Saturday, June 29, 2013

Francis Bacon

Picasso was the first person to produce figurative paintings which overturned the rules of appearance; he suggested appearance without using the usual codes, without respecting the representational truth of form, but using a breath of irrationality instead, to make representation stronger and more direct; so that form could pass directly from the eye to the stomach without going through the brain.
- Francis Bacon

Friday, June 21, 2013

Henri Cartier-Bresson

Photography as I conceive it, well, it’s a drawing — immediate sketch done with intuition and you can’t correct it. If you have to correct it, it’s the next picture. But life is very fluid. Well, sometimes the pictures disappear and there’s nothing you can do. You can’t tell the person, “Oh, please smile again. Do that gesture again.” Life is once, forever.
-Henri Cartier-Bresson

Poetry is the essence of everything, and it’s through deep contact with reality and living fully that you reach poetry. Very often I see photographers cultivating the strangeness or awkwardness of a scene, thinking it is poetry. No. Poetry is two elements which are suddenly conflict — a spark between two elements. But it’s given very seldom, and you can’t look for it. It’s like if you look for inspiration. No, it just comes by enriching yourself and living.
-Henri Cartier-Bresson

You have to forget yourself. You have to be yourself and you have to forget yourself so that the image comes much stronger — what you want by getting involved completely in what you are doing and not thinking. Ideas are very dangerous. You must think all the time, but when you photograph, you aren’t trying to push a point or prove something. You don’t prove anything. It comes by itself.
-Henri Cartier-Bresson


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Anne Lamott

Your problem is how you are going to spend this one and precious life you have been issued. Whether you're going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are.
― Anne Lamott

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they're doing it.
― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Amy Bloom

You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed. And you are beautiful.
― Amy Bloom

Marriage is not a ritual or an end. It is a long, intricate, intimate dance together and nothing matters more than your own sense of balance and your choice of partner.
― Amy Bloom

La Divina Commedia by Amy Bloom
read here.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Joyce Carol Oates

I think all art comes out of conflict. When I write I am always looking for the dramatic kernel of an event, the junctures of people's lives when they go in one direction, not another.
― Joyce Carol Oates

My belief is that art should not be comforting; for comfort, we have mass entertainment and one another. Art should provoke, disturb, arouse our emotions, expand our sympathies in directions we may not anticipate and may not even wish.
― Joyce Carol Oates

"Keeping busy" is the remedy for all the ills in America. It's also the means by which the creative impulse is destroyed.
― Joyce Carol Oates, The Journal of Joyce Carol Oates: 1973-1982

Writing is a consequence of having been 'haunted' by material. Why this is, no one knows.
― Joyce Carol Oates

I had forgotten that time wasn't fixed like concrete but in fact was fluid as sand, or water. I had forgotten that even misery can end.
― Joyce Carol Oates, I am No One You Know

Every scar in my face is worth it.
― Joyce Carol Oates

Jon Frankel

Artist's studios are one of my favorite places to be. I expect to see old cigar boxes bulging with oil crayons, tins of pastels, paintings and canvases stacked against the walls, an ashtray full of cigarette butts or an old pipe on its side, the butt ends of cigars, and squashed tubes of oil paints, acrylics, drawing pads and charcoal pads and tracing paper stacked up, shelves of battered poetry books and books about birds and the masks of Oceania, perhaps Wallace's Malaysia journals...and objects of various sorts, rags, the smell of turpentine and linseed oil, failures and transcendent visions crammed carelessly together and at the center, rummaging about, someone in jeans and T shirt, and of course a radio or portable cd player, splattered with paint. There should be dust in the corners devoted to abandoned things.
-Jon Frankel

Weather: Emotional and Meteorological

It's fascinating that humans try to control the weather both emotional and meteorological.

I found this article today and especially loved the vintage illustration of an anti-hail cannon. Here.

Anti-Hail Cannon

A hailstorm can ruin a year's worth of crops in a matter of minutes, but a machine has emerged to help farmers (literally) combat this problem.
Hail cannons are devices that fire shockwaves up into thunderclouds to prevent hailstones from forming. The theory dates back to the 14th century, when people in Europe attempted to ward off hail by ringing church bells and firing cannons. Anti-hail cannons were especially popular in wine-producing regions of Europe during the 19th century, and modern versions of them are still used in Italy.

In the U.S., hail cannons have been marketed through events like Tulare County's World Ag Expo, billed as the largest farm equipment show in the world, and farmers in states such as Colorado, Nebraska and Michigan have bought them in recent years, USA Today reports.

However, scientists say there's little evidence for its effectiveness. "It'd have to be something pretty major to upset hail," Charles Knight, a senior scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, told USA Today. "If you exploded an atomic bomb in a cloud, that might do something."

The cannons can also cause clashes between farmers and neighbors. When used, they are repeatedly fired every 1 to 10 seconds while a storm is approaching and until it has passed through the area.


Papa's on the Housetop

Mama told Papa, "You're quiet as a mouse"
So Father climbed up on top of the house
Made a lot of whoopi, made a lot of noise
Stood up and cheered with the rest of the boys

Baby's in the cradle, made a lot of time
Sister's in the parlour trying on a gown
Mama's in the kitchen messing around
And Papa's on the housetop, won't come down

The blues they come, the blues they come
Nobody knows where the old blues come from
The blues they come, the blues they go
And everybody's happy when the old blues go

Baby's in the cradle, brother's gone to town
Sister's in the parlour tryin' on a gown
Mama's in the kitchen messing around
And Papa's on the housetop, won't come down

Drop down, Papa.

