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Saturday, 20 April 2013

Jim Dine: Occurring without / definite aim


Soon Harvest Would: -- She was gentle as Wind through the Wheat -- I knew when She was here, I could sense Her warm presence -- a mesmerizing Breath -- In the summer Nights when the Soil sweats away its last Pearls, we liked to talk about Her, Tales Indolent -- soon Harvest would break the Spell -- : textured photo  by Marie Wintzer, 5 July 2012

Occurring without

...............definite aim

the pain of 

supposed wisdom


who's been here ages ago,

to save us from
.......a heartache,

or a



Jim Dine: Occurring without / definite aim, from Donkey in the Sea Before Us (Steidl, 2013)

Oleo (Desenfoque floral con el 500mm), Palma de Mallorca, España: photo by Andrés Nieto Porras, 23 March 2012

File:Alcea rosea2 ies.jpg

Alcea rosea: photo by Frank Vincentz, 16 July 2004
Two dandelion seeds (Taraxacum sect. Ruderalia): photo by Joergmoritz, 30 May 2006

Follow me (@Yanaka Cemetery, Tokyo): textured photo by Marie Wintzer, 2 August 2010

A Kahu or Swamp Harrier (Circus approximans gouldi), in deep flight, Okato, New Zealand: photo by Dave Young, 4 May 2009


TC said...

Jim Dine's poems have a way of coming at just the right moment (occurring without definite aim) for you, if you're me.

Intentionality, accident, coincidence, recurrence, inevitability, the fleeting image, there in the shadows, possibility however slim it might be a ghost of a chance -- what else is there to wonder about, of a night, any more?

I've plucked this poem, with of course Jim's generous blessing, from a new set in which he addresses in personal poetic terms the imaginative origins of the figure of the artist.

The series, titled The Donkey in the Sea before Us, extends Jim's long obsession with the Carlo Collodi character Pinocchio, first encountered in 1940 in the Disney animated film.

Says JD:

“Donkey in the Sea before Us is a marriage of poetry and water-colour portraits of the boy/puppet, who is on his way to becoming a human.

"I have for many years been able to live through the wooden boy. His ability to hold the metaphor in limitless ways has made my drawings, paintings and sculpture of him richer by far. His poor burned feet, his misguided judgment, his vanity about his large nose, his temporary donkey ears all add up to the real sum of his parts. In the end it is his great heart that holds me. I have carried him on my back like landscape since I was six years old."

Jim Dine: Donkey in the Sea before Us

The poems in this series, terrific when encountered in the company of the wooden boy in Jim's original art work (as intended), also hold up quite well when standing alone, or when accompanied by different images.

Marie Wintzer's wonderful top image here captures some of the mysterious magic of abundance in a ripening field of grain. That seemed a happy fit, as Jim spends this time of year at his isolated workplace amid the grain-rich country of southeastern Washington, long famed for its wheatfields and home to the world's most prized Sweet Onion.

Otherwise, speaking of watery eyes -- that out-of-focus okeh-bokeh garden beneath the poem (a garden of indefinite aim?) -- having latterly become accustomed (perforce like they say) to seeing the springtime and indeed all those other seasons too in a phantasmal squinty-eyed blur, I found my first reaction to that shot was: "looks just like the 'real world'!"

TC said...

Those who hang about at this blog will have encountered Jim Dine's poetry before.

Jim Dine: Fresh and a warning
Jim Dine: the downfall / of your eyes
Jim Dine: The Flowering Sheets
Jim Dine: We lived once in an ideal kingdom
Jim Dine: Utopia (2011)


Finally let me say I've long marveled at Jim's working methodology. His singular staying-power as an artist and poet can be felt now in all the work he does both visual and verbal, which appears from here to be renewed and invigorated by a kind of centering-in. One grows increasingly aware of a quality of concentrated restless energy, a disciplined and sustained tension, and a refusal to settle for what happened yesterday. What came before continues to be re-conceived, re-shaped, and what comes next then feels fresh and new.

In a short talk at an opening of new work in Paris last year Jim offers a few enlightening remarks about that matter of method; note especially the passage of 35 seconds or so, from 3:40 of the clip.

Jim Dine at Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris, February 2012

"My method is to put something down, take it out, put it down again, rebuild it. I love pentimento, I love the history, I love laying down the track and seeing what came before, trying to build on that..."

De Villo Sloan said...

Tom, "Beyond the Pale" has introduced me to Jim Dine's excellent poetry; many thanks for that gift. I am also always very interested to see the photos you choose when presenting the work. Wow, spectacular photos by Marie that mirror Dine's sensibility. Great!

TC said...

Thanks very much, De Villo. Your recognition and championing, in your Mail Art circles, of Jim's work -- "VisPo" as you aptly put it -- has been much appreciated here.

Anonymous said...

open minded it and your words too!



beautiful -- "Occurring without/ definite aim"; "laying down the tracks"


light coming into sky above black plane
of ridge, grass in field moving in wind
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

series of variations, other
from yet other series

reveals audience, spectator
peering in, eye level

silver of low sun reflected in channel,
shadowed green pine on tip of sandspit

TC said...

