Showing posts from February, 2013

Learning Spanish, Writing Poetry

A beginner's guide to learning Spanish and writing poetry, in one book. Hugo Hiriat is an amusing and non-fussy guide to writing poetry. The Spanish is scattered all over the book, and so presents an unsystematic but memorable lesson. Hiriat's example of a poem in five-syllable line:

Quien fuera parte
de la plegaria
que solitaria
mandas a Dios!

His book is a good supplement to more conventional textbooks, whether of the grammatical or conversational sort. It is a reminder of the creativity required to learn a new language truly. Hugo Hiriat, born in Mexico City in 1942, writes for magazines and for the stage.

Joan Mitchell: Les Bluets 1973

Discovered Joan Mitchell's art in the Feb issue of Poetry. She was the leading painter of the second generation of Abstract Expressionists. Poetry has a bunch of people write about her work and person. The most interesting is the piece by Marjorie Perloff, who saw the figuration in the abstract-looking work Meditations in an Emergency ca. 1967. Les Bluets 1973, in Center Pompidou, is utterly gorgeous.

Abstraction, Hallucinations and the Immune System

from Patrick McCaughey's review of the MoMA show "Inventing Abstraction 1910 - 1925":

I have never seen Malevich better displayed or better served as an artist. His excitement at his discoveries in abstraction becomes our excitement. At last we are shown, not just told, how right his boisterous claim was: "I destroyed the ring of the horizon and escaped from the circle of things, from the horizon ring that confines the artists and forms of nature."  The Malevich wall comes hard on the heels of a well-chosen group of Fernand Léger's "Contrast of Forms" (1913). They are at once Léger's extension of Cubism and his major contribution to abstract art. They share the high seriousness of Picasso and Braque, the same intense investigation of pictorial form and the same sense of substance and matter. The power of their blue-and-white cylinders grinding their way through the painting, pushing aside the white-and-red rectilinear blocks, has the drive an…

Built for Speed and Not for Comfort

from Fiona Gruber's review of Andrew L. Erdman's Queen of Vaudeville: The story of Eva Tanguay:

Her song titles convey her racy appeal. "I Was Built for Speed and Not for Comfort", "Go As Far As You Like" and "That's Why They Call Me Tabasco"were delivered while wearing a series of outrageous costumes which included a dress made entirely of Lincoln pennies. These she threw, one by one, at the audience; as her biographer Andrew L. Erdman comments, it is probably the only known case of a stripper tipping her audience rather than vice versa. The money theme continued with a dress made entirely of dollar bills; another resembled a swaying, see-through chandelier, and she also favored flags and coral (the latter costume weighed 45 pounds). It is not for nothing that Erdman compares her to Lady Gaga, of beefsteak frock fame, and her imitators were also plentiful at the time. Mae West is reputed to have modelled herself on Tanguay in her early days,…

The Erotic in Asian American Poetry

(Q Thomas Bower)

Happy Valentine's Day! Ocean Vuong guest-edits a portfolio of poems on desire and love over at the Margins, the on-line journal of the Asian American Writers' Workshop. The lovers-poets are Cathy Linh Che, David Mura, Joseph O. Legaspi, Lee Ann Roripaugh, Timothy Liu and Victoria Chang. I have a poem, "Eve's Fault," in it too.


Joined SoundCloud yesterday. I uploaded my reading of "Study # 5 Frida Kahlo" very easily. The website also provides recording. It looks like a good place to store and share my sound files. The website allows easy sharing to Facebook and Twitter. The community looks interesting too, with professional classical musicians and composers on the site. It will take a while to get to know people.

An Unlikely Pair

Watched Beautiful Boxer (2004) with GH Friday night. Based on the true life story of Parinya Charoenphol, a Muay Thai boxer who underwent a sex change to become a woman, the movie was a sweet and sensitive call to be true to oneself. In the case of Nong Toom (Asanee Suwan), the call does not only mean to become the woman that she has always felt herself to be, but it also means not to allow oneself to be commodified in the arena of Thai kickboxing.

There was a touching last scene in which Nong Toom, transformed into beautiful Parinya Charoenphol, watched a little boy fighter imitating her make-up and gestures. He looked so miserable that it was obvious to her that his father had put him up to it, so as to attract publicity. She wiped off his lipstick and told him to be himself. Another moving scene took place when Parinya saw in the mirror Nong Toom bidding her farewell. She bade her past person farewell somewhat sadly. We may be happy to get what we want, but that does not mean that…

"What fire is in mine ears"

Last night, GH and I watched the production of Much Ado About Nothing by the Theatre for New Audience, at the Duke on 42nd Street. The performance, very well directed by Arin Arbus, was crisp and funny. The only truly bad idea was to have John Keating play Verges like Kramer from the sitcom Seinfeld. Maggie Siff was a terrific Beatrice, rapier-sharp and emotionally nuanced. Jonathan Cake, as Benedick, had some good moments, but relied too much on the physical tics of American sit-coms.
Neither Michelle Beck as Hero nor Matthew Amendt as Claudio was particularly memorable. However, Robert Langdon Lloyd, who played Leonato with such noble civility in the first three acts, achieved a tragic intensity in Act Four befitting King Lear when he ranted against Hero for her supposed immorality. Don Pedro (Graham Winton), the Prince of Aragon, broke the illusion by stumbling over his lines a few times, though it was opening night. Saxon Palmer who played his bastard brother Don John could not p…

Two Poems and a Review in QLRS

Two of my poems, "Haibun" and "Singapore Buses Are Very Reliable," have just appeared in the latest issue of the Quarterly Literary Review of Singapore. In the same issue, Thow Xinwei wrote what I think is the most perceptive review so far of my "Pillow Book." I'm humbled to be read with such critical intelligence and sympathy.