Hush little baby and don't you cry
The blues' gonna leave you by and by
Papa come in for the corn
Put the baby in the cradle and the blues out the door

Baby's in the cradle, brother's gone to town
Sister's in the parlour tryin' on a gown
Mama's in the kitchen messin' around
And Papa's on the housetop but won't come down

Papa saw a chicken out in the yard
He picked up a rock and he hit him hard
Hit him hard? He killed him dead
Now the chicken's in the gravy and the gravy's on the bread

Baby's in the cradle, sister's gone to town
Brother's in parlour tryin' on a gown
Mama's in the kitchen messing around
And Papa's on the housetop and won't come down

-Leroy Carr 1933, from Country Blues by Geoff Bartley, 1996

Friday, June 14, 2013

Friedrich Nietzsche

And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.

If you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.

Sometimes people don't want to hear the truth because they don't want their illusions destroyed.

In heaven, all the interesting people are missing.

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.

The man of knowledge must be able not only to love his enemies but also to hate his friends.

The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die. As well the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be mind.

― Friedrich Nietzsche

Thursday, June 13, 2013

No Joke: Jester Wanted at Austrian Hotel

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: June 13, 2013 at 8:56 AM ET

VIENNA — Wanted: A jester. Wallflowers need not apply.

It's no joke. An Austrian hotel is advertising for a modern-day court fool, who is communicative, extroverted, musical, creative and imaginative.

Applicants are asked to bring — and play — their musical instrument during the job interview. Also welcome: creative costumes. The successful candidate will earn 1,400 euros — around $1,900 — a month.

Hotel director Melanie Franke says those interested should not think they're on a fool's errand in applying. She says the idea is to treat guests like royalty, noting that "jesters were a luxury that royal families indulged themselves in."

The hotel in Austria's Styria province was designed by famed Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser and Franke says the jester concept fits its hotel's colorful appearance.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Elizabeth Cotten

At the age of seven, she would steal into her brother's room while he was at work and play his homemade banjo. Broken strings betrayed her borrowing, but, even though her brother complained about it, he never scolded her or forbade her to play the instrument. Cotten tried to learn with the banjo re-strung for a left-handed player but eventually returned to her upside down method and proceeded to learn on her own. Later, she delighted her audiences with her standard declaration, "Nobody did teach me, everything I know, I learned all by myself, so, I give myself all of the credit."

Edward Hirsch

the stars surprise the sky

from In Spite of Everything, the Stars by Edward Hirsch

Writing and Fear

Although I am a painter I get all of my nutrition from writers, especially poets because they are the word-tasting gourmets.

Anne Frank

I have one outstanding trait in my character, which must strike anyone who knows me for any length of time, and that is my knowledge of myself. I can watch myself and my actions, just like an outsider. The Anne of every day I can face entirely without prejudice, without making excuses for her, and watch what's good and what's bad about her. This 'self-consciousness' haunts me, and every time I open my mouth I know as soon as I've spoken whether 'that ought to have been different' or 'that was right as it was.' There are so many things about myself that I condemn; I couldn't begin to name them all. I understand more and more how true Daddy's words were when he said: 'All children must look after their own upbringing.' Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands.
― Anne Frank

How noble and good everyone could be if, every evening before falling asleep, they were to recall to their minds the events of the while day and consider exactly what has been good and bad. Then, without realizing it you try to improve yourself at the start of each new day; of course, you achieve quite a lot in the course of time. Anyone can do this, it costs nothing and is certainly very helpful.
― Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank

Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.
― Anne Frank

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.
― Anne Frank

In the long run, the sharpest weapon of all is a kind and gentle spirit.
― Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank

There's only one rule you need to remember: laugh at everything and forget everybody else! It sounds egotistical, but it's actually the only cure for those suffering from self-pity.
― Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank

I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.
― Anne Frank

Earning happiness means doing good and working, not speculating and being lazy. Laziness may look inviting, but only work gives you true satisfaction.
― Anne Frank

Those who have courage and faith shall never perish in misery.
― Anne Frank

Miroslav Tichý

First of all, you have to have a bad camera.

If you want to be famous, you must do something more badly than anybody in the entire world.

- Miroslav Tichý, Czech photographer


another source

Alexander Nazaryan

Ever since my own birth, it seems, I have dreaded nightfall and the silence of the evening dark. As an adult, I have been granted some solace. The iPad is a perfect nightlight. It is the fatherly reassurance that Freud says we all crave. Mine comes from a man named Steve.

I push a button and, as the argentine glow washes over my face, my dread begins to recede. The image of an apple appears; it has been bitten and I can not help but think of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from Eden. But in a moment the apple disappears, and – lo! – is replaced by salvation: orderly rows of apps, bright columns of faithful soldiers in my own private war against solitude and disorder and oblivion.

The dread is gone.

-Alexander Nazaryan


Monday, June 10, 2013

May Sarton: Plant Dreaming Deep

How brief yet how full that full encounter between my new life and its first guests! So much greater, then, the sense of absence when the house and I found ourselves alone together after they had gone. It was my first experience of the transition back to solitude, the moment of loneliness, the shadowy moment before I can resume my real life here. The metaphor that comes to mind is that of a sea anemone that has been wide open to the tide, and then slowly closes up again as the tide ebbs. For alone here, I must first give up the world and all its dear, tantalizing human questions, first close myself away, and then, and only then open to that other tide, the inner life, the life of solitude, which rises very slowly until, like the anemone, I am open to receive whatever it may bring.

Solitude itself is a way of waiting for the inaudible and the invisible to make itself felt. And that is why solitude is never static and never hopeless. On the other hand, every friend who comes to stay enriches the solitude forever; presence, if it has been real presence, does not ever leave.

But fortunately he had a haven when the mood to paint was on him―the second floor of the abandoned schoolhouse. There he had installed a little wood stove; there he had great empty space and good light; there he he could take refuge from all the unfinished business at home and spend hours in front of a canvas. And there I used to find him at the end of the morning.

