Sunday, May 31, 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.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

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 pains to show how the personal affects the political, that the two cannot be disentangled. What finally convinces Elizabeth to sign off on the execution of Mary, according to the play, is Mary's insult against Elizabeth's bastardy. The personal makes for good drama, of course, even if it does not make for good history. 

The other powerful scene is a much more quietly affecting one. Before she is led off to her execution, Mary is shrived by an old attendant who smuggled in the sacraments in order to give the queen the Catholic last rites. In her confession, she admits to allowing the murder of her husband by not preventing the plot against his life. But she adamantly insists that she is innocent of conspiracy against Elizabeth's throne, the charge for which she would be beheaded. Since Schiller did not have supporting historical evidence (such as John Guy's excellent biography of Mary Queen of Scots), his decision to make Mary wholly innocent is significant. 

Janet McTeer was a convincing Scottish queen, headstrong, clever, desperate. Harriet Walter was darker in her portrayal of Elizabeth, as befitted a queen torn up by a thousand insecurities. The rest of the cast was also revelatory. Michael Countryman played the upright Sir Amias Paulet, Mary's jailer, without a hint of priggishness. Nicholas Woodeson was a malevolent dwarf, Lord Burleigh. Brian Murray was a worldly and weary Earl of Shrewsbury. John Benjamin Hickey, as the Earl of Leicester, Elizabeth's favorite, was pathetic in his ambition. 

When death comes to Mary, it comes as a form of release. Freedom is a much repeated word in the closing scenes. The sparse set was backed by a stone wall that stretched across the whole stage and disappeared into the black heights. Mary's goal, it imprisons Elizabeth finally, when her advisers retreat into the wings, and leave their sovereign alone in the diminishing light. 

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 of Catherine Belsey's Shakespeare in Theory and Practice:

The dust jacket of Shakespeare in Theory and Practice glows with a reproduction of "Queen Mab's Cave" by J. M. W. Turner. the image is both refulgent and hard to make out: it conveys something of Catherine Belsey's preoccupation with that which lies outside understanding--that obscure object of desire, the pursuit of which is a feature of being human. Turner's golden, delirious picture is both compelling and swooningly vague, signifying a desire we can barely articulate. 

*

Ultimately, underying [Belsey's] approach to the literary is a conception of the human. People and poems are "potentially inconsistent", not monological. Our nature is best captured in the rhetorical figure known as "synoeciosis, the trope of deconstruction"--which George Puttenham terms "the Cross-couple" and which "brings contraries together to form oxymoronic . . . truths" (for example, the notion that "excess of pleasure brings grief"). Understanding plays or persons means attending to the internal oppositions structuring them--and refusing to unify them under any "single thematic imperative". The politics of this interpretative mode are not obvious. Does it perhaps resemble the position of a liberal-conservative thinker such as Michael Oakeshott, in which irony, plurality and the empirical are valued over rationalist simplifications? One response to desire's eternal unruliness might be dandified disdain for any project naively seeking rationally to reorder the world. If desire is always already tragic, hopes for end-of-history plenitude or social amelioration are doomed. "All things that are / Are with more spirit chased than enjoy'd", as Shakespeare's Gratiano observes. The social revolution becomes, in the Lacanian terms Belsey adopts, the mere "stand-in" for that desired thing that can never be had. Like Apollo seizing Daphne, the moment we possess what we (think we) want we stumble on another yawning lack.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

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-of-consciousness; in describing an essentially sane and happy family, instead of madness, sickness and promiscuity; in deploying the language of science, instead of myth and magic, McEwan sets his brand of fictional realism against modernist fiction and its postmodernist progeny. And I sense, as I did when I read Atonement, that, despite side-swipes against Gunter Grass and Salman Rushdie, his chief antagonist is Woolf, the novelist of the same city McEwan would like to conquer. 

