American Art – Part I of VI: Tom Fawkes
A Poem for Today
“A Song On the End of the World,”
By Czeslaw Milosz
On the day the world ends
A bee circles a clover,
A fisherman mends a glimmering net.
Happy porpoises jump in the sea,
By the rainspout young sparrows are playing
And the snake is gold-skinned as it should always be.
On the day the world ends
Women walk through the fields under their umbrellas,
A drunkard grows sleepy at the edge of a lawn,
Vegetable peddlers shout in the street
And a yellow-sailed boat comes nearer the island,
The voice of a violin lasts in the air
And leads into a starry night.
And those who expected lightning and thunder
And those who expected signs and archangels’ trumps
Do not believe it is happening now.
As long as the sun and the moon are above,
As long as the bumblebee visits a rose,
As long as rosy infants are born
No one believes it is happening now.
Only a white-haired old man, who would be a prophet
Yet is not a prophet, for he’s much too busy,
Repeats while he binds his tomatoes:
No other end of the world will there be,
No other end of the world will there be.
7 January 1962 – The Bollingen Prize for poetry is awarded to John Hall Wheelock.
Dark-eyed, out of the snow-cold sea you came,
The young blood under the cheek like dawn-light showing,
Stray tendrils of dark hair in the sea-wind blowing,
Comely and grave, out of the sea you came.
Slim covered thigh and slender stockinged foot
In swift strides over the burnished shingle swinging,
Sweet silence of your smile, soft sea-weed clinging,
Here and there, to the wet bathing-suit.
O fierce and shy, your glance so piercing-true
Shot fire to the struck heart that was as tinder–
The fire of your still loveliness, the tender
High fortitude of the spirit shining through.
And the world was young. O love and song and fame
Were part of youth’s still ever believed-in story,
And hope crowned all, when in dear and in queenly glory,
Out of the snow-cold sea to me you came.
A Second Poem for Today
By Paul Violi
In Breughel’s great picture “Canal Street,”
restaurant customers order roast swan
instead of chicken, hurled salad
instead of tossed salad, while shoppers
spill through a maze of stalled trucks
and scurry around the sidewalk stalls
jammed with countless nameless things
that housewives sidestep
to surround a Japanese man
in a broad-brim hat and painted silk tie
as he demonstrates how one gadget
can cut food 50 different ways
and though they don’t understand a word
he says, they stand transfixed by his spiel
amid the fumes and noise and loud fruitvendors
dropping casual perfections of sun and rain
into bags and sacks against a backdrop
of silver towers and sea and fields
vibrant with excess that giddy farmers hail
by tossing animals, large animals,
into the air to be carried away
on the winds of exuberance
to the four corners of the globe
where the romping gods
bear so many attributes
they’re a bundle of incongruities
and no one takes them seriously
not even their beaming angels
who parachute drunkenly down to the shore
distracting the dogs let loose on cormorants
that ate so much they can’t fly
but not the boys in the rowboat
who have caught a blowfish,
tickled its belly until it’s about to burst
like a balloon before dropping it overboard
to watch it blow itself backward to kingdom come,
nor the other children who have stopped
clamoring over the stranded whale’s back
to swim out underwater, under the swans,
grab them by the legs and yank them down
in a slow fury of bubbles and light
and then sell them to the market
near the restaurant in the foreground
of Breughel’s great picture “Canal Street.”
Below – Jan Brueghel the Elder: “Village Street with Canal”
Here is the Artist Statement of British painter Pam Hawkes: “Storytelling, myths and religious iconography show us the possibilities of change, alchemical transmutations from the mundane life we lead. Through traditional imagery, text materials and painting methodology my work invites a questioning of the ideal. (I create) paintings that hint at the seduction of beauty, jewels and brocades.”
7 January 1973 – The Bollingen Prize for poetry is awarded to James Merrill.
The panes flash, tremble with your ghostly passage
Through them, an x-ray sheerness billowing, and I have risen
But cannot speak, remembering only that one was meant
To rise and not to speak. Young storm, this house is yours.
