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Showing posts from April, 2012

Viviane Hagner plays Vieuxtemps

We heard our last Orpheus Chamber Orchestra concert last night, at Carnegie. The program had a hodge-podge feel to it: Franz Shreker's Scherzo for Strings, Beethoven's Romance No. 2 in F major for Violin and Orchestra, Henry Vieuxtemps's Violin Concerto No. 5 in A minor and Mozart's Symphony No. 40 in G minor. The new commission, Alex Mincek's Pendulum IX: "Machina/Humana," written in a modernist idiom and in homage to Monteverdi's L'Orfeo, amplified the discord.

The highlight of the concert, the Munich-born Viviane Hagner playing Vieuxtemps, was a superb memory to set alongside that of Gil Shaham playing with the orchestra at our first concert. Hagner was not a flashy player; she was, instead, deeply absorbing and utterly compelling. So was the orchestra accompanying her with passionate attention. The performance was in sharp contrast with the blandly professional rendition of Beethoven's Romance No. 2. Neither soloist nor orchestra seemed to…

An Endlessly Variable Style

TLS March 23 2012

from Randall Anderson's review of Franco Mormando's Bernini: His life and his Rome:

The explosive exuberance of the Baroque signalled the evolution of Renaissance and Mannerist styles, and through Bernini achieved its greatest heights. For Benedetto Croce, Baroque decadence produced an art of bad taste (cattivo gusto artistico), but for Luigi Barzini, Jr it embodied something more liberating: "Baroque is when you can draw a straight line, but you prefer to draw a curve". The "plastic abundance", corporeality and expansive force identified by Wylie Sypher as hallmarks of Baroque style appear in surplus with Bernini, from his ecstatic St. Teresa, afloat on her own garments as much as buoyed by the Holy Spirit, to the yards of fabric, inflated by invisible winds, billowing around his busts of Francesco d'Este and Louis XIV.
***

From Commentary "Meaning in the margins: Victoria Lady Welby and significs" by John E. Joseph:

In the …

Singing Stein

Just enjoyed an evening of odd, wonderful Gertrude Stein. Singing Stein is Encompass New Opera Theatre's contribution to Gertrude's Paris Festival at Symphony Space. The program note, written by Encompass Artistic Director Nancy Rhodes, describes the background and the works:

Tonight you will see Virgil Thomson's Capital Capitals, the first musical stage piece he set to Stein's words in 1927. Thomson turned the text that Stein wrote in 1923 using demographic field reports and statistics into a competitive musical conversation, a joust for four gentlemen.... During World War I, Gertrude drove an ambulance in the South of France, and became intrigued with the sunny cities of Aix-en-Provence, Arles, Avignon and Les Baux. In Capital Capitals, she fashioned a garrulous discussion among four men who represent those cities. Capturing her wit, Thomson employs a panoply of rhythmic variety, using some of his Missouri plainchant, C majorish ditties, and undulant Spanish rhythms,…

Poem: "The Dream Child"

Complete first draft. Decided yesterday to take away the section headings.


The Dream Child
—so what will Baby/be tomorrow?—
            Antonia Pozzi, “The Dreamed Life”

Who speaks to me speaks to a stir— in air, a ripple of veil—perhaps— speaking caused the ripple, hard to tell.
But body is sensed— joy—as possibility, everything small but perfect, toes, lips capable of taking ravishment—giving.
They walk the woods as others make love, the man who will be sent away to Rome,
the girl who will lean back on grass— trembling until the slight wind drops.
These children take up so much space. They tug, they push. They stride ahead, expecting the world to give way. Even when they tumble, they cover ground.
I watch behind the elm and step out— a shadow.
Only when I open my throat— to call, to hiss— do I occupy a place, as when the sound of the sea takes up the room of a shell, or when sky is skylark.
In their rage, the dead break things—soup bowls, flour mills. I can see them, fo…

Poem: "The Dream Child"

The Dream Child 


—so what will Baby/be tomorrow?—

     Antonia Pozzi, “The Dreamed Life”


The Dream Child

Who speaks to me speaks
to a stir—
in air, a ripple
of veil—perhaps—
speaking
caused the ripple,
hard to tell.

But body is sensed—
joy—as possibility,
everything small
but perfect,
toes,
lips capable
of taking ravishment—giving.

They walk
the woods as others
make love,
the man who
will be sent away
to Rome,

the girl who will lean
back on grass—
trembling
until the slight wind
drops.


The Skylark

These children
take up so much space.
They tug, they push.
They stride ahead, expecting the world
to give way.
Even when they tumble,
they cover
ground.

I watch behind the elm
and step out—
a shadow.

Only when I open
my throat—
to call, to hiss—
do I
occupy
a place,
as when the sound
of the sea takes up the room
of a shell,
or when sky is skylark.


