Showing posts from May, 2009

Berlin Philharmonic live online

RHZ just sent me this link to hearing the Berlin Philharmonic live online. There is an archive of performances as well. 9.90 EUR (about 14 USD) to hear and watch a live concert, or to access an archived concert as many times as you wish within 48 hours. There is also a season pass with a great discount.

Schiller's "Mary Stuart"

Originally written in 1801, this play is now enjoying a critically acclaimed revival on Broadway, running in the Broadhurst Theatre, directed by Phyllida Lloyd. The new English version, written by Peter Oswald, has the noble density of Shakespearian language. The freezing of pity's fluid reminds me of Macbeth. SW heard echoes of King Lear. Mortimer's explanation of his conversion to Catholicism, when he was touched through his senses by the images of the old religion, is high Romantic poetry, as is his self-destructive passion for Mary. The passion, entirely believable in a dashing Chandler Williams, contrasts sharply with the coldly calculative English court. 
As to the construction of the play, Act One feels overburdened by exposition, whereas Act Two is shattering in its drama, particularly in the meeting of Mary Stuart and Elizabeth Tudor, a confrontation between queens Schiller imagined with tremendous power. Like all poets who write, or rewrite, history, Schiller takes pa…

Mothers and Others

TLS May 22 2009
from Michele Pridmore-Brown's review of Sarah Blaffer Hrdy's Mothers and Others: The evolutionary origins of mutual understanding:
[Hrdy's] paradigm in essence decentres--it obviously does not eliminate--the usual Darwinian stories of "man the hunter" and his inter-group enmity and intra-group power struggles; instead, Hrdy argues that the marauding and patriarchal lifestyles of the past 12.000 years (the Neolithic era) are a scrim or coda that have obscured other kinds of selective pressures that would have been especially operative during the hundreds of thousands of years of the Pleistocene. The supposedly "female" impulse to "tend and befriend"--to optimize sharing--as a way of manufacturing alternative parents would, she argues, have been more important to infant survival in harsh conditions than the supposedly "male" desire to outmanoeuvre or kill an elusive and distant other. 
from Peter Holbrook's review o…

Ian McEwan's "Saturday"

One day in the life of. It has been done before. Many times. Joyce. Woolf. Bellow. And more recently, three times in the same novel, The Hours by Michael Cunningham. Why did McEwan choose to follow the same scheme when he is on record for criticizing his earlier work as too schematic? When Henry Perowne--neurosurgeon, husband, son, father--returns at the end of the novel to the foot of the marital bed, the same place from which he began the novel and the day, the neatness can feel less classical than cliched. 
Yes, the world has changed since 9/11 (or so Americans argue); the change demands a chronicler with a finger on its pulse. But why choose the lens of a day through which to focus one's vision of a changed world? Why make playing squash, visiting  a demented mother, and shopping for seafood bear the weight of the world? 
I think McEwan does not so much want to add to this genre as to quarrel with his predecessors. In adopting a single limited point of view, instead of a stream-…

The Body Adamantine

For a movie that purports to explain the origins of the X-Men, the explanation of the origins of Wolverine remains murky to me. Why was the child Logan living with a man he thought was his father, but was not? Why was he sick, with a sickness which the child Victor Creed had when he was younger? Why did Creed keep so malignant a vigil beside Logan's sickbed? Did he know that Logan was his brother then? The answers may be obvious to the comic book fan, but for this quarter-fan, the movie, directed by Gavin Hood, was more obfuscating than not.
The sequence showing the two men fighting in all the major American wars--from the Civil War to Vietnam--nicely made the point that the brothers were the two faces of American military power. While Victor Creed hired out his bloodlust, Logan was the troublesome conscience. The rest of the movie did not try for too philosophical a message but plumbed for adrenalin-pumping entertainment in the form of aestheticized violence.
The movie was obsessed…

Rodgers and Hammerstein's "South Pacific"