The invocation of English enlightenment figures such as Hooker and Boyle on the one hand, and of archetypically English poets such as Matthew Arnold and Philip Larkin on the other gives a narrow nationalist edge to the argument. Terrorism is always Other, whether it be Saddam Hussein who needs to be taken out (Perowne is pro-war), the Russian pilots who are suspected of setting their plane on fire, or Baxter, the gangster who forces his way into the end of the day. Perowne, however, represents the English virtues of discipline, reason, clarity, professionalism and family loyalty; it's no accident, surely, that his first name is Henry. These English virtues are associated in the novel with fictional realism. 

It would be wrong to equate Perowne with his creator. It would also be wrong to overlook Perowne's capacity for self-criticism and reflection. But the identification of neurosurgeon and novelist, especially in the passages describing the former's surgical work, is peculiarly strong. And though Perowne wonders about his philistinism regarding poetry, his marital contentment (Does he lack virility?), and his pro-war stance, the mild questioning does not lead to any change in him. How can it? How can a disposition, cultivated over a lifetime, and inherited from the past the way one inherits a house or one's genes, change in a day?

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 with bodies, particularly male bodies. Hugh Jackman, who played Logan, was ripped. The camera could not get enough of his naked body. But it was the body as a powerful weapon rather than an erotic instrument. No sex scene with his girlfriend. Instead, we are shown the scratch marks on Kayla Silverfox (played by Lynn Collins) inflicted by Logan in his sleep. The focal scene with Jackman's body was of course the mutant Weapon X program, in which the completely naked Jackman was immersed in a tank and injected with adamantine. Human flesh bonded with ultimate metal. 

Tellingly, Victor Creed (played by Liev Schreiber) was never shown naked. It was essential to the movie's moral economy that the bad guys did not show flesh. William Stryker the arch-villain (played by Danny Huston) was always covered in uniform. Wade Wilson (played by a buffed-up Ryan Reynolds), who became Weapon XI, displayed flesh the color and texture of gelatine, and so was not really flesh. The movie's fantasy, embodied by Logan, was to be both man and superman, at once tender and powerful, wounded and indestructible. 

Saturday, May 23, 2009

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 is inherent in the plot, but perhaps a more charismatic actor could have compelled our assent. Laura Osnes, as Nellie, was all ditzy Little Rock, and her lack of substance made the romance even flimsier. Andrew Samonsky was a tall, lean, golden Lt. Joseph Cable who fell in love with a Tonkinese girl, Liat. His vulnerability was made palpable by a sweet voice teetering on manhood, but since his commitment to his military mission was not believable, he became a sacrifice less to military idealism than to the allure of the exotic. 

The two comic characters were entertaining. Danny Burstein was an energetic Luther Billis, the eternal entrepreneur you find in every military camp. Loretta Ables Sayre played Bloody Mary, the mother of Liat, with a dark obsessiveness. I enjoyed the production very much (the atmospheric set should get a mention here), but did not think it was as great as reviews had made it out to be. I was far more captivated by the musical spectacle when I first watched Les Miserables, and even Wicked

Despite its criticism of racial prejudice, the musical is orientalist in that it exoticizes the Other. Bloody Mary is a primitive type. Liat, the beautiful daughter, does not speak at all. While the Westerners Emile and Nellie find happiness (after Nellie gets rid of her prejudice and looks after Emile's Tonkinese children), Joseph rejects Liat finally in favor of family, country and mission, and dies. Joseph's love for Liat fleshes out Emile's earlier love for his Tonkinese wife, but the younger couple's separation determines a downward trajectory, despite the miraculous resurrection of Emile to assure a happy ending. 

And yet I did not find the musical's orientalism upsetting. Partly because the musical is so obviously a product of its time, and for a product of its time, its anti-racist message is a little ahead of its time. Partly because a musical is a musical, and it's easy to take too seriously a genre that does not take itself too seriously. Partly because, I suspect, I am not Tonkinese. The South Pacific appears rather exotic to this Singaporean, an islander of a very different stripe. 

Thursday, May 21, 2009

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. 


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

"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-gift" of the Cyclops. No other detail reveals so clearly the grimness of the monster--not his supper made from two of the comrades of Odysseus, nor his crag-door, nor his club--as this show of urbanity.

