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Sunday 30 September 2012

Wooden Boy: Seascape


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Cardinal marker, Paignton: photo by Derek Harper, 31 October 2008

........a bowl of syrup light

....................From Paignton you can the warship turn                      
...............................from cartoon vast smaller seeming
......................a heart contracted
.......shade gathered to mass

...evidently marked as

......How lovely is the state
......wherein we're 
......shadowed here

The sea goes from gold grey to gold again

 ..............And always further out
..................(with limitless spread of merewif hair)  .........

 ........forever writhes ecstatically              

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Fishblood: Gustav Klimt, 1898, india ink and pen on on brown paper 40 x 43 cm (Galerie St. Etienne, New York)

Saturday 29 September 2012

Abel Evans: On Sir John Vanbrugh (The Architect)


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Sir John Vanbrugh's south facade of Castle Howard, commissioned in 1699; residence of the Howard family, formerly the Earls of Carlisle, and filming location for the "Brideshead Revisted" miniseries (Yorkshire, England): photo by diverstonefly 29 August 2006

Under this stone, Reader, survey
Dead Sir John Vanbrugh's House of Clay.
Lie heavy on him, Earth! For he
Laid many Heavy Loads on thee!

Abel Evans (1679-1737): On Sir John Vanbrugh (The Architect). An Epigrammatical Epitaph (1726)

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South (garden) face of Castle Howard, Yorkshire: photo by Pwojdacz, 21 March 2006

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Castle Howard, west wing: photo by Paul Allison, 15 March 2005

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Castle Howard, south front: photo by Richard Croft, 5 June 1991

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Castle Howard from over the Great Lake: photo by John Nicholson, 30 July 2007

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 Castle Howard Mausoleum, with potato field in foreground: photo by Colin Grice, 28 May 2006

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Sir John Vanbrugh's Temple of the Four Winds in the grounds of Castle Howard, near York
: photo by Peter Astbury, 16 August 2010


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Seaton Delaval Hall, seen from north: photo by Alan J. White, 17 April 2006

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Architect Sir John Vanbrugh's Seaton Delaval Hall, begun 1718, completed 1728; central block seen from north: photo by Alan J. White, 16 April 2006

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Vanbrugh's monumental East Gate at Blenheim Palace panorama
: photo by Magnus Manske, 3 November 2005

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Vanbrugh's monumental East Gate at Blenheim Palace is more the entrance to a citadel than to a palace. Vanbrugh cunningly slightly tapered the sides to create an illusion of even greater height and drama
: photo by Magnus Manske, 21 October 2005

Sir John Vanbrugh's West facade of Blenheim Palace ("Vanbrugh's castle air"), commissioned in 1704, showing the unique severe towering stone belvederes  ornamenting the skyline: photo by Eljay, 25 October 2010

Blenheim Palace: photo by gail548, 13 August 2004

Friday 28 September 2012

Philip Larkin: Ape Experiment Room


Capuchin Monkeys (Cebus capucinus, from Cebus apella group), sharing: photo by Frans de Waal, from K. Powell, Economy of the Mind, 2003; image by Ayacop, 2006

Buried among white rooms
Whose lights in clusters beam
Like suddenly-caused pain,
And where behind rows of mesh
Uneasy shifting resumes
As sterilizers steam
And the routine begins again
Of putting questions to flesh

That no one would think to ask
But a Ph.D. with a beard
And nympho wife who --
There, I was saying, are found
The bushy, T-shaped mask,
And below, the smaller, eared
Head like a grave nut,
And the arms folded round.

Philip Larkin (1922-1985): Ape Experiment Room, 1985, in Collected Poems, 1983

 Two Chained Monkeys: Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1562, oil on oak panel, 20 x 23 cm (Staatliche Museum, Berlin)



CTA cross junction, northwest corner of The Loop, Chicago; control tower 18 guides north and southbound Purple and Brown lines intersecting with east and westbound Pink and Green lines and looping Orange line above the Wells/Lake Street intersection: photo by Daniel Schwen, 2007

In labyrinthine catacombs sunk far beneath
great glass and concrete blocks
where a sacred grove once towered
white smocked post docs in masks
plant electrodes in the stripped and peeled
back skulls of mice and rats and monkeys
the actor kept distant from the act
an implicit pact of society
................................ with science
as though every creature left alive now
and supported on two feet
were not itself a test subject 
in the final animal experiment
shrouded in silence without echo
which proceeds as if without a driver
The train does not make
up its mind where it wants to go
it just follows the tracks 

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Northward view from the Adams/Wabash station at night: photo by Daniel Schwen, 2009

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Northwest corner of the Chicago Loop elevated tracks: photo by Daniel Schwen, November 2007

