FYI France
Ebooks Experiments -- the project




By Jack Kessler,


Small Garden


The pleasures of a small garden...




• Table of Contents •




• about metadata •



One tiny methodological note: this ebook being as much an experiment, in online digital access & use as anything else... I am undertaking it largely to discover how these things work, in their latest incarnation.

Information overload is an old friend, and I am as sceptical as I ever have been about the latest round of information search & retrieval techniques: the Dark Web always has been large -- its continued looming omnipresence, or maybe under-presence / sous-présence, is at once our greatest challenge, to our techniques, and our greatest guarantee of the freedom of those techniques and much else besides.

So I am reading about Dublin Core & NISO & ISO & Google and other official and industry efforts, in standards development for these purposes. But I am not hopeful, on the one hand, and I am greatly relieved on the other: no we'll never be able to find & use everything, or so I am convinced from numerous past examples, universal bibliography is the chimæra it's forever been -- I am with Borges & Eco & Jeanneney, on this --- OTOH as long as something can hide and stay hidden, deep within The Matrix, perhaps there is hope for freedom, and for surprizes, and for renewal and youth -- & I am with Wm. Gibson, on that.

A few descriptors appear below, then. I figure no matter what structures-within-the-structures the metadata mavens eventually evolve, they'll always offer some means of combining & permutating (?) etc. a bunch of descriptors: so if word-term-occurrences and proximity-connections have anything to do with "relevance", the way Lasswell had figured they might, maybe they'll find my book. Or maybe they won't, we'll see.

I am not certain, myself, that there is not a "category mistake" at work, here: if a "book" is what is sought, then copious metadata about that object understandably may be useful -- but if what is being sought nowadays is a "text", an æthereal thing sometimes contained in a book but increasingly not, then metadata assisting in the search for a book is un ange qui passe -- the new philosopher newly-arrived from the US, standing at Carfax in the middle of Oxford, demanding, "But where is the university?"

So, metadata descriptors, maybe: poems, poetry, literature, me, you, us, other stuff, not ontologies, not relevance, not rankings, not content, not epistemology, not analysis, sometimes metaphysics, maybe music






• Preface •



I am not a fan of writing conventions, the rules 'n regulations. I'll be very happy if others find here, merely,

-- even if only to have those delineations diss'ed, by some pompous or generous critic, damning with faint praise or supporting with irony, as,

"Fine tones of thought":  high praise from a high priest -- high priests have this way of landing on their feet... One can do worse, and not much better -- times haven't changed much since the early 1800's.

My own writing began with song: Bob Dylan. The breakthrough in my case was realizing that memorized lines from The Canon -- a task I'd first attempted at age 14 for a revered teacher -- could be sung.

In singing Dylan's verses myself, accompanying myself on my own badly-played guitar, first for their rhythms then as lyrics -- that's what Wordsworth and Coleridge controversially-called their writing, "lyrical" ballads -- I came to realize, only gradually I admit, that Dylan's words had meaning.

First, though, they were mere cadences -- Dylan has a great sense of rhythm. Then they became a means of song: words as something better than humming. Then one day someone dumps you, or you dump them, or you get arrested, or an opportunity slips by or another one crushes hopes, or yet another sends your spirit soaring, and suddenly the words have meaning.

I'm sure Dylan does it different -- he does words then rhythm then music, while his "listeners" mostly do rhythm then music then words, or at least I did back then and still do.

Homer too... The image of the old blind bard chanting, singing his ageless cadences -- his besotted and impassioned audience humming and mouthing the well-known words along with him -- is indelibly imprinted ever since Milman Parry first figured that out, and in me ever since I first read about Milman Parry. Three days of performance, all spent high on wine and partying and exhaustion -- the Romería de El Rocío without religion, a highly-receptive time -- the worst thing that ever happened to education, particularly to poetry, was the classroom. You have to "sing" it.

So there are days, sometimes several in a row, when I can't read my own verse. Other days I can read it but it doesn't sink in, I don't absorb it. I have to be in a "singing" mood, and that is a tough thing to define, and it's impossible to "plan" for, like anything important.

I have written some of my best verse on airplanes, in noisy coffee shops, stopping by the side of the road -- reading poetry too, "Tintern Abbey" works best for me in spurts, the mood happens and I just sit down and do it and suddenly it makes sense -- the other times I can't and it doesn't. Particularly in classrooms: those ringing bells, the performance anxieties, the pressuring peers, the artificial "meanings"... poetry should not mean, just be, to me too...




• Dedication •

to Jan, again





• Poems •




April 19, 1949

Life in a different phase
Looking at legs no longer
Looking at souls mostly,
My own mostly,
Putting out what they and I put in

See better, Lear
It's a matter
Of seeing a bit more clearly
Of defogging, really,
A simple job
Of cleaning the same old glasses

Older glasses now
Frames bent a bit
Scratches, nicks
A hinge that sticks
But tried true lenses
Carl Zeiss of Jena
Twenty-ten they told me
Once I'd learned to use them
And if I keep them clean, and clear

The day of birth
The day to reckon
Whether and what the body's born with
Will the little hand reach out and grab
And hold the hospital scale
Ever so tightly
Grab and hold
A piece of life in its infant grip
Or will the waves wash over
Carry over, around and under
Loosing passions, strange emotions
And a capacity to wonder
It begins before birth
This structure
So capable of improvement
In its superficial aspects
Little Ben Franklin of Boston
Conceited and selfish to the end
But fun

A pause to reconsider
A life half-spent nearly
A pause to see more clearly
How to walk through the woods









Illusions in a brain dimly lit
Fantasies of ecstasies imagined
Possibility that reality will
Give-in a little bit
Then beer





The awful temptation
Of spending the time
Writing rather than reading
Sighting instead of seeing
The making of music
Rather than the listening

Acts of expression
Of condensation
The economy of prose
Totalities of life in a phrase

A time for learning
A time for doing
A time for reflecting
Life in a mirror
Shattered often
Pieced back together
Scissors and paste
And bits of glue
Between the pieces
The cracks
Interstitial spaces
Places where the fascia lie
Where the poor and the refugees dwell
Places never clean
Where dust collects

On the surface of the mirror
At first so clean and clear
Are reflected Plato's allegories
Eternal illusions
Of the eager immature student
Of a wiser older man
Then comes a first shattering
Mirrors never break cleanly, clearly
Instead they shatter
Into thousands of pieces
Losing always a few, sometimes many
One hopes only
That enough big pieces remain
For enough large pieces
To do some reflecting later on

Another shattering
More cracks, less surface
Odd that a mirror
Can't be fused back together
The way the very cheapest
Or the finest crystal can
Instead there are pieces
Tiny bits, small fragments,
Reassembled in new patterns
Just resembling the old
Always smaller, for the lost bits
Always rougher, for the edges
Always tougher
Amazing, what the new glues will do
In fact so tough that it hardens
Becoming older, blinder, brittle
Until finally it shatters
Into pieces so tiny
They can't see or reassemble

So they are ground
To dust
To be issued as another, later
Corrected and amended by the author
Hi, Ben