Like any real friendship―and this was a great one―it sprang out of mutual need and was nourished from mutual riches.

Quig was more complex than he seemed. Although he lived in a perpetual, if lively disorder in his own house, he loved ceremony. He was not a great drinker, but, as he often told me, what he loved what he loved was the ceremony around a drink, the fire lit, the flowers on the table, the enclosed peaceful hour at the end of the day, the good talk. We never met, we three, without feeling that something of moment had happened between us; we never talked without the talk turning to "real things" - relationship and all its mysteries, art and all its mysteries, the natural world and all its mysteries. For me to be with the Quigleys was to come home to the values with which I had grown up, values that often seemed anachronistic in the United States today. For one thing, the world we shared, in ceremony, was completely uncompetitive. Status - social or professional - had no place in it. We conversed like three Chinese philosophers about the things that really matter, and sometimes we had a good laugh about those that don't.

When I had a poem hot off the griddle, I read it to them. Poetry, like chamber music, thrives best on a few listeners, but those one or two are essential. The poem does not live until it has been heard. What would become of me that long winter if there had been no one to listen? Always I felt that whatever I had managed to say was being considered with the utmost attention. Always I felt that the intention, at least, had fallen on fertile ground. The response was in character. Mildred, always articulate, often carried the poem a step farther, gave it a surprising, original insight of her own which might send me back to make a revision. Quig reacted with that feeling silence which is the accolade every poet longs to receive. He was easily moved but never superficially moved, and utterance came hard to him at such moments. I must add to the life-giving silences of Nelson Quig's way of listening to a poem.

My stance had always been that I would go on growing and do better, both as a poet and as a novelist, in time. Now, quite suddenly, time seemed to shrink. The tide might even be ebbing, for all I knew, before I had tasted at the flood.

It became more necessary than ever to eliminate waste. "I wasted time and now doth time waste me" was no longer a beautiful phrase but a probing reality. During snow-bright days and the long evenings sitting by the fire or pacing the floor, I began to understand that for me "waste" had not come from idleness, but perhaps from pushing myself too hard, from not being idle enough, from listening to the demon who says "make haste." I had allowed the wrong kind of pressure to build up, that kind that brings frustration in its wake. I was helped by Louise Bogan's phrase, "Let life do it." But what kind of life?

Just how far and to what end would solitude take me? And how can one have the courage to shut life out when it knocks at the door? Already I was beginning to know a few of the people scattered over the hills around Nelson. Although in some ways remote, Nelson is only two hours from Boston, and even in winter there is a social life, a sophisticated one. Now and then I was invited out to dinner. I found these occasions intoxicating, for at them I not only learned something about the country, or about Nelson history, about hunting or fishing, and I suspect that I was the perfect listener too for many a tall tale. I was at the same time delighted and uneasy. If I began to accept invitations, I should soon be giving invitations myself, and the whole atmosphere of the house would be subtly changed. I was surprised to discover how strongly I felt about not having cocktail parties here, as if the house had already, in so short a time, begun to change me in wholly unexpected ways. So, as the pressure contained in a social life, however modest, made itself felt, it was an awkward time for me. How to refuse kindness, the open door, reject so much good will toward a stranger?

The answer did not come easy that first year, but I finally came to terms with it, and I have never regretted the decision I made then, when I had my back against the wall in so many ways. But at least it was my wall and I had chosen it, "no shelter but a grave demand." The answer became "no" to any purely social invitation, however tempting. The people I would choose to see, I would see, in a casual way that involves pure friendship without the necessity of accepting or returning formal invitations.

I am aware that I have shut myself out of a great deal of pleasure, but I had not come here for pleasure, and that was that. I might add that one of the miracles of Nelson is that everyone has understood. I used to think, in the years when I spent some time in Vouvray in France, and came to know the vine growers around Grace Dudley's house there, that I would never again find a place where I could be so taken for granted as a worker, in just the way a carpenter or a farmer who has a daily job to do is taken for granted. But here at Nelson I have found just that respect for the professional craftsman. It is only city people who turn up and think nothing of interrupting the day's work! No neighbor of mine here calls uninvited.

Through all these anxieties, hazards, losses, depressions, and moments of elation, I had a strong and life-enhancing support in the house itself. There was no day that strange, vivid winter not redeemed by some piece of magic. Music, flowers, books, letters from outside, the changing light, the marvelous silences―none except the last two were new to me, but all were now framed in a new way, to be experienced at a new depth, because of my isolation.

In some ways I had lived too rich a life and lived it too fast. What had looked for a while like a full stop was proving to be just the opposite, a chance for renewal, not so much through new life as through having the time and the chance to absorb what I already had in my pouch, so to speak.

― May Sarton, Plant Dreaming Deep

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Hans Haacke

Hans Haacke's controversial piece Shapolsky et al. Manhattan Real Estate Holdings, A Real-Time Social System, as of May 1, 1971 (1971) produces an abstraction of the social relationships between the wealthy and the evicted. Shapolsky, a wealthy New York land owner and landlord, happened to also be the owner of more slums than any other land owner in the city. The work thus illustrates the many ways in which the wealthy leech on the poor for the source of their money. The work was so controversial at the time that the Guggenheim Museum, where it was intended to debut, canceled the show - the understated implication being that Shapolsky probably gave money to the Museum and did not want his name to be contaminated.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Esther Williams

Asked once who her favorite leading man was, Ms. Williams offered a simple and unsurprising response: “The water.”