Thursday 27 September 2012

Gavin Lambert: The Slide Area



Signs of civilization loom over the Santa Monica Mountains near Malibu, California, on the northern edge of Los Angeles. These mountains contain the last semi-wilderness in Los Angeles County but are under threat of  development. Some 84 percent of the state's residents live within 30 miles of the coast, and this concentration has resulted in increased land use pressure. Shoreline development has been restricted since the passage of the Coastal Zone Conservation Act in November 1972
: photo by Charles O'Rear for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, May 1975 (National Archives and Records Administration)

It is only a few miles’ drive to the ocean, but before reaching it I shall be nowhere. Hard to describe the impression of unreality, because it is intangible; almost supernatural; something in the air. (The air . . . Last night on the weather telecast the commentator, mentioning electrical storms near Palm Springs and heavy smog in Los Angeles, described the behavior of the air as ‘neurotic’. Of course. Like everything else the air must be imported and displaced, like the water driven along huge aqueducts from distant reservoirs, like the palm trees tilting above the mortuary signs and laundromats along Sunset Boulevard.) Nothing belongs. Nothing belongs except the desert and the gruff eroded-looking mountains to the north. Because the earth is desert, its surface always has that terrible dusty brilliance. Sometimes it looks like the Riviera with a film of neglect over villas and gardens, a veil of fine invisible sand drawn across tropical colours. It is hard to be reminded of any single thing for long. These houses are real because they exist and people use them for eating and sleeping and making love, but they have no style of their own and look as if they've been imported from half a dozen different countries. They are imitation 'French Provincial' or 'new' Regency or Tudor or Spanish hacienda or Cape Cod, and except for a few crazy mansions seem to have sprung up overnight. The first settlers will be arriving tomorrow from parts unknown.


How to grasp something unfinished yet always remodeling itself, changing without a basis for change? So much visible impatience to be born, to grow, such wild tracts of space to be filled: difficult to settle in a comfortable unfinished desert. Because of the long confusing distances, the streets are empty of walking people, full of moving cars. Between where you are and where you are going to be is a no-man's-land. At night the neon signs glitter and the shop windows are lighted stages, but hardly anyone stops to look. A few people huddle at coffee stalls and hamburger bars. Those dark flat areas are parking lots, crammed solid.

I suppose that Europeans, accustomed to a world that changes more calmly and more slowly, are not much interested any more in imitating its surface. It becomes more exciting to see appearances as a mask, a disguise or illusion that conceals an unexpected meaning. The theme of illusion and reality is very common in Europe. In America, illusion and reality are still often the same thing. The dream is the achievement, the achievement is the dream.


The ocean appears suddenly. You turn another hairpin bend and the land falls away and there is a long high view down Santa Monica Canyon to the pale Pacific waters. A clear day is not often. Sky and air are hazed now, diffusing the sun and dredging the ocean of its rightful blue. The Pacific is a sad blue-grey, and nearly always looks cold.

Each time I drive down here it feels like the end of the world. The geographical end. Shabby and uncared for, buildings lie around like nomads' tents in the desert. There is nowhere further to go, those pale waters stretch away to the blurred horizon and stretch away beyond it. There is no more land ever.

High lurching cliffs confront the ocean, and are just beginning to fall apart. Signs have been posted along the highway, DRIVE CAREFULLY and SLIDE AREA. Lumps of earth and stone fall down. The land is restless here, restless and sliding. Driving inland towards the mountains, it is the same: BEWARE OF ROCKS. The land is falling. Rocks fall down all over and the cliffs called Pacific Palisades are crumbling slowly down to the ocean. Who called them Palisades, I wonder? They cannot keep out the Pacific. There are mad eccentric houses above the Palisades, with turrets and castellations and tall Gothic windows, but no one wants to live in them any more in case the ground slides away.


Gavin Lambert (1924-2005): from The Slide Area: Scenes of Hollywood Life, 1959


Seminole Springs Mobile Home Park on Mulholland Drive near Malibu, California, on the northwestern edge of Los Angeles County, is one of the few developments in
the Santa Monica Mountains: photo by Charles O'Rear for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, May 1975 (National Archives and Records Administration)


Looking down from the Santa Monica Mountains towards Highway #1 near Malibu, California, on the northern edge of Los Angeles
: photo by Charles O'Rear for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, May 1975 (National Archives and Records Administration)


Houses near the Pacific Ocean north of Malibu, California, on the northwestern edge of Los Angeles County. The Santa Monica Mountains are seen in the background: photo by Charles O'Rear for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, May 1975 (National Archives and Records Administration)


Looking down from the Santa Monica Mountains towards Highway #1 in the distance near Malibu, California, on the northern edge of Los Angeles
: photo by Charles O'Rear for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, May 1975 (National Archives and Records Administration)

