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Friday, 30 April 2010

John Ashbery: The Hero

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Whose face is this
So stiff against the blue trees,

Lifted to the future
Because there is no end?

But that has faded
Like flowers, like the first days

Of good conduct. Visit
The strong man. Pinch him --

There is no end to his
Dislike, the accurate one.

John Ashbery: from Some Trees, 1956

Jacques Garnerin's first parachute, tested on himself at Parc Monceau, Paris, 22, October 1797: artist unknown. A schematic depiction of the first frameless parachute: Garnerin ascended in a basket attached by rope to the bottom of a hot air balloon; at about 3000 feet he detached the rope; the basket swayed in its descent, hit the earth with a bump and was dragged briefly over the landscape; yet the heroic Garnerin escaped unscathed.) Image restoration by Lise Broer, 2010. (Tissandier Collection, Library of Congress)

Blue Trees: Paul Gauguin, 1888 (Ordrupgaard Collection, Copenhagen)

Plum Blossom


File:Minabe-Bairin Minabe  Wakayama16bs2400.jpg

The message erupts each springtime
What we do know we don't know till we know it
Has slipped away through the airy spring branches
To drift up in thin grains through the gray-white sky
And here on the blue clay earth below it
Down a yellow Spanish East Bay hillside flow
The pink trees

File:Prunus mume Michishirube1.jpg

Prunus mume (plum blossom), "Nankoume", Minabe, Wakayama prefecture: photo by highland 663, 2009
Prunus mume (red plum blossom), "Michishirube", Osaka: photo by KENPEI, 2007

Dirce: A Set (Landor/Pound)


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Stand close around, ye Stygian set,
With Dirce in one boat conveyed!
Or Charon, seeing, may forget
That he is old and she a shade.

Lalage's shadow moves in the fresco's knees
She is blotted with Dirce's shadow
dawn stands there fixed and unmoving
................only we two have moved.

File:Colobura dirce.jpg

Walter Savage Landor (1775-1864): Dirce
Ezra Pound (1885-1972): from Canto L

Dirce Beauty (Colobura dirce), Botanischer Garten, Munich: photo by Richard Bartz, 2010
Colobura dirce, Jardin Botanico del Quindio: photo by Caya!!, 2007

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Samuel Johnson: The Last


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Dobs Park Lodge, abandoned hunting lodge, Yorkshire Dales: photo by TJBlackwell, 2010

Value is more frequently raised by scarcity than by use. That which lay neglected when it was common, rises in estimation as its quantity becomes less. We seldom learn the true want of what we have till it is discovered that we can have no more.

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Abandoned Canada Packers chimney stack, industrial area, north-east Edmonton, Alberta
: photo by WinterE229, 2008

There are few things not purely evil, of which we can say, without some emotion of uneasiness, this is the last.


Deception Base, derelict British factory in Whalers Bay, Deception Island, Antarctica: photo by Lyubomir Ivanov, 2006

This secret horror of the last is inseparable from a thinking being whose life is limited, and to whom death is dreadful. We always make a secret comparison between a part and the whole; the termination of any period of life reminds us that life itself has likewise its termination; when we have done any thing for the last time, we involuntarily reflect that a part of the days allotted us is past, and that as more is past there is less remaining.

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Disused grain elevators, Rowley, Alberta: photo by Kappakapa, 2008

It is very happily and kindly provided, that in every life there are certain pauses and interruptions, which force consideration upon the careless, and seriousness upon the light; points of time where one course of action ends and another begins; and by vicissitude of fortune, or alteration of employment, by change of place, or loss of friendship, we are forced to say of something, this is the last.

Abandoned village of Pirttipohja, Sortavala district, Republic of Karelia: photo by Scaut2002, 2008

An even and unvaried tenour of life always hides from our apprehension the approach of its end. Succession is not perceived but by variation; he that lives to-day as he lived yesterday, and expects that, as the present day is, such will be the morrow, easily conceives time as running in a circle and returning to itself. The uncertainty of our duration is impressed commonly by dissimilitude of condition; it is only by finding life changeable that we are reminded of its shortness.


Abandoned cabins, Opal Creek, Marion County, Oregon: photo by Katr67, 2007

This conviction, however forcible at every new impression, is every moment fading from the mind; and partly by the inevitable incursion of new images, and partly by voluntary exclusion of unwelcome thoughts, we are again exposed to the universal fallacy; and we must do another thing for the last time, before we consider that the time is nigh when we shall do no more.