Love's Imagination

I could hardly spend a moment with my grandparents when they visited my parents' country house. I'd be commanded to work in the kitchen, or stand next to my mother, who I hated, and dry the dishes, now! I'd protest: That's what a dish drainer is for, but she wasn't going to let me have quality time with her parents when she'd never had any. I think of that day and how beautiful it was under the shade of the big maple tree where my grandparents sat in blue and white directors chairs. I think of them every time there is a beautiful day. I visit them now in my mind.

Tobias Wolff

In the very act of writing I felt pleased with what I did. There was the pleasure of having words come to me, and the pleasure of ordering them, re-ordering them, weighing one against another. Pleasure also in the imagination of the story, the feeling that it could mean something. Mostly I was glad to find out that I could write at all. In writing you work toward a result you won't see for years, and can't be sure you'll ever see. It takes stamina and self-mastery and faith. It demands those things of you, then gives them back with a little extra, a surprise to keep you coming. It toughens you and clears your head. I could feel it happening. I was saving my life with every word I wrote, and I knew it.
― Tobias Wolff, In Pharaoh's Army: Memories of the Lost War

Knowing that everything comes to an end is a gift of experience, a consolation gift for knowing that we ourselves are coming to an end. Before we get it we live in a continuous present, and imagine the future as more of that present. Happiness is endless happiness, innocent of its own sure passing. Pain is endless pain.
― Tobias Wolff, This Boy's Life

A true piece of writing is a dangerous thing. It can change your life.
― Tobias Wolff, Old School

There are very few professions in which people just sit down and think hard for five or six hours a day all by themselves. Of course it's why you want to become a writer — because you have the liberty to do that, but once you have the liberty you also have the obligation to do it.
― Tobias Wolff

I have never been able to understand the complaint that a story is "depressing" because of its subject matter. What depresses me are stories that don't seem to know these things go on, or hide them in resolute chipperness; "witty stories," in which every problem is the occasion for a joke; "upbeat" stories that flog you with transcendence. Please. We're grown ups now.
― Tobias Wolff

Bad Guests

When I first bought my house 18 years ago, with my own money, I was very proud. I invited my parents and a couple of their friends to see it, along with a few friends of mine for protection. At one point my step-father commanded me to show him the cellar. I dutifully left my guests behind and led him and my mother down the stairs. None of my friends came along. My parents and I were suddenly in a folk-tale. They demanded that I open every cupboard and closet door in the cellar, ordering me around in my own house. I don't know what they were looking for. I think it was one last gasp at having power over me. I was angry and relieved when they finally left.


I think I never had kids because I was exhausted from trying to raise my parents.

Abdominal Mind

I would love to swim across an ice cold pond today but I'd need a spotter in a row boat, preferably with my dog Lily. Not many people I know would be willing to do this on a clear day let alone a rainy day. For years I've had a fantasy of having my workroom opposite my home with a pond in between. My daily commute would be a swim.

As a child I was not granted privacy on any front so when I started writing I only wrote down my dreams, keeping them in little notebooks that I hid in my desk. Forty-five years later I see this was good training for strengthening my intuitive mind, the mind that paints, which is located in my abdomen.

Tobias Wolff

The very act of writing assumes, to begin with, that someone cares to hear what you have to say. It assumes that people share, that people can be reached, that people can be touched and even in some cases changed. So many of the things in our world lead us to despair. It seems to me that the final symptom of despair is silence, and that storytelling is one of the sustaining arts; it’s one of the affirming arts. A writer may have a certain pessimism in his outlook, but the very act of being a writer seems to me to be an optimistic act.
― Tobias Wolff

Time, which is your enemy in almost everything in this life, is your friend in writing.
― Tobias Wolff

When your power comes from others, on approval, you are their slave. Never sacrifice yourselves - never! Whoever urges you to self-sacrifice is worse than a common murderer, who at least cuts your throat himself, without persuading YOU to do it.
― Tobias Wolff, Old School

You boys know what tropism is, it's what makes a plant grow toward the light. Everything aspires to the light. You don't have to chase down a fly to get rid of it - you just darken the room, leave a crack of light in a window, and out he goes. Works every time. We all have that instinct, that aspiration. Science can't dim that. All science can do is turn out the false lights so the true light can get us home.
― Tobias Wolff, Old School

The beauty of a fragment is that it still supports the hope of brilliant completeness.
― Tobias Wolff, Old School

There’s no right way to tell all stories, only the right way to tell a particular story.
― Tobias Wolff

Mary Karr

for Franz Wright

At the Sound of the Gunshot,
Leave A Message

by Mary Karr

That's what my friend spoke
into his grim machine the winter he first went mad
as we both did in our thirties with still
no hope of revenue, gravely inking
our poems on pages held fast by gyres
the color of lead.

Godless, our minds
did monster us, left us bobbing as in a swamp
until we sank. His eyes were burn holes
in a swollen face. His breath was a venom
he drank deep of. He called his own tongue
a scar, this poet

who can crowbar open
the most sealed heart, make ash flower,
and the cocked shotgun's double-zero mouths
(whose pellets had exploded star holes into plaster and porcelain
and not a few locked doors) never touched
my friend's throat. Praise

Him, whose earth is green.

― Mary Karr, Sinners Welcome

The first night he slept with her, he took a washrag and a jug of wood alcohol to get rid of her makeup, saying he wanted to know what he was getting into.
― Mary Karr, The Liars' Club

I couldn't have been more than six, but I was calling her an ignorant little bitch. Her momma stood on the porch step shaking her mop at me and saying there were snakes and lizards coming out of my mouth, to which I said i didn't give a shit.
― Mary Karr, The Liars' Club

After Mother got her picture, we all stood around the fire truck eating moon-shaped cookies dusted with powdered sugar that the mayor's wife had brought in some Tupperware. It was stuff like that that'd break your heart about Leechfield, what Daddy meant when he said the town was too ugly not to love.
― Mary Karr, The Liars' Club

Before that summer, I had many times heard long-winded Baptist preachers take ten minutes to pray over card tables of potato salad and fried chicken at church picnics, but the way those sweating, red-faced men sat around on stacked pallets of lumber gulping oysters taught me most of what I knew about simple gladness.
― Mary Karr, The Liars' Club

I've plumb forgot where I am for the instant, which is how a good lie should take you. At the same time, I'm more where I was inside myself than before Daddy started talking, which is how lies can tell you the truth.
― Mary Karr

Paris Review: May Sarton

[In old age] there is a childlike innocence, often, that has nothing to do with the childishness of senility. The moments become precious . . .