Book 10: Erastothenes said jokingly, in reference to the mythical and incredible nature of Odysseus' wandering, that the locations of his travels would be established by anyone who found the cobbler who sawed the bag the winds were kept in.

Book 11: And how did trees stand in water? We say by imagination, for the punishment of Tantalus.

Book 13: And the olive tree is not "at the head of the harbor"--by any chance but it sustains itself the middle of the cave, planted . . . as a symbol of the thought of god. For it is the plant of Athene, and Athene is thought.

The other handouts are poems that rework or respond to Homer's epic, such as Tennyson's "Ulysses," Cavafy's "Ithaca," Edna St. Vincent Millay's "An Ancient Gesture," Frost's "The Subverted Flower," and Margaret Atwood's "Siren Song." Each age remakes Homer in its own image. The men take the man's part, the women the woman's. 

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 necessary first step towards handling that power. 

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 replied:

"I believe that you are quite mistaken about this piece. But . . . I may as well say what I should not otherwise have said, that I always knew in my heart Walt Whitman's mind to be more like my own than any other man's living. As he is a very great scoundrel this is not a pleasant confession."

Self-identification and self-condemnation. But not self-tormenting. Hell, as preached by his order, was not in the mind.

*

from David Denby's review of "X-men Origins: Wolverine," "Fighting" and "Tyson":

Violence (not sex) is the bedrock of international mass culture--violent aggression as joyfully dispensed by the male body, whether sheathed (Spide-Man), tuxedoed (Bond), cool in black (Bourne), shirtless, (Sylvester Stallone), hairless (Vin Diesel), or naked (Arnold Schwarzenegger and now Hugh Jackman). Tow new summer-season fictions and a brilliant new documentary fuel our endless desire to see prowess so devastating that it transforms mere force into iconography and fighting into epic struggle.

"transforms mere force into iconography" is well put. But let's not forget movies like "300" and its Classical inspiration. The Iliad made art out of violence too. 

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.“

Monday, May 18, 2009

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 an armless Christ on the cross, is sometimes sensuous and sensitive, but the devotional objects demand a narrowing of the eyes, and not an expansion of vision. The stuff I like best, like the Standing Virgin and Child (ca. 1470, attributed to Nikolaus Gerhaert von Leiden) are usually late in the period, closer to the Renaissance than the Middle Ages. 

Sunday, May 17, 2009

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 "The Emotional Construction of Morals":

[Prinz's new book] argues for two related theses. The first is that our moral judgements are constituted by dispositions to experience emotions towards certain actions. To judge that cannibalism is wrong, for example, is to be disposed to feel a negative emotion--disgust, disapproval--towards the act of eating people. Prinz dubs his theory "constructive sentimentalism" because on his account, once we have constructed moral properties via our emotional dispositions, they become real, and we can perceive them. This allows Prinz first to resist moral nihilism . . . and second, to explain why morality seems like something that is "out there" in the world and not merely a projection of our feelings.

*

Prinz's second thesis is that we should embrace moral relativism, which he regards as a consequence of his constructive sentimentalism. Since moral judgements reflect emotional dispositions on the part of different people who have them, the same judgement may be true for one person and false for another. . . . Prinz correctly notes that being a relativist need not undermine moral motivation. Our values may not be objectively correct, but they are still our values--and the sentiments that constitute them provide us with plenty of motivation to act accordingly. Furthemore, while moral relativism does not entail a universal value of tolerance (if it did, it would be internally consistent), Prinz argues that it "make[s] intolerance difficult to maintain psychologically". The idea is that once you shed the notion that, say, "homosexuality is wrong" is a universal truth, you'll have a harder time wanting to stop same-sex couples from having equal rights. On the other hand, Prinz notes that our values may still motivate us to intervene in cases where one party is harming another against their will. 

I have always thought of the Jewish holocaust as one of the strongest arguments for an "objective" theory of morality, i.e. there must be some universally valid standards of right and wrong, so that genocide is rightly and fully condemned for what it is. Reading Sommers' review of Prinz makes me think there is a plausible alternative to "objective" morals. 