The cliffs of Malibu -- watch out for landslides: photo by Kat Howard, 21 February 2006

Malibu hills landslide (aerial view): photo by Doc Searls, 5 August 2005

Malibu hills landslide (aerial view): photo by Doc Searls, 5 August 2005

Roadway damaged by landslide, Malibu: photo by Ben Foster, 11 August 2005

Rock Slide Area, Mahou Riviera, Malibu: photo by Ben Foster, 11 June 2011

Cliffs at Pacific Palisades, close to Malibu: photo by Buck Winthrop, 7 September 2011

Cliffs and homes at Pacific Palisades: photo by Alan Fogelquist, 5 January 2010

Pacific Palisades, California: photo by Johnny Ciotti, 27 March 2012

Pacific Palisades, California: photo by Johnny Ciotti, 6 February 2012


West LA and beyond (aerial view just after takeoff from LAX): photo by Richard Wanderman, 30 October 2006

Circus sideshow billboards, Santa Monica, California: photo by Walker Evans, August-September 1967 (Walker Evans Archive/Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)

Slide Area, Los Angeles: photo by katie/king, 14 August 2008

Wednesday 26 September 2012

Martín Adán: The Cardboard House


Muelle des Pescadores, Chorrillos, Lima, Peru
: photo by Jorge Arias R., 16 September 2011

Winter in Barranco has already begun -- a peculiar, daft, and fragile winter that might just cleave the sky and let a tip of summer peek through.  The mist of this small winter, affairs of the soul, puffs of sea breeze, the mist of a boat trip from one pier to another, the sonorous flutter of rushing lay-sisters, opaque sounds of Mass, winter newly arrived...  Now, off to school with cold hands.  Breakfast is a warm ball in the stomach, the hardness of the dining room chair on the buttocks, and the solemn desire in the entire body not to go to school.  The frond of the palm tree hovers over a house: flabellate, gently somber, pure, pink, glistening.  And now you whistle with the streetcar, boy with closed eyes.  You do not understand how one can possibly go to school so early in the morning, especially when there are esplanades and the sea below.  But as you walk down the street that traverses almost the entire city, you smell the perfume of distant vegetables in nearby gardens.  You think of the lush, wet fields: almost urban behind you; limitless in front of you, between the ash and elder trees, toward the bluish sierra.  Barely the outline of the first foothills, the mountains' eyebrow...  And now you pass through the fields surrounded by muffled beehive sounds of fleeting friction over rails and a flourish of athletic though urban gymnastics.  Now the sun grinds to golden a mountain peak and an ancient burial mound, a yellow knoll like the sun itself.  And you do not want it to be summer, but rather winter vacation, tiny and weak, with no school and no heat.

Martín Adán (1908-1985): excerpt from The Cardboard House (La casa de cartón), 1928; English translation by Katherine Silver, New Directions 2012

Ángeles rubilindos en la Plaza de Barranco, Lima, Peru: photo by victor mendivil, 17 May 2009

Morro Solar, Chorrillos, Lima, Peru: photo by En Perú, 10 February 2008


The Morro Solar seen from Larcomar Mall in Miraflores Ward, Chorrillos District, Lima, Peru: photo by Surge79uwf, 4 September 2007


Cerro Tres Cruces, Reserva del Manu, Peru: photo by M@RuChaO, 1 July 2009

Tuesday 25 September 2012

W. H. Auden: Taller To-day


The Vale: Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, 1855-60, oil on wood, 35 x 53 cm (Musée du Louvre, Paris)

Taller to-day, we remember similar evenings,
Walking together in the windless orchard
Where the brook runs over the gravel, far from the glacier.

Again in the room with the sofa hiding the grate,
Look down to the river when the rain is over,
See him turn to the window, hearing our last
Of Captain Ferguson.

It is seen how excellent hands have turned to commonness.
One staring too long, went blind in a tower,
One sold all his manors to fight, broke through, and faltered.

Nights come bringing the snow, and the dead howl
Under the headlands in their windy dwelling
Because the Adversary put too easy questions
On lonely roads.

But happy now, though no nearer each other,
We see the farms lighted all along the valley;
Down at the mill-shed the hammering stops
And men go home.

Noises at dawn will bring
Freedom for some, but not this peace
No bird can contradict: passing, but is sufficient now
For something fulfilled this hour, loved or endured. 

