Saturday, September 10, 2011

Snow angel in the tideline

Take some lines,
move them, see
how they embed: 

  The awful daring of
  a moment's surrender
  Which an age of 
  prudence can never

                 My friend,
                 blood shaking my heart

  Which is not to be found in our obituaries
  Or in memories draped by the beneficent spider
  Or under seals broken by the lean solicitor
  In our empty rooms

T.S. Eliot
The Waste Land
  V What the thunder said
  ll 403-404
op. cit.

Michael Reh, photography

Saturday commute xl: At the baths with Clovis and Bertie van Tahn

Twit twit twit
jug jug jug jug jug jug
So rudely forc'd.

I flatter myself, that our opening text settles right in upon its perch, as if it were born here. Yet, have we known each other long enough, I sometimes wonder, for such a headline not to slam the shutters shut of their own accord, but rather, to suggest something gently menacing to our undergraduate memories? I don't mind, that the page seems to haul up a fresh cadre of readers to adjust for unseasonable deflations in its ranks, but I never really know what the new know about you, stalwarts of the guytummy era, and brave trekkers through the partisan sludge of our time. 

I have come to the beach, but at the very least I demand some credit for having brought literature's most portable cynic, HH Munro (Saki) as counterpoint to my deferred researches into Mr Eliot. We don't have this problem of reconciling manic genius at home, because we have the English dog; but Whit is at his spa for the weekend, and you can well understand, how the Piranesian morbidity cast by his absence, makes it perfectly reasonable to resort to the baths. You can just imagine, then, how pleased I was to find Clovis insulting the imperturbable and impenetrable Bertie van Tahn while composing some verses to assist Mrs Packletide in one of her society feuds -- fountain pen blotting out page after page, himself more or less heaped in terrycloth, as Bertie is slung languidly into a neighboring chair and looking conversationally inclined. Bertie does goad Clovis into a teasing sharing of snippets from his bath house epic, but frustration cannot help but colour his gratitude. Offering encouragement as very few can, Bertie likens Clovis to an Orpheus descending into Jermyn Street.

[portrait removed]

I do not expect to encounter, even by resort to wilder chance, a more luminous image than this of the dashing poet on the cusp of his irreversible immortality. As you realise, I've been recalling the bidding war which Mr Eliot and his cannily exotic chum, Ezra Pound, came up with to promote a smashing, glittering transatlantic roll-out of the great new thing, the poem called, The Waste Land. This was back in '22, some 10 years or so after Saki's The Recessional was published. 

Involving Edmund Wilson, John Peale Bishop, Scofield Thayer, Gilbert Seldes, Horace Liveright, Virginia Woolf, and such periodicals as The Dial, Vanity Fair, The Criterion, The Atlantic and The Century, in an all but carnally hot but hilariously buzz-driven pursuit of a text most of these people hadn't actually ever seen, TS Eliot's flogging of this admitted GNT must rank among the merriest, ebulliently indecent pieces of auctioneering since Shirley Temple went public. And the lads made off with an absolute killing.

Receiving the importuning ambassador from Vanity Fair, Pound is described as extended on a bright green couch, swathed in a hieratic bathrobe made of a maiden-aunt .. fabric, offensively soft .. When buyers' interests would flag, Pound would revive them with visits by Constantin Brancusi, and who knows what other occult entertainments. The scholar to whose work I'm indebted for the breathless details of this treasure hunt, Lawrence Rainey, speaks of the ultimate publication of The Waste Land as a social event, a triumphal occasion.

This prospect is exactly what drew Clovis Sangrail to the baths for Mrs Packletide, and has twinkled in the dreams of writers ever since. What found Bertie there, is not immediately obvious. Possibly, they had wi/fi. 

Extract of The Waste Land,
  ll 203-206 

T.S. Eliot
The Waste Land
Michael North, editor
  Norton Critical Edition
  Lawrence Rainey
  The Price of Modernism:
    Publishing 'The Waste Land'
W.W. Norton, 2001©

H.H. Munro
The Complete Works of Saki
Noël Coward, introduction
Doubleday & Company, 1976©


Friday, September 9, 2011

Warm arm, cool arm

Going to the beach this weekend,
I pack the muse's gauze, myself,
its appetite for inscription un-
ambiguous to me; irresistible
I have worn colours or stripes, 
tattersalls and checks to assure 
others, I have a change of shirt.
That is the plain meaning of such

I rebel against wearing others.
I wonder, that it ever seemed a
courtesy to manipulate one's in-
carnation with petty statements.
My present to my bride, long ago,
was an Ansel Adams zone system
portrait of myself in the dunes
at San Gregorio beach in Calif-
ornia, barefoot in baggy khakis
and a white shirt. The appetite
of white reciprocates that of
life, does it not, for true in-
scription, spontaneous and un-
bent. As a frame, nothing else - 
reflective sterling silver, 
almost excepted - so invites re-
gard, perception, considera-
tion, remembrance. Adoption.

