Friday, July 31, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
If I Should Try to Replace the Late, Great Stella Graciella
…by getting two
cats, I would name them
Eros and Thanatos.
More than likely, though,
I will adopt just one,
because I want a pet that pines
all day long for me.
A singular human-feline
bond sanctions no pussy-
footing with a third.
If I bring
home one cat,
I might name it
or Sven, because
it would be indecorous,
in the evening, calling
out for Eros
or Thanatos, alone.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Monday, July 20, 2009
Sunday, July 19, 2009
In the interval between sex and poetry lies death.
The freshman intuits that. Which is why he begs
for the gloved fist to enter him again and again.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Poets, Friends of Poetry Thin Air,
Tune in to our Poetry Thin Air Cable Show early Wednesday 12:30am to 1:00am (eastern time) for great interviews with George Spencer and guest poets, plus sharp video work by Mitch Corber.
This July 22, we feature Miriam Stanley and Jee Leong Koh. The show will be aired on MNN/Manhattan Neighborhood Network's Channel 67. Note: if you live outside Manhattan, or do but can't get MNN Ch 67, get the live internet stream of the show by following the instructions below.
PC USERS (2 steps)......
1. Download Windows Media Player here http://www.windowsmedia.com/download
2. Click on your channel 67 stream, here http://www.mnn.org/sites/mnn.org/files/streams/ch67.asx
MAC USERS (4 steps)......
1. Download Windows Media Player here http://www.windowsmedia.com/download
2. Download Flip4Mac Player for QuickTime viewing http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/player/wmcomponents.mspx
3. Also download VLC media player from this page http://vlc-mediaplayer.en.softonic.com/
4. Now, Click on your channel 67 stream,here http://www.mnn.org/sites/mnn.org/files/streams/ch67.asx
Stay Tuned..... George Spencer
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
The ancients themselves give us a symbolic answer when they place the faces of Homer and Achilochus, as the forefathers and torchbearers of Greek poetry, side by side on gems, sculptures, etc., with the sure feeling that consideration should be given only to these two, equally completely original, from whom a stream of fire flows over the whole of later Greek history. Homer, the aged self-absorbed dreamer, the type of the Apollinian naive artist, now beholds with astonishment the passionate head of the warlike votary of the muses, Archilochus, who was hunted savagely through life. . . . Compared with Homer, Archilochus appalls us by his cries of hatred and scorn, by his drunken outbursts of desire. Therefore is not he, who has been called the first subjective artist, essentially the non-artist? But in this case, how explain the reverence which was shown to him--the poet--in very remarkable utterances by the Delphic oracle itself, the center of "objective" art?. . . In the first place as a Dionysian artist he has identified himself with the primal unity, its pain and contradiction. Assuming that music has been correctly termed a repetition and a recast of the world, we may say that he produces the copy of this primal unity as music. Now, however, under the Apollinian dream inspiration, this music reveals itself to him again as a symbolic dream image. The inchoate, intangible reflection of the primordial pain in music, with its redemption in mere appearance, now produces a second mirroring as a specific symbol of example. The artist has already surrendered his subjectivity in the Dionysian process. . . . The "I" of the lyrist therefore sounds from the depth of his being . . . . When Archilochus, the first Greek lyrist, proclaims to the daughter of Lycambes both his mad love and his contempt, it is not his passion alone that dances before us in orgiastic frenzy; but we see Dionysus and the Maenads . . .*In this sense the Dionysian man resembles Hamlet: both have once looked truly into the essence of things, they have gained knowledge ad nausea inhibits action; for their action could not change anything in the eternal nature of things; they feel it to be ridiculous or humiliating that they should be asked to set right a world that is out of joint. Knowledge kills action; action requires the veils of illusion: that is the doctrine of Hamlet, not that cheap wisdom of Jack the Dreamer who reflects too much and, as it were, from an excess of possibilities does not get around to action. Not reflection, no--true knowledge, an insight into the horrible truth, outweighs any motive for action, both in Hamlet and in the Dionysian man.*We talk so abstractly about poetry because all of us are usually bad poets. At bottom, the aesthetic phenomenon is simple: let anyone have the ability to behold continually a vivid play and to live constantly surrounded by hosts of spirits, and he will be a poet; let anyone feel the urge to transform himself and to speak out of other bodies and souls, and he will be a dramatist.*In the light of this insight we must understand Greek tragedy as the Dionysian chorus which ever anew discharges itself in an Apollinian world of images. Thus the choral parts with which tragedy is interlaced are, as it were, the womb that gave birth to the whole of the so-called dialogue, that is, the entire world of the stage, the real drama. In several successvie discharges this primal ground of tragedy radiates this vision of the drama which is by all means a dream apparition and to that extent epic in nature; but on the other hand, being the objectification of a Dionysian state, it represents not Apollinian redemption through mere appearances but, on the contrary, the shattering of the individual and his fusion with the primal being. Thus the drama is the Dionysian embodiment of Dionysian insights and effects and thereby separated, as by a tremendous chasm, from the epic.