Asia on a Tuesday

The smoke of cigarettes
The lamest television programming
Blurring lights
Whirring colors
Speed and schedules, and all they bring
And heart attacks and the mysteries
Of cholesterol
And packaging and marketing and creme rinse
Not the rinse itself, a secret known for ages
Since Cleopatra practiced her seductions along the Nile
But its mass dissemination
Its appearance
In the museum without walls
Along with Andy's soup can

At first it was chewing gum
Seberg's chest and t-shirt
And the leer of Belmondo
Then came campus-movies
And all those grad students
Creating the future in their minds
At Ithaca and Ann Arbor

Then a weaning
The teen years, temper tantrums
Age-old assertions of the right
To drive the family car
And of course an angry parent
Digging in against the evils
Of middle age and a gut that's spread

And now a maturation
A look that's straight
Right in your eye
Or mud, if you'd rather
And a hearty clap on the back
From a brother
Who once was a smaller, helpless, other

One wonders whether senility is next
The doddering English
Governed by their elderly, matronly,
Sitting cold and clammy
In their grandfathers' displays of ostentation

Now rotting for the tut-tuts
From tours of visiting Japanese
Wondering where the past went
And whether there will be a future
A Clockwork Orange told
The story of Mr. Burdick
That there will be no future,
Only a terrible present

The terrible present of Old King Louis
Nicholas past his prime
Chamberlain's failing at Munich
And Pu Yi's tragic decline

Nothing inevitable from nations
If they lead their lives like men
Aging, spreading, pushing, resisting,
Returning to ashes in the end
Then beginning
Greatest of privileges, after Janet, to have seen
Asia in its youth again




Asia, as it was...





A shifting of light
Sunbeams on a coffee table
In an early-morning kitchen
Moving gradually, inexorably
Past sugar to the cream
Then flowers in the vase
Then toast on the tray
Crumbs and bits of jam
The leftovers
A Saturday morning
Time to watch
Sitting back

Thinking of self-pitying poets
Howling in the wasteland
Or turning inward
Retreating looking on the most familiar ground
For answers so far unfound outside

And still, slowly
The light is shifting
Imperceptibly, now
It has focused on the
Leaving the sugar bowl
In shadow

The disillusion
Bright pink
Turned to dull and pitiless gray
The star descendant
Shining off the faces
Of its eager immigrants
Wondering what hit it
Faces in the catalogs
The Chinese are coming
Laos and Vietnam
The Filipinos





Tannhäuser at thirty thousand feet
Eclecticism of air travel
As if the Old White Aryan
Had followed in his Porsche
A ghost
Bent-backed now
Fixed but vacant white blue eyes
Devouring breasts, and passion
Forgetting the past

On wings
Forgetting and remembering
Without a past or future
I float
In the present
It is the solitary things
Which matter now

Each of us imprisoned in his pattern
Spiders in our own webs
Life a gradual elimination
A forgetting
Liberation from the various
Until there's nothing
Spiders lacking webs
Hunting game in the wild
Without that old accustomed corner
To hide in

It's just that we are born with structures
Giant trellises supporting
A process of training, nurturing,
Occasionally trimming back the vine
But once the growth is self-sustaining
Once the vine is firmly rooted
Once the sapling's joined its growth
Passed not its first but many winters
Then the trellis falls away
It rots, or worse is cast aside
But still it's missed
And best remembered

My structures offered shelter
Not comfort really
With their own pain
Which they offered
Somewhat freely
As a price exacted
But the rain was kept off, barely
And enough
Of a numbing
To let observation begin
But now the trellis is shaking off
Now there are things clinging to me
Small grasping tendrils
Making tentative beginnings


There's a house that formed, a small one
Small for warmth, large enough to shelter
A small group of longing, joys, frustration
And tremendous satisfactions
Built by two, crafted lovingly
With flexible foundations
Movable in earthquakes
I was in there, listening
I had her there with me in Paris, then
In Paris, sitting, watching
Letting her do all the talking
As I sat there mute, amazed,
As I sat there in my watching state
A little bit perplexed to find
There's so much of me in her
So very much I hadn't noticed
Even after my reflections
It was as though a conversation of two
Was being held by one





Electronic emanations
Of souls still immersed
In a thousand questions taken
From problems such as why
And wherefore
And whether or not

How many angels
Thinking riddles of the chessboard
The glass bead game
Temptations of Satan
Ecstasies of Saint Teresa
Over the desolations of Job
Under the riddles of
Will there be an earthquake
Where and when
And forever the eternal why
Over the riddles of Confucius
Creating order from the chaos
Tidying the edges
Binding up the loose ends
The unaccountable
Ficino finding patterns in the clouds
Working always around the simpler riddles
Of Aesop
Why turtles win races
The destruction of the golden geese
Grapes and foxes
Giants and beanstalks
As if there's more to it all
Than Aesop's simple problems

The complexity of computers
Like the subtleties of salads
Prepared without regard
To the freshness of the lettuce
Like the old French cook selecting
All her legumes at Les Halles
Laying the foundation
For the sauces that will follow
Garbage in garbage out
She murmurs, squeezing tenderly
Every bit or byte of software
Every hardware screw or circuit
Knowing that without a firm foundation even Chartres would have fallen

So, wondering,
Suddenly aware
That life will have an ending
That there are ways of wasting,
Guard the time, fly from evil
Remembering the pleasures of fulfillment,
The pains always present,
Hand in hand,
And the utter desolation
Of doing neither daily
On and on
Locked in routines without meaning
Counting time in the slowest seconds
Living days one by one

The happiness of time is measured by its speed
Inverse relation
The slower giving more
The faster giving less
Sitting here wondering
How fast it is going
Remembering days and years
When it seemed to be interminable
On and on, never ending
Wondering, almost hoping, that it would

Now the speed a wind that's whistling
Over hair that's long past thinning
Around joints begun their aching
Prematurely one would think
My son stands erect now
My beloved wife already stooping
The next generation dying
The one I knew when small is dead

It's not so much a matter
Of how you spend the time
As it is of really knowing
Just how much you've spent it
A self-conscious thing, and understanding
An assembling of pieces
Never fancying the puzzle
Will make the least of sense assembled
But a periodic essay
In rediscovering foundations
Before the final flash of déjà vu and life has ended

Call it the ordering of novelty
The gradual integration
Of the bells and whistles, frills upon
The ordinary life
Milestones, momentos
Fascinations at the time
Become the stuff of memory
Through this assembling things together

So, television
The bored and boring heiresses
Satiation of gourmets
Blandness of the new world suburbs
Pretensions of the tenured
Dulled imaginations of directors




Good foundations






Dancers from the ballet
A lone predatory single, backed into her corner, pretending to be furiously typing,
Mothers, spilling babies,
One power-breakfast under way on the sidewalk outside, chins jutting, fencing, curveballs and lightning bolts,
All caffeine-fueled,
Duboce Park, the Lower Haight, early morning

The lightning bolts, Athena and Hera,
The warriors,
Sending out their soft power now to crush and destroy better than the bombs did
They are the new breakers, the makers
Shapers of our creative destruction
Molders of the new rough beasts
Supporters of the rest of us
In our now-shorter youth and far-longer old age

Then the mothers, the risks,
Clotho, Lachesis, Atropos,
Little do they know, or we,
What their work will bring,
Feeding the one, comforting the other,
Adoring or ignoring the husband
Tenacious cling, as a baby nearly falls to the floor -- and a breakfast bagel, then a scolding,
The grip defying a universe, and a mother's own strength

The single shining, through her bleeding,
The beauty that is a prisoner of time
The creases in her flawless skin
Wrinkles, now, on the glassy surface
Crows' feet, where once there were flights of doves
The desperation
Now she knows, but it is too late
She dandles the mothers' babies
Yearningly, helplessly
Searches the gay men as they mince through the door
Retreats in defeat, again and again, to her lonely corner
The fortune's assembled, the career's behind
The house is bought and furnished,
Now's the time to fill it, now's the scheduled date
But she must settle for something less, now, something not on the list
Oh no, I forgot.
The girl who never forgets.

