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Wednesday 30 January 2013

Anselm Hollo: Bright Moments


Llama on Laguna Colorada, with Punta Grande in the background, Salar de Ayuni, Bolivia: photo by Phil Whitehouse, 31 August 2004

Bright Moments

when it all makes sense
a great crystal forest

because it seems only a sneeze away
from incomprehensible chaos
whose lineaments we are
only beginning to

"whose lineaments
we are"

well you go out there

& then come back in-
to the midst of whatever
awful things

the people who "make" money
make an awful lot of money
make money off of

but here walks a portly or is it potty? bearded person
carrying shopping bag moving along
up the street in big white sneakers  

having descended from stately vintage Checker Cab

it is God
forever unemployed

but really muy contento


Anselm Hollo (b. Helsinki, Finland, 12 April 1934, d. Boulder, Colorado 29 January 2013): Bright Moments, 1988, from Outlying Districts, 1990

Sad time, but many sweet memories of a lovely poet and fine friend of a half-century.

The dear person gone, but it's hard not to feel Anselm's spirit is still here with us in the genius of his poems: a high dry strain of the art, always luminous, the swift nimble wit forever a relief, sometimes just that right bit salty -- and the heart presence an abiding radiance of its own order, a shining.

Our mutual friend George Mattingly, publisher of much of Anselm's best work, tipped me to the news in the night. I put my head down upon the consolation and prayer beanbag and drifted off into a strange dream reverie of traversing the Laguna Colorada with Anselm and Joe Ceravolo. How strange the disordered mentations of age. The Green Lake Is Awake, and the Red Cats are running upon the distant silent peaks. Muy contento.

Another mutual pal alas now no longer with us, Bob Creeley, introduced Anselm's great book Sojourner Microcosms (1977, produced by George and Lucy Mattingly's Blue Wind Press, Berkeley), thus:

There is a quality in Anselm Hollo's person and poems which I value absolutely, and would call, for lack of a better term, a persistently integral manhood. For myself, the world is often a flux of shifting centers, a diverse and irresolute complex of 'points of view'—as if, each time, what might stay as measure of acts, either those of others or of my own, had insistently to be discovered in the moment. Which may well be the fact of one's Americanism, that this world has no incremental experience or habit with which to take hold and make judgment.

But, truly, the point is that Anselm Hollo is not only 'European' but a Finn, which is to say he has both the solid human realness of the Nordic and also the intensive visionary mind of those specific people. There is always a laughter in him, an extraordinary chuckling roar that is not mocking or contemptuous. It is literally the laughter of a man who lives daily, humanly, in the physical event of so-called existence—and, despite its trials and troubles, finds it good.

Here, then, the wit, the deftness, the active life of a primary man come again and again to form, to a thing said in the abiding pleasures of that possibility. No one will ever know more or less.

Laguna Colorada, near Uyuni, Bolivia: photo by Ville Miettinen, 13 November 2007

Flamingoes on Laguna Colorada, Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
: photo by Valdiney Pimenta, c. 20 August 2007

Oh vida! Laguna Colorada, Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia: photo by Valdiney Pimenta, c. 20 August 2007


Chegando a Laguna Colorada. Laguna Colorada, Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
: photo by Valdiney Pimenta, c. 20 August 2007

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View over the Laguna Colorada, Bolivia: photo by Christian Mehlführer, 23 February 2009

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Laguna Colorada, Bolivia, panorama 2: photo by Darkmagic, May 2008
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Panoramic view of Laguna Colorada, Bolivia: photo by Edouard Wautier, 12 January 2012

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View of Laguna Colorada, Department of Potosi, Bolivia: photo by Owen Prior, 20 April 2006

Flamingoes in Laguna Colorada, Ayuni, Bolivia: photo by Carlos Adampol Galindo, 23 February 2008

James's Flamingos at Laguna Colorada in Bolivia: photo by Valdiney Pimenta, c. 20 August 2007

Phoenocopterus jamesi (James's Flamingoes, aka Puna Flamingoes) on Laguna Colorada, Bolivia
: photo by Sarah and Iain, 12 December 2006