Let our eye darken, your rain come, the candle reeling
Deep in what still reflects control itself and me.
Daybreak’s great gray rust-veined irises humble and proud
Along your path will have laid their foreheads in the dust.
A Third Poem for Today
“Reading an Anthology of Chinese Poems of the Sung Dynasty, I Pause to Admire the Length and Clarity of Their Titles,”
By Billy Collins
It seems these poets have nothing
up their ample sleeves
they turn over so many cards so early,
telling us before the first line
whether it is wet or dry,
night or day, the season the man is standing in,
even how much he has had to drink.
Maybe it is autumn and he is looking at a sparrow.
Maybe it is snowing on a town with a beautiful name.
“Viewing Peonies at the Temple of Good Fortune
on a Cloudy Afternoon” is one of Sun Tung Po’s.
“Dipping Water from the River and Simmering Tea”
is another one, or just
“On a Boat, Awake at Night.”
And Lu Yu takes the simple rice cake with
“In a Boat on a Summer Evening
I Heard the Cry of a Waterbird.
It Was Very Sad and Seemed To Be Saying
My Woman Is Cruel–Moved, I Wrote This Poem.”
There is no iron turnstile to push against here
as with headings like “Vortex on a String,”
“The Horn of Neurosis,” or whatever.
No confusingly inscribed welcome mat to puzzle over.
Instead, “I Walk Out on a Summer Morning
to the Sound of Birds and a Waterfall”
is a beaded curtain brushing over my shoulders.
And “Ten Days of Spring Rain Have Kept Me Indoors”
is a servant who shows me into the room
where a poet with a thin beard
is sitting on a mat with a jug of wine
whispering something about clouds and cold wind,
about sickness and the loss of friends.
Musings in Winter: Knut Hamsun
“An increasing number of people who lead mental lives of great intensity, people who are sensitive by nature, notice the steadily more frequent appearance in them of mental states of great strangeness … a wordless and irrational feeling of ecstasy; or a breath of psychic pain; a sense of being spoken to from afar, from the sky or the sea; an agonizingly developed sense of hearing which can cause one to wince at the murmuring of unseen atoms; an irrational staring into the heart of some closed kingdom suddenly and briefly revealed.”
American Art – Part II of VI: Ben Ferry
A Fourth Poem for Today
By Jim Harrison
Back in the blue chair in front of the green studio
another year has passed, or so they say, but calendars lie.
They’re a kind of cosmic business machine like
their cousin clocks but break down at inopportune times.
Fifty years ago I learned to jump off the calendar
but I kept getting drawn back on for reasons
of greed and my imperishable stupidity.
Of late I’ve escaped those fatal squares
with their razor-sharp numbers for longer and longer.
I had to become the moving water I already am,
falling back into the human shape in order
not to frighten my children, grandchildren, dogs and friends.
Our old cat doesn’t care. He laps the water where my face used to be.
7 January 1975 – The Bollingen Prize for poetry is awarded to A. R. Ammons.
I don’t know somehow it seems sufficient
to see and hear whatever coming and going is,
losing the self to the victory
of stones and trees,
of bending sandpit lakes, crescent
round groves of dwarf pine:
for it is not so much to know the self
as to know it as it is known
by galaxy and cedar cone,
as if birth had never found it
and death could never end it:
the swamp’s slow water comes
down Gravelly Run fanning the long
hair and narrowing roils between
the shoulders of the highway bridge:
holly grows on the banks in the woods there,
and the cedars’ gothic-clustered
spires could make
green religion in winter bones:
so I look and reflect, but the air’s glass
jail seals each thing in its entity:
no use to make any philosophies here:
I see no
god in the holly, hear no song from
the snowbroken weeds: Hegel is not the winter
yellow in the pines: the sunlight has never
heard of trees: surrendered self among
unwelcoming forms: stranger,
hoist your burdens, get on down the road.