Deserted stilt village of Utivok, King Island, Bering Strait
: photo by Capt. Budd Christman, 1978 (NOAA)

Samuel Johnson: from The Idler no. 103, Saturday, 5 April 1760

Wittgenstein: On the Myth of the Time Goddess


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Now if it is not the causal connections which we are concerned with, then the activities of the mind lie open before us. And when we are worried about the nature of thinking, the puzzlement which we wrongly interpret to be one about the nature of a medium is a puzzlement caused by the mystifying use of our language. This kind of mistake recurs again and again in philosophy; e.g. when we are puzzled about the nature of time, when time seems to us a queer thing. We are most strongly tempted to think that here are things hidden, something we can see from the outside but which we can't look into. And yet nothing of the sort is the case. It is not new facts about time which we want to know. All the facts that concern us lie open before us. But it is the use of the substantive "time" which mystifies us. If we look into the grammar of that word, we shall feel that it is no less astounding that man should have conceived of a deity of time than it would be to conceive of a deity of negation or disjunction.


Death is not an event in life: we do not live to experience death.

If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present.

Our life has no end in just the way our visual field has no limits.

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Ludwig Wittgenstein: from The Blue Book (1930s Cambridge lecture notes as circulated by students), 1958
Ludwig Witgenstein: from Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 1921

Visualization of the past light cone, the present and the future light cone, in 2D space: image by K. Aainsqatsi, 2007

Inside construction of typical HC49 case quartz crystal: photo by Altzone, 2006

Hindu Time Goddess Kali with inscription (invitation for kalipuja -- festival), near Kolkata (to left, election mural of the Indian Communist Party of India): photo by Christine Kundu, 2005.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Situation Vacant


File:Humpty Dumpty 1 - WW Denslow - Project  Gutenberg etext  18546.jpg

Wanted: therapy subject.

Person who
Sits on walls, falls off repeatedly.
Multiple ego fractures.
Superglue required.

Apply within.


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Humpty Dumpty: shown as riddle with answer, Mother Goose story illustration, William Wallace Denslow, 1902: image by Tagishsimon, 2006
Humpty Dumpty: from Punch and Judy Comics, Vol. I, No. 1, 1944: image by Atomicsteve, 2008
Fang mask used in the ngil ceremony, an inquisitorial search for sorcerers: Gabon, 19th c. (Musée du Louvre, on loan from Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris: image by Jastrow, 2006


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Abandoned street and home, Rowley, Alberta: photo by Kappakapa, 2008

Returning in dreams
To empty houses
Where no one will ever again be home
In the anterior life


Abandoned village of Pirttipohja, Sortavala district, Republic of Karelia: photo by Scaut2002, 2008

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Wallace Stevens: Ghost Town

File:Bodie Ghost Town Storm.jpg

It is as if we had stepped into a ruin and were startled by a flight of birds that rose as we entered. The familiar experience is made unfamiliar and from that time on, whenever we think of that particular scene, we remember how we held our breath and how the hungry doves of another world rose out of nothingness and whistled away. We stand looking at a remembered habitation. All old dwelling places are subject to these transmogrifications and the experience of all of us includes a succession of old dwelling places, abodes of the imagination, ancestral or memories of places that never existed.


Wallace Stevens: from Two or Three Ideas, a lecture on Baudelaire's La Vie Anterieure, given at Mt. Holyoke College, April 28, 1951 (in Collected Poetry and Prose, 1997)

Storm clouds over Bodie ghost town, California
: photo by Photographersnature, 2009
Mask found in window of Bodie, California ghost town school house: photo by Tahoenathan, 2009

Brecht: The Mask of Evil


File:Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst Dahlem  Berlin Mai 2006  034.jpg

On my wall a Japanese carving hangs,
A blackgold lacquered Daemon mask.
Not unsympathetically I observe
The marks of strain upon the veins of the forehead, showing
How strenuous being evil is.

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An meiner Wand hängt ein japonisches Holzwerk,
Maske eine bösen Dämons, bemalt mit Goldblack.
Mitfühlend sehe ich
Die geschwollenen Stirnadern, andeutend
Wie anstrengend es ist, böse zu sein.