In these last weeks I have been viewing the whole of what I had known up till then only in parts. First, Godot, then Superman, and last Thursday, with TCH, South Pacific at Lincoln Center Theater at the Vivian Beaumont. I like musicals, but am not a devotee, and so was surprised to learn from the program that familiar songs like "Some Enchanted Evening," "Bali Ha'i," A Wonderful Guy," and "Happy Talk" come from South Pacific. The music, by Richard Rodgers, is unabashedly popular. The lyrics, by Oscar Hammerstein II, derive their staying power from coming close to cliche, but never quite crossing over into it. They are not clever, like Sondheim's, but they cleave to the ear.
Emile de Becque, the French planter who fell in love with a young American nurse, was played by William Michals, the understudy for Paulo Szot. Michals sang with a great deal of power and warmth, but his romance with Ensign Nellie Forbush was not convincing. The difficulty …

Superman and Christ

Marlon Brando lovefest continued with Superman: The Movie (1978), directed by Richard Donner. Brando played Jor-El--the father of Superman--with a doomed dignity. I had seen snippets and pictures of Christopher Reeves as Superman, but they conveyed nothing of his massive charm in the movie. Margot Kidder was a newly-toughened New Yorker of a Lois Lane. Gene Hackman a rather bland and silly Lex Luthor. The music, by John Williams, is soaring and lyrical, memorable as music used to be. 
The online reviews made much of the film's use of the Christ myth. In Midnight's Children, Cyrus' mum, in turn, transformed the Superman story into the origins myth of a new Indian guru. Religious to secular and back to religious again. 

"Noman will I eat last"

Today my reading group met for the last time to read the last four chapters of The Odyssey, in E. V. Rieu's prose translation. HS, who also led us to read The Iliad last year, gave us our further reading after a most satisfying session.
One handout collects the scholia written in the margins of the manuscripts. In Book 1, someone wrote, "They say in the myth that Poseidon went to the Ethiopians at a certain season and was honored by them. But in the allegory, Poseidon is a term for water. Since water, that is, the ocean, circles the whole earth, and because the Nile at a certain season waters the land of the Ethiopians and makes the trees grow, on this account they say Poseidon, or water, is honored by them as the cause of many good things for them.
Book 9: Homer . . . seems to have been the first to devise fearful pleasantries, as in the passage describing that most unpleasant personage the Cyclops: "Noman will I eat last, but the rest before him"--that "guest-g…

Every Thing by Excess

TNY May 18, 2009
from "Slang-Whanger" by Arthur Krystal on William Hazlitt:
When discussing Shakespeare's Coriolanus, Hazlitt examined the nature of poetry itself: The language of poetry naturally falls in with the language of power. . . . The principle of poetry is a very anti-levelling principle. It aims at effect, it exists by contrast. It admits of no medium. It is every thing by excess. It rises above the ordinary standard of sufferings and crimes. It presents a dazzling appearance. . . . Poetry is right-royal. It puts the individual for the species, the one above the infinite many, might before right. A lion hunting a flock of sheep or a herd of wild assess is a more poetical object than they; and we even take part with the lordly beast, because our vanity or some other feeling makes us disposed to place ourselves in the situation of the strongest party.
Hazlitt's words ring true to my ears. The lure of power is what draws me to poetry. Recognizing this is a necess…

He is a very great scoundrel

TNY May 8, 2009
from "Back to Basics" by Adam Kirsch on Gerard Manley Hopkins:
Kirsch criticizes Paul Mariani's new Hopkins biography for not acknowledging that what made Hopkins unhappy (as well as happy) was "his religion--or, more precisely, the self-tormenting spirit in which he approached his religion."
"Self-tormenting" is both more precise and more obfuscating. Yes, in damning his own poetic ambitions and achievements, Hopkins was extreme. But he did not torment himself by having homosexual desire. His religion, the homophobic form of Catholicism he believed in, tormented him. 
And Kirsch refuses to make the smallest reference to the poet's homosexuality, though he alludes to it, perhaps, by comparing Hopkins and Whitman. Quoted by Kirsch, Hopkins' letter to Robert Bridges is sad for its internalized homophobia. Bridges had commented that Hopkins' poem "The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo" reminded him of Whitman. Hopkins repl…

Pink Dot Made in Singapore

This gay rally was held in Singapore last Saturday, May 16, in support of the freedom to love. Over a thousand people attended, gay and straight.