The evil of the genocide does lie, as Stephen Mulhall points out, in the fact the Nazis recognized the Jews as human and then went on to treat them as subhuman. The problem, I think, is not one of ontology but one of sentiment. Nurtured by centuries of anti-semitism and inflamed by Nazi propaganda, the emotional disposition to feel that Jews were subhuman were projected into "objective" values that validated genocidal actions. A people trained to view morals as relative--because everyone has a different emotional disposition and feels things different--might have inoculated themselves better than absolutist moralists against genocide. 

Again and again, homophobia insists, "Homosexuality is just not natural," and no amount of rational argument can persuade it otherwise. Perhaps we should help homophobia see that it is a valid feeling (not an objective value), and other people, gay and straight, have equally valid, though opposite, feelings about homosexuality too. That may be a starting point for tolerance.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

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 of the wings between the chords. Unheard music is sweeter.

Though interesting in some ways, the one-hour presentation, spliced with orchestral illustration, was too meandering and long. The tone was also gratingly effusive. The accompanying slides showed not only Sibelius' home and manuscripts, but also far too many pictures of swans. One film clip showed two swans coming together to form, with their necks, the visual cliche of a heart. The assumption seemed to be that the audience needed distraction from boredom.

The playing, led by David Zinman, who replaced Esa-Pekka Salonen, sounded to my untrained ears under-rehearsed. It was not as sharp as I had heard the Philharmonic on past occasions. The music lacked the inevitability that Sibelius sought. TCH thought that some passages were just not very interesting, and he cited the long bassoon solo as an example. I found it hard to listen to the performance without hearing the recording I own. I kept hearing an aural memory instead of the audible present.

Friday, May 15, 2009

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.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

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.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

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.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

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.

Monday, May 11, 2009

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.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

"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 iron grip of our familial past. 

James Caan played the impetuous first son, Sonny, while Robert Duvall played Tom Hagen, an adopted son and the consigliere to the family. Diane Keaton, as Kay Adams, was Michael's girlfriend and, later, wife. 

*

Read Racine's Phaedra this windy afternoon on Christopher Street pier. It is also about an iron grip, this time exerted by the hand of fate. For no reason given by the play, Venus tortures Phaedra, wife to Theseus King of Athens, with a passion for her stepson Hippolytus. She struggles valiantly against the passion, and only confesses her love to him when she received news of Theseus' death. She is rebuffed by the prince, and then learns that the king is not dead but is returning home. Wild with guilt and fear, she allows her nurse Oenone to lie to Theseus that Hippolytus hit on her, and inner torture becomes also external tragedy. 

The construction of the play is brilliant, as the coils of the plot strangle any hope of escape. A series of confessions in the first movement, the action reverses itself when characters try to take back what has been said. Phaedra, a descendant of the sun-god, has nowhere on earth to hide from the eyes of judgment. Even in Hades, she will have to face her father, Minos, who judges the dead. 

The poetry, as conveyed through John Cairncross' translation, is dramatic and moving. The figure of the monster, first seen as proof of Theseus' heroism, recurs throughout the play wearing different faces, and speaking with intensifying alarm, until it appears finally as the devastating gift of Neptune. The horses that ate out of Hippolytus' hand kill him in the end. 

The French hexameter is rendered in iambic pentameter, giving such beautiful lines to Phaedra:

Since Venus wills it, of this unblest line
I perish, I, the last and the wretchedest.

and, after a long recitation of all the ways she tried to dismiss Hippolytus from her mind,

Venus in all her might is on her prey.
I have a fitting horror for my crime;
I hate this passion and I loathe my life
.
She has not done anything yet, but already feels criminal. Love is turned into hate, and life into death.

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.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

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.

Friday, May 08, 2009

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 Estragon and Vladimir, both friends, tried to play being Pozzo and Lucky. Even slavery, it seems, is so much role-playing to pass meaningless time. 