And the dancers from the ballet,
Gazelles, but in a picture book
Frozen time,
Decorously yet nervously presiding over the rest
Theirs is the beauty that is ageless
One is anorexic
Another's magnificent powerful thighs
Pretty eyes
But tiny double chin
The third, a guy, uncertain about everything
The only thing certain in dance is women
For when things change the picture-book, women live on,
Preserved in the minds of men.
The dancers prance, gazelles before the coffee urns.





* after a reading of a small-minded review of a small-minded book about him, in The New York Review of Books.

Injustice to an old man
Whose reputation soars
Far above that now
All the petty little details
Bits of dirt between the cracks
Distasteful smells
Disapproving glances
A wagging of bejeweled fingers
At a great, massive, uncontrollable monolith
Now turned to stone

The inexhaustible humor in those wine-dark eyes
The flavors and the textures and the richness
Oceans of fruit and wine and deep enriching broth
Life as a great casserole on which to gorge
Enormous plates piled with fish
To see and appreciate and devour, whole,
Down to the bones and the bones themselves
Zorba and Odysseus and Pan, in one
The Mediterranean man
A man primeval, caught between cultures
Embodying the best and worst of each and all

Yet this man had a difference
An ability and a willingness
To express and to share it
Not meaning to share, perhaps,
But sharing nevertheless
Sharing and illuminating and inspiring
All the while outraging
Never contained by rules, or conventions,
Or women, or children
Or friends, or history
Or the critics' opinions --
Desmoiselles d'Avignon
Analysis of a canvas
Procrustean attempt to cram a universe
Onto one forlorn little bed





Could there be complete removal
As though anapestic dimeter were able
To evoke
The wildest sorts of things

The poetry of fantasy
An end to aimless wanderings
Through hearts and souls
Unable to bear it
Impoverished by their years of reading books
Never feeling, never seeing, never doing

There is a capacity
In the smallest, meanest mind
For imagining

My own two boys
Young, though no longer small, now
Masters of the Universe
Or little Topher just squatting in the garden
Smiling at a butterfly or talking to a leaf
I've caught him at it several times
And my remembering, through them,
My own playing at being the young Brahms
Pounding my piano
Or cowboys
Or Peter Pan upon the Indian Rocks in Berkeley
Bounding, bounding, and even flying
And then there's capacity for self-delusion
The infinite capacity
Pretensions of the board room, the hotel lobby,
The mirrors of women, the muscles of men,
She loves me not, she loves me,
Pretensions more immediate than play
Fantasies of reality, leading into danger
Oh there's fantasy, all right,
Plenty of it

So what's the service performed by poetry?
Poetry helps portray it
But what's the good in that
Aristotelian mumblings
The psychiatries which dissect art
Externalize, vocalize
Television sadism
Bread and circuses
As if viewing things satisfied their need
Without a cheapening, and a planting of bad seed

Better fantasy?
Better unreality than more?
The more fantastical the less application
For one thing
The beauty of cartoons being in their imagery
The danger of drama being in its savagery
And ease of application
It's hard to take a prat fall
Or fight a dragon, the morning after
Except figuratively
But angry words, violence, rape,
Come easily, apparently,
Better fantasy




Small Garden

The pleasures of a small garden
An apple, an apricot
The green-ness of lawns
The gentleness of ferns
The delicacy of bamboo
The magnificence of fuchsias
Satisfactions of a seed planted
Nurtured, grown,
Not control but understanding
A universe holding so very much
Intricacies of a single leaf
Yet small enough somehow to be understood

Occasional visits to the city park
A beautiful place, so much more green
Giant trees, majestic lawns
Great stretches of back woods
Good for mountain bikes and horses

Then the mountains, wilderness
Exceptional visits there
Rare glimpse of where it came from, where it's going
The wildness, awesome ordering of its chaos
Younger, I spent more time there
Later, parks attracted me
The planning, anticipations,
Now there's a small and wonderful garden
With a universe inside it





Staying alive in a clear-cut forest
Walking Corson's Inlet
Searching, relentlessly,
For a universal clockwork
The unfolding of a latest chapter
Seeing the Chinese faces in North Beach
Or the two Lao boys at the swimming pool
The way it is now,
And the way it used to be

The feeling of happy helplessness against the drift
But the ability to give things a nudge,
From time to time
Remembering Winston Churchill at fifty
Crippled and washed-out
And Disraeli at sixty
The mediocrity and pain
Each showing the oblige of the noblesse
The easy understanding that it's an ongoing effort, really
Rather that the goals and expectations
The bourgeois in the audience, thirsting for ideals
Rather that the nobles on the stage, sliding on them,
Or the playwright in the wings, observing them all
Leonardo changing the course of rivers, by throwing in the rocks,
Rather than fighting against the current, upstream,
An old lesson, really,
Hubris and humility

From somewhere comes a cry for a tracing
For establishing the leads which tie the thing together
"So you don't believe "knowledge is cumulative?",
he asked or rather told me
had I known the riddles of wheels
then as I do now
how the same wheel spins
upon its axis endlessly
yet covering, always, different ground

It's the walk, and in the walking
The same one repeated
Enjoyed for more
And a new one chosen, and enjoyed
Sorrow's a choice made, an option taken
Suffering an aspect of anything
Still, there's always the walking

A simplicity in discovery
A clear, true vision
Just the backing off, and looking,
And knowing a bit of history
So Asia's in again
And Europe's done and crumbling
And the poets start their wailing
Let them see the light and fervor
In the almond eyes
The ardent strides of Lu Hsun
Tempered by the Sage's wisdom
And ten thousand years
So the old wheel will embark
Upon roads not yet travelled
Ulcerous suburban living
Rapacious, acquisitive control
The endless yearnings
A grasping for apricots forever out of reach
Establishing their children's children as poets
For future generations

Becoming, always, but with aspects of the past,
The same wheel, forever turning, covering forever-new ground
My fathers and my sons
The joys and sins of generations, and yet, at least,
A new walk is a new walk, the poet said.





A peep from a hole in the middle of the field
Is what Denise called it
And old Frost speaking of diminishing
If Keats can speak to you then you can speak to me
And you did, and I have heard you

The image I like most being that of the train
Rolling endlessly, myself upon it
Einstein on his tram in Bern, imagining the universe
With or without the necessary brain
Brain not being the best of help to imaginings
Although to get the ideas across to others
It helps to know the language

Doing the little bits we are able to do
The small decisions, sometimes becoming great ones
But made as small ones just the same
Denise and the War
Saving the lives and sparing the mutilations
Of millions
Frost, read by the fireside,
Inspiration for millions more
Molière's goal being somewhat the goal of poets
The expression, the entertainment, the payment,
If times get hard, on the outside or the inside

A better thing in me says not to care
Not to earn my living
Neither adulation
A pseudonymous existence
Preserving the core




À vivre...