Pink dot plays on the phrase red dot, which is often used to describe Singapore contemptuously by larger regional neighbors. Pink is also the color of the identity cards carried by Singaporeans.

The event was reported by the local newspapers Straits Times and TodayOnline, as well as by the BBC.

Neo Swee Lin, a local actress, said at the event:

We are born alone. We go to our graves alone. But there is no reason why any of us should have to live alone in this life … I support the freedom to love because I believe in love. Too many of my gay friends have left these shores because of intolerance. Let’s make a change today. My father is here too today to support Pink Dot. He too wants to make a change. Everyone, in the words of the great Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.“

Three Poems in Ganymede #4

You can read one of the poems here, as well as purchase your copy. Edited and published by John Stahle, this issue has work by Oscar Wilde, George Tooker, Bruce Nugent, Matthew Rush, and Ryan Doyle May. Poetry. Fiction. Photography. Art. Essays. 

Narrowing the Eyes

Met JMS and RDM at the Cloisters yesterday, my third visit to the Met's medieval collection. If I feel heroic and imperial in the Classical sculpture court in the Met main building, I always feel monkish and stooped as I pace round the four cloisters here. The religious iconography is oppressive, only occasionally relieved by unexpected figures of monkeys, cocks, and unicorns. 
The Merode altarpiece, despite its large significance for Western painting, as explained by JMS, is a cramped and cramping allegory. So, the mousetrap--worked on by Joseph--represents Christ, God's bait for the devil (a metaphor from Augustine), the lilies represent the Virgin's purity, the sixteen sides of the table represent the sixteen major prophets of the Bible, so on and on. But I am no longer moved by such dry correspondences.
The smallness of the books, of the ivory and wood carvings, adds to my feeling of a dark, confined space. The detail is spectacular, and the line, as in a tiny torso of a…

Recognition and the Emotions

TLS May 8 2009
from Stephen Mulhall's review of Axel Honneth's "Reification: A new look at an old idea--The Berkeley Tanner Lectures":
It is not difficult to share Honneth's sense that the monstrousness of genocide is not adequately acknowledged by condemning it as immoral--a mere violation of ethical principle, as it were. But what the work of his critics should have helped him to see is that his own strategy also risks failing to acknowledge that monstrousness. For what makes genocide abhorrent is precisely that its practitioners did not mistake the ontological status of their victims. To be sure, they described those victims as racially inferior, as subhuman; but just as only human beings can be enslaved, so only human beings can be treated as subhuman. Indeed, recognizing that in this sense the Nazis knew exactly what they were doing is essential to grasping the distinctive evil of their inhumanity. 
from Tamler Sommers' review of Jesse J. Prinz's &qu…

Sibelius' "Symphony No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 82"

Written over a span of five years, No. 5 Symphony, Sibelius knew, was going to be something very special. Musical themes were jotted down, revised, moved around, discarded, developed as Sibelius sought the rigorous logic he considered the highest attribute of a perfect composition. If he heard the start of the symphony as a door opened by God to the mountain-climber, he thought of the symphony's development as a river, the many tributaries joining up to swell the river and rush it towards the sea. While the horns in the symphony speak of the venerable European tradition of the hunt, the bell-like motif imitate the 16 swans Sibelius saw flying in the sky one day, and took for a sign from God.

All this I learned from Gerard McBurney's presentation at an Inside the Music event, with the New York Philharmonic. And of the symphony's sublime moment--the six widely separated chords that conclude the work--they derive their power from the fact that we hear the inaudible bell-beat o…

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (will-to-possess)

The final one in the series. I'm done.

vouloir-saisir / will-to-possess

The summer does not hold to love and it has love.
I would release him but what is holding me? Love.