Monday, July 13, 2009
The tight-knit relationship of body and soul was thought to continue even after death. The Church preached a connection between putrefaction and sin--whereas run-of-the-mill cadavers decayed, the bodies of the saints remained as incorrupt on Earth as their souls would be in Heaven. . . . Medieval nobles, Westerhof shows, extended this idea by seeking to conserve the form of their bodies, even in death. The crucial factor in this was the developing mindset of a new knightly caste which strongly valued and guarded its own physical prowess. So it was that the bodies which were preserved in life by ornate armour were, after death, preserved through embalming or (by the early thirteenth century) in stone effigy.
Readers of Paul Griffiths's invaluable book Modern Music learn on the first page that modernity begins with Debussy's L'Apres-midi. Those who go on to study the subject at university will be reliably informed otherwise . . . , but they will be misinformed. There are of course lots of different ways to understand what constitutes musical modernity. The Second Viennese School's atonal sublimation of the Austro-German symphonic technique of developing vairations is one conception of it. But it is one whose musicological sway and influence have done some damage. Composers have often looked at the problem in other ways. For example, the sense of significant inevitability we think of as musical "logic" can, in non-tonal music, have sources other than thematic development; it may reside in the exploration of the implications of (non-tonal) harmony and timbre. In this respect, Debussy's L'Apres-midi and the lugubrious passions unearthed in the passage of the its arabesque are as good a starting point for considerations of the modern as any other.
In or around 1425, Brunelleschi sat in the entrance to the Duomo in Florence and drew a picture of the eastern aspect of the Baptistery. This little panel is now lost, but its importance is inestimable, because it was the first time that the rules of linear perspective had been applied to painting. The principles had been known since Euclid, and there is abundant evidence of "empirical perspective" in earlier art (those diapered pavements and coffered ceilings sloping away to create an idea of depth): but these early works contained no true perspective, only an instinctive, unscientific impression of it.