File:First aid masks for CPR training.jpg

File:Masks of Death.jpg


Brecht: Die Maske des Bösen, from American Poems (1941-1947): translated by TC

Noh mask ko-tobide, Momoyama period, c. 16th c. (Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst, Berlin-Dahlem): photo by Gryffindor, 2006
Stone mask, neolithic period, c. 7000 BC (Musee de la Bible et Terre Sainte, Paris): photo by Gryffindor, 2009
Masks in showcase of first aid supplies shop, Berlin: photo by Till Krech, 2006
Masks of Death: photo by James Reynolds, 2004
Bertolt Brecht: photo by Kolbe, 1948 (Deutsches Bundesarchiv)

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Brecht: The Stone Fisherman


File:Chef de baie.JPG

It's that big fisherman again.

Hunkered down in that sad little wormeaten dinghy of his, as per the usual.

Drops a net at first flaring of the morning lamp, still there tending it when the last lamp of the evening flickers and fades away.

The people, they think he's crazy, they sit on the beach pointing at him and cutting up like it was the circus.

He's a herring fisherman but all he ever hauls in, when he pulls up his frayed and tattered net, is stones.

To hear the people laugh when this happens, you'd think it was the greatest joke of all time, every time.

When the big fisherman triumphantly raises that shredded net of his high like a banner, and then sees that once again it contains nothing but yet another stone, he doesn't try to conceal this fact, but stretches out a great sun-browned arm, grasps the stone, and lifts it up as high as he is able, displaying his prize to the less fortunate.


Der Steinfischer
: Bertolt Brecht, from Visionen (Visions), 1938: translated by TC

Main beach, fishing port, Bay of La Rochelle, Charente-Maritime, France: photo by Regis Sierra, 2007
Glass ball used as float for fishing nets, 1950s, Baltic Sea, Heiligenhafen, Schleswig-Holstein, German: photo by Memecry 2, 2008

Sappho: Fragment

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...Rain, a breeze, Aeolic
Through the cool troughs of apple-wood
There is a rustle, air, water move, soughing
Sleep flows dripping within the leaves
...Rain, a breeze, Aeolic

File:Alkaios Sappho Staatliche  Antikensammlungen 2416 n2.jpg

...αμφὶ δ᾽ ὔδωρ
ψῖχρον ὤνεμοσ κελάδει δἰ ὔσδων
μαλίνων, αἰθυσσομένων δὲ φύλλων
...κῶμα κατάρρει.

File:Head of Poetess Sappho Istanbul.JPG

Sapphic fragment: translated by TC: Greek text from Greek Lyric I: Sappho and Alcaeus, ed. D.A. Campbell (Loeb Classical Library)

Apple flower (Malus domestica): photo by FoeNyx, 2005
Sappho with Alcaeus: side A of Attic red-figure kalathos, found at Akragas (Slcily): Brygos painter, c. 470 BC: photo by Bibi Saint-Pol, 2007 (Staatliche Antikensammlungen, Munich)
Marble head of Sappho, found at Smyrna, near present-day Izmir, Turkey: photo by Bjorn Christian Tørresen, 2009 (Istanbul Archeological Museum)

Friday, 23 April 2010

From the Grimestone Lyrics: The Glory of the World Is


File:Chrysomus ruficapillus -Costanera Sur  Nature Reserve,  Argentina-8.jpg

Gloria mundi est;
Als a se flouwende
Als a skiye pasende
Als the sadwe in the undermel
And als the dore turnet on a quel.

the glory of the world is
as a flowing
as a passing cloud
as an early afternoon shadow
as the closing of a door

Gloria mundi est (The Glory of the World Is): from The Commonplace Book of John of Grimestone, c. 1372

Chrysomus ruficapillus (Chestnut-capped blackbird), Cortanera Sur Nature Reserve, Argentina: photo by dfaulder, 2010
Lightning and lava flow over Eyjafjallajokull, Sunday, 18 April: photo by Olivier Vandeginste, 2010

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Capital Venture


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Somewhere in this great country there is a guy
Named Steve. Steve loves this great country
And still believes in everything that made it great
Despite last week's home invasion. "Got it all on videotape."

Steve pays his taxes over and over

In his sleep, averaging out the years.
"Money equals pain divided by forever,"
Steve believes. Also, "lying equals many tears."

Who would suspect backing Steve's Celestial Dog Act
Could have made me rich -- or even believe
A dog could come from heaven? Well, it didn't. The lack
Of credibility hurt us, was all that stood between Steve,

Shaggy, myself and the accumulation of
A fortune. Instead, we dumbly starved, fools for love.

