are sometimes difficult to fully render in words, particularly qualities associated with passion and fascination. What drives human interests? What elements compel the human spirit? How can I convey the most elusive emotions through my art?
In concept, my paintings are simple. I paint Volkswagen vehicles, capturing subtleties in the interplay of light on metal and paint. The interest in my work lies in the allure and iconic charge associated with vintage Volkswagens. Everyone knows a classic VW when they see one: the curved lines, unmistakable paint, and delicately rounded bumpers. I strive to evoke the near-mythical elements that surround these vehicles – elements that are palpable, vivid, and utterly indelible – sparking memories which, as a culture, unite us. I often learn the stories surrounding the vintage VWs that I restore in my garage. These stories bring my artistic work to life. I’m not just painting what I do for a living. I’m painting the collective reminiscent history of several generations spanning the world.”
Santiago H. Michalek lives and works in the United States.
A Sixth Poem for Today
“My Mother Goes to Vote”
By Judith Harris
We walked five blocks
to the elementary school,
my mother’s high heels
crunching through playground gravel.
We entered through a side door.
Down the long corridor,
decorated with Halloween masks,
health department safety posters—
we followed the arrows
to the third grade classroom.
My mother stepped alone
into the booth, pulling the curtain behind her.
I could see only the backs of her
calves in crinkled nylons.
A partial vanishing, then reappearing
pocketbook crooked on her elbow,
our mayor’s button pinned to her lapel.
Even then I could see—to choose
is to follow what has already
We marched back out
finding a new way back down streets
named for flowers
and accomplished men.
I said their names out loud, as we found
our way home, to the cramped house,
the devoted porch light left on,
the customary meatloaf.
I remember, in the classroom converted
into a voting place—
there were two mothers, conversing,
squeezed into the children’s desk chairs.
Musings in Winter: Ralph Waldo Emerson
American Art – Part IV of VII: Ryan Swallow
Here is how one critic describes the artistry of painter Ryan Swallow: “Ryan Swallow paints hauntingly beautiful figures, expressing emotion through the figure, causing anyone who gazes long enough to see a piece of themselves. Ryan Swallow, a self-taught painter who currently resides in Arizona, has produced more than 100 paintings in his 18 years as a professional painter.”
Musings in Winter: Walt Whitman
A Seventh Poem for Today
“At the Post Office”
By David Hernandez
The line is long, processional, glacial,
and the attendant a giant stone, cobalt blue
with flecks of white, I’m not so much
looking at a rock but a slab of night.
The stone asks if anything inside the package
is perishable. When I say no the stone
laughs, muted thunderclap, meaning
everything decays, not just fruit
or cut flowers, but paper, ink, the CD
I burned with music, and my friend
waiting to hear the songs, some little joy
after chemo eroded the tumor. I know flesh
is temporary, and memory a tilting barn
the elements dismantle nail by nail.
I know the stone knows a millennia of rain
and wind will even grind away
his ragged face, and all of this slow erasing
is just a prelude to when the swelling
universe burns out, goes dark, holds
nothing but black holes, the bones of stars
and planets, a vast silence. The stone
is stone-faced. The stone asks how soon
I want the package delivered. As fast
as possible, I say, then start counting the days.
From the Movie Archives: Kurt Russell
“I don’t really look for specific types of projects any more. I’m not taking care of a career anymore. I’m just having fun acting.” – Kurt Russell, American television and film actor, who was born 17 March 1951.
American Art – Part V of VII: Lynn Sanguedolce
Here is one critic has written about painter Lynn Sanguedolce: “Lynn was recently honored by being selected, for the second consecutive year, as a Finalist in the Portrait Society of America’s International Portrait Competition. She is also serves on the Faculty of the Portrait Society of America Conference held in Atlanta this year… Lynn studied at the Ridgewood Art Institute, N.J., The Art League of Alexandria, VA, and the California Art Institute in Westlake Village, CA, where she later became an instructor.”
Musings in Winter: Mark Twain
An Eighth Poem for Today
By Michael Walsh
Same size, my parents stained and tore
alike in the barn, their brown hair
ripe as cow after twelve hours of gutters.
At supper they spoke in jokey moos.
Sure, showers could dampen that reek
down to a whiff under fingernails, behind ears,
From the American History Archives: The National Gallery of Art
In the words of one historian, “Designed by architect John Russell Pope (who would go on to design the Jefferson Memorial), the new structure was completed and accepted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on behalf of the American people on March 17, 1941.”
“I am just going outside, and may be some time.” – The last words of English cavalry officer and Antarctic explorer Lawrence Oates, who died 17 March 1912.
Lawrence Oates died during the Terra Nova Expedition. In the words of one historian, “Oates, afflicted with gangrene and frostbite, walked from his tent into a blizzard. His death is seen as an act of self-sacrifice when, aware his ill health was compromising his three companions’ chances of survival, he chose certain death.”
Musings in Winter: Carl Sagan
American Art – Part VI of VII: Robert Bechtle
Artist Statement: “The quality of the light and the issue of drawing the substance of the paintings from my own, everyday surroundings — contemporary California, middle-class surroundings — is basically what the paintings have been about all along… It is still a challenge to use these materials in a way that is formally interesting and at the same time evokes some kind of poetry.”
A Ninth Poem for Today
“Theater of Shadows”
By Derek N. Otsuji
Nights we could not sleep—
summer insects singing in dry heat,
short-circuiting the nerves—
Grandma would light a lamp,
at the center of our narrow room,
whose clean conspiracy of light
whispered to the tall blank walls,
illuminating them suddenly
like the canvas of a dream.
Between the lamp and wall
her arthritic wrists grew pliant
as she molded and cast
improbable animal shapes moving
on the wordless screen:
A blackbird, like a mynah, not a crow.
A dark horse’s head that could but would not talk.
An ashen rabbit (her elusive self)
triggered in snow
that a quivering touch (like death’s)
sent scampering into the wings
of that little theater of shadows
Musings in Winter: William Least Heat Moon
Back from the Territory – Art: The work of Alaska artist Glen Fazakarley
Glen Fazarkarley is a watercolor artist from Ketchikan, Alaska
Back from the Territory, I share this with you, before I light out again.
A Tenth Poem for Today
“Trick or Treat”
By Nancy Price
The ghost is a torn sheet,
the skeleton’s suit came from a rack in a store
the witch is flameproof, but who knows
what dark streets they have taken here?
Brother Death, here is a candy bar.
For the lady wearing the hat from Salem: gum.
And a penny for each eye, Lost Soul.
They fade away with their heavy sacks.
Thanks! I yell just in time.
Thanks for another year!
Musings in Winter: John A. Shedd
American Art – Part VII of VII: Christopher Brown
Artist Statement: “Part of what any artist is trying to do is to create a situation in a painting that is revealing and mysterious at the same time as a metaphor for the curiosity that leads one to make a picture in the first place.”