Sip

In their rage,
the dead break
things—soup bowls,
flour mills.
I can see
them, foreheads
burning but not
burning up.
They can’t see
the unborn.

Th…

Poem: "The Dream Child"

The Dream Child 


—so what will Baby/be tomorrow?—

     Antonia Pozzi, “The Dreamed Life”


Who speaks to me speaks
to a stir—
in air, a ripple
of veil—perhaps—
speaking
caused the ripple,
hard to tell.

But body is sensed—
joy—as possibility,
everything small
but perfect,
toes,
lips capable
of taking
ravishment—giving.

They walk
the woods as others
make love,
the man who
will be sent away
to Rome,

the girl who will lean
back on grass—
trembling
until the slight wind
drops.

Poem: "Inferior Education"

Inferior Education 


Today, for the first time,
you struck your mother on the cheek.

     Yosano Akiko, “Auguste’s Single Strike”


Three things I was not taught as a child
but wish:

to strike my mother on the cheek
to contradict my teacher in public
to throw rocks at cops.

Now I am an indifferent citizen, keep-at-home critic,
afraid to go up against someone smarter.
I shout at my mother when she doesn’t come to the point,
striking her with words.

Poem: "Singapore Catechism"

Singapore Catechism


Laterite roots

     Liew Geok Leong, “Exiles Return”


You go where? 
I’m going from the literal to the lateral, from roots to routes.

You go where? 
I’m going from the lateral to the littoral, from routes to riots.

You go where? 
I’m going from the littoral to the literate, from riots to rights.

You go where? 
I’m going from the literate to the litany, from rights to rites.

You go where? 
I’m going from the litany to the laterite, from rites to rust.

Poem: "Batik Paperweight from Haig Girls School"

Batik Paperweight from Haig Girls School 

by the Aztec hand,/ the Quetzal hand

     Gabriela Mistral, “The Little Box from Olinalá”


Cased in plastic,
three miniature
reproductions

of batik the girls
are painting
in your school.

With the same
gift you greet
American art

educators
on your study
tour.

What do you
hope
to learn here

that you could
not learn
better

at
Pekalongan,
in central Java,

living
with the women
applying

molten wax
with
their tjantings

to the cloth,
outlining
Chinese phoenixes

or Dutch bouquets,
the motifs
of trade and control,

before dipping
eyes into
brilliant local dyes,

as their mothers
had done
before

and their
mothers before
them?

I will keep
this
paperweight

and weigh
my poems
down with it.

Poem: "Blake's Influence"

Blake’s Influence 

the cities where he didn’t make love,
the kind of woman he despised,
the way he was influenced by Blake.

     Belkis Cuza Malé, “Poet’s Biography”


He didn’t make love in the city where he studied Blake.
He didn’t study Blake but saying that he did in the city
where he didn’t make love impresses his biographers.
He didn’t despise any women either—he was too mild
for vitriol—but said he did, tutors with pinched faces,
ministers’ wives in sundresses, girls strapped to babies.
He despised all women who made their lives negligible.
His biographers look up admiringly. One is skeptical,
so he repeats he didn’t make love in the city, for that
is true, and the skeptic sees the parallel to Jerusalem.

Poem: "My Situation"

My Situation

I’m situated somewhere/in the erotic left.

     Ana María Rodas, “Poems from the Erotic Left”


My politics is independent when it is not Erratic
     but I’m situated somewhere in the erotic left.

I write in free and formal verse, my poetics is eclectic,
     but I’m situated somewhere in the erotic left.

I question my dialectics (guess I can be called Socratic), 
     but I’m situated somewhere in the erotic left.

My orientation is pragmatic in linguistics and economics,
     but I’m situated somewhere in the erotic left. 

In ethics my talk is idealistic, my walk opportunistic,
     but I’m situated somewhere in the erotic left.

In matters apocalyptic, I prefer to be historic,
     but I’m situated somewhere in the erotic left.

In matters domestic, I prefer to be individualistic,
     but I’m situated somewhere in the erotic left.

I must confess my psychodynamics is somewhat bureaucratic,
     but I’m situated somewhere in the erotic left.

Talk to me about your classics…

Poem: "Flute Music"

Flute Music 

How will I open the window, unless I’m crazy?
How will I close it, unless I’m holy?

     Adélia Prado, “Serenade”


His flute bends the garden around the moon,
enclosing the light of the new moon in roses.
The roses dissolve and when they condense
on their stalks they are redder than before.
This goes on for a long time. His flute bends time
and the moon obeys, falling and rising like water
along the curve of its light, grazing the wide lip
of the parapet, the intricate balcony, the eaves,
and at the top of the note joining moon and music
falls on the roses condensing into red.

She listens at her window, unable to go or stay.

Behind a rosebush I crouch, waxing and waning.