Musings in Winter: Yann Martel
A Fifth Poem for Today
“At the Dorm,”
By Mandy Kahn
Week upon week at the dorm she watched him
working at a table with a pencil in his teeth,
eating with a stack of books and papers,
reading while he walked. His hair was
groups of angry men, his sweaty cuffs were wrinkled
at his forearms: he seemed to be loved by no one.
But always there were pairs of houseflies
hovering above him, landing on his nest of notes,
trailing him as if with streamers and sound.
A farm girl, she knew to follow the flies:
they’ll take you to the milk just pulled to the pail,
to the cow’s haunch where the meat will one day be sweetest,
the swelled pond, the unlatched gate. Everything,
she knew, was in those notebooks
he would carry: her future, the distances of islands, poles
and stars, the reason for the network of men’s follies,
how to spend the night.
American Art – Part III of VI: Barbara Kassel
“We have reason to be afraid. This is a terrible place.” – John Berryman, American poet and scholar, who died 7 January 1972.
“Dream Song 14”
Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
we ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me as a boy
(repeatingly) ‘Ever to confess you’re bored
means you have no
Inner Resources.’ I conclude now I have no
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.
Peoples bore me,
literature bores me, especially great literature,
Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes
as bad as achilles,
who loves people and valiant art, which bores me.
And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag
and somehow a dog
has taken itself & its tail considerably away
into mountains or sea or sky, leaving
behind: me, wag.
Musings in Winter: Alberto Caeiro
A Sixth Poem for Today
By Muriel Rukeyser
I lived in the first century of world wars.
Most mornings I would be more or less insane,
The newspapers would arrive with their careless stories,
The news would pour out of various devices
Interrupted by attempts to sell products to the unseen.
I would call my friends on other devices;
They would be more or less mad for similar reasons.
Slowly I would get to pen and paper,
Make my poems for others unseen and unborn.
In the day I would be reminded of those men and women,
Brave, setting up signals across vast distances,
Considering a nameless way of living, of almost unimagined values.
As the lights darkened, as the lights of night brightened,
We would try to imagine them, try to find each other,
To construct peace, to make love, to reconcile
Waking with sleeping, ourselves with each other,
Ourselves with ourselves. We would try by any means
To reach the limits of ourselves, to reach beyond ourselves,
To let go the means, to wake.
American Art – Part IV of VI: Susy Keely
Artist Statement: “I am an artist working in Los Angeles, California. I have been selling my paintings online for the past few years, and very much enjoyed the process of sending my work around the world.
I paint primarily in oil, and my subject matter is primarily figures and urban landscapes.”
Musings in Winter: Dag Hammarskjold
“A heart pulsating in harmony with the circulation of sap and the flow of rivers? A body with the rhythms of the earth in its movements? No. Instead: a mind, shut off from the oxygen of alert senses, that has wasted itself on ‘treasons, stratagems and spoils’–of importance only within four walls. A tame animal–in whom the strength of the species has outspent itself, to no purpose.”
A Seventh Poem for Today
By Jim Harrison
Let’s not get romantic or dismal about death.
Indeed it’s our most unique act along with birth.
We must think of it as cooking breakfast,
it’s that ordinary. Break two eggs into a bowl
or break a bowl into two eggs. Slip into a coffin
after the fluids have been drained, or better yet,
slide into the fire. Of course it’s a little hard
to accept your last kiss, your last drink,
your last meal about which the condemned
can be quite particular as if there could be
a cheeseburger sent by God. A few lovers
sweep by the inner eye, but it’s mostly a placid
lake at dawn, mist rising, a solitary loon
call, and staring into the still, opaque water.
We’ll know as children again all that we are
destined to know, that the water is cold
and deep, and the sun penetrates only so far.
Musings in Winter: Rebecca Solnit
“Eduardo Galeano notes that America was conquered, but not discovered, that the men who arrived with a religion to impose and dreams of gold never really knew where they were, and that this discovery is still taking place in our time.”
“What we now want is closer contact and better understanding between individuals and communities all over the earth, and the elimination of egoism and pride which is always prone to plunge the world into primeval barbarism and strife… Peace can only come as a natural consequence of universal enlightenment.” – Nikola Tesla, Serbian-American inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, and futurist, who died 7 January 1943.