-- Philippe Denis, traduction de Jack Kessler

To live...

-- by Philippe Denis, translated with permission by Jack Kessler


À vivre comme respirer,
To live as we breathe

à s'avancer
to advance

au devant de sa vie --
in front of one's own life --


ce que nous rejoignons
that into which we blend

sort de ce jour
goes out from this day

comme le vent,
like the wind,



notre respiration.
our breathing.






-- Philippe Denis, traduction de Jack Kessler


-- by Philippe Denis, translated with permission by Jack Kessler



là --
there --

dans le non vivable
in the un-livable

de tout ce qui vit
of all that lives

chassé de la vie.
driven out of life.


La douleur

it blends

toute blancheur,
a vast whiteness,

into the blood

la force du voyage --
the essence of the journey --


(la grande route d'eau
(the grand way of water





The Parable of Gulliver's Nose

The question is what can one rely on at the bottom?
There is so much in the middle
Of coming and going
Of plunging and soaring
One is so busy, just doing things,
And at the top there is turf to defend
Looking back on it
The poor get children
I'll fight you for it -- the grandfather's land.
And yet prolonged exposure to the pinnacle
Shows you the holes in the fabrics
The weakness in the foundations
The prancing of a mime
The pain underneath
Mimes always have bothered me
The endless posturing
Lampooning of the holy
In a world devoid of holiness long ago
Let us have the comfort of our illusions, then

At the bottom, in the slime,
In the quick grey mass from which we once ascended
Which still is there, within us
Seen by the doctors
Felt by the children
Sensed by animals and plants in our passing
Held close by lovers
Where is there a sustaining strength
After the structures built upon it crumble?

Arising from the mist
From the murk down beneath
There are plants and animals, living things,
Then patterns, and finally structures,
All the world an edifice
The men and women and others in it
Returning to the murk, on occasion,
Renaming an old acquaintance
That stranger on the street whom
You'd rather not remember
With his memories of you, then.




Le monde...

-- Philippe Denis, traduction de Jack Kessler

The world...

-- by Philippe Denis, translated with permission by Jack Kessler


Le monde est déjà loin derrière --
The world is already far behind --

comme une apparence de chacun de nous
like an appearance by each of us


Hâte de ce qui nous emporte, et que n'est
The haste which carries us away, and which is nothing

but the future.


Vehicule de lenteur
Vehicle of slowness

(dans l'oblique du froid)
(in the slanting of the cold)


où une image crie.
where an image cries.





Sur les ailes...

-- Philippe Denis, traduction de Jack Kessler

On wings...

-- by Philippe Denis, translated with permission by Jack Kessler


Sur les ailes du papillon -- gravé
On the surface of the butterfly's wings -- engraved

l'équilibre de la poussière bourgeonne
the burgeoning equilibrium of the dust


The alphabet

et les fleurs
and the flowers

un nouveau temps de douleur --
a new time of sadness --


(Tandis que la graine du pivot ourle
(While the seed of the poppy sews in

son écarlate blessure)
its scarlet wound)






-- Philippe Denis, traduction de Jack Kessler


-- by Philippe Denis, translated with permission by Jack Kessler


Terre -- comme si j'entrais ou un corps
Earth -- as though I entered where a body

ne peut plus durer
cannot last


(aveu du jour... jusqu'au vent
(oath of the day... into the wind



Leurre d'une étoile bue
The lure of a drunken star

qui aura été unique perplexité
which will have been the unique perplexity

entre le ciel et soi...
between the sky and the self...


Place vide, ou je rejoins ce corps
An empty place, where I become this body






Wondering whether stones have satisfaction in their lives
whether marbled bits of glass
enduring the chances of fate
that will shatter them into fragments
enjoy the brief moment of existence
in which they are a vase

It's not the satisfaction so much
as the absence of regrets
the feeling, once done,
that there was nothing you'd rather have done
or had rather not,
not a function so much
of what actually happened
but more whether you give a damn really
the strength, oh the strength
oh give me the strength
to ignore things









Something that will last
Like architecture
or even more durable
like a phrase
whether 'tis nobler
not a transient or a commonplace thing

whence the urge
the immortality
you're gonna die, Cosmo,
just like the rest of us
die, then,
but with the satisfaction
that something was accomplished
that is good, and will last




The Taste of Pheasant Under Glass

Is it enough, really
to have a family
two small boys, growing bigger,
a wife who is teacher mother lover friend
and good health
and small moments of happiness, so many
what else could I long for
justice in South Africa
the sight of mountains
the taste of pheasant under glass

at the market in Tecpán Guatemala
they line up vegetables
on mats on the ground
the old women line up vegetables
arranging rows
or piles of what look like cabbages
nesting one on the other like cannonballs
so there has been an earthquake
terror of the earth, terremoto
my neighbors are dead, my family is dead
but you and I my friend are dying also
now will you buy my vegetables

a lawyer
a straight, gray, proper lawyer
the razor to whom you take your troubles
so he can cut them cleanly
but also a son a brother a loving father
and most of all a teacher lover friend
a husband
of a tired living corpse, wracked with pain,
a body once beautiful and still much loved

I gaze at the photo of my own sons and am thankful





Mother of my sons.
Phoenix of my shattered youth.
Tranquillity of the moon,
In a world too bright at times

Creature of the gentle darkness
The close, damp comforts
In a world too often dry and hot
Apollonian, parched by the sun

I walked with you, held you
poured myself into you
and felt the awesome, wonderful
presence of you in me
a touching so close
that we didn't have to feel it

Now a fragile, wasted, body
on a bedsheet, lying lifeless
a sister from the East
in a corner, crying quietly
a son here, a daughter there
my face in a mirror
a kindly face, an older face
a beard once gray, turning silver
grown for her I remember
thinking, shocked, that this memory
is the first of the many
I now must have of her





collecting these poems for forty years
I have arrived at no conclusions
the earlier confusions now seem blended
into a more acceptable mass
of oddly assorted things
opportunities, and burdens,
excitements, frustrations,
and now, more and more,
a few final endings





The astonishing, irreversible finality
of certain endings
like the final scenes of old movies
which may be seen again and again
but never change

the loss of a tooth
another chance when you're young
forever gone when you're older
a mother's aging
a father's death

real things blow warm and cool
like love, and children
and growth, of trees and spirit
a thing learned, a thing forgotten
times of great leaps
and times best spent in hibernation

a few things blow hot and cold
like love affairs, and adventures,
superficial, really, but exciting,
the burning groping of blushing flesh,
the icy cold of refusal, rejection,
and discovery, the thrills
and the disappointments

but some things are final
a birth -- you are born,
cry as you might, the world is there,
to see and to feel, to intrude upon you
and for you to walk upon it,
and death -- she has died,
again, crying,
trying to think, of what was,
and remembering too much what might have been
and some diseases, which disfigure,
and some betrayals, which haunt,

collecting these for forty years
I have arrived at no conclusions
the earlier confusions now seem blended
into a more acceptable mass
of oddly assorted things
opportunities, and burdens,
excitements, frustrations,
and now, more and more,
a few final endings





