Friday, July 31, 2015

Los Gallos

At the Plaza de Santa Cruz, I watched the Los Gallos (The Cocks) tablao flamenco last night. Great singers and guitarists. The male dancer was terrific, as was one of three female dancers. The oldest one, of course.


Loud as castanets
the dancer snaps her fingers—
fish, fowl, and flesh

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Things about Madrid I Will Not Forget

Things about Madrid I Will Not Forget 

So many sex workers. South of Gran Via, the women are mostly white, north they are mostly dark, or trans. A melon is called melón but a watermelon is called sandia. In the morning, when the day is fresh, I love running shirtless along Gran Via and all around Retiro Park.

Given the wrong drink and too shy to ask the muscle waiter to change it. Tinto de verano, con limón. In a plaza chanced upon one night, Chinese schoolchildren kicking around a football and speaking Spanish, of course. Which of them will be the next David Villa? Which the next Lorca? Who will come first? Woken up at 4 am by the cigarette-edged talk of kids outside the club opposite my apartment.

The dark pearl on the outside of razor clams. A cruise club called Organic, equipped with a cross, resting horizontally, and revolving, on one leg. Goya’s Black Paintings.

¿De donde eres? The same younger Asian with the older white man sighted in Buenos Aires, London, Paris, and Tokyo: somewhat shameful still, that. A white man in his forties begging outside a tourist hotel. No, he’s not disabled or ill. I pass him on my runs. Liquid siftings in my favorite beige shorts from Embajadores to Valverde, after a bad lunch.

Yesterday, at Mercado San Fernando, I bought Elogio de la Madrastra by the Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa, and paid for the secondhand book by weight. It cost only 2.20 Euros. In English, it’s called In Praise of the Stepmother.

Haiku


Leaves on the sidewalk
color of a Guinness bottle—
moon waxing overhead

Friday, July 24, 2015

Segovia and Haiku

Visited Segovia yesterday, just half an hour by train from Madrid. When the bus from the train station approached the old city, everyone was immediately struck by the grand Roman aqueduct running across the public square. The aqueduct also ran underground to the castle.

At the museum of contemporary arts, I saw the show of Esteban Vicente's works. Born in Turégano, Spain, he studied art in Madrid, remarking on his experience at the Academy: "It doesn't give you any ideas about anything. It gives you tools, and teaches you about materials. Academic training is safe. It prepares you to be against." He moved with his American wife to the USA a few months after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. One of the first generation of American Expressionists, he knew artists such as De Kooning, Pollock, and Rothko. His works in the Segovia museum were constantly evolving, but maintained a delicate sense of balance. I liked his drawings best: their austerity was sensual and spiritual.

The Cathedral was very grand. Many beautiful chapels with impressive altarpieces and paintings. Most astounding was the Chapel of the Descent from the Cross. The painting at the top of the altarpiece showed Christ on the cross. The painting below it showed the dead Christ being brought down from the cross. Both paintings are by Francisco Camilo. Following this dramatic line downwards, one saw next the polychrome "Recumbent Christ" (by the Baroque sculptor Gregorio Fernández), lying with his lifelike wounds in a glass case. A single euro dropped into the meter brought the lights on to this visual theater.

At the Plaza Meyor, I had tapas in two different bars. In the second one, I saw this splendidly dressed older woman sitting by herself in a corner.

Nursing her beer
woman with a bib necklace—
late morning in Segovia


I walked to the castle but did not enter it. Retracing my steps, I stumbled on Mesón Don Jimeno, where I had a most delicious lunch of cochinillo asado (suckling pig). Two older ladies provided no-fuss and friendly service. The restaurant had a quaint family atmosphere. My best meal in Spain so far, I reckon.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Flamenco en viva

Had a dinner of grilled octopus and pickled pork skewers last night at Casa Patas before watching the flamenco show. Raquela Ortega the dancer was mesmerizing. She showed why duende could only manifest at a mature age, when the artist brought all her life and training to the performance of a moment. The male dancer Sergio Aranda was virtuosic in his technique but he looked too young to be dancing with Ortega. The three singers, Tomasa Gabriel, Jesule Utrera, Fernandez de Antonio, were very good, as was the guitarist, the very handsome Yeray Cortés.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Haiku

Taking my heart
to the Sunday flea market—
what will it fetch?


Taking my heart
to the Sunday flea market
south of La Latina


Taking my heart
to the Sunday flea market
instead of the post office

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Haiku


They're thinking aloud,
the old zuihitsu writers,
but where are they?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Diary and Haiku

Found the lovely little garden in El Museo Nacional del Romanticismo yesterday. The high walls provided shade while the trees provided airy perches for birds. It had a small fountain with a Cupid in it.