Shooting his load, the Buddhist monk kept his eyes
open. What is the black bird in the window? Love.

Last night my ex fucked me as if it was our first.
What do we share when we don’t share a house? Love.

The banks don’t hide a wish to hold the river up.
If power builds a dam, what will bring down power? Love.

As Monet lost his eyes, his hands grew more abstract.
The color of the water lilies? Blue? No, love.

When Henry James wrote, “You have time. You are young. Live!”
what does the Master mean? I think the man means love!

Jee, the unlikely initial of God, you wish
so much for Paul, and so much for Paul wish for love.

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (union)

union / union

To dream of union is to dream the world in words,
the multifarious world conferring with two words.

Pick up a fragment of the world, let’s say, a stone,
and feel the heart—hard and soft—in the palm of words.

Lean on a week as you would on a walking stick
and learn the long and short of time-travel in words.

When a backdoor is pried open and shows a cave,
do you go in or stay out of the house of words?

You know the ups and downs of falling deep in love.
You know the stairs, that train station, are made of words.

The knife is for the wound. The road is for the shoes.
Honey and vinegar don’t lose the taste of words.

Thank god Paul is not Jee and neither is Jee Paul
but between Paul and Jee a world, a dream, all words.

Making a Pink Dot in Singapore (16 May)

Do you support the freedom of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people to love? Then show your support by joining our smart mob at Hong Lim Park on 16 May, 4.30pm! 

This is NOT a protest nor a parade, just a simple call for open-minded Singaporeans to come together to form a pink dot, of which aerial photographs will be taken. This pink dot is a celebration of diversity and equality, and a symbol of Singapore's more inclusive future. 

Venue: The field at Hong Lim Park
Date & Time: May 16 (Sat), 4.30pm
What to wear: Pink (caps, hats, glasses, sunglasses and accessories are recommended)
What to bring: Anyone who supports the freedom of LGBT Singaporeans to love

What to expect: Pink umbrellas will be provided with a donation; the human pink dot will be formed by around 5pm and a photograph will be taken from a vantage point nearby.

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (thus)

tel / thus

Among the ways to take a good look at a tree,
the best is to lie down and look up at a tree.

I can no more hold you by naming qualities
than sacred names scratched out in bark possess the tree.

All that I touch of you are touches and not you.
A torn branch does not make the tree less of a tree.

Your life—your speed—moves independently of mine.
Looking elsewhere does not hasten or slow the tree.

Being is your glory, which no one can take from you,
unless they take you down, for burial, from the tree.

The demon of despair, the angel of desire,
the many leaves that flutter on an unmoving tree.

Jee, lay your anguish on the ground and look up.
The tree. The sky. The tree. The sky held by the tree.

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (alone)

seul / alone

Your slight curve intimates there is another shoe
but everyone here walks the streets without a shoe.

I will not settle down with less than beauty, so
I will go to bed night after night with my shoe.

The pier walks you to see the seals swimming in pairs.
They slip by on their flippers, are not stopped by shoes.

It took me a lost time to stumble onto land
in search of love. My feet still pinch like brand-new shoes.

How do I write about a pain you do not share?
Hanging from the traffic light is a leather shoe.

The poem writes for relief and not for empathy.
It is my foot that is unbound from my old shoe.

Today is Field Day and the sun is bringing lunch.
You will fast, Jee, however, and walk in love’s shoes.

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (reverberation)

retentissement / reverberation

The Christmas crowd is roaring round the circus ring.
The bear is tearing up the master of the ring.

A stone dropped in the water does not see the ripple.
A tower struck by lightning does not hear bells ring.

On an abbey’s lawn I learned to make a daisy chain
from serious young men stretched out in a scattered ring.

I often think I moved my life to the wrong country.
The call is not for me whenever the phones ring.

Tempted to switch these verses round like playing cards,
I do, sometimes, to hear the cash register ring.

One thing leads to another, as one day the next,
but there are nights that huddle in a silver ring.

You have big ears, Jee, which are losing their hearing
to the bloodthirsty circus cheering for the ring.