Best in Show Ch. Gillian's Quintessential Quincy, Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show: photo whartonds, 2007

Edwin Denby: The Subway


File:NYC subway riders with their  newspapers.jpg

The subway flatters like the dope habit,
For a nickel extending peculiar space.
You dive from the street, holing like a rabbit,
Roar up a sewer with a millionaire's face.

Squatting in the full glare of the locked express
Imprisoned, rocked, like a man by a friend's death,
O how the immense investment soothes distress,
Credit laps you like a huge religious myth.

It's a sound effect. The trouble is seeing
(So anesthetized) a square of bare throat
Or the fold at the crotch of a clothed human being:
You'll want to nuzzle it, crop at it like a goat.

That's not in the buy. The company between stops
Offers you security, and free rides to cops.

File:Inside subway 1973.gif

Edwin Denby: from In Public, In Private (1948)

Interior of F train, Manhattan-bound, 9.25 a.m., 17 May: photo by Travis Ruse, 2005
Inside subway, New York: photo by Erik Calonius, 1973 (National Archives and Records Administration)

Wednesday, 21 April 2010



To start with
the orange joys
toes tanned begging
Koran flay kegs
jet from the measuring jug
of yellowed coffee

The windows are open
dirty open but in summer
open to the stones
really open to them

from Stones (1969)

Lightning and lava flows over Eyjafjallajokull: photos by Olivier Vandeginste, Sunday 18 April 2010

Robert Herrick: Silks


File:Meister nach Chang Hsüan 001.jpg

When as in silks my Julia goes,
Then, then (me thinks) how sweetly flowes
That liquefaction of her clothes.

Next, when I cast mine eyes and see
That brave Vibration each way free;
O how that glittering taketh me!

Robert Herrick: Upon Juiia's Clothes, from Hesperides (1648)

Women working on new silk (detail)
: Master Chang Hsüan, beginning of 12th century (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

Joseph Ceravolo: May


File:Nature reserve Góra Pieszczana 03.jpg

.....I am lost.
I had swum before.
There is no deformation fatigue
Residual under salt water
Morning oh May flower! oh
May exist. Built.
When will water stop
cooling? Built, falling. Reeds. I am surprised.
Weakness. Torsion.
The wind, white.
Sapphire, oxidation. Million.. .. . . . . . .

Joseph Ceravolo: from Spring in This World of Poor Mutts, 1968

Gora Piezczana Nature Reserve, Poland: photo by Yarl, 2009

Clark Coolidge: The Center of My Providence


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Old overhead sign (c.1952), Harris Ave. at Olneyville Square, Providence, Rhode Island: photo by k1svr, 2005

The center of my
Providence is not
Roger Williams

Well but
a hole in a pond
Swan Point

Clark Coolidge: from The Act of Providence, 2010

Tuesday, 20 April 2010



Roasted peanuts (closeup): photo by Geographer, 2007

Overheard in downtown street:

"So like I saw this guy at the mall with a Twitter failwhale carved into his hair."


The attention span of a human in the age of the internet: the size of a peanut, with room for a few billion tweets to spare. 

Inner space, it's the new lebensraum, as the shades of evening fall.


Twitter Fail Whale error message: image by Yiying Lu, 2009

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Blueprint sketch by Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, envisioning an SMS-based social network: photo by Jack Dorsey, 24 March, 2006

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Emergency Tweet: photo by Paul Randall, 2009



Naked Pizza takeout and delivery store, Claiborne and Calhoun Streets, New Orleans: photo by Infrogmation, 2010

Monday, 19 April 2010

In the Wood, In the Reeds


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Ercall Wood Nature Reserve, near Arleston, Telford And Wrekin, Great Britain: photo by Bob Bowyer, 2003

Oh, so much stands in shadow, so little is understood; so many images wish to speak, so many voices have been misplaced; best intentions having left us behind, where to begin catching up, so late?

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A Great Skua (Shetland dialect name "Bonxie") swoops to defend its nesting territory by the burn of Winnaswarta Dale, on Hermaness National Nature Reserve, Unst, Shetland: photo by John Dailly, 2002

Was it we who denatured nature, or was it merely following its own path, having its way with itself, regardless of us?

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Before sunset, North Carolina: photo by Jacob Simon, 2007

Without having come to an edge, how shall we know when it has come time to turn a corner?

Once having separated things, and inserted an "and" between them, how shall we (re)discover their orders?

Is there any direction we can take, but to keep falling into it all?

File:Reeds at the Swan Lake Nature Study  Area.jpg

Reeds, Swan Lake Nature Study area, near Reno, Nevada
: photo by Ragesoss, 2007