Sometimes the demon of self-doubt comes to tell me that I've been fatally divided between two crafts, that of the novel and that of poetry, but I've always believed that in the end it was the total work which would communicate a vision of life and it really needs different modes to do that. The novels have been written in order to find something out about what I was thinking, questions I was asking myself that I needed to answer.

The thing about poetry—one of the things about poetry—is that in general one does not follow growth and change through a poem. The poem is an essence. It captures perhaps a moment of violent change but it captures a moment, whereas the novel concerns itself with growth and change. As for the journals, you actually see the writer living out a life, which you don't in any of the other forms, not even the memoirs. In memoirs you are looking back. The memoir is an essence, like poetry. The challenge of the journal is that it is written on the pulse, and I don't allow myself to go back and change things afterwards, except for style. I don't expand later on. It's whatever I am able to write on the day about whatever is happening to me on that day. In the case of a memoir like Plant Dreaming Deep, I'm getting at the essence of five years of living alone in a house in a tiny village in New Hampshire, trying to pin down for myself what those five years had meant, what they had done to me, how I had changed. And that's very different from the journals.

But as for the vision of life in the whole of my work, I would like to feel that my work is universal and human on the deepest level. I think of myself as a maker of bridges—between the heterosexual and the homosexual world, between the old and the young. As We Are Now, the novel about a nursing home, has been read, curiously enough, by far more young people than old people. It terrifies old people to read about other old people in nursing homes. But the young have been moved by it. Many young people write me to say that they now visit elderly relatives in these places. This is the kind of bridge I want to make. Also, the bridge between men and women in their marriages, which I've dealt with in quite a few of the novels, especially in the last one, Anger.

So what one hopes, or what I hope, is that the whole work will represent the landscape of a nature which is not primarily intellectual but rather a sensibility quite rich and diverse and large in its capacities to understand and communicate.

Interviewer:How was it that you began to write the journals?

I wrote the first one, Journal of a Solitude, as an exercise to handle a serious depression and it worked quite well. I did have publication in mind. It wasn't written just for me. I think it's part of the discipline. It keeps you on your toes stylistically and prevents too much self-pity, knowing that it's going to be read and that it will provide a certain standard for other people who are living isolated lives and who are depressed. If you just indulge in nothing but moaning, it wouldn't be a good journal for others to read. I also found that by keeping a journal I was looking at things in a new way because I would think, “That—good! That will be great in the journal.” So it took me out of myself, out of the depression to some extent. This happened again with Recovering.

- May Sarton, Paris Review source


Yesterday I saw a black and white illustration of a flip cell phone. The top part of the phone was a skull and I almost liked it. It haunted me. I woke at 2 AM and could sense my 'committee of sleep' busy at work, trying to create my own version of a visual editorial for "Don't Text and Drive!" When I finally got up, I sketched it out. It's a visceral, archetypal image.

Back in the day I loved editorial work, especially when the editors let me alone to do my magic. It's a strange alchemical process I came to love and trust. I miss the short deadlines and the newsroom rush!

Visual is my first language. Even when I was in therapy my answers to my therapist's questions often came as images that I translated into words.

City Journal

I have had three months of abundant energy so I am due for slower speed. I am reading Plant Dreaming Deep by May Sarton. I am crazy over memoirs especially when written by poets.

I am glad its raining because it chases the noisy neighbors away and I love rain anyway especially after a string of sunny days. Too much sun and things are off kilter. Imagine if the sun didn't always set? That's what it starts to feel like. I have curtains from a yard sale that keep the bedroom a dim bat cave, just like my bedroom when I was very young. I remember having dark blue and black flowered curtains. I would stare at them and isolate the patterns and make them jump. I was four years old.

I am exhausted watching the city fighting the slumlords. They are losing the battle. We used to have a terrific Mayor, Susan Menard. She understood the dynamic of the slumlords, the kings of greed, vampires who suck the blood and money out of our city. These landlords are waging war over crumbs. Their aggressive negligence invites drug dealers, decay and crime all of which are rapidly destroying our city. We have fallen backwards!

One of the slumlords down the street had a tenant with a huge gray pit bull with a head like a lion who bounded out of the house, like a jack-in-the-box as anyone walked by. He was on a rope but still we could have been, or the mailman or anyone could have been, in his range. The neighbor kids and their mother told me they were terrified. I suggested they call the dog officer but they were too scared. And then it happened to us as we walked by the other night. So I called. Our dog catcher went to the tenant and told him 'You can't do this!' Where are the *@*&^#%*&^# landlords?