Phoenocopterus jamesi (James's Flamingoes, aka Puna Flamingoes) on Laguna Colorada, Bolivia: photo by Sarah and Iain, 12 December 2006

Phoenocopterus jamesi (James's Flamingoes, aka Puna Flamingoes) on Laguna Colorada, Bolivia: photo by Sarah and Iain, 12 December 2006

Clouds of salt stirred by the harsh afternoon wind on Laguna Colorada, Bolivia: photo by rackyross, 11 January 2011

RIP, mon cher Anselm. See you on the altiplano.

Tuesday 29 January 2013

Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere


Union Station waiting room, Chicago
: photo by Jack Delano, January 1943 (Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection, Library of Congress)

A guest + a host = a ghost.

Marcel Duchamp: Jeu de mot phonetique en anglais (Un invité + un hôte = un fantôme.)

Strange to turn to old ghosts, watch ourselves dissolve
In their eyes.  They were not here to help us,
Merely to drag us back against our will
Into a dim becalmed past, then forward into
Occluded presents which yet feel too bright

Union Station waiting room, Chicago: photo by Jack Delano, January 1943 (Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection, Library of Congress)

Model airplanes decorate the ceiling of the train concourses at Union Station, Chicago
: photo by Jack Delano, February 1943 (Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection, Library of Congress)

Union Station waiting room, Chicago: photo by Jack Delano, January 1943 (Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection, Library of Congress)

Monday 28 January 2013

The Shining


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Japanese Macaques (Macaca fuscata), Jigokudani hot spring, Nagano, Japan: photo by Yosemite, 2005

Every day there are moments that do not seem to lead directly into the next moment. It must be those isolated moments, laid end to end, in which Zeno's arrow tries to cross the sky.

Since Zeno's arrow exists only inside his paradox, it can never land, and since, in those isolated moments -- the broken passages in the routine narrative, the interruptions in the neural traffic flow -- we too begin to take on the immateriality of a logical demonstration, there is no use in further discussion of that arrow.

A silence falls over the room.

All this is happening in a dream, or perhaps as if in a dream.

This is not the loud logical silence of a glacier but the muffled baffling silence of a dream. In the dream there is a forest, and in the forest there is water, and in the water there are monkeys whose bodies give off light.

A Japanese snow monkey relaxes in a hot spring in the Jigokudani valley in northern Nagano Prefecture in Japan. The macaques descend from the forests to the warm waters of the hot springs in the mornings, and return to the security of the forests in the evenings: photo by Nick Ut/AP, 11 February 2012


Japanese Macaques (Macaca fuscata), Jigokudani Onsen, Yamanouchi, Nagano Prefecture, Japan: photo by Fg2, 25 February 2006

Japanese Macaques (Macaca fuscata) (Nihon zaru) soak in a hot spring (onsen)
, Jigokudani Yaen Koen (Snow Monkey Park), Yamanouchi town, Nagano, Japan: photo by edamame note, January 2010

Japanese Macaques (Macaca fuscata) (Nihon zaru) soak in a hot spring (onsen)
, Jigokudani Yaen Koen (Snow Monkey Park), Yamanouchi town, Nagano, Japan: photo by edamame note, January 2010

Sunday 27 January 2013

Lunar Impersonation


Full moon over Palm Bay, Florida: photo by pcoder (Chris Kirkman), 26 January 2013

A noise would awaken or impersonate her.
As if these things were self evident
In her sleep ancient lunar fish enacted,
As if before an underwater window,
A comic mimicry of a sunken world,
The one she wished to inhabit -- as if
Wishing were the next best thing to being
There. When the white moon comes up in the black
Cold winter night, the skin of empire drifts off
Like a poison that's evaporated;
Funny, she thought, how the film over words
Loses its toxic power in certain lights
Above implication's dowager kingdom.