It could quite reasonably be argued that Swinburne was not merely the prophet of twentieth-century sexual revolution but the person who first gave open voice in the English language to the joys of lesbianism. . . . It is hard to imagine that the work of the lesbian poet "Michael Field" (Katherine Bradley and Edith Cooper) would have been possible without Swinburne's role in shaping what his most dazzling modern interpreter, Yopie Prins, has called "Victorian Sappho".*. . . Yopie Prins wonders whether there is a suggestive connection between the beat of the birch and that of the verse. if Swinburne's two abiding memories of Eton were Greek prosody and the flogging block, is it surprising that he should have become both a masochist and a master-metrician?*"He does not, like another poet, have to think in his metre: his mastery compels the metre to think for him . . . . In each poem the rhythm and the arrangement of rhymes give the form a richness, a clear tangibility, which must be enjoyed for its own sake if a full half of the poem is not to be lost." Thus Edward Thomas on Poems and Ballads, in the astute critical book on Swinburne (Algernon Charles Swinburne: A critical study). . .*. . . on the centenary of his deth anyone with a taste for the high lyric tradition owes him at the very least the "Ave Atque Vale" in which he tendered to Baudelaire:For thee, O now, a silent soul, my brother,Take at my hands this garland, and farewell.This is the leaf, and chill the wintry smell,And chill the solemn earth, a fatal mother,With sadder than the Niobean womb,And in the hollow of her breasts a tomb.Content thee, howso'er, whose days are done;There lies not any troublous thing before,Nor sight nor sound to war against thee more,For whom all winds are quiet as the sun,All waters as the shore.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Thursday, July 09, 2009
Poets usually write about themselves, even when they are pretending not to. But few can have put themselves forward quite so much as Umberto Saba, the Triestine writer who has sometimes been rated one of Italy's best poets of the twentieth century and who, in his own opnion, was quite simply the greatest since Leopardi. What is strange is that the more you read Saba, the less the "autolatria" or self-worship, as Montale called it, seems off-putting. Rather than self-aggrandizement, it comes over more as an unstable, knowing series of self-projections, which the reader is implicitly asked to recognize and sympathize with and which, when everything goes well, give rise to poetry.*In 1921 Saba gathered together the considerable body of work he had already published as his Canzioniere, literally perhaps Songbook as Hochfield and Nathan have it, but suggesting in Italian an organized collected poems on the Petrarchan model with strong autobiographical overtones. The final version would not come out until 1948 . . . .
Calvino was a master of fantasia in the double sense of the Italian word: fantasy and imagination. All his life he was attracted by the genre of fantasy and displayed a creative imagination which raised him above his contemporaries.*The availability for the first time in English of all the tales that can be grouped under the cosmicomic heading can only enhance Calvino's standing. He returned to these idiosyncratic themes several times during his life, publishing new collections, rewriting or modifying previous versions, dropping some tales, adding others and reordering the works to give them greater coherence. While most of the tales were written and published in the period 1963-8, the last few appeared in 1984.
Ravaisson reconceives the nature of habit so that it does no jeopardize freedom, but rather represents a shift in the status of freedom, from that of idea to being. . . . Ravaisson redefines what is second nature to us in habit by arguing that habit is not a barrier of ignorance, but an embodied intelligence. Habit can be understanding by other means. To do so, he draws on the Aristotelian understanding of habit as a way of being, and suggests a third way between physical and mental conceptions of consciousness--a synthesis that may interest contemporary philosophers of mind: habit can be thought of as medicating between instinct and will.Ravaisson proceeds by a completely general analysis of movement, which locates him in the world of nineteenth-century science. This may seem anachronistic today. Nonetheless, it allows him to conceive of movement as a means of engaging increasingly more profoundly with the world as a hierarchy of being which rises from inanimate existence to living and then conscious beings. "[For], although movement, as it becomes a habit, leaves the sphere of will and reflection, it does not leave that of intelligence . . . [it becomes] the effect of an inclination that follows from the will . . . [and] every inclination towards a goal implies intelligence."
Kartika Review launched in September of 2007 as a national non-profit journal in support of the Asian American literary and arts community. We focus our efforts in two main directions: first, on challenging writers to bring forth innovative work that transforms preconceived limitations of "the multi-culti narrative" and second, on presenting creative writing that will cause readers to reconsider those preconceived limitations of "the multi-culti narrative."
