Monday, July 30, 2012

Shakespeare's aesthetic manifesto?

Hippolyta:
'Tis strange my Theseus, that these
lovers speak of.

Theseus:
More strange than true: I never may believe 
These antique fables, nor these fairy toys. 
Lovers and madmen have such seething brains, 
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More than cool reason ever comprehends. 
The lunatic, the lover and the poet 
Are of imagination all compact: 
One sees more devils than vast hell can hold, 
That is, the madman: the lover, all as frantic,
Sees Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt
The poet's eye, in fine frenzy rolling, 
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven; 
And as imagination bodies forth 
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing 
A local habitation and a name. 
Such tricks hath strong imagination, 
That if it would but apprehend some joy, 
It comprehends some bringer of that joy;
Or in the night, imagining some fear, 
How easy is a bush supposed a bear!

Hippolyta:
But all the story of the night told over, 
And all their minds transfigured so together, 
More witnesseth than fancy's images
And grows to something of great constancy; 
But, howsoever, strange and admirable.

- A Midsummer Night's Dream, V, i


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

"The Woods by the Epte" by René Char

That day, I was only two legs walking.
Eyes blank, at the empty center of my face,
I set out to follow the stream through the vale.
Flowing slowly, that dull hermit failed to intrude
On the formlessness through which I journeyed.

From the angle of a ruined wall scorched by fire
Two wild briars full of gentle inflexible will
Plunged suddenly into the grey water.
They seemed like a communion of vanished beings
At the moment of proclaiming themselves again.

The hoarse blush of a rose striking the water
Reawakened the first face of the sky
With an ecstatic questioning,
Woke the earth in the midst of loving words,
Thrust me into the future like a famished and feverish tool.
Further on the Epte woods followed a further bend.
But I did not have to traverse them, the dear seed-store of increase!
I breathed, on the heel of a half-turn, the musk of meadows
Into which some creature merges.
I heard the gliding of a timid snake;
I felt – don’t think harshly of me – I was fulfilling all your wishes.

Monday, July 23, 2012

From "The Book of Questions" by Edmond Jabès

     "He who lives within himself, beside his God, beside the life and death of God, lives in two adjoining rooms with a door between. He goes from one to the other in order to celebrate Him. He goes from presence in consciousness to presence in absence. He must fully be, before he can aspire to not being any more, that is to say: to being more, to being all. For absence is All."
     He died for each second. He gathered a strength from beyond the grave. He was a fraction of the desert and an inflection of the wind. He stripped the untouched page of its leaves.
     But the word is a triumphant sower. Dawn and dusk are written, as is race. When he got back to his neighborhood, to his house (a nomad had taken him on his camel to the nearest control post where he caught a military truck to town), so many words urged him. He was, however, bent on avoiding them. They were still too much in love with space for him to think of fixing them.

Friday, July 13, 2012

"I heard, as if I had no Ear" by Emily Dickinson

I heard, as if I had no Ear
Until a Vital Word
Came all the way from Life to me
And then I knew I heard.

I saw, as if my Eye were on
Another, till a Thing
And now I know 'twas Light, because
It fitted them, came in.

I dwelt, as if Myself, were out,
My Body but within
Until a Might detected me
And set my kernel in.

And Spirit turned unto the Dust
"Old Friend, thou knowest me,"
And Time went out to tell the News
And met Eternity.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Abstract art - a fertile faith

     Abstract art is a symbolic game, and it is akin to all human games: you have to get into it, risk and all, and this takes a certain act of faith. But what kind of faith? Not faith in absolutes, not a religious kind of faith. A faith in possibility, a faith not that we will know something finally, but a faith in not knowing, a faith in our ignorance, a faith in our being confounded and dumbfounded, a faith fertile with possible meaning and growth.
     From this field of not knowing, from our ignorance, from our dumbfoundedness and disorientation, artists get us into the history of our culture, make our culture go. They produce from the form of things defamiliarized, from our refocus on the things we thought we knew, from the banal, from the points between A and B, from all those momentary interstices where we have no category and no form of understanding. They produce our fresh understanding of the world of culture as separate from nature, as separate from the clock of events in the rest of history: separate by moving faster and stimulating us to change when we least expect it, and slower by linking us to traditions in the past, different from the clocks that tick away in our own lives. - Kirk Varnedoe

Monday, July 9, 2012

"Distraction" by Henry Vaughan

O knit me, that am crumbled dust! The heap
             Is all dispersed and cheap;
        Give for a handful, but a thought
                   And it is bought;
                    Hadst thou
Made me a star, a pearl, or a rainbow,
             The beams I then had shot
             My light had lessened not,
                    The world
Is full of voices; Man is called and hurled
             By each, he answers all,
             Knows ev'ry note and call,
                    Hence, still
Fresh dotage tempts, or old usurps his will.
Yet, hadst thou clipped my wings, when coffined in
             This quickened mass of sin,
         And saved that light, which freely thou
                    Didst then bestow,
                     I fear
I should have spurned, and said thou didst forbear;
             Or that thy store was less,
             But now since thou didst bless
                     So much,
I grieve, my God! that thou hast made me such.
                     I grieve?
O, yes! thou know'st I do; come, and relieve
         And tame, and keep down with thy light
         Dust that would rise, and dim my sight,
             Lest left alone too long
             Amidst the noise and throng,
                    Oppressed I
Striving to save the whole, by parcels die.