File:School of Pterocaesio chrysozona in Papua New Guinea 1.jpg

School of Goldband Fusilier (Pterocaesio chrysozona), Papua, New Guinea: photo by Mila Zinkova, 2004

School of Gold-band Fusilier (Pterocaesio chrysozona), Bali, Indonesia: photo by jaffles, 11 October 2007

Moon Fish: photo by Intrepidteacher (Jabiz Raizdana), 1 September 2012

Full moon: photo by I Rule the School, 26 January 2013

Saturday 26 January 2013

The Embrace of Quietude: Wyatt's slippery top


Portrait of Thomas Cromwell
: Hans Holbein the Younger, c. 1533, oil on oak, 70 x 61 cm (Frick Collection, New York)

Thomas Wyatt: Stond who so List

Stond who so list vpon the Slipper toppe
...Of courtes estates and lett me heare rejoyce
And vse me quyet without lett or stoppe
...Vnknowen in courte that hath suche brackishe ioyes
.....In hidden place so lett my dayes forthe passe
...That when my yeares be done withouten noyse
.....I may dye aged after the common trace
Ffor him death greepthe right hard by the croppe
...That is moche knowen of other and of him self alas
...Doth dye unknowen dazed with dreadfull face

Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542): Stond who so list vpon the Slipper toppe, c. 1540 (text from Arundel Harington ms.)
1 Slipper = slippery. Cf. Wyatt's translation of Plutarch, Quyet of Mind: "slypper riches".
1 toppe (culmine). Cf. Sir T. Elyot's version of the Seneca chorus.
3 use...stop. i.e., Comport myself quietly without hindrance of impediment from others [R. Rebholz].
4 Vnknowen in courte (nullis nota Quiritibus). Cf. Elyot: "Myyde unknowen".
4 that hathe suche brackish ioyes [Wyatt's addition to the Latin].
4 brackishe: being spoiled to the point of being nauseous by the mixture of the salty with the fresh [Rebholz].
6 withouten noyse (per tacitum): Elyot.
7 after the common trace: (1) a common way or path; (2) like other people. The Latin has "a common man" (plebeius) [Rebholz].
8 dazed with dreadfull face [Wyatt's addition].
8 dazed: (1) bewildered, stupefied (2) benumbed with cold.
8 croppe (crop): (1) bird's neck; (2) throat.
8 death...croppe: Latin has "Death lies heavy on him" (illi mors gravis incubat).
10 unknowen (ignotus): Elyot.

Jean de Dinteville and Georges de Selve (The Ambassadors): Hans Holbein the Younger, 1533, oil on wood, 207 x 209 cm (National Gallery, London)