*

Besides Prado's poem, Debussy's Syrinx and Prélude á l’après-midi d’un faune were also in my head when I was writing this poem. As was Paul Morrison's Little Ashes, the 2008 film about the thwarted love between Federico García Lorca (Javier Beltrán) and Salvador Dali (Robert Pattinson). The f…

Three Chamber Concerts

Last Wed, GH and I heard in Avery Fisher Joshua Bell conduct the Academy of St. Martin in the Field as its new music director. The program was all Beethoven, beginning with the Coriolan overture, continuing with a thrilling performance of the violin concerto, and ending with the Fourth Symphony. The chamber orchestra played with clear precision and exciting dynamics under the baton of a violin. In the non-concerto works, Bell conducted from the seat of the first violinist.

Then, with LW and AG, at Zankel Hall on Saturday, I heard Takács Quartet play Janacek's String Quartet No. 2 "Intimate Letters" (1928), Britten's String Quartet No. 3 Op, 94 (1975), and Ravel's String Quartet in F Major (1902-03). The quartet, originally made up of four Hungarian music students, and named after one of them, now resides at the University of Colorado. Two of its original members remain--Karoly Schranz (second violin) and Andras Fejer (cello)--but the newer members have been with …

Poem: "Portrait with Blue Shirt"

Image
Valerie Mendelson, 2012


Portrait with Blue Shirt 

Alert, open,
the face has not
yet learned
to protect its look
from the world.

A sharp blow
—losing a foot
or acquiring
an incurable
failure—
will close it.

The face knows
its luck
will not hold.
It waits
for fate’s knuckles

but is not
ready (it is
a young face)
for the
slow crack
of age.

Poem: "Village Thought"

Village Thought 

huge unknown villages would entrust us with their thoughts

     Jeanette Miller, “These Green Paths…”


The village may smell of mangoes or strike you like a stone.

You may be carrying a gun, book or mirror.

Your arrival will change everything. Do you dare to be responsible?

Poem: "Crow in Training"

Wrote this today.


Crow in Training 

condemned so many times/to be a crow

     Claribel Alegría, “Ars Poetica”


The first time the caw-caw surprised me so much
that I dropped it like a burning stick. Second time
I repeated the cry with my head cocked to a side,
to better determine the iridescence of its report.
Just before the third boy fell on his rifle, a bullet
through his eye, I emitted so full and round a call
that the grizzled veterans coughed approvingly.
I counted off my triumphs of the day, seventeen
—there were many of us cadets in the gathering.
 The murder thinks my performance is promising.

Poem: "Prospectus"

Wrote this yesterday. I think it needs another stanza in the middle.


Prospectus

My navel has sunk so deep that it touches
the other side of my body. Flesh rushes in
after the steep fall and leaves the opening
a pulpy slit. You can stick in three fingers
and not reach the tubes of the sea urchin.

My skin is so highly polished that you can
check your face on my bicep, fold it at right
angle at the corner of my elbow, or stretch
and contract over the wide curves of my ass.
You can see the curious crowd behind you.

No one is admitted on just his own merit.
It is by chance or history that you got in.

Poem: "Skills"

Skills


By an improved anguish

     Laura Riding, “The Wind Suffers”


As you would help a student organize
her shifty thoughts in shapely paragraphs,
stiffen the backbone of her sentences,
clear up the verbiage and proof the spelling,

you checked into a hospice, with his help,
after you stopped the ill treatment of death.
The passage would be lucid, you decided,
with humor, dignity, and, you hoped, grace.

So when the window rattled with the wind,
like an excessive use of the em dash,
you did not shush the weather with a comma
but left it alone—the inspired break.


i.m. Carol

Poem: "Singapore as One-Night Stand..."

Singapore as One-Night Stand/One-Night Stand as Singapore

the heart/can sometimes be troublesome

     Lee Tzu Pheng, “Singapore River”


I pull out of him. Short trip but I have seen all the sights worth seeing.

Poem: "Recognition"

Recognition

a duck that would not lay / and a runt of a papaya tree

     Tzu Pheng Lee, “My Country and My People”


Did you grow a bean plant
as a school science project,
noting carefully in a jotter
book the stages of growth
that a dark-green textbook
taught? They did not say,
the books, what to do with
a full-grown bean plant,
and so I reluctantly threw
it down the rubbish chute,
feeling bad at the thought
of leaves squelched with
gum, hair, chicken bones,
the slender white stalk
bent. Did you dig a hole
in the schoolyard secretly
and plant an orange pip,
then watch the soil keep
quiet? Did you keep chicks
(all the children did) as if
you were back in a village?
After accidentally stepping
on one to death, did you
give away the other chick
because someone told you
that it would die if it were
alone? Did you hear that,
or did you, my Country-
woman, hear another say,
no one dies of loneliness?
Or did you hear both voices
sometimes in competition,
like hawkers in a pasar
malam, sometime…

Poem: "Helen the Poet"

Helen the Poet 


All words, anyway
are epitaphs.