I would like to know it all
I do have the curiosity
The young men in the labs wondering
at what they have discovered
not remembering Pandora
physicists should read fiction

But it would be nice to know
not useful, too much to ask,
and there always are the risks,
nor comforting, remembering the winds
the girl released which still are blowing,
but interesting, simply interesting, purely interesting
the nine lives once spent are gone,
but they are for living

There's an aspect left out, though,
of the discussions of particles
not a poetic aspect
fuzzy dreamers mumbling in the wind
never pursuing a point to its conclusion
no, a particle, or a relation,
very much a part but missing
the complex interactions, interweavings,
the feelings of the mother and the child for each other
connected, at the suckled breast,
the feelings of the man and the woman
connected, making love,
the tree, with roots pushed deeply
into soil, rock, burrows, water
its place among its surrounding neighbors
the ecologies of neighbors
the relativity of physics

it's all in the overlapping
a house with many roof-shingles
each depending on the other
analysis of any one never
keeping off the rain

holograms and paradigms
neurological activity
in the extremities, far from the brain
just reacting to the heat and cold
but staving off a burning,
history seems to be a slow learning
of the brain to depend
on other structures way down under
which do valuable things and cannot be
either controlled or explained

why did it have to begin at a beginning?

the inexorable linearity of the scientific soul





organized into schools, like fish,
painters, poets, philosophers
the strategists of football
the school of the aerial offense
the school of the forward pass

it is an after the fact proposition
a wondrous skill, the ability
to discern, in random imaginations
patterns, which fit together tidily

and yet there was nothing tidy at the time
I know -- I was there
things were scattered on the shelf
on the bed and on the floor
and the garden was a shambles
but with so much life in it
I just had to sit down
and render a description
it fell, came tumbling, out of me

others will pick it up later
and figure it out





slowly the sun creeps down the wall
on a September morning
it will be a warm day
but long Fall shadows tell of something coming
this no longer is the sun that heats
but the sun that warms, taking off a chill
newly arrived, in the mornings, from the North

there is a warmth in the late, late night
just before the early morning
I felt it first in cities
on the Post Office steps in Manhattan
neither rain nor snow nor sleet
watching Nedick's and the traffic lights
the only living things at that hour in New York
after the rushing energy of nighttime
a calm warm stillness
of late night/early morning
then just as the earth senses the sun's advance
she wraps her cloak around her, protective, frosty
chilling out we poor dwellers on her surface
making ready for his overpowering advance
which will flood her, warm her, cause her opening
embracing of a new day

so there is a short time, in the late, late night
just before the early morning
when relaxing warmth comes
just before the lovers' battle
of sun and earth at morning









Of several lives
On a sunny day the leaves
In Central Park glow
From within
Like the city
Glowing from within
The city as a leaf
Dirty, begrimed
But glowing from within
A soft, warm, translucent glow
Green, wet, warm, alive,

Sometimes it snows, in Manhattan,
The flakes are soft, like
All snow
And the first snowfall
Beautifies the town
Beatifies the isle
Of Mannahatta

But then the grime hits
Just as soft, ever-present
Oozing grime
The grime of ages
Accumulated wisdom
The grime of cynics
Those who know too much
Frustrations of age
Disappointments of business
Expectations of an immigrant --
Illusions of a youthful native --
Anxieties of poverty
Despair of drugs
Human beings gone to seed
New York -- the grime.

Across the bar a man sits
Cheeks heavy -- jowls which sag
Eyelids droop hair droops
Spirit drooping sagging
Fifties maybe?
What has he won?
What lost?
Shaking hand, shaking heart
Premature coronary
Shock didn't take
Too bad
So sad
Old friends remember
And then forget
It's a shame he's gone
But he was... slipping...
I am the grass
I am the grime
I cover all

But the City of Grime
Has beautiful leaves
Lovely ghosts
Funny, about ghosts
They float, they waft
They scare but it's calm
Quiet, peaceful,
Like freezing
To death
You just go to sleep
No more pain

Leaves with grime
Glowing in the
Chlorophyll and acid rain
The stuff of life
The stuff of death
New York

I saw a girl once
He said
The firmament of heaven
Holds no star more beautiful
Wonder of wonders
Innocence and joy
Reflections of a mirror
Not yet tamed
Or channeled
Or trained
Or tested
Or ruined beyond hope
And despair
The memory of pain
Dust on the leaves
And a glowing
And the dust
And the grime
New York

Borges says that
Russell said that
We all were born
With perfect memory
Of all that has
Happened but
None that is yet to be
Mrs. Porter's daughter
Washed her feet in
Soda water
But where is she now?
If time is lost in
The relojeria of
Don Arcadio Alarcón
If yesterday and tomorrow
Are imagination only
What was that girl?
What were those leaves,
That dust?

Bishop Berkeley never touched
My son
My other son
My wife
My love for her
Or me

Memories of that which
Passed before
The sailor said to the ant
With my foot I could crush you.
Said the ant,
I build mountains
I destroy foundations
I swarm
In my swarms I will engulf you
I am fruitful and
I multiply
My sons
And the sons of my sons
Will inherit
Your leaves
And your grime
And your earth
My daughters will nurture
A thousand thousand
Of what matter are
Your intentions
Your navies
Your philosophies
Or the sole of your boot --
And my life
To me?
The leaves and the grime
They have no memories
They need no memories

Mid-week on a summer evening
In the Tavern where
Jesse's old teacher died
Did it happen?
Did the wheel turn then?
Was there such suffering?
Did old Borges lie?
Blind men with eyes of seers
I Teiresias, old man with wrinkled dugs
Beethoven, with no tympanum
Runners in the Marathon, who have lost their feet
The lame, the halt, and the blind
And the ants
Do they see more clearly?
Do they hear better?
Do they run well?
Dylan Thomas drank himself to death
To write.

Leaves and dust
The grime of ages
It is the grime
Which wisdom brings
And not the leaves
The poet sings
That welcomes in
The coming year
Which rhymes with fear
And hear and see and
Feel and touch
That this my song should
Be so much that
Leaves would bloom
Where dust would settle.
I am the grass,
The poet said.
Does poetry live?
Does love?

Borges never loved.
That time should die --
Time need not order
But old Topolski made the point
Which Acton made before him,
Without a past there
Is no present.
Without a present,
No future, now.
And hope?
The Sermon on the Mount,
Christ and Bishop Berkeley.

The ant does not try
The leaf does not remember
And yet it blooms
And glows
From within

New York
Senatus Populus Que Romanus
One hundred years after
The American Century
From Bologna
To Paris
To London
To the New Gomorrah
The City On The Hill
Gone sour
And for all it shows
But a spot
Of grease?
Grease? Grime, rather,
Grime on a glowing
Green and vibrant
Living thing.
Man planted it, watered it,
Nurtured it, enjoyed it,
Does man deserve no credit,
For you, O leaf?
The green and the grime,
Shadows on a
Crowded New York street.

