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A memorandum-book does not, provided it is neatly written, appear confused to an illiterate person, or to the owner who understands it thoroughly, but to any other person able to read it appears to be inextricably confused.

James Clerk Maxwell

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Saturday, October 18th, 2014

🦋 Two faces of modern poetry

In one of his classes, Amalfitano said: the birth of modern Latin American poetry is marked by two poems. The first is "The Soliloquy of the Individual," by Nicanor Parra, published in Poemas y antipoemas, Editorial Nascimento, Chile, 1954. The second is "Trip to New York," by Ernesto Cardenal, published in a Mexico City magazine in the mid-'70s (1974, I think, but don't quote me on that), which I have in Ernesto Cardenal's Antología, Editorial Laia, Barcelona, 1978. Of course, Cardenal had already written "Zero Hour," "Psalms," "Homage to the American Indians," and "Coplas on the Death of Merton," but it's "Trip to New York" that to me marks the turning point, the definitive fork in the road. "Trip" and "Soliloquy" are the two faces of modern poetry, the devil and the angel, respectively (and let us not forget the curious fact -- though it may be much more than that -- that in "Trip" Ernesto Cardenal mentions Nicanor Parra). This is perhaps the most lucid and terrible moment, after which the sky grows dark and the storm is unleashed.

Those who disagree can sit here and wait for Don Horacio Tregua, those who agree can follow me.

--Roberto Bolaño, Woes of the True Policeman

So then, here they are:
  • Parra, Soliloquio del individuo, translated by Ferlinghetti as "Soliloquy of the Individual" -- here is a recording of Ginsberg reading the translation, though annoyingly cut off before the end. Here is a recording of Parra reading.
  • Cardenal, Trip to New York. (Annoying -- this is a Google Books preview and only the first page is available; I haven't been able to find a link to the original text.) (Or possibly there are more than one poem of that title by Cardenal -- I just found a link to the first page of a poem called Viaje a Nueva York which begins differently than that one.) (Update -- we'll know soon enough, I just bought the 78 Laia Antología via AbeBooks...)

    posted morning of October 18th, 2014: Respond
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Saturday, March 24th, 2012

🦋 At the end of our little universe

In honor of the man's birthday: here is one of my favorite Ferlinghetti poems.

The Painter's Dream

(from These are My Rivers)

I'm with Picasso and "Fernande in a Black Mantilla" looking tragic with turpentine like rain running down her shoulder
And I'm in Pontoise with Pisarro
And with Gauguin in "The Vanilla Grove"
And in the "Mountains of St. Remy" with Van Gogh
And at "The Bend in the Road through the Forest" with Cézanne
And with Vuillard in "The Place Vintimille"
And with Picasso and "El Loco" and his blue acrobats
And with Picasso shaking his fist at the sky in "Guernica"
And I'm Durer's Steeple-jack seen by Marianne Moore
And those harpies "The Demoiselles of Avignon" are glaring at me personally
And Degas' ballet dancers are dancing for Matisse and Monet and Renoir and all the Sunday painters of Paris and John Sloane and all the Sunday painters of America and most of the painters of the Hudson River School floating along so calm and holding hands with most of the West Coast Figurative painters and their Have a Nice Day cohorts
But I'm also with Malevich in his "Red Square" in the Beautiful Corner
And with Delacroix' "Liberty Leading the Masses"
And with Goya's groaning masses in "The Disasters of War"
And I'm rocking across the Atlantic with "Whistler's Mother"
And I'm crossing the Delaware with Washington standing in the boat against Navy regulations
And I'm with Bierstadt crossing the Rockies on a mule
And with Motherwell and DeKooning and Kline and Pollock and Larry Rivers in the broken light in the shaken light of the late late late twentieth century
And then I'm walking through a huge exhibition in the Whole World Museum of Art containing all the greatest paintings of the entire fine arts tradition of all the centuries of western civilization
When suddenly a wild-haired band bursts into the Museum and starts spraying paint-solvent onto all the paintings
And all the paint in all the paintings starts to run down onto the floors of all the galleries forming fantastic new and exciting images of the end of our little universe
And elite curators in Gucci shoes rush in and cut up the painted floors and hang them on the walls while picturesque bohemian painters in berets stagger through the halls weeping

posted afternoon of March 24th, 2012: 3 responses
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🦋 93

As I grow older I perceive
Life has its tail in its mouth
and other poets other painters
are no longer any kind of competition
It's the sky that's the challenge
the sky that still needs deciphering

— from "Poet as Fisherman"

Happy birthday Mr. Ferlinghetti!

posted morning of March 24th, 2012: Respond
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Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

🦋 Landscapes

I picked up Ferlinghetti's Landscapes of Living and Dying again this weekend and found myself entranced again by the crystal clarity of his images and by the sparse beauty of his syllables.

For years the old Italians have been dying
all over America
For years the old Italians in faded felt hats
have been sunning themselves and dying
You have seen them on the benches
of the park in Washington Square
the old Italians in their black high button shoes
the old men in their old felt fedoras
with stained hatbands
have been dying and dying
day by day
This old Italian (nearly 60 when he was writing these poems, in his 90's today) paints his landscapes all over America, from Washington Square to Spartanburg, SC, to Washington, DC, Wisconsin, Michigan, Springfield, San Francisco, San Jose... In each location he captures the perfect details to bring the scene to life.

posted evening of May 10th, 2011: Respond

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

🦋 Ferlinghetti in my life

I was pretty young when I found out about A Coney Island of the Mind -- I bought a copy at one of the bookstores on Telegraph Ave. and it's the first book of poetry I can remember carrying around in high school. I just loved the title! And the poems themselves began gradually to sink in, too... I read them today and they are familiar like old relatives and slightly embarrassing too, like old relatives can be; but it seems to me like there is real beauty in them mixed in with the clumsyness.

I have not lain with beauty all my life
telling over to myself
its most rife charms

I have not lain with beauty all my life
and lied with it as well
telling over to myself
how beauty never dies
but lies apart
among the aborigines
of art
and far above the battlefields
of love

It is above all that
oh yes
It sits upon the choicest of
Church seats
up there where art directors meet
to choose the things for immortality
And they have lain with beauty
all their lives
And they have fed on honeydew
and drunk the wines of Paradise
so that they know exactly how
a thing of beauty is a joy
forever and forever
and how it never never
quite can fade
into a money-losing nothingness

Oh no I have not lain
on Beauty Rests like this
afraid to rise at night
for fear that I might somehow miss
some movement beauty might have made

Yet I have slept with beauty
in my own weird way
and I have made a hungry scene or two
with beauty in my bed
and so spilled out another poem or two
and so spilled out another poem or two
upon the Bosch-like world

A couple of more poems below the fold.

posted evening of March 24th, 2009: Respond
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🦋 Happy Birthday, Larry!

Lawrence Ferlinghetti is 90 years old today. What a milestone! He is one of my favorite poets -- this evening when I have some time I would like to pick out a couple of his pieces to post here. In the mean time you ought to give him a birthday present by heading over to City Lights and buying a book.

Ooh and look at this! Nick Lowe (the Jesus of Cool) turns 60 today! And Olivia is 9 years old. A good day for birthdays.

posted morning of March 24th, 2009: Respond

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