Sentient in San Francisco – 27 March 2019

This Date in Art History: Born 27 March 1852 – Jan van Beers, a Belgian painter and illustrator.

Below – “The Letter”; “A balcony”; “With thoughts of him”; “Portrait of a young woman”; “In the hammock.”


This Date in Literary History: Died 27 March 2012 – Adrienne Rich, an American poet, essayist, and recipient of the National Book Award.

“Diving into the Wreck”
by Adrienne Rich

First having read the book of myths,
and loaded the camera,
and checked the edge of the knife-blade,
I put on
the body-armor of black rubber
the absurd flippers
the grave and awkward mask.
I am having to do this
not like Cousteau with his
assiduous team
aboard the sun-flooded schooner
but here alone.

There is a ladder.
The ladder is always there
hanging innocently
close to the side of the schooner.
We know what it is for,
we who have used it.
Otherwise
it is a piece of maritime floss
some sundry equipment.

I go down.
Rung after rung and still
the oxygen immerses me
the blue light
the clear atoms
of our human air.
I go down.
My flippers cripple me,
I crawl like an insect down the ladder
and there is no one
to tell me when the ocean
will begin.

First the air is blue and then
it is bluer and then green and then
black I am blacking out and yet
my mask is powerful
it pumps my blood with power
the sea is another story
the sea is not a question of power
I have to learn alone
to turn my body without force
in the deep element.

And now: it is easy to forget
what I came for
among so many who have always
lived here
swaying their crenellated fans
between the reefs
and besides
you breathe differently down here.

I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.
I stroke the beam of my lamp
slowly along the flank
of something more permanent
than fish or weed

the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth
the drowned face always staring
toward the sun
the evidence of damage
worn by salt and sway into this threadbare beauty
the ribs of the disaster
curving their assertion
among the tentative haunters.

This is the place.
And I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair
streams black, the merman in his armored body.
We circle silently
about the wreck
we dive into the hold.
I am she: I am he

whose drowned face sleeps with open eyes
whose breasts still bear the stress
whose silver, copper, vermeil cargo lies
obscurely inside barrels
half-wedged and left to rot
we are the half-destroyed instruments
that once held to a course
the water-eaten log
the fouled compass

We are, I am, you are
by cowardice or courage
the one who find our way
back to this scene
carrying a knife, a camera
a book of myths
in which
our names do not appear.


This Date in Art History: Born 27 March 1879 – Edward Steichen, an American photographer and painter.

Below (photographs, unless otherwise noted) – “The Pond – Moonlight”; “Landscape with Avenue of Trees” (painting); “The Flatiron Building”; “Experiment in Three-Color Photography”; “Pastoral – Moonlight”; “Isadora Duncan in the Parthenon, Athens.”


Musings in Spring: Pablo Neruda

“There is no insurmountable solitude. All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are. And we must pass through solitude and difficulty, isolation and silence in order to reach forth to the enchanted place where we can dance our clumsy dance and sing our sorrowful song – but in this dance or in this song there are fulfilled the most ancient rites of our conscience in the awareness of being human and of believing in a common destiny.”

Contemporary Portuguese Painting – Mario Henrique

Below – “Somnium No. 8 (Series III)”; “Spontaneous Ballerina No. 3, Blue Series”; “Somnium No. 1 (Series III)”; “Laminas No. 1”; “Spontaneous Ballerina No. 2 (Blue Series)”; “Somnium No. 14, Series III.”

This Date in Literary History: Born 27 March 1926 – Frank O’Hara, an American poet, writer, art critic, and recipient of the National Book Award.

“Animals”
by Frank O’Hara

Have you forgotten what we were like then
when we were still first rate
and the day came fat with an apple in its mouth

it’s no use worrying about Time
but we did have a few tricks up our sleeves
and turned some sharp corners

the whole pasture looked like our meal
we didn’t need speedometers
we could manage cocktails out of ice and water

I wouldn’t want to be faster
or greener than now if you were with me O you
were the best of all my days


Contemporary American Art – Jeff Nabors

Below – “Summer Fields II”; “California Canyon”; “Cherry Blossoms”; “Down The Road”; “Cumulus”; “Into the Woods.”

This Date in Literary History: Born 27 March 1926 – Louis Simpson, an American poet and recipient of the Pulitzer Prize.

“Walt Whitman at Bear Mountain”
by Louis Simpson

‘. . . life which does not give the preference to any other life, of any
previous period, which therefore prefers its own existence . . .’
Ortega y Gasset
Neither on horseback nor seated,
But like himself, squarely on two feet,
The poet of death and lilacs
Loafs by the footpath. Even the bronze looks alive
Where it is folded like cloth. And he seems friendly.

“Where is the Mississippi panorama
And the girl who played the piano?
Where are you, Walt?
The Open Road goes to the used-car lot.

“Where is the nation you promised?
These houses built of wood sustain
Colossal snows,
And the light above the street is sick to death.

“As for the people—see how they neglect you!
Only a poet pauses to read the inscription.”

“I am here,” he answered.
“It seems you have found me out.
Yet did I not warn you that it was Myself
I advertised? Were my words not sufficiently plain?

I gave no prescriptions,
And those who have taken my moods for prophecies
Mistake the matter.”
Then, vastly amused—“Why do you reproach me?
I freely confess I am wholly disreputable.
Yet I am happy, because you found me out.”
A crocodile in wrinkled metal loafing . . .

Then all the realtors,
Pickpockets, salesmen and the actors performing
Official scenarios,
Turned a deaf ear, for they had contracted
American dreams.

But the man who keeps a store on a lonely road,
And the housewife who knows she’s dumb,
And the earth, are relieved.

All that grave weight of America
Cancelled! Like Greece and Rome.
The future in ruins!
The castles, the prisons, the cathedrals
Unbuilding, and roses
Blossoming from the stones that are not there . . .

The clouds are lifting from the high Sierras,
The Bay mists clearing,
And the angel in the gate, the flowering plum,
Dances like Italy, imagining red.

This entry was posted in Art and Photography, Books, Movies, Music, and Television, Opinion. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply