This Date in Art History: Died 18 June 1964 – Giorgio Morandi, an Italian painter.
Below – “Still Life”; “Still Life”; “Passage”; “Still Life”; “Still Life (The Blue Vase)”; “Landscape.”
This Date in Literary History: Born 18 June 1932 – Geoffrey Hill, an award-winning English poet, literary critic, and author of “Broken Hierarchies.”: Part I of II.
Some quotes from the work of Geoffrey Hill:
“One of the things the tyrant most cunningly engineers is the gross over-simplification of language, because propaganda requires that the minds of the collective respond primitively to slogans of incitement.”
“We are difficult. Human beings are difficult. We’re difficult to ourselves, we’re difficult to each other. And we are mysteries to ourselves, we are mysteries to each other. One encounters in any ordinary day far more real difficulty than one confronts in the most ‘intellectual’ piece of work. Why is it believed that poetry, prose, painting, music should be less than we are? Why does music, why does poetry have to address us in simplified terms, when if such simplification were applied to a description of our own inner selves we would find it demeaning?
“Public toilets have a duty to be accessible, poetry does not.”
“I think art has a right — not an obligation — to be difficult if it wishes. And, since people generally go on from this to talk about elitism versus democracy, I would add that genuinely difficult art is truly democratic.”
“In my view, difficult poetry is the most democratic, because you are doing your audience the honour of supposing that they are intelligent human beings. So much of the populist poetry of today treats people as if they were fools. And that particular aspect, and the aspect of the forgetting of a tradition, go together.”
“Snooki is a bestselling author? Huh? What? I don’t know if I should dumb down my book, shoot myself or find a publisher who’ll settle for a rough draft written on a Pop-Tart and a coconut lotion handie.”
“Autumn resumes the land, ruffles the woodswith smoky wings, entangles them.”
“Thus I grind to conclusion.”
Below- “House and Shadows”; “pickup and caravan”; “Lockhouse”; “Junction”; “Bridge”; “Depot Back Door.”
This Date in Literary History: Born 18 June 1932 – Geoffrey Hill, an award-winning English poet, literary critic, and author of “Broken Hierarchies.”: Part II of II.
“In Memory of Jane Fraser”
by Geoffrey Hill
When snow like sheep lay in the fold
And wind went begging at each door,
And the far hills were blue with cold,
And a cloud shroud lay on the moor,
She kept the siege. And every day
We watched her brooding over death
Like a strong bird above its prey.
The room filled with the kettle’s breath.
Damp curtains glued against the pane
Sealed time away. Her body froze
As if to freeze us all, and chain
Creation to a stunned repose.
She died before the world could stir.
In March the ice unloosed the brook
And water ruffled the sun’s hair.
Dead cones upon the alder shook.
Contemporary American Art – Ken Vrana
Below – “Coastal Winds”; “Fresh Apples”; “Home”; “Red Sky in the Morning”; “Hedges: The Lawn XI”; “No Gas.”
This Date in Literary History: Born 18 June 1957 – Richard Powers, an American novelist and author of “The Echo Maker” (winner of the National Book Award) and “The Overstory” (winner of the Pulitzer Prize).
Some quotes from the work of Richard Powers:
“Evil is the refusal to see one’s self in others.”
“This is not our world with trees in it. It’s a world of trees, where humans have just arrived.”
“People aren’t the apex species they think they are. Other creatures-bigger, smaller, slower, faster, older, younger, more powerful-call the shots, make the air, and eat sunlight. Without them, nothing.”
“But people have no idea what time is. They think it’s a line, spinning out from three seconds behind them, then vanishing just as fast into the three seconds of fog just ahead. They can’t see that time is one spreading ring wrapped around another, outward and outward until the thinnest skin of Now depends for its being on the enormous mass of everything that has already died.”
“You and the tree in your backyard come from a common ancestor. A billion and a half years ago, the two of you parted ways. But even now, after an immense journey in separate directions, that tree and you still share a quarter of your genes. “
“We found that trees could communicate, over the air and through their roots. Common sense hooted us down. We found that trees take care of each other. Collective science dismissed the idea. Outsiders discovered how seeds remember the seasons of their childhood and set buds accordingly. Outsiders discovered that trees sense the presence of other nearby life. That a tree learns to save water. That trees feed their young and synchronize their masts and bank resources and warn kin and send out signals to wasps to come and save them from attacks. Here’s a little outsider information, and you can wait for it to be confirmed. A forest knows things. They wire themselves up underground. There are brains down there, ones our own brains aren’t shaped to see. Root plasticity, solving problems and making decisions. Fungal synapses. What else do you want to call it? Link enough trees together, and a forest grows aware.”
“The Greeks had a word, xenia—guest friendship—a command to take care of traveling strangers, to open your door to whoever is out there, because anyone passing by, far from home, might be God. Ovid tells the story of two immortals who came to Earth in disguise to cleanse the sickened world. No one would let them in but one old couple, Baucis and Philemon. And their reward for opening their door to strangers was to live on after death as trees—an oak and a linden—huge and gracious and intertwined. What we care for, we will grow to resemble. And what we resemble will hold us, when we are us no longer.”
“Say the planet is born at midnight and it runs for one day. First there is nothing. Two hours are lost to lava and meteors. Life doesn’t show up until three or four a.m. Even then, it’s just the barest self-copying bits and pieces. From dawn to late morning—a million million years of branching—nothing more exists than lean and simple cells. Then there is everything. Something wild happens, not long after noon. One kind of simple cell enslaves a couple of others. Nuclei get membranes. Cells evolve organelles. What was once a solo campsite grows into a town. The day is two-thirds done when animals and plants part ways. And still life is only single cells. Dusk falls before compound life takes hold. Every large living thing is a latecomer, showing up after dark. Nine p.m. brings jellyfish and worms. Later that hour comes the breakout—backbones, cartilage, an explosion of body forms. From one instant to the next, countless new stems and twigs in the spreading crown burst open and run. Plants make it up on land just before ten. Then insects, who instantly take to the air. Moments later, tetrapods crawl up from the tidal muck, carrying around on their skin and in their guts whole worlds of earlier creatures. By eleven, dinosaurs have shot their bolt, leaving the mammals and birds in charge for an hour. Somewhere in that last sixty minutes, high up in the phylogenetic canopy, life grows aware. Creatures start to speculate. Animals start teaching their children about the past and the future. Animals learn to hold rituals. Anatomically modern man shows up four seconds before midnight. The first cave paintings appear three seconds later. And in a thousandth of a click of the second hand, life solves the mystery of DNA and starts to map the tree of life itself. By midnight, most of the globe is converted to row crops for the care and feeding of one species. And that’s when the tree of life becomes something else again. That’s when the giant trunk starts to teeter.”
“To be human is to confuse a satisfying story with a meaningful one, and to mistake life for something huge with two legs. No: life is mobilized on a vastly larger scale, and the world is failing precisely because no novel can make the contest for the world seem as compelling as the struggles between a few lost people.”
Below – “Firsts and Lasts”; “No going back #2”; “Winds of spring #3”; “Holding a snake plant”; “Tired of waiting”; “In the cold cold night #2.”
A Poem for Today
“We Are of a Tribe”
by Alberto Rios
We plant seeds in the ground
And dreams in the sky,
Hoping that, someday, the roots of one
Will meet the upstretched limbs of the other.
It has not happened yet.
We share the sky, all of us, the whole world:
Together, we are a tribe of eyes that look upward,
Even as we stand on uncertain ground.
The earth beneath us moves, quiet and wild,
Its boundaries shifting, its muscles wavering.
The dream of sky is indifferent to all this,
Impervious to borders, fences, reservations.
The sky is our common home, the place we all live.
There we are in the world together.
The dream of sky requires no passport.
Blue will not be fenced. Blue will not be a crime.
Look up. Stay awhile. Let your breathing slow.
Know that you always have a home here.
Below – Lynne Douglas: “Light the Way” (photograph)