      Linda Pastan, “Friday’s Child”


I often confuse epigraph with epitaph,
to write with to grieve.
But your poems speak so well of love. 
Yes, they are brief.


for Winston

"Summer: Three Poems"

Summer: Three Poems 

The man starts stripping upon arrival in the room
     and I feel something has gone wrong

               Hayashi Amari


Though he rises to his full height, I am taller by an inch.
     He does not come back for a second kiss.


On the train I look away after catching his eye.
     He gets off without giving me another look.


He is putting away his laundry when I arrive.
Let’s get on with it, closing his drawers.

Emerson Quartet Plays Mozart and Beethoven

WL and I heard the Emerson String Quartet play at Alice Tully two nights ago. The performance of Mozart's Adagio and Fugue in C Minor, K.546 (1788) and String Quartet in B-flat major, K.589 ("Prussian") (1790) was polished but not particularly compelling. WL said they sounded like a band accompanying Viennese waltzes. I agreed. I said they sounded like elevator music. The Alternate Finale to Beethoven's String Quartet in B-flat major, the final movement that he substituted for the original Grosse Fugue on the insistence of his publisher, was not much better. It was light and airy enough, like candy floss. Only the slightly manic tempo of the performance gave the music an edge.

After the intermission was the main event, the full string quartet. The first four movements were still played in a rather uninspired fashion, the Presto performed at a very fast tempo. In the fifth, the Cavatina, however, there was a transformation. It was as if a completely different group of…

Poem: "The Hero of Our Story"

The Hero of Our Story 

Many young poets will pick up my book of poems
and, casting a cold eye, put the lightweight down.
They are looking for a harder and heavier stone
against which to flex, and grow, their strength.
They wear severe eyebrows and a steel monocle.

Only one, a nobody really, who presses back
while all the others surge forward like a wave,
will smuggle me out under a lamb jacket, glad
that the man in the book is as light as the book
in the man was heavy. Only one will get home.

Epigraphs: An Invitation to Write

For National Poetry Month, I wrote a guest blog-post for Chloe Miller's blog, a post about women poets who have been inspiring me to write.  Reprinted as an example is my poem "Eve's Fault," first published in tongues of the ocean. The blog is full of writing goodies: prompts, advice, interviews.

Poem: "Reversi, Also Called Othello"

Reversi, Also Called Othello 


no matter how many turns/you make

      Tzu Pheng Lee, “Tough, Love”


Flip over a black
lie to white. Flip
coffee in a diner
mug. Flip 1st sight.

Flip a coin. Flip girls
and boys. Flip and
then flip back black
light. White noise.

Flip dark hair on
pale shins. Flip a
treasured negative.
Flip a safety pin.

Poem: "Old Testament"

Old Testament 


My glossolalia/shall be my passport

      Gwyneth Lewis, “Pentecost”


Lucky you! My glossolalia sends me to jail
where I am given a little bread but no ale.
The Lord orders me to go to Chicago
but I’m smuggling my haggis to Tarshish,
while trading on my derivative English,
on my way to the Tower of San Francisco.

Or not. God’s robocops will lie in wait
for that obvious circumvention of fate.
I will book my train ticket to Morocco.
There, in a bazaar of bizarre tchotchke,
I will smoke pure hokum in a hookah,
and dream of a world without Chicago.

No? Dreams are the Lord’s territories.
The seraphim come and go as they please
and they will lecture me about Chicago.
I will board the space shuttle to Seattle.
I will motor to Bali in my red Beetle.
I won’t go, I just won’t, to Guantanamo.

English will get me everywhere, not bunk,
and keep me out of a whale’s ribbed trunk.
It will even deliver me up to Hokkaido.
Unlike you, I’m no good at balderdash,
mumbo jumbo, gobbledegook, p…

Poem: "Against the Flying Serpents"

Against the Flying Serpents

If I had never existed, what would stand in my place? More lilies or roses?
            Dulce María Loynaz, “Digression”


In my place a new river. A new snake wriggles out of the mud bottom of the river, mouth sore from the bulging sac of venom.
In my place more ibises, the birds that Moses launched against the flying serpents, according to Josephus, that the Egyptians launched against the flying serpents, according to Pliny the Elder, sacred missiles, fighting chronicles.
Infestation— a termite colony in a grand piano.
Green fire on a brick wall. Film of ash on the drinking glass.
Peacocks singing in the Botanic Garden.
If you had never existed, you had never existed, the sky at night chides. There would be no place to fill.
I retort, If I had never existed, I would have to be made up, like a name for the light that streams through a keyhole in an old house and flaps its wings.
Who ever believe a sky without keyholes called stars?