Monday, October 31, 2011

Between silence and speech, silence is more dangerous: it's very safety endangers the self

For example, we say that one regrets ten times for having spoken to once for having kept silent - and why? Because the external fact of having spoken can involve one in difficulties, since it is an actuality.  But to have kept silent!  And yet this is the most dangerous of all . . . Not to venture is prudent.  And yet, precisely by not venturing it is so terribly easy to lose what would be hard to lose, however much one lost by risking, and in any case never this way, so easily, so completely, as if it were nothing at all - namely, oneself. - Kierkegaard

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Oneness, Division & Hamlet

The idea of oneness is a bit odd. In the West we have interpreted this complexity as simplicity. Oneness does not mean no disagreements no paradoxes no contradictions no change. Oneness is not even some mystical state arrived at via gurus and meditation. Rather it is a way of allowing both contemplation and action. Take Hamlet, the hopelessly divided hero. When he can only contemplate he cannot act. When he acts he can no longer contemplate. Hamlet’s efforts to be his own man are undermined by the poisonous world of self-interest and intrigue that he inherits from his dead father. He is fatally flawed because he cannot end the family romance or remake the broken kingdom. He belongs to what has been not to what might be. If he could accept his own contradictions and those of everyone around him, he might gain in personal understanding as well as political power. But he can’t. Hamlet is an exercise in what happens when we believe that to be or not to be is the question. Nothing is that simple. - Jeanette Winterson

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Poem's Consolation

This process, one word leading to another, qualifying another, is what consoles [Primo] Levi.  For a moment, he is rescued from the narratives of utility that structure every second of his life: the poem's language creates an interior space where for a moment he may hide.  But at the end of the journey, Levi is plummeted back into a world in which utility is all, a world in which words cannot resist themselves because the German, French and Polish words for "cabbages and turnips" refer perfectly and interchangeably to things.  "For a moment I forget who I am and where I am," says Levi, and the phrase is powerful because it acknowledges that a poem's consolation is neither permanent nor complete. - James Longenbach

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Wallace Stevens on Work

Early Stevens
"None of the great things in life have anything to do with making your living."

Late Stevens 1
"It gives a man character as a poet to have daily contact with a job.  I doubt whether I've lost a thing by leading an exceedingly regular and disciplined life."

Late Stevens 2
"A writer faces a point of honor that concerns him as a writer. He must apparently choose between starvation and that form of publishing (or being published) in which it is possible to make money. His problem is how to support himself while engaged in the most honorable capacity. There is only one answer. He must support himself in some other way."

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fetching remote and precious metaphors through a figurative, metaphorical God

My God, my God. . .thou art a figurative, a metaphorical God. . .a God in whose words there is such a height of figures, such voyages, such peregrinations to fetch remote and precious metaphors, such extensions, such spreadings, such curtains of allegories, such third heavens of hyperboles, so harmonious elocutions, so retired and so reserved expressions, so commanding persuasions, so persuading commandments, such sinews even in thy milk, and such things in thy words, as all profane authors seem of the seed of the serpent that creeps, thou art the Dove that flies. . .Neither art thou thus a figurative, a metaphorical God in thy word only, but in thy works too. The style of thy works, the phrase of thine actions, is metaphorical. . .Neither didst thou speak and work in this language only in the time of thy prophets; but since thou spokest in thy Son it is so too. How often, how much more often, doth thy Son call himself a way, and a light, and a gate, and a vine, and bread, than the Son of God, or of man? How much oftener doth he exhibit a metaphorical Christ, than a real, a literal? - John Donne, Devotions, #xix

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Kernel of Chekhov?

“He had two lives: one, open, seen and known by all who cared to know, full of relative truth and of relative falsehood, exactly like the lives of his friends and acquaintances; and another life running its course in secret. And through some strange, perhaps accidental, conjunction of circumstances, everything that was essential, of interest and of value to him, everything that made the kernel of his life, was hidden from other people; and all that was false in him, the sheath in which he hid himself to conceal the truth ­– all that was open. And he judged of others by himself, not believing in what he saw, and always believing that every man had his real, most interesting life under the cover of secrecy and under the cover of night. All personal life rested on secrecy.” (from The Lady With the Dog)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Giacometti - a minimum of means to a stillness and dense inner life

He found a style in sculpture and stuck to it; he made skinny and elongated, attenuated figures, working a great deal with his wife Annette as a model, as well as his mother and brother Diego who was also an artist. In them, he managed to capture a sense of the human fate in the world as deeply tragic and maybe wondrous too.

Giacometti was a great modern artist partly because of his ability to create a strange and self-conscious iconography of the body. His figures were filled with iconic dignity, a stillness, a solitariness, a sense of a dense inner life, almost a spiritual life. Yet they were made using what seemed the minimum of means.

- Colm Tóibín