The overall effect of the production was sweet and sad, but not savage nor menacing. The sweetness and the sadness surprised me for I had expected to be rocked to the core by the play's existential claims. I found Pinter's The Homecoming much more troubling and questioning in this respect. Finding the absurd in the normal affected me more powerfully than making normal the absurd. 

This Roundabout Theater Company production was seen in Studio 54, with TCH. Anthony Page directed. 

***

from John Lahr's TNY review:

"Nothing to be done": the first words of "Waiting for Godot" announce both the characters' existential impasse and the author's aesthetic attack--no context, no exposition, no admonitions, no answers, no common ground. "Two things are stated: absence and attendance," Pinter said. There is nothing to be done; one can only be.

*

Whereas the old clowns were not educated men--they felt much more than they understood--Lane and Irwin are emblematic of the current, more knowing, more self-conscious breed. (Irwin even has a degree in clowing: Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College, Class of '74.) They are lucid, they get all their laughs, but the price of their cultivation is an unfortunate absence of urgency. They seem to understand more than they feel; they can't quite reach the mad, inspired levitation of the authentic clown's poetic suffering.

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.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

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.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

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 lesbian who wrote about a character's obsession with neatness and order. The character was also obsessed by the first line of Rilke's Duino Elegies. The prose was unashamedly poetic. 

I thought the women writers stronger on the whole than the men. The women tackled a broader range of subjects, and risked a variety of tones and methods. The men wrote about love or sex in distinctly familiar settings: gay quarterback breaking the heart of his best girlfriend; gay boy who gets soaped by his brother's best friend after athletic training; interracial sex in which the game is to guess which speaker is black, and which is white. The writing was smart and knowing, but that may be part of the problem: the men sounded the same.

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.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

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.

Monday, May 04, 2009

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.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

"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 core of Scandinavian modernism, which has defiance and overthrow of accepted authority--and consequent freedom to receive the numinous--informing its most representative works. 

*

"Munch," [Weinstein] says, knew that "our love-life is time-drenched"; he is "Strindbergian in his volatility and exposure"; "erasing," in such iconic works as "The Scream", "all boundaries between 'inside' and 'outside'; he thus gives us "multiple citizenships, . . . in and of the world."

*

Of Strindberg's paintings, Weinstein wrote: [they] are a supreme illustration of what it can mean to live in a place that is not our own. . . . The alterity of both world and self is, amazingly, a generative formula for poetry and art. . . . Darkness seeds light. Freedom does not disappear: it is refigured.

***

from David Horspool's review of Barney Hoskyns' Lowside of the Road: A Life of Tom Waits:

[Waits:] "I'm the closest thing to myself that I know".

***

from David H. Walker's review of Francois Augieras's A Journey to Mount Athos:

In fact, the book as a whole reflects Augieras's lifelong pursuit of a father, a master, an initiator and young partners he can in turn initiate. 

*

In the course of the journey, time is disrupted by sudden undercurrents from the narrator's various pasts, and he feels his identity shift according to the diverse forms of clothing he finds himself wearing in the present--from the uniform of a young Nazi airman posted on the island twenty years before (the uniform had been left with a young monk by a "corporal in the Hermann Goering Airborne Division stationed at Heraklion"), to the borrowed habit of a young monk: "I loved the game, in it I saw the secret of life; to mislead, to change clothes, to be someone else for a while in order to live forever!". 

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"(1877)  almost thrusts the front oarsman out of the picture frame into the viewer's arms. Both paintings exhibit not only Caillebotte's interest in unusual points of view and dramatic croppings, but also his fascination with doubles. In the first painting, another boat glides in the background, rowed by two men whose greater experience than the top-hatted city gent is belied by their practical straw hats and thin white shirts. In the latter drawing, the front oarsman finds a visual back-up in the rower behind him. 

The same device, that of doubles, is used in my favorite painting of the exhibition. In "Bather Preparing to Dive, Banks of the Yerres" (1877) the titled Bather is about to leap out of the picture, on the left side of the frame. Another bather, not mentioned in the title, is climbing out of the water onto the bank on the right side of the painting. Though both bathers may be thought to form a kind of cycle--entering and exiting the river--the fact they they face away from each other gives the cycle an interesting tension. What the cycle encircles is the water of the Yerres, a shimmery greeny-blue under tree shade. 