May Sarton

The most valuable thing we can do for the psyche, occasionally, is to let it rest, wander, live in the changing light of a room, not try to be or do anything whatever.
― May Sarton

It always comes back to the same necessity: go deep enough and there is a bedrock of truth, however hard.
― May Sarton

‘They’ always said, ‘What beautiful flowers you have!’ But ‘they’ never imagined how much time this irrelevant passion took from her work, at least an hour every morning in summer. No man would trouble about such things; the imaginary man in her mind got up at six, never made his bed, did not care a hoot if there were a flower or not, and was at his desk as bright as a button, at dawn, with a whole clear day before him while some woman out of sight was making a delicious hot stew for his supper.
― May Sarton, Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing

I can tell you that solitude
Is not all exaltation, inner space
Where the soul breathes and work can be done.
Solitude exposes the nerve,
Raises up ghosts.
The past, never at rest, flows through it.
― May Sarton

In the middle of the night, things well up from the past that are not always cause for rejoicing--the unsolved, the painful encounters, the mistakes, the reasons for shame or woe. But all, good or bad, give me food for thought, food to grow on.
― May Sarton, At Seventy

The more articulate one is, the more dangerous words become.
― May Sarton

One has only to set a loved human being against the fact that we are all in peril all the time to get back a sense of proportion. What does anything matter compared to the reality of love and its span, so brief at best, maintained against such odds?
― May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude

If art is not to be life-enhancing, what is it to be? Half the world is feminine--why is there resentment at a female-oriented art? Nobody asks The Tale of Genji to be masculine! Women certainly learn a lot from books oriented toward a masculine world. Why is not the reverse also true? Or are men really so afraid of women's creativity (because they are not themselves at the center of creation, cannot bear children) that a woman writer of genius evokes murderous rage, must be brushed aside with a sneer as 'irrelevant'?
― May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude

The moral dilemma is to make peace with the unacceptable.
― May Sarton

It is harder for women, perhaps to be 'one-pointed,' much harder for them to clear space around whatever it is they want to do beyond household chores and family life. Their lives are fragmented... the cry not so much for a 'a room of one's own' as time of one's own. Conflict becomes acute, whatever it may be about, when there is no margin left on any day in which to try at least to resolve it.
― May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude

Wrinkles here and there seem unimportant compared to the Gestalt of the whole person I have become in this past year.
― May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude

The more our bodies fail us, the more naked and more demanding is the spirit, the more open and loving we can become if we are not afraid of what we are and of what we feel. I am not a phoenix yet, but here among the ashes, it may be that the pain is chiefly that of new wings trying to push through.
― May Sarton, Recovering: A Journal

She became for me an island of light, fun, wisdom where I could run with my discoveries and torments and hopes at any time of day and find welcome.
― May Sarton

May Sarton

…remember that a year or two or even five or ten in the total life of a writer is very short; you are digging deep into reality, the reality of being human, being a mother, having to work a bit too hard etc. and all the time you are accumulating or building up the rich human loam from which books will grow in time. … Sometimes I think (and your crest suggests it) that one of the professional writer’s greatest problems is not to write too much, to keep still… You will be saved from this — and I think it was a danger for you at one time.
-May Sarton

George Orwell

On the whole, human beings want to be good — but not too good, and not quite all the time.
-George Orwell

Allen Ginsberg

Poetry is the one place where people can speak their original human mind. It is the outlet for people to say in public what is known in private.
- Allen Ginsberg

Louise Erdrich

It didn't occur to me that my books would be widely read at all, and that enabled me to write anything I wanted to. And even once I realized that they were being read, I still wrote as if I were writing in secret. That's how one has to write anyway — in secret.
- Louise Erdrich

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Anne Lamott

If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.
- Anne Lamott

Brian Cronin

I’m not big on advice but since you asked I would say try and be as honest with your self as possible when it comes to your work and in life in general. Don’t do things for just the money. Do things that make you happy if you can. Obviously we all have to make a living. I guess, don’t destroy what you love for money. Or do something else for the money and keep your art for you.
- Brian Cronin

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Saul Steinberg

The life of the creative man is lead, directed and controlled by boredom. Avoiding boredom is one of our most important purposes.
― Saul Steinberg

The frightening thought that what you draw may become a building makes for reasoned lines.
― Saul Steinberg

I am among the few who continue to draw after childhood is ended, continuing and perfecting childhood drawing - without the traditional interruption of academic training.
― Saul Steinberg

The artist is an educator of artists of the future who are able to understand and in the process of understanding perform unexpected - the best - evolutions.
― Saul Steinberg

Questions are fiction, and answers are anything from more fiction to science-fiction.
― Saul Steinberg

A beautiful woman can be painted as a totem only; not as a woman, but as a Madonna, a queen, a sphinx.
― Saul Steinberg

Gustave Klimt

Truth is a fire, and to speak the truth means to shine and burn.
- Gustave Klimt

Max Ernst

If you open your eyes, and look at the outside world, you can see another way. If you close your eyes and you look into your inner world, and I believe the best to do is to have one eye closed and to look inside, and this is the inner eye, and with your other eye you have it fixed on reality, what is going on in the world. If you can make a kind of a synthesis of these two important worlds, you come to a result which can be considered as a synthesis of objective and subjective life.
- Max Ernst

Monday, June 03, 2013

William Shakespeare

Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in every thing.

– William Shakespeare As You Like It Act 2, scene 1, 12–17

Jon Frankel

Well, everyone has their own adversity. The best you can expect from adversity is insight.
- Jon Frankel

December Moon

I like to think of snow on hot humid days.


by May Sarton

Before going to bed
After a fall of snow
I look out on the field
Shining there in the moonlight
So calm, untouched and white
Snow silence fills my head
After I leave the window.

Hours later near dawn
When I look down again
The whole landscape has changed
The perfect surface gone
Criss-crossed and written on
where the wild creatures ranged
while the moon rose and shone.

why did my dog not bark?
Why did I hear no sound
There on the snow-locked ground
In the tumultuous dark?

How much can come, how much can go
When the December moon is bright,
What worlds of play we'll never know
Sleeping away the cold white night
After a fall of snow.