Thanks, Steve. Yes, we're all about the definite-indefinite aim, here.

The indefinite aim always has a fair chance of being, if not THE true aim, then at least maybe equally true.

This issue of course has been explored, across the epochs, by minds far greater than mine.

About that up-top wheatfield of Marie's, eerily luminous as if lit from within, the affect there for me is subtle, delicate.

Finally I suspect that what creates the magical field in that picture, the sense of some earthly/unearthly aura, may be a glancing reference -- probably not "meant", but so little of what's happening ever anyway is contained in (fenced-in by) what's meant -- to the Eleusinian Mysteries.

It's such a revelation to come back to Jane Harrison's careful account of the inner-sanctum business of the Mysteries -- the performance-ritual wellsprings of the celebration of the annual renewal of the powers of nature -- in her magisterial Prolegomomena to the Study of Greek Religions. She returns inevitably of the powers said to be symbolically concealed in the secret practicum of the wheat-sheaves.

A hint of that Earth-husbandry element of the Mysteries emerges if one takes a virtual stroll round this Fourth Century BC red-figure hydria from the Varrese painter of Apulia..

The tending of the Mysteries was of course mostly woman's work. In this detail one can see the Goddess of the Fields of the Earth, Demeter, extending her hand in benediction toward the kneeling Metaneira, who offers the triune wheat sheaf, recurring symbol of the Mysteries.

She has brought the great gift. Will it be accepted?

De Villo Sloan said...

It's amazing how members of the Eternal Network (mail-art) in the far-flung corners of the world and with wildly different practices find a common heritage in Ray Johnson & Chairman George Maciunas. Jim Dine comes from that same place and carries on & evolves that spirit. Many on those folks will know the iconic images. Maybe not so many know there is a body of poetic work. So, yeah, I passed this one along.

Wooden Boy said...

Silver blue ears of wheat, the touches of yellow in the image making them more thsn just dreamt; Marie has made something that you can keep coming back for harvesting.

An errant freedom set against that world made up of everyone "...who's been here ages ago".

Heartache, coincidence; failed expectations and imagined connections.

The poem's a serious happening in thought and this is something rare.

TC said...

Thanks again for spreading the word, De Villo.

And yes, WB, ditto on all points.

Jim by the way is enjoying the screen-share here.

"Isn't Marie great?" he back-channels. "You put us together in such a swell way!"

Marie W said...

Thank you so much Tom, this is just amazing. The harvest, side by side with Jim Dine. I am rubbing my watery eyes but it is there, so clearly.

How a silent (/) can make all the difference. Slash? Backslash? Forward Slash?
Occurring without / definite aim
is so different from
Occurring without definite aim

Thank you for this fantastic moment of poetry, my lens still cannot believe it.

TC said...

These percipient comments have stayed with me all night.

That a poem might be "a serious happening in thought" is a possibility unreckoned in the current standard "writing school" templates -- which amount to little more than convenient and accepted models upon which to mount one's quest for that ultimate goal whose spellbinding influence determines all things in the verse-simulation industry these days.

That is, "becoming famous".

Anyone who's checked out Jim's brief talk at the Galerie Daniel Templon will have noted his rueful recollection of once having tried to teach in this country. "Nobody wanted to learn anything, they just wanted to become famous."

I was put in mind of the recurring lament of Ed Dorn, who taught writing for many years at the University of Colorado, re. his students' blithe willingness to "forsake the opportunity to learn something," in their blind haste to be touched by the tepid glow of dwarf-celebrity.

My own teaching experience yielded the same discouraging recognition, over and over and over.

How remarkable that a contemporary poem might actually have to do with the distillation and trying and testing of thought in the crucible of experience over the whole long course of a life in the real world... who's got time?

The idea that a poem might actually eschew description, decoration, pseudo-theory, personal confession, evasive verbal performance, and all the other common ingredients in the standard-issue MFA poem-kit -- more or less unheard of, any more.

The deployment of these substitutive props by aggressive pantheon-aspirants lacking imagination or honesty (not to mention something worth saying) has become so pervasive and universally accepted that at present true originality in poetry can be expected to go unnoticed, like that proverbial sound only dogs can hear.

But in Jim Dine's poems we hear that rare real thing, and this is fortunate for us, and we come away relieved and grateful.

"A serious happening in thought," as WB puts it.

I take this to mean we have been given the thought at just the right moment, the moment of its taking place, presented to us unaltered, with the internal torsion and complication intact, the full enigmatic expressiveness of the intelligent human gesture not smoothed-over or politely skirted or elided-out, or tailored after-the-fact so as to impress us one way or another.

There is nothing quite like this experience of feeling the thought as it happens, without apology or explanation or dressing-up or back-story, in all the intricate complexity of the lived moment of its occurrence...

This, I think, is what the life of the mind must really be like.

No nuance is too small to count, in this domain of the infinitely delicate.

Marie is too right:

"Occurring without / definite aim
is so different from
Occurring without definite aim"

It's that little pause, that little catch, that is the mark of authenticity.

Nin Andrews said...

He's amazing.