Another painting that I like very much is "Roses in the Garden at Petit Gennevilliers" (1886). Caillebotte was also an enthusiastic gardener on top of being an acclaimed sailor. Unusual for him, the painting makes use of a curved path, instead of strict rectilinear forms, to create the illusion of depth. The curve is almost a ribbon round the rosebushes presented like a giant bouquet to the woman in the painting, his companion Charlotte Berthier. 

Add: JS pointed me to this video on Caillebotte, a PBS Sunday Arts program, in which the exhibition curator talks about her artist. You can see the paintings there that I describe in this post. 

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 word seemed wrong at first, since Bell was obviously passionate about the music he was playing. TCH thought there did not seem to be much warmth between soloist and orchestra. Precision, yes, under Alan Gilbert’s baton, but not warmth. I thought perhaps he was somewhat aloof from the audience. He was so caught up in the music that he had forgotten us. And I experienced that forgetfulness as Olympian. A critic, raving about another performance, said that Bell played like a god. He was, that night, Apollonian.

Dvorak’s The Golden Spinning Wheel (1896) opened the program. The composer wrote a series of symphonic poems based on Karel Jaromir Erben’s A Garland of National Myths, a collection of folk stories set as poetical ballads and fairy tales in verse. The story of the Spinning Wheel goes like this (I summarize the summary by Otakar Sourek, the father of Dvorak studies, and translated by Roberta Finlayson Samsour):

King falls in love with and wants to marry the step-daughter of old hag. Old hag kills her, takes her eyes, feet and hands, and passes her own daughter off as the dead woman at the king’s castle. Mysterious old man gets the step-daughter’s feet, hands and eyes back by exchanging for them, respectively, a golden spinning wheel, a golden distaff, and a golden spindle. The hag’s daughter plies the wheel, and it sings out the crime. The king finds his beloved alive, having been resurrected by the mysterious old man, takes her as his true wife, and throws the murderesses to the wolves.

Martinu’s Symphony No. 4 closed the program. I was too sleepy to pay attention to it. It sounded all shimmer and no structure.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

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.

Friday, May 01, 2009

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 scenes. (Many examples of Pluto kidnapping Proserpine.) The set pieces looked simultaneously over-wrought and cool. There were funereal statuary, many busts of kings and nobles, more gods and goddesses, and a few examples of contemporary people, such as a woman milking a cow, which I rather like. The other work that drew me in stood near the end of the exhibition. It was a figure of "Winter," and I cannot remember the name of the sculptor. Winter covers her head and shoulders with a shawl, leaving her buttocks exposed. The simplicity of line is terrifically sensual. The sculptor withdrew his work from an exhibition when the organizers wanted to confine the blatant sexuality to a corner. 

I had a little more time, and wandered over to the European paintings. Matisse's "The Three O'Clock Sitting" was recently acquired by the Met. The artist painted his model-turned-student who is herself painting a female model. A small sculpture of a woman reclines at the top of the armoire. Between the student-painter and the woman model opens the Matisse window to the sea and sailboat. The top of a palm tree (a paintbrush?) could just be seen at the bottom of the window. Wallpaper with a North African design, and a carpet tilting perilously towards the viewer complete the room of the painting. 

I also saw Monet's sunflowers, which Gauguin compared unfavorably to van Gogh's. The latter disagreed with him. I like Monet's chrysanthemums even more than I like his sunflowers. The look of the flowers and the look of the style are so close that they reach the pitch of perfection. I must go again to see it.

The Chin Music reading, in Brooklyn's Pacific Standard Bar, was disappointing to me. I did not feel the kind of warmth I usually get from readings at my usual venues. Is it because they don't like the poems? not enthusiastic about gay sex? cold fish? I did not sell a single copy of Payday Loans, nor get any advance order for Equal to the Earth. The one bright spot of the evening was talking to Martin Rock, one of the readers, who was friendly, smart and cute.