Our infamous hottie in the white
T has lately been reconstructing
this conception of the suspend-
ed white field, as a japonesque
noren he presents as a guest-
book. It calls to me the vision,
probably in the back of everyone's 
mind, of the high and canopied 4-
poster in St Lucia, of sumptuous 
white linens, as a field for in-
finite erotic elaboration.

The shirt of ampleness and ad-
justable openness in white is
evidently a blessing of fate,
not an invention: for phenomenal 
sensitivity to light, and more so 
to air, quality of permeability 
reserved for nothing less than this 
provenance, availing infusion, in-
halation, exhilaration, flight.

It hasn't a lesser side. Warm 
arm, cool arm: where else would
one leap, to be the plainest word?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

"Let's go for a walk, Auguste"

.. We go hungry
amid the giant granaries
this world is ..
Like Keats listening to the doctor
who said the best thing 
for tuberculosis was to eat only one
slice of bread and a fragment
of fish each day. Keats starved
himself to death because he yearned
so desperately to feast on Fanny Brawne.

Where are we, Hercule?

We're on something called a road, Auguste, where we can walk together.

Couldn't we do this, indoors?

Not and know the truth of 
my friend, that our road may 
end in someone's sense of what 
is wise.

Jack Gilbert
The Dance Most of All
  The Danger of Wisdom 
Knopf, 2009©

The frittering away of political fear

              Disorder, horror, fear, and mutiny
              Shall here inhabit, and this land be call'd
              The field of Golgotha and dead men's skulls.

              Bishop of Carlisle
              Richard II, IV, i, 142-4

The President of the US,
who will speak yet again,
this evening, negligently
has stripped pessimism
of enduring his policies
of any fear of losing his
leadership - apart, for
marginal voters such as
oneself, from concern for
the federal judiciary.

By their own initiative
his airily disbanded and
abandoned coalition now
must act in his place,
to show the horror he 
would leave them, from

He believes he is wasting
because he has been nice,
and he is wrong. He is
wasting because he has
been willing to do the
wrong thing to be nice,
in which his vaunted
conceit has only shown
proof of indifference.
The Republican destruc-
tion of the nation's
economy bears his name,
for the reason that he
has been satisfied.

Despite this, it has
been argued in The 
Washington Post, in the
last week, that voters
truly do support this 
man, because they favour
policies he espoused at
one time. The problem is,
they know he favoured 
them by abandoning them.
He could come out for
sorbet, and they'd know
to expect crème brûlée.
That's not compromise;
that's being Richard II.

Any Republican can now
run as the Obama with
courage; this man has
given the happy warrior
of our heritage to the
Party which promises to
erase him from history.
Fear, itself is on a
This reality does gall,
given the phony Henry V
he just succeeded, and
the Tea Party chaos pre-
figured for Henry VI. All
right, the man doesn't
read. But I think of 
his obligation, not of 
the death of kings. I 
think of who's sovereign
in this nation, for whom
he did not even swing.

         Used, misled, cheated. Our time always shortening.
         What we cherish always temporary. What we love
         is, sooner or later, changed. But for a while we can
         visit our other life. Can rejoice in its being there
         in its absence ..

William Shakespeare
Richard II
op. cit.

Jack Gilbert
Refusing Heaven
  Burma [fragment]
National Book Critics
  Circle Award
Knopf, 2005©

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I came to Virginia 14 years ago, this evening

This is not a portrait of Laurent, but of how ill-suited one was for the terrain. A rackful of thornproofs later, there's been no discernible improvement in one's adaptation. This is also the birthday, by coincidence, of my mother, of whom scant mention has heretofore been made, on the grounds of seemliness. I had driven across the country with Geordie and Robbie, of whom no mention has yet been made; Whit was not yet on the horizon. Geordie, Robbie and I made a point of attending the annual Heart of Michigan English Cocker Spaniel Championship en route, in some of the prettiest country we had ever seen, on the date of the funeral for the Princess of Wales. Our experience is so layered with coincidence that, even knowing better than to bring it up, one can't deny the convenience of its external reference points.