Once I loved you,
In my own reflection
As much a mirror
Of myself
As of you
There neither was enough of me
Nor more of you than
Twenty years could make.
Now forty years have formed
What twenty never could
O wait, my sons, my little sons
Allow the pain but the pleasure must come later

Un homme et une femme
Et, depuis, deux fils,
Une maison, une vie
Better in French
A failed empire
Their history a disaster
But life néanmoins
Day by day
Le rouge et le noir
The good, the bad, and the ugly

A small green leaf in the park
With a bit of grime
Of dust
A forest of small, green,
Be-grimed, be-sooted, leaves.





Heading for our time of troubles
Poets lose their nerve, talking
Of smaller and smaller things
Poems in the subway
Something about the blank day

Wordsworth wrote of daffodils
Tennyson of universal loss, and change,
But since the center fell apart
Things have gotten smaller

There was an enemy, once,
He defined us
Brought terror to our nights
But achievement to our days
Challenge and definition
The importance of taking sides

The problem is that now we drift
Weak simpering presidents "feel our pain"
But I don't want my pain
Or any other part of me
Felt, by him or anyone but me

Effeminacy? Or a longing,
For something outside our selves
The en soi and the pour soi
The old wall-eyed philosopher
Sitting in Montparnasse
Scribbling thoughts of nothingness
Keeping warm in wartime Paris

The cycles which we go through
The gyres
Circling and circling
Falcons and falconers


Now that no defining enemy
Keeps us in, like a corset,
We spread
Like a great, protruding,
Flabby belly
Or the unconstrained excesses
Of a suburban housewife's thighs

At home lines blur
There is much experimentation
Boys will be girls and girls will be boys
Families do not form
And formed, do not last
There is a reaction
And tentative lines, once extended
Are withdrawn, tentacle-like
There is no safety net no mo'

My morning walk through
San Francisco
Looks more and more like
Delhi in the '50s
At first a notable few
Then tens
Then dozens
Then hundreds, and thousands,
Thirteen, along 24th Street, where
There were two before
Men and a few women
Sleeping in doorways and in alleys
Fighting among one another, now,
Over turf, and scraps,
While news headlines assure me
That this will get much worse
That the rich will get much richer,
The poor much more homeless,
That there will be information-rich,
And information-poor, in an
Information society in which
Only information is wealth and power,
I write this myself and I believe it
The children of these poor will prey upon my grandchildren, someday soon

Outside, in the meantime,
Sharks circle, and grow,
For now they prey upon each other
Hong Kong swallowed by Shenzhen
Feeding Kwangtung feeding China
With Singapore and Taiwan and
India and Indonesia all
Looking on hungrily
And Japan rapidly if illegally
Re-arming, in methodical desperation

With no identifiable enemy to fight
We build walls
Around wealth suburbs
Or city enclaves
Piedmont, Greenwich, Highland Park, Neuilly
Around our private schools
And operas, symphonies, ballet,

There is no wall so high
As a fifty-dollar fee

Letting the public institutions
Built with one hundred years of socialism
Because a single aberration
In a country far away
Let it fall, so completely

Out there, as well, we are
Lip service to bilateral but
Really action only on our own
Legacy of an embittered Alsatian
Cynical at the periodic
Dismemberment of his own small
Country by its neighbors
The old idea -- more work,
More confidence in the neighbors
And the self -- having been
Totally abandoned.

That was a war-generation
They had seen the suffering
They knew the enemy, and
Themselves, well.
The quest for certainty -- they were certain.

Now let us count our blessings
Along with the looming threats
And the lack of definition

No war, is one
At once the cause and
Greatest satisfaction of
All our ills
Dentistry, another,
As one bitterly funny
Status quo apologist
Would put it

The immense level
Of general wealth
From which we now are
Retreating must be yet
The divisions have been
Far greater in the past

And diseases, to my doctors,
Now are mere mechanical things
Not, of course, that they really are
But the confidence in curing
What used to strike us
Down so often is
Reassuring, somehow
Then there is the information
Of which I was speaking
Its possibilities
The idea that any one, anywhere,
On any day at any time
Might read what I write
If the availability of information
To the human brain has been
At all a significant thing in
The past
And if the belief that the
More of those brains involved,
The better,
Has any credence
How very much better-off we are




But it's blurry!




• Glossary •




Kindle Digital Publishing currently says, "Indexes are not recommended at this time", or maybe they are, or maybe they are in Kindle 8 or Kindle 5 or something... And Apple's iBooks Author so far hasn't said anything -- they tend not to, until they've got it "perfectly" figured-out themselves -- always been that way, Apple folks are the Republicans of the digital biz, wear the belt and the suspenders, great investment and great products, but they tend to leave their few users who are in the dark, in the dark... "B-b-but it's intuitive!", spluttered exasperatedly... And Microsoft is, well, Microsoft, obscure and obscurantist, too many Word explanations of how to create Back Matter, all of them saying too much.

So this is a Glossary, but in the medieval sense: glosses, glossators -- people forever have been "writing in their books". So these are not "explanations" of the poems which they accompany -- see the Preface, above, for my diatribe against that -- instead they are additional ramblings, some relevant to the poetry and some maybe not. Another friend assembled a famous collection of Marginalia Books: old stuff, some of it very famous, in which people, some of them very famous, had scribbled in the margins & underlined & otherwise marked-up, people more interested in understanding the text than in worshipping the container, in his particular collection's case people such as Erasmus. Also, I tend to have a "good random mind", a good friend once praised-me-for-that-I-think, and these are that: it is fun for me to follow "leads", in my reading -- this glossator's Glossary, then, is for those who share that delight.


  • "A natural delineation of human passions, human characters, and human incidents" : in, Preface

    William Wordsworth with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lyrical Ballads (1798) "Advertisement", paragraph 2.


  • Andy's soup can : in, Asia on a Tuesday.

    Andy Warhol was one of the few public intellectuals, of the Terrible 20th Century, who Saw It Coming -- for several who didn't, see museum without walls, below.

    In all fairness to the latter bunch, Warhol came later, cleaning up and to some extent living on the wreckage which the others and their Era had left behind. Only or first, however, Warhol foresaw his often-quoted, "fifteen minutes of fame": that we all would have it, someday soon --

      Fame, (fame) makes a man take things over
      Fame, (fame) lets him loose, hard to swallow
      Fame, (fame) puts you there where things are hollow
      Fame (fame)

      Fame, it's not your brain, it's just the flame...

        -- by David Bowie, John Lennon, Carlos Alomar

    -- and Warhol's soupcan --

    -- the standardization, uniformity anonymity, anomie, alienation, entropy of what was to become Modern Life -- all captured in a single image...


  • Corson's Inlet : in, Becoming.

    A.R. Ammons -- favorite poet, I've read everything he wrote, that I could find, anyway... A businessman, like me, mid-level executive in a glass factory: he didn't own it, didn't even make the glass himself -- not an artisan, but definitely a wordsmith, his own word, with a rich interior life... He signed himself "A.R.": others called him "Archie" but he never did, that I have found -- travails of a little boy named Archibald, I was an Albert so I know those. I suppose they addressed him as "Mr. Ammons", a southern accent and elderly gentility requiring that, I never heard him speak though so I don't know.

    Ammons helped me through middle age and prepared me for becoming old. He wrote about his mind and his body, his powers of perception -- always somewhat distant and disconnected, yet very personal.