On the algae running
down one flank of the stone Cupid
a bee cools its feet


In the evening, NT brought me to La Latina. I had razor clams, fried in olive oil and parsley, for the first time. It was the speciality of the restaurant called Bar Cruz, also billed as Las Casa de los Navajas. We walked to the ethnically diverse neighborhood of Lavapies, and ate again at Restaurante Baobab. The menu was African. We had couscous negro and curry goat. It went down well with tinto de verano con limon.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Diary

Yesterday's highlights both involved eating. Lunch at a local chorizo restaurant with James Womack​ and Terry Andrew Craven​. James is a poet, translator, and publisher, originally from Cambridge, UK, now based in Madrid. Terry moved from Leeds to work with Shakespeare and Company in Paris before taking over the cave of treasures called Desperate Literature​ Bookshop with his wife Charlotte four months ago. Wonderfully easy conversation. Among other things, we talked about how different cultures invite people home, or not. And the arms race of giving birthday presents to one's spouse. My sausage was delicious. The other highlight was dinner by myself at 11 pm. Out on a walk, I was enticed by the sight of so many people eating and drinking outdoors at that late hour to wander into Plaza Juan Pujol, where I sat and had a good risotto, washed down with chilled red wine. The restaurant was aptly named El Balcón de Malasaña. I perched on that balcony and watched the world enjoy themselves.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Diary and Haiku

After looking at Guernica, the crowd at my elbows, their tour guide in my ears, I am coming out against history painting. The magniloquence of terror. The demand for submission. Far more delightful is the magic of Joan Miró, whose rooster crows in a landscape with it in it.

On the balcony
carrying a bowl of cereal
cock-a-doodle-do

Monday, July 13, 2015

Haiku


This far south
the day becomes light later—
the wavy darkness of his hair

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Diary

Yesterday's highlight was a visit to Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Was surprised to see a number of Lucian Freuds, including his Retrato of the Baron himself. Really liked Michael Andrews's "Portrait of Timothy Behrens," which shows the young man standing pensively at the entrance to the bathroom.



An unusual view of Saint Sebastian, tended by Saint Irene and her maid, attributed to Dirck Jaspersz. van Baburen:



Had lunch at La Cueva, with all male patrons, including construction workers from a nearby site. Used la lavadora successfully. Napped. Went for an walk at nine, when it was cool, and discovered the lively night life of Chueca and its surrounds. Lots of restaurants, outdoors and in. Sex workers plied their trade at street corners, a few transvestites. Men clustered in sociable groups along Calle Pelayo, the gay drag.

NT and his course mates were in the apartment when I returned. I joined in their discussion about the existence of god. Since it was past midnight, NT was officially a year older. We all wished him happy birthday.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Prado and Haiku

Yesterday was my first full day in Madrid. Woke up at my usual time and worked on the Mothership interview. The gym on my street, Calle Valverde, opened at 9 am. A cute young gay guy was working out there when I arrived. Four other guys came in after me. The equipment was rather worn, but I managed to put in a good workout. Then I went for a run. I had walked around Chuecas on the day of my arrival in Madrid. Yesterday, I ran to the west of my street, and looked around Malasaña. The neighborhood, with its alternative shops and wall posters, reminded me of the Lower East Side. Like the LES, it was also gentrifying, art galleries and such.

I decided to walk to the Prado instead of taking the Metro. At the museum, I saw Titian's wonderful "A Knight of Malta with a Clock." Everywhere I was looking for portraits of men in their handsome prime, Caravaggio's young "David with the Head of Goliath" proving an exception. Velazquez was a star of the show. His "Las Meninas" proved equal to its reputation: a completely absorbing work. I also liked very much his paintings of the dwarves at court, especially after looking at too many Italian idealizations of beauty. He was clearly a painter of immense sympathies and a philosophical bent. Goya was the other star. His historical paintings "The Second of May 1808" and "The Third of May 1808," which commemorate the uprising against the French that sparked the War of Spanish Independence, went far beyond their occasion. The Black Paintings were fantastic and surreal, their animalistic faces reminding me of Bacon. Originally wall murals, they were transferred to canvas by another painter. The most affecting painting was "The Witches' Sabbath, or The Great He-Goat." A girl in black veil to the right of the painting was waiting to be initiated. The nightmarish quality reminded me of Hawthorne's short story "Young Goodman Brown," published in 1835, some ten years after the painting.

I had a lunch of huevos rotos (broken eggs) that came in a sarten (saucepan). I did not understand the proprietress when she tried to tell me that "postre" was included in the set meal. A man at the counter kindly explained to me in English. I think I will have big mid-day meals and very small suppers while I'm in Spain. It is too hot even at 7 pm to think of eating much. Drink is another matter.


Malasaña lives—
workmen holed up in the shade
she still works the street

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Diary

At Gatwick South Terminal waiting for my Norwegian Airlines plane to Madrid. Last night's reading at the London Review Bookshop must rank as one of the more memorable ones. Tickets were sold out and the bookshop packed with about 80 people. Michael Schmidt spoke about the net of PN Review/Carcanet that welcomes all schools of fish. The first to read, I had a slight sore throat and so paused a couple of times, but carried on like the National Service-trained soldier that I am. The most enjoyable moment for me was to refer briefly to the banning of Lee Tzu Pheng's poem "My Country and My People" from the airwaves because it was deemed insufficiently enthusiastic about nation-building. It was a pleasure to hear the four contributors to New Poetries VI, Rebecca Watts, Joey Connolly-Wright, Vahni Capildeo, and John Clegg. Get the anthology to hear the most exciting poetic voices now in the UK.