"The Godfather" and "Phaedra"

As part of my private Marlon Brando film fest, last Thursday I watched The Godfather (1972), directed by Francis Ford Coppola, and based on a 1969 novel of the same name by Mario Puzo. I was suitably impressed by this film which is, according to Wiki, rated as the second greatest film in American cinematic history (behind Citizen Kane), in the American Film Institute's list. 
The story, spanning 10 years from 1945-55, chronicles the fictional Italian American Corleone crime family, beginning with the downfall of the patriarch Don Vito (played by Brando) and ending with the reestablishment of power by his unlikely successor, the third son Michael (played by Al Pacino), a war hero and college graduate. 
The last scene brilliantly shows Michael acting as godfather to his nephew at the latter's baptism, his crime associates kissing his ring as if he were a pope. If the plot of the film traces the reluctant development of Michael into his father's heir, its theme is about the iro…

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (regretted)

regretté / regretted

If I should die today, the world has still its sun
and nothing is, my love, less mournful than the sun.

I have ambiguous feelings about piecework.
The country I come from produces too much sun.

I wish to be killed by a fit of jealousy.
Yours. Give me a tank top the color of the sun.

Thinking of death, the last three verses start with I.
Thinking of death’s antipode, they end with sun.

As far as poems are from person, or as near,
so far and near revolve the planets round the sun.

I would love you with such a warm and bright import
that you can say, when I am gone, he was my sun.

Or, if you like, you may love me so totally
that I will say, when you are gone, he was my sun.

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (ravishment)

ravissement / ravishment

I shuddered, surprised, when you took me in your mouth.
It was as if you took my cock and not my mouth.

A shudder is a premonition of suffering
before surrendering to the pleasure of your mouth.

The soft nothing of it! A cotton shirt against the skin.
Don’t tear away the cover of cloth from my mouth.

My feet have walked on the sea sitting on the sand.
My mouth has tasted the light wetness of your mouth.

A needle’s eye is not made for a needle’s eye
but your mouth pulls a thread and closes tight my mouth.

I have not yet described the treasure of your tongue.
I think my mouth will keep it secret in your mouth.

Jee was so ready for a ravishment and you
were most ravishing when you pulled out of my mouth.

Roundabout Theatre's "Waiting for Godot"

Thursday night: it was a funny experience watching a play I had heard and read so much about without ever having watched or read it. I felt all the time that I had seen it before but that the present performance was different from what I thought I knew. For one thing, this Godot had four characters (and a boy who brought word that Godot was not coming that day) when I thought there were supposed to be two. For another, it was much funnier than I had expected.

Nathan Lane played an articulate and despairing Estragon, Bill Irwin played an irascible Vladimir, John Goodman played a hapless Pozzo, and John Glover played a pathetic and ferocious Lucky. They were terrific clowns, entertaining the audience as much as they entertained themselves, to occupy the time while waiting for Godot. 
Tied to Pozzo literally by a string, Lucky was cuffed around like a slave, but would kill anyone who tried to free him. It was better to belong to someone than to no one. A funny and sad moment came when Estr…

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (why)

pourquoi / why

If thinking so does not make me an animal,
why would acting like one make me an animal?

Man is as far from animal as love from lust
but many love to keep as pet an animal.

How quickly I give up philosophy in bed!
As envy is to monster, joy is animal.

The mind thinks, he would call if he were not so busy.
I love you. Why don’t you love me?
cries the animal.

When asked to write about what makes a man great,
the boy turned in one phrase, esprit de l’animal.

A woman stands behind every successful man.
Behind every strong idea lurks an animal.

The Chinese zodiac says, Jee, you are a dog,
a sleep-around-and-have-one-master animal.

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (obscene)

obscéne / obscene

Stop making a big scene about your broken heart.
Put it back in your pants, the soft and weepy heart.

If history is a roll-call of militant men,
the lover has no place in history but his heart.

I am unmoved by daily pictures of the dead.
A poet sings of toads and strikes straight at my heart.