    Corson's Inlet is his masterpiece, I think,

      "risk is full: every living thing in siege: the demand is life, to keep life:"

      "tomorrow a new walk is a new walk"

      The Selected Poems: Expanded Edition (W. W. Norton, 1986)

    -- unless it's Garbage, his book-length rolling opus on that topic, which shows vividly and unforgettably that it is life, no worse / no better --

      "to the bacteria, tumblebugs, scavengers,
      wordsmiths-the transfigurers, restorers"

      Garbage (W. W. Norton, 2002)


  • Dark Web : in, • about metadata •.


  • day of birth : in, April 19, 1949.

    Dates don't impress me much: Mother's Day, Valentine's Day, Christmas, New Year's, birthdays, anniversaries, death days -- Mark Twain wrote a funny travel account about his trouble finding places in France because of all the "boulevard du 11 novembres" they have, if you don't know your French history you're lost... But the fact of being born does impress me. Something came from nothing and just sort-of began, on that day -- just as it will end, on another day some time in the future -- the finality of that impresses me, greatly. I've never looked beyond it, before or after, much.

    Genealogy and Religion never have interested me. History has, but more as a story than as anything related to me personally: I like Hari Seldon's take on it, that it works for groups but not individuals -- that's my experience of history, definitely, it's sort of "out there", and I'm "in here" -- I went to Polygon Wood to see where my grandfather got wounded, but all that very much was "out there", to me.

    Still, there's something about birthdays... I like the parties, if they're tame and personal and pretty silly: the family birthdays just-the-four-of-us have, have been wonderful for me -- especially the silly hats and the balloons -- and the marriage anniversaries have been soulful because they involve Janet, and I feel very soulful about her. But the solemn events of times like Easter and Christmas have been more commemorations, and ceremonies -- times to hear and feel and hear the music, more than anything else.

    My one sister and I were born on the same day, two years apart -- my other sister and our grandfather were born on the same day, as well, about fifty years apart -- I suppose I should read something mystical into that, but I've never figured out exactly what. Yeats would have. And the fact that I was born a year before mid-century has grown more and more significant over time -- now, at 2012, the year before mid-century seems terrifically long ago, like claiming to have lived in Two Millennia, or saying to 1950s grandchildren that you remember the Edwardian Era, or the Victorian Era. But that sort of knowledge stops there: most people remember experiences, not chronology -- if you didn't experience it you weren't there, as the man said...


  • Ecstasies of Saint Teresa : in, Emanations.

    Bernini --


  • Filipinos : in, Slowly.

    I've spent a lot of time in Asia -- never in the Philippines -- and I loved the place and its people(s). As with the Europeans, though, the insights provided were primarily about my own place and people: how like others we are, also how different -- neither of which I really understood until I went overseas and saw it. It's why I studied the French and their Internet, so much and in depth -- although I love them dearly, all the time I really was studying the Americans. French tourists understand this ; French stay-at-homes don't.


  • fun : in, April 19, 1949.

    "I was raised", as Janet likes me not to say, on people being polite and unobtrusive -- my mother was more Edwardian than her Edwardian parents ever were, and she went crazy in the end -- but the folks I've met who follow this description from the poem have been the happiest and most effective --

      Little Ben Franklin of Boston
      Conceited and selfish to the end
      But fun

    -- I'm not sure why -- I'm sure it has something to do with emulation, envy, of wanting to be as carefree as they are. Most of them have been self-centered and selfish. The emoters and caregivers and self-sacrificers have been that just as much, though, I've seen, it's just that they hide it and the "fun" people don't.


  • "He is the poet of mere sentiment" : in, Preface.

    William Carew Hazlitt, Lectures on the English poets and the English comic writers (London : George Bell, 1906) On Wordsworth ; page 207.


  • Howling in the wasteland : in, Slowly.

    Not what Eliot did, exactly, or not entirely. There is great beauty in his phrasing, I think, and wonderful melody. But I believe those just were talents he had, his studied interest and achievement: what really interested him was what he said -- "In my end is my beginning" -- he was very honest and straightforwardly-American, about that, a kid from St. Louis, wondering what it was all about, shocked & shocked again by what he'd found.

    Ginsberg too: there is more anger in him than there is in Eliot -- no more passion, Eliot's is palpable and even deeper -- but Ginsberg has an edge, when he howls he really howls, it is a wonderful poem to read out loud, but you have to be careful to choose your audience.


  • "knowledge is cumulative?" : in, Becoming.

    -- this from an elderly professor whom I'd helped to understand the Internet -- long before, from back when neither he nor I nor anyone ever had heard of or even imagined the Internet -- but I was a fan of Bucky Fuller and he was too...

    I'd thought about it -- had decided against it. He was an engineer and passionately believed in progress, in improvability, that things get better. I'd just been struck with the notion that things go in circles: the beginnings of the wisdom of age, plus years of epistemology, had suggested it... His question put the matter succinctly, polarized my thinking, although I had no answer for him then. Later Yeats gave me the image I needed: his "widening gyre" --

      "Turning and turning in the widening gyre,
      The falcon cannot hear the falconer..."

      Yeats, The Second Coming (1919).

    -- that we progress, upward and outward, although in doing so we circle back over the same ground, already-covered, over-and-over -- and he gave me, very clearly, the idea that progress is not always a Good Thing... I never confronted my old professor-friend with that: engineers tend not to be comfortable with epistemology -- knowledge is something they take for granted, also that it can be cumulative -- it makes them very useful beings, but impatient, and not good politicians.


  • Mediterranean man : in, Picasso.

    I've read a number of books about Picasso. The best documentation by far is David Douglas Duncan's matchless photo-essay:

    -- Picasso, example for us all of why & how not to follow examples...


  • museum without walls : in, Asia on a Tuesday

    Few public intellectuals have been so misunderstood, as a direct result of their public role, than has André Malraux, even though he defined the role for his own era and for two European and American generations.

    In spite of his use & misuse by De Gaulle, and his own use & misuse of De Gaulle -- all those accusations have been made, as though they did not beg all significant questions about both men -- both knew what they were doing... -- Malraux still embodies, with De Gaulle himself and Camus and Eisenhower, Hitler, Churchill, Mao, Gandhi, and others, the imperfect Man of His Time. That time, unluckily or luckily for those who lived it, was the Terrible 20th Century, with its conflagrations, cruelties, uncertainties, transitions, betrayals, desertions, and many new ideas.

    A study of Malraux is a study of that indecisive half-century, 1900-1950: an era which ironically reversed the historical positions of Europe and Asia -- both places he knew well -- although he didn't see that coming, as very few did, and even though and also somewhat ironically his own writings helped that transition along.

    By André Malraux:

    • The Museum Without Walls (London : Secker & Warburg, 1967) -- translation of,

    • Le Musée Imaginaire (Paris : Gallimard, 1965) collection « Idées/Arts » -- which was largely a rewrite of chapter 1 of,

    • Les Voix du Silence (Paris : Gallimard, 1951) collection « La Galerie de la Pléiade », nº 3.

    -- see also,


  • Old White Aryan : in, Tannhäuser.

    I'm not sure why I dislike Karajan so much. I have heard stories about him -- about Nazi collaboration, also nearly-so, comparisons with Fürtwangler, about personal arrogance and other so-called personality traits, about mis-use of other people -- but now I know that nobody really knows these things about someone else. Particularly for a public person, as Karajan was: there the reputation gets manipulated, so much -- for good or for evil -- that outsiders rarely can discern a real human being in there, we see their reputations, not them.