Morning Pajamas

Woonsocket is is not a groomed primped stage
set fantasy of the privileged people who want
to be bowed to and worshiped with clipped green lawns
and in-ground sprinkler systems that hiss by the clock
remote control with remote humans who travel
in starched white shirts in automotive bubbles
engines humming and purring at stop lights interiors
air conditioned, jetting off to metropolises with valises
Woonsocket pulses stumbles and burps, scratches, cries and laughs.
It walks in flip-flops with stubbed bruised toe, in morning pajamas

Sleep and Sleeplessness

Insomnia is almost an oasis in which those who have to think or suffer darkly take refuge.
– Colette

Si les insomnies d'un musicien lui font créer de belles oeuvres, ce sont de belles insomnies. If the insomnia of a musician allows him to create beautiful pieces, it is a beautiful insomnia.
– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Marcel Proust wrote most of his À la recherche du temps perdu "In Search of Lost Time" while staying awake in the night due to a chronic illness. In Sodome et Gomorrhe, he suggests that Un peu d'insomnie n'est pas inutile pour apprécier le sommeil, projeter quelque lumière dans cette nuit. A little insomnia is useful for appreciating sleep, for projecting some light into this night.

Vladmir Nabokov believed that insomnia was a positive influence on his work. He once remarked that sleep is the most moronic fraternity in the world, with the heaviest dues and the crudest rituals.


Moon Bears

Asian black bears are diurnal, though they become nocturnal near human habitations. They may live in family groups consisting of two adults and two successive litters of young. They will walk in a procession of largest to smallest. They are good climbers of rocks and trees, and will climb to feed, rest, sun, elude enemies and hibernate. Some older bears may become too heavy to climb. Half of their life is spent in trees and they are one of the largest arboreal mammals. In the Ussuri territory, black bears can spend up to 15% of their time in trees. Asian black bears break branches and twigs to place under themselves when feeding on trees, thus causing many trees in their home ranges to have nest-like structures on their tops. Asian black bears will rest for short periods in nests on trees standing fifteen feet or higher. Asian black bears do not hibernate over most of their range. They may hibernate in their colder, northern ranges, though some bears will simply move to lower elevations. Nearly all pregnant sows hibernate. Black bears prepare their dens for hibernation in mid October, and will sleep from November until March. Their dens can either be dug out hollow trees (sixty feet above ground), caves or holes in the ground, hollow logs, or steep, mountainous and sunny slopes. They may also den in abandoned brown bear dens. Asiatic black bears tend to den at lower elevations and on less steeper slopes than brown bears. Female black bears emerge from dens later than do males, and female black bears with cubs emerge later than barren females. Asian black bears tend to be less mobile than brown bears. With sufficient food, Asian black bears can remain in an area of roughly 1–2 sq km, and sometimes even as little as 0.5–1 sq km.

Asian black bears have a wide range of vocalizations, including grunts, whines, roars, slurping sounds (sometimes made when feeding) and "an appalling row" when wounded, alarmed or angry. They emit loud hisses when issuing warnings or threats, and scream when fighting. When approaching other bears, they produce "tut tut" sounds, thought to be produced by bears snapping their tongue against the roof of their mouth. When courting, they emit clucking sounds.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

May Sarton

I had found one of the places on earth where any sensitive being feels exposed to powerful invisible forces and himself suddenly naked and attacked on every side by air, light, space―all that brings the soul close to the surface. There the poems flowed out.
May Sarton, Plant Dreaming Deep

Mahalia Jackson

It is easy to be independent when you've got money. But to be independent when you haven't got a thing, that's the Lord's test.

Blues are the songs of despair, but gospel songs are the songs of hope.

Do you know most of the Jewish songs have the same trend of sadness as Negro spirituals?

Anybody singing the blues is in a deep pit yelling for help.

Money just draws flies.

I close my eyes when I sing so I can feel the song better.

I don't worry too much about the script, I just ad lib, like Pearl Bailey.

Without a song, each day would be a century.

Time is important to me because I want to sing long enough to leave a message. I'm used to singing in churches where nobody would dare stop me until the Lord arrives!

-Mahalia Jackson

Plant Dreaming Deep

I'm reading Plant Dreaming Deep by May Sarton--it is so great. A memoir.
When the poets write memoirs--I fall over.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Steve Sanfield

one barks at a shadow
and dozens more
join in

barking dogs
or the cricket's song?
your choice

sleeps on her pillow
hoping to enter
her dreams

-Steve Sanfield, new poems from Could Be Kentucky,
due out later this year

Jane Marx

You Are Your Own Star

At the corner of 79th Street and First Avenue, I knew the light was red but I took three steps into the street anyway, ready to dart across when I saw an unending stream of cars headed in my direction. I thought, "I'm resilient, but my DNA may not be able to withstand an onslaught of vehicles running over my body and still give me the ability to get up." So, I stopped. That's when I noticed to my left a short, balding man with white hair; his shoulders were back and at arm's length he held a white metal stick with a silver tip. I said, "Get back onto the sidewalk. The light's red. I'm here because I like to be on the move and when I saw the traffic I thought better of it." He replied, "Oh, I can see the light alright. It's in front of me. I can't see what's on either side. I have retinitis pigmentosis and it's getting worse. It's hereditary. I'm glad my mother's not here to see me now." Then water welled up in his eyes and mine were on the verge when I added, "You can't take it personally. We're all prisoners of our gene pool" and with that comment a specific incident came to mind.

It was when I was called four eyes because I wore eyeglasses since the age of two, with my left eye with such low vision that it was not correctable no matter the strength of the lens. My father would say, "Ignore anyone who says anything about what you inherited. I wear glasses, too. There's nothing you can do about your eyes." And with that, he went back to entering numbers in blue-black ink from a 14 carat gold tip black Waterman fountain pen into an accounting ledger and I stood there preparing to tell him what was really on my mind. "How do you know when you know yourself? Is that ever possible?" He looked up, "What kind of talk is that from a ten-year old? Go out and jump rope."