W. H. Auden: Taller To-day, 1929, from Collected Shorter Poems 1927-1957

Monday 24 September 2012

John Keats: To Autumn


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Sparsholt Road, Hampshire. Field and copse by Sparsholt Road, west of Pitt. Looking north: photo by Peter Jordan, 19 November 2005

John Keats to George and Georgiana Keats, Winchester, 21 September 1819:

Some think I have lost that poetic ardour and fire ’tis said I once had—the fact is, perhaps I have; but, instead of that, I hope I shall substitute a more thoughtful and quiet power. I am more frequently now contented to read and think, but now and then haunted with ambitious thoughts. Quieter in my pulse, improved in my digestion, exerting myself against vexing speculations, scarcely content to write the best verses for the fever they leave behind. I want to compose without this fever. I hope I one day shall. You would scarcely imagine I could live alone so comfortably. “Kepen in solitarinesse.” I told Anne, the servant here, the other day, to say I was not at home if any one should call. I am not certain how I should endure loneliness and bad weather together. Now the time is beautiful. I take a walk every day for an hour before dinner, and this is generally my walk: I go out the back gate, across one street into the cathedral yard, which is always interesting; there I pass under the trees along a paved path, pass the beautiful front of the cathedral, turn to the left under a stone doorway,—then I am on the other side of the building,—which leaving behind me, I pass on through two college-like squares, seemingly built for the dwelling-place of deans and prebendaries, garnished with grass and shaded with trees; then I pass through one of the old city gates, and then you are in one college street, through which I pass, and at the end thereof crossing some meadows, and at last a country alley of gardens, I arrive, that is my worship arrives, at the foundation of St. Cross, which is a very interesting old place, both for its gothic tower and alms square and for the appropriation of its rich rents to a relation of the Bishop of Winchester. Then I pass across St. Cross meadows till you come to the most beautifully clear river—now this is only one mile of my walk. I will spare you the other two till after supper, when they would do you more good. You must avoid going the first mile best after dinner—

John Keats to John Hamilton Reynolds, Winchester, 22 September 1819:

My dear Reynolds—I was very glad to hear from Woodhouse that you would meet in the country. I hope you will pass some pleasant time together. Which I wish to make pleasanter by a brace of letters, very highly to be estimated, as really I have had very bad luck with this sort of game this season. I “kepen in solitarinesse,” for Brown has gone a-visiting. I am surprised myself at the pleasure I live alone in. I can give you no news of the place here, or any other idea of it but what I have to this effect written to George. Yesterday I say to him was a grand day for Winchester. They elected a Mayor. It was indeed high time the place should receive some sort of excitement. There was nothing going on: all asleep: not an old maid’s sedan returning from a card party: and if any old woman got tipsy at Christenings they did not expose it in the streets. The first night though of our arrival here, there was a slight uproar took place at about 10 o’ the Clock. We heard distinctly a noise pattering down the High Street as of a walking cane of the good old Dowager breed; and a little minute after we heard a less voice observe “What a noise the ferril made—it must be loose.” Brown wanted to call the constables, but I observed ’twas only a little breeze and would soon pass over.—The side streets here are excessively maiden-lady-like: the door-steps always fresh from the flannel. The knockers have a staid serious, nay almost awful quietness about them. I never saw so quiet a collection of Lions’ and Rams’ heads. The doors are most part black, with a little brass handle just above the keyhole, so that in Winchester a man may very quietly shut himself out of his own house. How beautiful the season is now—How fine the air. A temperate sharpness about it. Really, without joking, chaste weather—Dian skies—I never liked stubble-fields so much as now—Aye better than the chilly green of the Spring. Somehow, a stubble-field looks warm—in the same way that some pictures look warm. This struck me so much in my Sunday’s walk that I composed upon it.

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
   Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
   With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
   And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
      To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
   With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
      For summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
   Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
   Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
   Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
      Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
   Steady thy laden head across a brook;
   Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
      Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?
   Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
   And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
   Among the river sallows, borne aloft
      Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
   Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
   The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
      And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

John Keats (1795-1821): To Autumn, 19 September 1819, from Poems, 1820

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The River Itchen at Ovington in Hampshire: photo by Joolz, August 2005

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The River Itchen at the city wall of Winchester: photo by JuergenBeer, 24 September 2009

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The River Itchen, a chalk stream in the Hampshire Downs near Winchester.
The stream is shallow, slow flowing, and has much long grass growing on the river bed: photo by Colin Smith, June 2000
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The River Itchen at Woodmill. Looking South West along the River Itchen from Woodmill Bridge on a fine summer's evening: photo by GaryReggae, 13 July 2005
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View across the water meadows towards St Cross. The view here is from the east bank of the Itchen Navigation, across the water meadows of the Itchen valley, towards the huge chapel at St Cross Hospital: photo by Jim Champion, 20 November 2005

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Panoramic view on South Downs in southern England, as seen from Angmering Park Estate near Arundel: photo by Gottik666, 13 April 2008