A porn star has nothing on me when it comes to
the business of pumping the last drop from the heart.

Was Sade outrageous about a turkey and a pope?
No more than fucking up a surgeon with a heart.

To be a psychic, a witch doctor or a cook,
I have to be well versed in matters of the heart.

The obscene is a view Jee finds congenital.
Between a poem’s legs is found a poet’s heart.

Lammie reading at the Center

I don't know where I read it, but I remember reading the event last night was supposed to start at 6. When I arrived at 6, I was told by a very cute looking guy at the table that 6 to 7 was reception for the writers, and the reading would begin at 7. That did not put me in a good mood, though some sneaky looks at guy-at-the-table soon lightened my mood. 
The reading by the Lambda Award finalists was worth waiting for. One poet read, many novelists, and countless memoirists, making up a total of 12 readers that evening. Many were entertaining, but only a few reached into the place where only literature can reach. 
I was captivated by a fictional narrative about a black boy joining an all-white class in an all-white town. The narrator, a girl classmate, was utterly convincing in her perplexed courage. What could have come across so easily as moralistic turns out, instead, to be truly novelistic in its depiction of characters and situation. 
The other fascinating reader was another lesb…

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (monstrous)

My tongue fingers the sharpened knifepoint of my teeth.
They bite off other tongues. They are man-eating teeth.

Love did not give me a vote in my mutant birth.
Behind my tender kisses hide my carving teeth.

The muscle of your jaw cramps when you sing or yawn
because at night, beside a grave, you grind your teeth.

There is always a touch of humor in the monstrous.
There is a bone of laughter held between the teeth.

I am a lover but a poor horseman. I read
somewhere that you can tell a good horse by its teeth.

Many men complimented Jee on his sweet smile.
I don’t trust flattery. My smile shows too much teeth.

I broke my love. Where there were eyes, there are now peepholes.
Your bleeding mouth denounces all my bloody teeth.

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (magic)

I miss my train and end my travels in a station.
I cannot ride the whistle of wind out of the station.

He had a feeling for vast things that come and go.
He came from a small country with one train station.

Today, like yesterday, work will be taking a train.
The other constant change is passing Bliss Street station.

The 7 train rattles my window at all hours.
A window is not a station. A window is a station.

My poems, I realize, have a weakness for definitions.
Definitions are a quick stop at a small station.

I could compare my love to many awful things.
How else to wait out the long wait at the last station?

Wait, Jee, though the winds blow hard at this elevation,
wait till iron time pulls in and stops at your station.

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (jealousy)

jalousie / jealousy

The wine has turned to water, then to vinegar.
The guest will finish up the bridegroom’s vinegar.

Tell me you have not kissed another man since when.
May your mouth taste on every cock my vinegar.

A stone will eat better if seasoned in a sauce.
You let me dip my bread into your vinegar.

I want to savor every dish served in the feast.
Why soak all, like the vulgar, in the vinegar?

I will say it plainly. My heart is very sore.
My head is swimming. I will write in vinegar.

A common proof of love, they say, is jealousy.
The Chinese thinks that rice invented vinegar.

He complains he is thirsty. What do we have, boys?
Soak a sponge, Jee, and offer him some vinegar.

"I'm the closest thing to myself that I know."

TLS May 1 2009
from Paul Binding's review of Arnold Weinstein's Northern Arts: The breakthrough of Scandinavian literature and art, from Ibsen to Bergman:
When, in his sixties, Ibsen returned to Christiana (Oslo) after years of voluntary exile from Norway, he worked with a portrait of the Swede [August Strindberg] in his study, to remind himself of the threatening power of a writer twenty-one years his junior.
[In Fear and Trembling (1843)] Kierkegaard insists on the sheer terribilita of the Abraham and Isaac story, so central to the biblical idea of our relationship to God. We fail, he says, if we do not recognize the enormity of this episode, its repudiation of conventional bonds in its dramatization of what God expects of his human creations. . . . Looked at with his independent eyes, not only Abraham's behavior but that of God himself casts moral doubt on the whole concept of patriarchy, on which traditional society was founded. This doubt [Weinstein] sees as at the very…