He knew I needed to do something physical to turn off my mind for I was intense early on. In utero, I had my first thought. It was, "I've got to get out of here. It's dark and I'm pinned down by this umbilical cord. I need to move my legs and arms and look around." Finally, when I exited, breathing on my own, I was overwhelmed with exhilaration. I had no need to cry when the doctor whacked my bottom and when he did it again I complied, letting out a wail, thus creating my first instance of sublimating my authentic self to comply with another's expectation, an action which would have intrigued that sixteenth century French lawyer, statesman and philosopher, Michel de Montaigne. He believed by studying one's own life, the wider universe as well as the human condition could be understood and in that aspect I subscribed to his line of reasoning; I was born inner-directed; I yearned to get acquainted with myself.

I had two early instances where my natural stasis was disturbed due to an outside force. The first one involved my mother's sister, my Aunt Gloria. Her son was 1.4 year older than I. He cried all the time and he wet his bed. I do not know which came first, but I do know I did neither and since we were so close in age and I had given my mother none of this type of stress, my aunt was on a mission to even the score. She found out how to do it while visiting her parents, the same place where I lived with my mother for eleven months since my father was in the army's accounting division, burning the payroll near Nantes, France, so the Nazis wouldn't get their hands on American cash for which he earned, for these pyromaniac activities, two bronze stars.

There I was in my crib playing with my toes when my aunt, in a household filled with gefilte fish, began singing a verse from an Irish lullaby, "Tura Lura, Lural, Tura Lura, Lie, Tura Lura, Lural, Hush now don't you cry." My bottom lip dropped and I began to whimper while she poked my mother. "See that Murielle. She does cry."

And Mrs. Kipness also had the same effect on me, but not on purpose. She was my grandmother's poker playing buddy. When she came to play cards she'd wave to me and the sight of those red circles of rouge on her cheeks put me into a spasm. She'd apologize repeatedly until my grandmother figured out what was amiss; when she arrived pale-faced all was placid.

With my father's return and my mother giving him the $800 she had saved from his army pay, they bought a $9,999.00 Cape Cod house, in a post-World War II development in Laurelton. It had two bedrooms, one bathroom, a kitchen and a living room, a square footage so miniscule privacy was never a consideration. When my father with his father, a carpenter and glazier, finished the basement and then the attic, there was more space; yet I was indifferent having my own room. I missed talking to my brother in the middle of the night.

Meanwhile, I did live within the city boundaries, but I was certain I resided on a farm. We had a small lot where my father cultivated tomato plants, a cherry and apple and pear tree and we even ate our own produce. We drove around in a car, knew our neighbors and the only thing we bought-on-time was The World Book Encyclopedia, paying $7.00 a month in installments.

No materialistic envy was ever demonstrated if this scenario speaks the truth. While watching the TV show, "The Millionaire," my brother asked, "What would you do with all that money?" My father's answer, "I'd get a new lawn mower" mirrored my mother's, "I'd like a clothes dryer," whereas my brother desired a stereo and I wanted an English racer, although I had a bike with big tires which I never rode.

My father never gave his opinion unless it was solicited and lived by, "Pay your taxes. They got Al Capone." My mother believed "People who are prejudiced really miss out." She also scored the highest on her Civil Service exam in Queens County which qualified her to work for New York State Taxes. My brother spoke Portuguese, Italian and French, got his PH.D from Harvard, taking eleven years because he embraced "Go there. Taste it. Why not." while doing his research. And I got bored easily, tried too many things, never sustained a goal, went through lots of friends and daily I grapple with a lazy streak.

Years ago, one of my roommates told me that I grew up in a household with no boundaries after I repeated to her what my father had said on the phone,"Mother's fallen at work. She's in Queens General. I don't know what's wrong with her. If she dies should I move to Florida and get married again?"

Thinking now of that stranger afflicted with retinitis pigmentosis, I offer him my words inspired by John Fletcher. You are your own star in your own galaxy with your own traits and ailments. Become an honest and true man for within all of us is our fate, good or ill.
- Jane Marx


Burning Well

Our house is falling down all around us
Storm Windows broken, cracked, no longer open
Roof leaking and falling down in several places
Our car is rotting stuttering leaking and making sparks
The towels and sheets and shirts are thin as gauze
Jeans are ripped and torn through the patches
Our shoes soles have split, cracked and worn
Our bodies are holding up okay
Our love is burning well
We are blessed!

Mark Doty

In the Stop 'n Shop in Orleans, Massachusetts, I was struck by the elegance of the mackerel in the fresh-fish display. They were rowed and stacked, brilliant against the white of the crushed ice; I loved how black and glistening the bands of dark scales were, and the prismed sheen of the patches between, and their shining flat eyes. I stood and looked at them for a while, just paying attention while I leaned on my cart--before I remembered where I was and realized that I was standing in someone's way.

Driving home from the grocery, I found myself thinking again about the fish, and even scribbled some phrases on an envelope in the car, something about stained glass, soapbubbles, while I was driving. It wasn't long--that same day? the next?--before I was at my desk, trying simply to describe what I had seen. I almost always begin with description, as a way of focusing on that compelling image, the poem's "given." I know that what I can see is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg; if I do my work of study and examination, and if I am lucky, the image which I've been intrigued by will become a metaphor, will yield depth and meaning, will lead me to insight. The goal here is inquiry, the attempt to get at what it is that's so interesting about what's struck me. Because it isn't just beauty; the world is full of lovely things and that in itself wouldn't compel me to write. There's something else, some gravity or charge to this image that makes me need to investigate it.

-Mark Doty

I first learned of Mark Doty's writing when I read his memoir Dog Years.