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
Monday, July 06, 2009
Saturday, July 04, 2009
Yet Jericho has several features which make it historically unique and give it a symbolic status of its own. Unlike the forgotten villages elsewhere, it is monumental, older than the Bible, payer upon layer of history, a city. The ancient sweet-water city of Jericho was an oasis on the edge of the desert whose spring has been running from prehistoric times right into the modern city today. Here wheat and water came together and, in that sense, here man began civilization. Here, too, the bedouin came with their dark muffled faces out of the desert, looking jealously at the new way of life. That is why Joshua brought the tribes of Israel here on their way to the Promised Land--because wheat and water, they make civilization; they make the promise of a land flowing with milk and honey. Wheat and water turned that barren hillside into the oldest city of the world.*From an early time man made tools by working the stone. Sometimes the stone had a natural grain, sometimes the tool-maker created the lines of cleave by learning how to strike the stone. It may be that the idea comes, in the first place, from splitting woof, because wood is a material with a visible structure which opens easily along the grain, but which is hard to shear across the grain. And from that simple beginning man pries open the nature of things and uncovers the laws that the structure dictates and reveals.*The invention is a new form of the arch based not on the circle, but on the oval. This does not seem a great change, but yet its effect on the articulation of buildings is spectacular. Of course, a pointed arch is higher, and therefore opens more space and light. But, much more radically, the thrust of the Gothic arch makes it possible to hold the space in a new way, as at Rheims. The load is taken off the walls, which can therefore be pierced with glass, and the total effect is to hang the building like a cage from the arched roof. The inside of the building is open, because the skeleton is outside.*We have to understand that the world can only be grasped by action, not by contemplation. The hand is more important than the eye. . . . Henry Moore calls this sculpture The Knife Edge. The hand is the cutting edge of the mind. Civilization is not a collection of finished artefacts; it is the elaboration of processes. In the end, the march of man is the refinement of the hand in action.*So when the alchemists tried to transmute base metals into gold, the transformation that they sought in the fire was from the corruptible to the incorruptible; they were trying to extract the quality of permanence from the everyday. And this was the same as the search for eternal youth: every medicine to fight old age contained gold, metallic gold, as an essential ingredient, and the alchemists urged their patrons to drink from gold cups to prolong life.*Pythagoras was a philosopher, and something of a religious figure to his followers as well. The fact is there was in him something of that Asiatic influence which flows all through Greek culture and which we commonly overlook. We tend to think of Greece as part of the west; but Samos, the edge of classical Greece, stands one mile from the coast of Asia Minor. From there much of the thought that inspired Greece first flowed; and, unexpectedly, it flowed back to Asia in the centuries after, before ever it reached Western Europe.*The Alhmabra is the last and the most exquisite monument of Arab civilization in Europe. The last Moorish king reigned here until 1492 . . . . It is a honeycomb of courts and chambers, and the Sala de las Camas is the most secret place in the palace. Here the girls from the harem came after the bath and recline, naked. Blind musicians played in the gallery, the eunuchs padded about. And the Sultan watched from above, and sent an apple down to signal to the girl of his choice that she would spend the night with him.*A ship indeed is a kind of model of a star. How does a star ride through space, and how do we know what time it keeps? The ship is a starting point for thinking about relative time.*The experiment was done by a young man called H. J. Hay at Harwell. He imagined the earth squashed flat into a plate, so that the North Pole is at the centre and the equator runs round the rim. he put a radio-active clock on the rim and another at the centre of the plate and let it turn. The clocks measure time statistically by counting the number of radio-active atoms that decay. And sure enough, the clock at the rim of Hay's plate keeps time more slowly than the clock at the centre. That goes on in every spinning plate, on every turntable. At this moment, in every revolving gramophone disc, the centre is ageing faster than the rim with every tun.*When energy is degraded, said [Ludwig] Boltzmann, it is the atoms that assume a more disorderly state. And entropy is a measure of disorder: that is the profound conception that came from Boltzmann's new interpretation.*Heisenberg called this the Principle of Uncertainty. In one sense, it is a robust principle of the everyday. We know that we cannot ask the world to be exact. If an object (a familiar face, for example) had to be exactly the same before we recognise it, we would never recognise it from one day to the next. We recognise the object to be the same because it is much the same; it is never exactly like it was, it is tolerably like. In the act of recognition, a judgment is built in--an area of tolerance or uncertainty. So Heisenberg's principle says that no events, not even atomic events, can be described with certainty, that is, with zero tolerance. What makes the principle profound is that Heisenberg specifies the tolerance that can be reached. The measuring rod is Max Planck's quantum. In the world of the atom, the area of uncertainty is always mapped out by the quantum.*It is obvious that sex has a very special character for human beings. It has a special biological character. Let us take one simple, down-to-earth criterion for that: we are the only species in which the female has orgasms. That is remarkable, but it is so. It is a mark of the fact that in general there is much less difference between men and women . . . than there is in other species. . . . In the language of biology, sexual dimorphism is small in the human species.So much for biology. But there is a point on the borderline between biology and culture which really marks the symmetry in sexual behavior, I think, very strikingly. It is an obvious one. We are the only species that copulates face to face, and this is universal in all cultures.