Some quotes from the work of Nikola Tesla:
“I don’t care that they stole my idea . . I care that they don’t have any of their own.”
“If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.”
“The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane.”
“If your hate could be turned into electricity, it would light up the whole world.”
“My brain is only a receiver, in the Universe there is a core from which we obtain knowledge, strength and inspiration. I have not penetrated into the secrets of this core, but I know that it exists.”
“I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success . . . Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything.”
“All that was great in the past was ridiculed, condemned, combated, suppressed — only to emerge all the more powerfully, all the more triumphantly from the struggle.”
“Of all things, I liked books best.”
Musings in Winter: Robert G. Ingersoll
An Eighth Poem for Today
“No Children, No Pets,”
By Sue Ellen Thompson
I bring the cat’s body home from the vet’s
in a running-shoe box held shut
with elastic bands. Then I clean
the corners where she has eaten and
slept, scrubbing the hard bits of food
from the baseboard, dumping the litter
and blasting the pan with a hose. The plastic
dishes I hide in the basement, the pee-
soaked towel I put in the trash. I put
the catnip mouse in the box and I put
the box away, too, in a deep
dirt drawer in the earth.
When the death-energy leaves me,
I go to the room where my daughter slept
in nursery school, grammar school, high school,
I lie on her milky bedspread and think
of the day I left her at college, how nothing
could keep me from gouging the melted candle-wax
out from between her floorboards,
or taking a razor blade to the decal
that said to the firemen, “Break
this window first.” I close my eyes now
and enter a place that’s clearly
expecting me, swaddled in loss
and then losing that, too, as I move
from room to bone-white room
in the house of the rest of my life.
Musings in Winter: Lawrence Millman
“There were only fifteen thousand polar bears in the world, and (seven) billion of me. To let one of them devour my all-too-common flesh would, if only slightly, help adjust the grievous imbalance.”
American Art – Part V of VI: Tricia Cline
In the words of one writer, “Tricia Cline is self-taught and has been sculpting from direct observation in the female and animal form for over 20 years. Her small, highly detailed porcelain clay sculptures are complex metaphors describing our relationship to animals and to ourselves as … Animals.
Cline writes, ‘This body of work is an ode to the Animal, its ability to perceive, and our return to that perception. Each kind of animal is an ambassador of its perfected niche (a definition of holiness). An animal is it’s very form. Its function is its form. They have become so perfected, that they are archetypes inside of us; archetypes that are beyond our insistence of meaning and yet completely shape our feelings.’”
Musings in Winter: Crowfoot
A Ninth Poem for Today
“Lullaby in Fracktown,”
By Lilace Mellin Guignard
Child, when you’re sad put on your blue shoes.
You know that Mama loves you lollipops
and Daddy still has a job to lose.
So put on a party hat. We’ll play the kazoos
loud and louder from the mountaintop.
Child, when you’re sad put on your blue shoes
and dance the polka with pink kangaroos,
dolphin choirs singing “flip-flop, flip-flop.”
Hey, Daddy still has a job to lose —
don’t be afraid. Close your eyes, snooze,
because today our suns have flared and dropped.
Tomorrow when you wake, put on your blue shoes.
Eat a good breakfast. Be good in school.
Good boys go to college goody gumdrops
so someday too you’ll have a job to lose.
Musings in Winter: Henry David Thoreau
American Art – Part VI of VI: William S. Hung
In the words of one critic, “William S. Hung’s works display a profound knowledge of the traditions and techniques of both East and West.
In harmony of composition and precision of execution, they reflect the restraint and refinement of the Chinese tradition. In the use of gauzy layers of color to build images from flakes of light, he recalls the 19th century French artists, while his subjects are often reminiscent of classical sources. Extraordinarily gifted and thoroughly schooled, he produces exquisitely sensitive, intellectually provocative, and delicately rendered portraits and nudes.”