    But that becomes convenient, in writing... Writing is a shorthand for experience, mostly -- sometimes it transcends, but rarely -- usually a writer is trying to keep up with reality rather than the other way around. I think Borges was an exception ; a good example of it by contrast was Joyce. The convenience lies in using the image of the person to stand for others like him -- Bloom as typical, Stephen Dedalus as typical, Molly as typical -- reading Joyce I recognize folks I've known among his characters, many of them -- reading Borges I understand that I've never known anyone at all. I'm more comfortable with Joyce.

    So, Karajan... He stands for all the folks I've known who have reputations like his reputation: I've known some of them well, and disliked those I've known -- I've never known any of them as individuals, though, I used to think I did but I know that now. Individuals are very difficult to know.

    The Author isn't dead, we need authors to clarify texts, otherwise we won't know what they were talking about and that is an important part of reading, whatever meanings we think we add to that ourselves.


  • routines : in, Emanations.

    Routine is the greatest enemy, I think. I learned from sports that steady routine is the most dependable way of covering distance -- that spurts of energy exhaust you, the steady plod instead gets you through. There are analogies in writing, in study, in engineering, "tortoise & the hare", in military tactics. But the spurts are more fun, the stuff of life for many: it's why Pickett "charged", he got so tired of, and frustrated by, waiting and behaving -- The Light Brigade, too -- so many examples... It makes no sense in tactics, none in longevity either -- Italians, though, do it, and apparently Greeks do too -- it's a luxury of youth, ironically, as when you are young you figure time will last forever, but it doesn't.


  • Seberg's chest and t-shirt : in, Asia on a Tuesday.

    Breathless, movie by Jean-Luc Godard (1960)

    The 1950s were a very "male" time, and the centerpiece of that was female sexuality -- as Christina Aguilera has noticed, and best-represented recently -- Monroe then, Aguilera now... -- see Aguilera's videos, particularly "Candyman", on YouTube -- all those uniforms, that 1940s sexual separation, sublimation, suppression, destruction, death, loss, cruelty, all suddenly unleashed... The 1950s were a pretty wild time, in fact -- and if they weren't, for you, then the 1960s certainly were.

    By the 1970s and 80s the tables had turned and the times were more "female", and attentions turned to male sexuality again... so it goes...


  • their grandfathers' displays of ostentation : in, Asia on a Tuesday.

    The most depressing things in England nowadays are the package tours of "stately 'omes" -- unless it's the televising of Parliament -- both used to contain the Awe-ful Secrets, the Mystique of Empire -- now all that's gone, gone utterly -- their ancestors understood that the only thing enabling the governance of Empire, enabling a small society of several-score millions to rule many 100s of them, is mystique.

    The old Sacred Cows, once-worshipped more than they've ever been in Orissa, all are gone now -- slaughtered & eaten, consumed, by the consumer society -- or put out-to-pasture, tamed, grown fat & lazy -- they very much could use another war, another empire to conquer... energetic & aggressive bunch, the English, but the Long War 1914-1945, plus the rest of their recent Time of Troubles history, have been very hard on them... now they feel anachronistic, and that's a very bad feeling...


  • The Matrix : in, • about metadata •

    John Quarterman, The Matrix : Computer Networks and Conferencing Systems Worldwide (1990).


  • Theory Of Everything / TOE / ToE : in, TOE.

    "A theory of everything (ToE) or final theory is a putative theory of theoretical physics that fully explains and links together all known physical phenomena, and predicts the outcome of any experiment that could be carried out in principle..."

    -- Wikipedia


  • The pleasures of a small garden... : on the, title page.

    Patch and Topher have been the greatest things their father and mother ever have found, and the greatest fun they ever have had, besides one another.


  • translated, in, À vivre..., Étoile..., Le monde..., Sur les ailes..., Terre....

    I've loved Arthur Waley's translations as much as I've hated others. Waley was a poet -- too shy himself to admit that, perhaps, but others have said it -- translation is an art not a science, a firm fact of perception and understanding which language analysts and linguistic philosophers and fans of machine translation refuse to admit -- there is no such thing as plain meaning, plain language, language is not plain it is complex, suffused with meaning, a thing hidden and deep and mysterious, a thing arrived at last, in desperation, not first with clarifying light but at the end and just before battle, the last gasp of the understanding -- a hug and a gentle kiss are true understanding, they convey far more than language ever can, it's just as Eliza Doolittle screamed at 'enry 'iggins, "Words, words, words, I'm so sick of words!"

    But we grope for linguistic meaning more easily in our own language than in someone else's. Here, then, are some translations -- by me -- of some wonderful lines by a talented and well-known wordsmith of another language, also some notes about translations of these same lines by two others. Comparative translation is time-consuming but bestows great benefits upon those who undertake it: two heads are better than one, four are better than two, six or more and in several languages is best of all but that does take time -- James Joyce and T.S. Eliot were masters of the form, best evidence being that each of them struggled mightily with it.

    What you don't get from translation is "meaning" -- pace the language analysts and linguistic philosophers and fans of machine translation -- what you get, if you are lucky, are "meaning(s)", a multiplicity. But then that is what you get from the original lines themselves, as well, if they are any good. We look for meaning and we end up "Madly Singing In The Mountains", as Waley said -- whether we are Edwardian Bloomsbury or Ancient Chinese -- and yet that's the beauty of it, there is some commonality there, in the universal ambiguity of poetry.

    • Paul Auster, Ed. The Random House Book of Twentieth-Century French Poetry, with Translations by American and British Poets (New York, New York ; Random House, c1982).

    Auster's translations of these poems by Denis are found at pages 596-603: read them in conjunction with my own and with your own knowledge of French, what Denis himself "means" is wonderfully-present in the interstices which sew together all three versions, my own plus Auster's plus what you personally understand Denis to have said -- when Lasswell's "content analysis" and Google's "data mining" try to reach their ranked relevance retrievals and recalls and precisions and conclusions, poets laugh -- it's one key among several to understanding digital information, that the very precision required and sometimes involved makes what gets retrieved only "data", never really "information".

    Cid Corman, too, translated Denis: the most accessible collection of Corman's work that I've found is a series of records offered online by the Online Archive of California --

    -- if you are Out West, and can travel around the Golden State a bit, the several institutions cited in these might be interesting to visit -- Corman himself having been East Coast, though, so there is more there --

    -- as has Susanna Lang, too, her translation appears in the following --

    And for bibliographic work on Philippe Denis:

    • cipM -- centre international de poésie Marseille -- lieu de création et de diffusion de poésie contemporaine.






    • The Legal Stuff... •






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    Jack Kessler makes no express warranties or representations and disclaims
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    including any regarding accuracy, currency, merchantability, or fitness for use.
    We're just tryin' our best, here...

    Copyright © 2012- by Jack Kessler, all rights reserved.
    Document maintained by: Jack Kessler,
    ISBN-10: 0985672021 ; ISBN-13: 978-0-9856720-2-7
    Urtext edition, in HTML ; other EPub etc. versions will be made available.
    First published: July 17, 2012
    Latest update: July 26, 2012 15:68



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