After the reading, I met Richard Price and enjoyed talking to him. Also spoke briefly with Kei Miller, and wished we had more time. Was chuffed that Richard and Kei bought my book. Also managed to tell Alison Brackenbury how much I loved her horse poems even in Singapore, before I left for NY. Song-Khoon Lim, your signed copies are waiting for you at the bookshop. Afterwards, Paul, Alphonse, Mary and I went for drinks at The Admiral by Trafalgar Square. Delicious Pimm's, made with sloe gin instead of lemonade. Paul and Al brought us to the rooftop bar of the Hilton, where they are staying, and we enjoyed a sweeping view of the area, the National Portrait Gallery in one direction, the London Eye in another, and Big Ben in yet another. We were nearly as tall as Lord Nelson, not quite, but nearly nearly. One more reading. Hola, Madrid!

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Kensington Gardens and Haiku

Had been eating too much. Had an enormous Polish dinner with MJ and DW last night. Went for a run in Kensington Gardens to work off all that food. I ran along the Serpentine, looping back to the Italian Gardens, at the head of The Long Water that becomes the Serpentine in Hyde Park. Then I went for breakfast at this little bakery I spotted yesterday at the end of Queensway Street, where I saw this morning a construction worker pass by.


At the head of the Serpentine
the Italian Gardens
symmetrical as push-ups


Workman carrying
an attachable barrier
past a blonde



Monday, July 06, 2015

Tate Britain and Haiku

Saw the special Barbara Hepworth retrospective at Tate Britain yesterday. The exhibit showed her moving from early figurative works into abstract forms. The early abstractions explored single and double standing forms: self and relations. Both became interiorized, it seemed to me, in later abstractions that explored the relationship between her inner and outer worlds, in her response to the seascape of St. Ives, for instance. The later sculptures, often round in shape, were punctured or gorged with holes, as if to allow light (and eyes) in. At the same time, these holes functioned as framing devices, through which one could see the other side. One of the most powerful sculptures had a punctured ball sitting inside the puncture of another ball. It was also a fine example of her move late in her career into bronze, after working mostly with wood and marble.

Really enjoyed the show "New Brutalist Image 1949 - 1955: Hunstanton School and the Photography of Life and Art." The show highlights the collaboration of architects Alison and Peter Smithson, artist-photographer Nigel Henderson, pioneering structural engineer Ronald Jenkins and sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi. The show could also be called Structure and Materials. The room installation was centered by a long boxy steel structure, which housed glass cases displaying photographs, the architects' student works, their proposal for the school, notebooks, posters, and memorabilia. Mounted on the structure at different points, three projectors threw images onto the walls. The images from the first projector moved across a corner of the room, so the image was first seen frontally before it slanted and sped up on the next wall. Another projector threw a triptych of changing images of worksite materials, patterns found in urban areas, and children playing on streets. The last projector showed a slideshow of more abstract images. Small concrete slabs deeply incised with figures lay in a row along one wall. They were matched on the opposite end of the entrance by a long orange collage mural with multiple viewpoints. The architectural plans for the school - top and side views - were mounted on the wall, next to a video showing an interview with the project architect. The entire room gave me many ideas for the possible collaboration with Boedi Widjaja.

From the permanent galleries, Eric Gill's heart-stopping "Ecstasy" (1910 - 11) and Ivon Hitchens' "Autumn Composition, Flowers on a Table" (1932). The Henry Moore gallery was full of wonders of form and space.

*

Hard to count
sheep in the shade
day dreams

Sunday, July 05, 2015

STEEP TEA and Haiku

Hurtling on the Virgin East Coast train from Edinburgh toward King's Cross, London. Last night's reading at The Sutton Gallery went well, I think. About 40 people packed the place. Colin Herd, the owner of the gallery, was a sweetheart. David and Eric were there. It was lovely meeting Henry King, my fellow contributor to New Poetries V.

I have known Rob A. Mackenzie, my host, on-line for about 15 years, first through an Internet poetry workshop, so it was a real pleasure to meet him in person, and to hear him read his work. The other readers Janette Ayachi and Tessa Berring were a terrific contrast in styles, and rendered their poetry very individually. Afterwards a group of us went to the Star Bar, and I got to know more of Rob's friends. Many interesting conversations, among which I picked up the factoid that Scotland exports its excess energy to England.

Rob and I walked back to his home in Leith. On the way, we passed through the pink triangle, the gay area in Edinburgh. Leith, built around a port, has long been incorporated into Edinburgh but retains an independent spirit. It reminds me of Brooklyn, with its ethnic restaurants and shops, and young writers and artists roaming its streets.



Crows in the distance
barb the telephone wires
hi, anyone there?


Crows in the distance
barb the telephone wires
sheep or lint?


Crows in the distance
barb the telephone wires
since he left the train