Gustave Caillebotte at the Brooklyn Museum

On Target First Saturdays, admission to the Brooklyn Museum is free. JS suggested seeing the Caillebottee exhibition "Impressionist Paintings from Paris to the Sea." He was there with two friends, R and Y, when I finally arrived after an epic journey on the 2-turned-local train. 
Though "The Floor Scrapers" (1876) is a lesser painting compared to the one on the same theme in the Musee D'Orsay, it is still very pleasingly virtuosic and humanly sensitive. While the master works to finish a newly laid hardwood floor by shaving the buckling boards in place, his apprenticeship is, appropriately, sharpening his blade. Since the room is likely to be Caillebotte's studio, the painting becomes a depiction too of the relationship between tradition and the individual talent. 
The best group of paintings are scenes on water. "Oarsman in a Top Hat" (1877-78) directs the eye along a wonderful recession into the painting, while "Oarsmen Rowing on the Yerres&q…

Joshua Bell plays Saint-Saens

I don’t know why but I thought Joshua Bell was English, and so was surprised to discover last week, just before his concert on Friday, that he is in fact from Bloomington, Indiana. Owning such boyish good looks, he is astonishingly the ripe old age of 42. He has already had a long career, having debuted with Riccardo Muti and The Philadelphia Orchestra when he was only 14. 28 years in the business, and still looking as fresh as a daisy.

I was really looking forward to hear him, not just because I have heard of him, but also because he was playing a composer I like. I know Saint-Saëns by his symphonies, and to listen to a violin concerto would be a revelation. The concerto is wonderful, especially the second movement when the violin rises into stratospheric heights. Bell made the ethereal eerily lyrical. The gypsy-influenced music in the third movement was played with verve and sensitivity, I thought. And yet, and yet. I could not put my finger on it until TCH used the word “aloof.” The…

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (induction)

induction / induction

I take my theory of winter from the violin.
A lot of love is cold, so sings the violin.

You can as soon induce a law from idioms
as learn to bow by listening to a violin.

Last night the world fell back a step and bared its teeth.
A god was humoring a mortal violin.

If two French kisses do not constitute a proof,
then neither is a violin a violin.

Waking up from the sleep of composition, love
hears, from a distance, the smashing of the violins.

The lover writing to his love, it is not like
any composer writing for the violin.

So many things inspire Jee to sing but you
transform a human voice into a violin.

Poem: A Lover's Recourse (unknowable)

inconnaissable / unknowable

You look into a stone and see its early fire.
You look into a fire and all you see is fire.

The issue, that we saw each other only twice,
is I have no more hands to thrust into the fire.

Time is a river. That is if you are a fish.
If you are a sunflower, time is a fire.

We do not ever know what the gods want of us.
Perhaps that is why we compare them to a fire.

A charred library is sadder than a pile of ash.
A body catches but it does not cage a fire.

Saying it makes no difference to the universe.
but when did saying anything else stop a fire?

Sick of analogies, you want to know the thing.
What are you, Love, when you are not a fire?

Cast in Bronze and Brooklyn

Having an unexpected hour to spare, before the Chin Music reading, I walked over to the Met, and wandered into the exhibition "Cast in Bronze: French Sculpture from Renaissance to Revolution." My instinct is to prefer marble to bronze as sculptural material. Marble is as pure as bronze is fussy. Stone, to my mind, is more organic than tin. Marble is to sculptor as metal is to engineer. Bronze, an alloy of tin and copper, was expensive during the period under consideration, and so brass was a frequent substitute. Many of the works were made using the "lose-wax" method. Different patinations were used, but a rich dark patina came to be preferred later in the French tradition. 
I like very much a bronze statuette of Hermes by Barthelemy Prieur (Berzieux, ca. 1536-Paris, 1611). The head, body and arms are tilted in opposing yet harmonious directions, as the god plays his missing flute. The French excelled in dramatic set pieces and seemed particularly enthralled by rape…