Friday, September 8, 2017

Another term

                 . . . like a flag
meant for a ceremony where the part
we're meant to play is a mystery,
and everything is about to start.

Nathaniel Perry
  Seeds and Seeding
Copper Canyon Press, 2011©

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The rush

La première entreprise fut,
dans le sentier déjà empli
des frais et blêmes éclats,
une fleur qui me dit son nom.

                   The first undertaking, in the
                   pathway already filled with
                   fresh, pale sparkles, was a
                   flower which told me its name.

Jean Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud
John Ashbery
W.W. Norton & Co, 2011©

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Who's raping whom again, Jefe?

 Amidst all our delight in the
 Mad Hatter libretto we enjoy
 in the new government, I have
 always regretted its transfer-
 rence of exploiting our undoc-
 umented residents for winning
 the Sinecure, in underpaying
 wages, in cheating them in so
 many countless ways, that one
 should regard that direst of
 all genital impertinences as
 something of a Party favor.

 So much as even to dream now,
 of squandering this wonderful
 mechanism in exchange, albeit
 extorted by delicious terror-
 ism, for a passive little ed-
 ifice of incurable porosity,
 seems to throw out the bath
 without a bathrobe, i.e., to
 strut, without the requisite
 hair shirt.

ii   Eduardo Seco

iii  Mathias Lauridsen

Monday, September 4, 2017

This houseboat day

On parking my car in the driveway,
after an amiable lunch in town,
I flicked open one of my detested
devices to see if there were any
urgent messages to address, before
joining my English Cocker for an
afternoon constitutional about the
grounds. Nothing pressing, apart
from word from The New York Times,
of the exit of the most-cited En-
glish language poet at this page,
at the permissible age of ninety.

One doesn't like to hear of an ex-
tinguishment of wonder and genius,
at any age. Deep into his 80s, he
found himself translating the boy
Arthur Rimbaud's Illuminations, 
for which practitioners of three
languages will never forget him -
English, French, and Male Youth.

Preparing to attest to these few
facts I did observe the precaution
of counting citations here, for
William Shakespeare. They are in
second place, voluminously, but I
reckon that John Ashbery engages
the search engine as translator,
as well as poet - much as David
Ferry, and long may he do so.

I have accepted the loss of Shakes-
peare, on the premise that it will
never take place, as I listen to
Mozart, too, to stay hip with the
times. John Ashbery is the most un-
cannily American, uncannily contem-
porary poet in my reading, and not
least for his having seeded his
work with breathtaking likelihood
of future accompaniment, to people
in our place, never abandoning the
voice of fraternity, once removed.

Insulting as the vestal virgins of
his art may take this familiarizing
embrace to be - and couldn't we all
voice that objection - one declares
it on the grounds of Ashbery's per-
sistent, prescient sharing of our 
place. His poetry will be a fixture 
of guest rooms, of bedside tables, 
of daybreak at the barricades, and
at twilight of illusion, lifting. 
He is constantly being found.

As here, where I enjoyed my lunch
today in Charlottesville, Virginia.
I had a good companion, but then I
always do.

           And Others, Vaguer Presences

           Are built out of the meshing of life and space
           At the point where we are wholly revealed
           In the lozenge-shaped openings. Because
           It is argued that these structures address themselves
           To exclusively aesthetic concerns, like windmills
           On a vast plain. To which it is answered
           That there are no other questions than these,
           Half squashed in mud, emerging out of the moment
           We all live, learning to like it. No sonnet
           On this furthest strip of land, no pebbles,

           No plants. To extend one's life
           All day on the dirty stone of some plaza,
           Unaware among the pretty lunging of the wind,
           Light and shade, is like coming out of
           A coma that is a white, interesting country,
           Prepared to lose the main memory in a meeting
           By torchlight under the twisted end of the stairs.

John Ashbery
Houseboat Days
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1977©

Labor Day USA

       People remark, we don't 
       really have Labor, any 
       more. For that matter, 
       it's more as if we don't 
       even have days, any more, 
       but diurnal episodes of 
       verismo in high places.

       A society conditioned by
       forced doses of sadistic
       teasing is the new Union.

Simon Fitskie

Franz Kline

Helen Frankenthaler
Madama Butterfly

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Sabbath slack jeans

After a lifetime in baggy khakis,
I noticed a fashion note in the
political press the other day, to
the effect that our brownshirts
were affecting one's style, to dis-
guise, as Roxane Gay put it in The
one did feel a sting in that aper-
çu, and waves of sympathetic panic
for the iconography of white medi-
ocrity's epidemic hold on American
sportswear, to say nothing of waist-
bands worn to be read, as keys to
the kingdom. That said, one's medi-
ocrity can become a badge of some
kind of honor, the less adaptive
it appears - not to force too ag-
gressively, that equation between
indolence and privilege we all en-
joy denying. No; the adoption of
an indistinguishably same pair of
trousers for the span of an am-
bulatory life, has a way of free-
ing the mind to propose itself in
other terms. I can't enumerate the
daydreams I've preserved, by never
going shopping. In liberty of de-
lectation, too, and ignoring its
grievous insensitivity to the em-
ployment of millions, abstinence
may represent the next best thing
to the avoidance of restaurants.

Of course this is a conservative,
quaintly rural disposition, with-
out any of these justifications
at its source. Where continuities
are as detestably illegitimate as
the ones our mediocrities favor,
I wear no pocket for them. But I
have other reasons for abstaining
from trifling deflections from my
style. I did not invent them.

                 Black absence hides upon the past
                    I quite forget thy face
                 And memory like the angry blast
                    Will love's last smile erase

                 I try to think of what has been
                    But all is blank to me
                 And other faces pass between
                    My early love and thee

Selected Poetry
Geoffrey Summerfield
  ca 1841
Penguin, 1990©

Philipp Pröls
Robbie Wadge