In [Wyatt's] finest imitations... historical consciousness goes... further. Imitation becomes fully heuristic and frequently dialectical; it takes the full responsibility for its cultural moment and location, "in Kent and Christendome," with the vulnerabiity as well as the strength these involve. To demonstrate this degree of consciousness, one need only cite the superb little version of Seneca, doubtless written after the execution of Wyatt's patron [Thomas] Cromwell [in 1540]... this derives from a chorus of Seneca's Thyestes... Wyatt Englishes this by  suppressing the Latin leni... otio, the easy leisure that calls up an aristocratic Roman villa. Wyatt's language identifies him as an Anglo-Saxon countryman whose quietude will not be voluptuous, and whose death will not simply go unremarked, nullo cum strepitu, but whose obscurity will adhere to  the traditional manner of ordinary folk, "after the common trace". "Trace" is itself  one of those rustic words that help to situate the speaker. Wyatt omits the hint of sensual satisfaction in Seneca's saturet, adds the powerful modifier "brackishe" (salty, nauseating) in his fourth line, plays the force of "rejoyce" against the sobriety of "quyet", with its echo of the poet's translation of Plutarch, The Quyet of Mynde. Above all, Wyatt rewrites the closing lines, roughening Seneca's neat antithesis in ll. 12-13 and suppressing his sinister image of suffocation (incubat -- settles down upon, broods upon like a bird) for the more violent clutch of Death's abrupt hand: "him death greep'the right hard by the croppe." The five stressed monosyllables in unbroken sequence violate the rhythmic pattern with a  wrench that corresponds to the action, and the harsh Anglo-Saxon words maintain the identity of a speaker hidden in the countryside outside a Latinate court. The control of verse movement, expert throughout, culminates in the majestic rallentando of the last line and a half, its terrible subsiding intensified by the pitiless alliteration. Brilliantly, Wyatt chooses not to explain why the lack of knowledge renders death's grip so much harder, nor to explain the brilliant concluding phrase, his own addition -- "dazed with dreadfull face". The great man is "dazed" -- stupefied, bewildered, numbed -- because death's assault has been so sudden, because its numbing physiological effect has already begun or is completed, because we can assume the dying man has fallen from the slipper top of eminence, and perhaps because in his naive egoism he had thought of himself as immune from mortality. He is "dreadfull" -- inspiring reverence, awe, fear-- because as a power at court he has always inspired those, because he is suffering the humiliation of death after so much sway, because conceivably he has been publicly executed like Cromwell, and because, most profoundly, he is suffering this death in the limelight without the redeeming possession or acquisition of self-knowledge; he remains "of him self... unknowen." Wyatt's use of the Latin chorus only serves to help him find an idiom that is radically anti-Latinate and calls attention to its own parochial rusticity; his use of the somewhat facile Stoic morality helps him to adumbrate a drama of his own time and place, By insisting on its English provincialism the text assumes a vulnerability toward the elegant classicism of its subtext, and only by accepting this vulnerability can it implicitly criticize the subtext's facility. This is an intensely Tudor poem and conscious of itself as such, awake to the dialectical distinctions it has created. By achieving this degree of control over potential anachronism, Wyatt made it possible for the first time to speak of mature English imitation.

Thomas M. Greene, from The Light in Troy: Imitation and Discovery in Renaissance Poetry, 1982

Unknown Gentleman with Music Books and Lute
: Hans Holbein the Younger, c. 1534, oil on wood, 43.5 x 43.5 cm (Staatliche Museum, Berlin)

Seneca: from Thyestes
Stet quicumque volet potens
aulae culmine lubrico:
me dulcis saturet quies.
obscuro positus loco
leni perfruar otio,
nullis nota Quiritibus
aetas per tacitum fluat.
sic cum transierint mei
nullo cum strepitu dies,
plebeius moriar senex.
illi mors gravis incubat
qui, notus nimis omnibus,
ignotus moritur sibi.

Lucius Annaeus Seneca (c 4 BC-AD 65), Thyestes, ll. 391-403

Portrait of Henry Howard, the Earl of Surrey: Hans Holbein the Younger, 1541-44, oil on wood, 55.5 x 44 cm (Museo de Arte de Sao Paolo)

Andrew Marvell: The Second Chorus from Seneca's Tragedy, Thyestes

Stet quicunque volet potens
Aulae culmine lubrico etc.


Climb at Court for me that will
Tottering Favour's slipp'ry hill.
All I seek is to lye still.
Settled in some secret Nest
In calm Leisure let me rest;
And far off the publick Stage
Pass away my silent Age.
Thus when without noise, unknown,
I have liv'd out all my span,
I shall dye, without a groan,
An old honest Country man.
Who expos'd to others Eyes,
Into his own Heart ne'r pry's,
Death to him's a Strange surprise.

Andrew Marvell (1621-1678): The Second Chorus from Seneca's Tragedy, Thyestes (probably composed after 1668; published posthumously, 1678) 

Portrait of Henry VIII: Hans Holbein the Younger, 1533, oil on wood, 207 x 209 cm (National Gallery, London)

John Norris: The Choice (after Seneca)

No, I shan't envy him who're he be
That stands upon the Battlements of State;
....Stand there who will for me,
....I'd rather be secure than great.
Of being so high the pleasure is but small,
But long the Ruin, if I chance to fall.

Let me in some sweet shade serenely lye,
Happy in leisure and obscurity;
....Whilst others place their joys
....In Popularity and noise.
Let my soft moments glide obscurely on
Like subterraneous streams, unheard, unknown.
Thus when my days are all in silence past,
A good plain Country-man I'll dye at last;
....Death cannot chuse but be
....To him a mighty misery,
Who to the World was popularly known,
And dies a Stranger to himself alone.