Ours has been an active day for Whit at his vet, a good fellow whose earlier life included a stint as a jockey at a Palladian villa in the Veneto, the world being as small as it is. By coincidence again, we're about to prepare a dinner resembling the first one, that night, Scotch included (Whit will have cottage cheese on a fibre biscuit). It may be, we'll read some poetry, and a little Saki for a chuckle before sleep. I am very happy, Whit is well. I could not conceive of being here without him. 

Best wishes to
our friends with 
big black eyes,
and tails flicking
brightly out of brush.

I think modesty compels us to demand no more than the following

a crime, if you like,
                        to fit the punishment

                        not everyone can say
                        he has the power to
                        nourish the righteous
                        just by being himself -

                        as they are the first
                        to tell you

                        has your soul made
                        your churches rich
                        your rulers proud
                        and children die?

                        mine has

Lasse Pedersen

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Regarding the cellular capture of everyday life

Over the regionally rainy weekend just past, The New York Times ran a sadly brief study of the sillycam's invasion of art exhibitions, more or less coinciding with the confidance here, of loving one's camera for precisely the opposite reasons. The distinction supporting these alternate views is that the one addresses the assimilation of artistic works, and the other of everyday life. I took special interest in the Times' mention of framing with the viewfinderless sillycam, which merited very much more consideration, and which readers are likely to give it. This distinction is also vital to our argument for the camera.

For the purpose of this note in The Times, framing amounts to an editing for the purpose of acquisition, a plucking of the morsel from its habitat. Sontag wrote about this, in On Photography, before the sillycam. But framing is a compositional as well as a limiting mechanism, and here you see a photographic framing of a framing, for expressive and defining consequence. We are aware of framing as one of propaganda's most indispensable tools; but it is truer to regard propaganda as a sub-set of framing, and not always with malice toward understanding. I undertook to enhance understanding by editing the first image with a frame. The second image uses internal frames to compose itself, and is narrative.

The seduction of boys v: the virile tradition

To go from my farm to almost anywhere,
I pass through a country crossroads
with more churches than potato chips,
and I sometimes stop for a local paper.
I found this at the lottery counter,
where our elderly and poor go to pray.

Take the trouble to expand the final im-
age. It has everything. Equine Potency. 
Military Honour. Cowboy Romance. Elation
of Risk. Marksmanship. When I snaffled 
this seduction of boys, I remarked to
the merchant that it made me sentimental. 
That put him at ease. I wanted him that 
way. I still had to get out of his town.

Next to the congenital gothic revanchism
of the diabetic American South, nothing
compares, remotely, to fashion photography
when it comes to the seduction of boys to
embrace this heartbreaking habit. From the
houndstooth junkie of yore to the rogue
of redhead randiness, this is never going
to end, I know. People like to see a man 
with who courts a brutal death so blithely.

But I would think, the fashion proletariat
would rise up, as they say, and contemplate
its own exploitation in this unamusing abuse.

Monday, September 5, 2011

I just saw more pictures of Charlie de Bestegui, and you know?

I don't think we can use them.

The blogosphere is awash these days with even more namedropping idle worship than you'd hear at the Pines at tea this afternoon, and I'd like to pitch in, but I think one really has to let the muck erect its own dike. Where is Dorothy Parker, now that we're finding white ties laid end to end from one gasp sheet to the next, as in, omigod did you realise George V had the use of a Crown? People might as well publish a photocopy of Magna Carta, apart from doubting that it's worth it, and cite it as part of Her Majesty's trousseau from King John. Behind all these doll's houses lies a childlike sense of the social fabric as a matter of the decorative arts.

Remember when we had that punctilious little fellow running around here, clucking about guytummy? Possibly it's his shock, to find oneself on a page swarming with relicts of Mussolini's court, flashing loot at a dinner party. Still, fascism is so timeless.

Not that we know much of what to say about Labor Day. I don't know, do guys work anymore? Yes, thank you; I hadn't thought so, but I felt I should ask. I gather we're to hear that the President thinks they should - which is to say, that he'll give Perry's speech. I saw that there were flags out in our little Piedmont town today, which gave Main Street a kind of bustle not seen since Walmart shuttered it. 

Maybe the President will come out for a Christo Fence public works program, to sustain this same gaiety. I do so wish he would. Great swaths of disused pectoral bunting, don't you think, and Sobranie foil on the belching smokestack tips he just condoned, would give lavish improvement, as in the doll's house.

iii Bastiaan van Gaalen