Friday, July 03, 2009
A British connection: Chroma, Britain's leading gay lit/art journal, published a long, glowing review of Ganymede #4. It mentions generously all photographers and writers, and this is what it says about my poems:
It’s fitting that Jee Leong Koh’s poetry follows after Panichi’s photographs as Koh is in a dialogue with the visual arts as well. Simmering with violence and bodily harm, Koh’s poetry hints at a dangerous past that makes itself felt in the movements of everyday life. Some of this poetry also seeks to create a self portrait while referring to specific artists, filtering their style into the poet’s unique form of self expression. Within his poems the body is annihilated to declare an individual is not simply defined by his physical form alone. Koh skilfully uses his artistic ancestors as a touchstone to understand himself.
The poems the reviewer read are "Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion," "Supper at le Monde" and "Seven Studies for a Self-Portrait." I am not sure how he detected "the body is annihilated to declare an individual is not simply defined by his physical form alone," since such a declaration is not part of my intention. In fact, my poetry doesn't make any declarations. How can I when I am still busy investigating?
Based on interviews with the women victims of Congo's civil war, the play trains the spotlight on Mama Nadi (played by Portia) who runs a bar-and-brothel in a small mining town. The girls recruited to please the soldiers and miners are already victims of rape, and "ruin." The play does not make clear the difference between rape and ruin, but suggests that ruin involves some kind of genital mutilation beyond that of gang rape. Scarred and traumatized themselves, the girls invite the soldiers to "forget their regrets," as one song puts it (all lyrics also written by Nottage), in the bar. A shelter of sorts, the bar is soon invaded by the surrounding war.
What makes the bar so richly symbolic is that it is not only a shelter from violence, it is also a sanctuary from love, and its painful rejections. If violence cracks the bar open to the realities of war, it also opens the bar to the possibility of love. The plot turns on the actions of love, the first a devastation, the second a salvation.
I am not sure why but I remained very detached from the action on stage before intermission. Perhaps the material is so dark I found myself resisting any artistic treatment of it. Or else I was being self-protective. But I could not suspend my disbelief. The actors were stubbornly actors play-acting. In the second half, however, the play dissolved my doubts, and absorbed me. The point at which this began to happen was Sophie's monologue. I was unimpressed by Susan Heyward (an understudy) up to that point, but the relative artlessness of the monologue drew me in. She narrated very simply how a group of soldiers, after raping her, tied her in a forest clearing, "like a goat," to cook and wash and satisfy them sexually. After she escaped, her village rejected her for being "ruined," and her husband, ashamed of her, chased her out. She was probably telling the story of someone's actual experience.
The other two girls who work in the bar are Salima (Quincy Tyler Bernstine) and Josephine (Cherise Booth). Both actors were good, if a little one-dimensional. Portia, who played Mama Nadi, came to life for me in the second half of the play. The revelation was Russell G. Jones, who played Christian, the trader who wooed Mama Nadi. Nicknamed the Professor, he was, in a sense, the heart and mind of the play, but filled his role with such vulnerable swagger that he was entirely believable. The men who played rebel and government commanders were suitably frightening but adhered to that label.
It was a tight and interesting production, by Donald Fried. The set, designed by Derek McLane, surrounded the relative openness of the bar with the encroaching trees, and so nicely reinforced the significance of Mama Nadi's place.