 John Norris (1657-1711): The Choice (after Seneca)

Jane Seymour, Queen of England: Hans Holbein the Younger, 1536, oil on wood, 65.5 x 45 cm (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna)

Portrait of Anne of Cleves: Hans Holbein the Younger, c. 1539, parchment mounted on canvas, 65 x 48 cm (Musee du Louvre, Paris)

Portrait of Henry VIII: Hans Holbein the Younger, 1540, oil on panel, 88.5 x 74.5 cm (Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome)

Portrait of Catherine Howard: Hans Holbein the Younger, 1540-41, oil on wood, 74 x 51 cm (Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio)

Christina of Denmark, Duchess of Milan: Hans Holbein the Younger, 1538, oil on wood, 179 x 83 cm (National Gallery, London)

Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk:
Hans Holbein the Younger, 1539-40, oil on wood, 80.3 x 61.6 cm (Royal Collection, Windsor)
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Sir Thomas Wyatt: Hans Holbein, c. 1540, oil on panel, 36.7 cm diameter (National Portrait Gallery, London)

Portrait of Margaret Wyatt, Lady Lee [sister of the poet Thomas Wyatt]: Hans Holbein the Younger, c. 1540, oil on wood, 43.5 x 32.7 cm (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)

Portrait of Sir Richard Southwell: Hans Holbein the Younger, c. 1537; black and coloured chalks, brush in black and metal pen, 36.6 x 27.7 cm (Royal Collection, Windsor)

Sir Thomas Elyot: Hans Holbein the Younger, 1532-33; chalk, pen and brush on paper, 28.6 x 20.6 cm (Royal Collection, Windsor)

Jane Seymour
: Hans Holbein the Younger, 1536-37; black and coloured chalks on paper, 50 x 28.5 cm (Royal Collection, London)

Sir Thomas More:
Hans Holbein the Younger, 1527-28; black and coloured chalks on paper, 397 x 299 mm (Royal Collection, London)

Study for the Family Portrait of Sir Thomas More
: Hans Holbein the Younger, c. 1527; pen and brush in black on top of chalk sketch, 38.9 x 52.4 cm (Kupferstichkabinett, Öffentliche Kunstsammlung, Basel)

Friday 25 January 2013

William Blake: The Lamb

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Study of Resting Lamb and Head of Lamb: Hans Holbein the Younger, c. 1523, brush over preliminary drawing in black crayon, with watercolour and some white heightening, 20.6 × 24.6 cm (Kunstmuseum, Basel)

Facsimile page of Wlliam Blake's The Lamb

The Lamb: William Blake, engraving from Songs of Innocence, 1789

.......Little Lamb who made thee 
.......Dost thou know who made thee 
Gave thee life & bid thee feed. 
By the stream & o'er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing wooly bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice! 
.......Little Lamb who made thee 
.......Dost thou know who made thee 

.......Little Lamb I'll tell thee,
.......Little Lamb I'll tell thee!
He is callèd by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb
He is meek & he is mild, 
He became a little child: 
I a child & thou a lamb
We are callèd by his name.
.......Little Lamb God bless thee. 
.......Little Lamb God bless thee.

William Blake: The Lamb, from
Songs of Innocence, 1789

Sheep and Lamb: Jaccopo Bassano, c. 1560, oil on canvas, 77 x 109 cm (Galleria Borghese, Rome)

The Virgin and Child with St Anne (detail): Leonardo da Vinci, c. 1510, oil on wood (Musée du Louvre, Paris)

Study of St Anne. Mary, the Christ Child and the young St John (detail): Leonardo da Vinci, 1501-1506, lead pencil, pen and ink (Gallerie dell' Academie, Venice)

John the Baptist in the Wilderness: Geertgen tot Sint Jans, 1490-95, panel, 42 x 28 cm (Staatliche Museum, Berlin)