In a previous discussion on astrology I presented W.H. Auden as a convincing though in the end inauthentic Aquarius, whose exact birth date falls not under the sign of the Water Bearer, but that of the Fish, Pisces.Therefore I propose that we butterfly stroke out of these murky waters and try something different.
Let’s undergo astrological rebirth!And what better place to do so than in Aries, the first sign of the zodiac cycle, harbinger of new beginnings. This time around, I would like to consider the Arian qualities of a character or two from literature and the books that begot them.That’s right – I’m asserting in a very Arian way that not only does a literary character possess an astrological sign but that a book does too.I would like to inaugurate this study with a profile of four Arians in literature: Sam Spade, his prototype, Odysseus, and the two books that birthed them, The Maltese Falcon and Robert Fitzgerald’s translation of The Odyssey.
Sam Spade, for those of you who don’t know noir, is the protagonist of Dashiell Hammett’s novel The Maltese Falcon, published in 1929.From the first page of the book, on which Hammett describes Spade as looking “rather pleasantly like a blond satan,” we know that Spade is a tough, no-nonsense guy with a penchant for trouble, but willing to go to any length to solve a crime, or, in this case, get his hands on the coveted black bird.Odysseus, as you, kind reader, already know, is the great warrior and wanderer who spends much of his adult life overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles.I am profiling these characters in tandem because when I read The Maltese Falcon, I couldn’t help recalling Odysseus every time that Sam Spade outsmarts an adversary with his cunning and physical strength.It appears that one has begotten the other.
What makes these characters a pair of Aries?A fire sign, the Arian archetype is the Ram.Those born under the sign of the Ram, according to Steven Forrest, astrologer, “come forth into the world armed with intelligence, vitality, and an instinct for survival.”The Arian is a warrior, a daredevil: courageous, assertive, energetic, competitive and often impulsive.Sam Spade is nothing but courageous, daring, and, as his primary love interest Brigid O’Shaughnessy says time and time again, “altogether unpredictable.” When Joel Cairo, also known as "The Levantine," first visits Spade to solicit his services in recuperating what Cairo calls "an ornament……that has been mislaid," a "black figure of a bird," he holds Spade at gunpoint. Spade barely flinches at the threat: "Spade did not look at the pistol. He raised his arms and, leaning back in his chair, intertwined the fingers of his two hands behind his head." During the crisis Spade, to all appearances, is perfectly at ease. When Cairo pats Spade down to make sure he is not armed, Spade gets the better of the man, striking him in the face with his elbow and rendering him unconscious.
I was reading an article about a messaging test recently completed in Northern Wales with torches in old Iron Age forts, and it made me think about why whales sing when they migrate, and also, about the transitional fossil find that links whales to wolves, The Blessing of the Animals at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and the recent conclusion that Mayan civilization collapsed because of human destruction. This may not be a natural progression to you, but in writing, I like to find connections among things seemingly without correspondence to prove that we can be close and dear, and we can learn something we already learned before.
Last Saturday, 200 volunteers stood at the summits of 10 hillforts on the Clwydian Range in Cheshire, Flintshire and Wirral, Wales, and successfully signaled each other with torches as if in warning to the community. The longest range was 15.5 miles between Burton Point on the Wirral and Maiden Castle, at Bickerton Hill, Cheshire.
I read once--and used in a series of poems--that male humpback whales sing a song that they pass along to each other, phrase by gradually shifting phrase, using repetition and rhyme, until the song ends sounding completely different from when it began, and then they don't sing it again. The marine biologists who had collected this fascinating information not only did not know where the song originated in the whale's anatomy, they also did not know why the males sang it. Blue whales sing while they migrate because the booming song acts likes a sonar mapping device, throwing back into their brains a picture of the ocean floor.
A few transitional fossils link wolves to hippos, camels, deer, whales and dolphins, and while it took 15 million years for the fish eating, whale eared Pakicetus to lose its hind legs and be whale 35 million years ago, the marine ancestor had already hit the water and held its breath. The limbs left because an embryonic gene called the Sonic Hedgehog, which had been miniaturizing the legs perfectly, stopped working. I remember thinking that the dogs that started barking at the recordings of singing humpbacks while jammed into pews at The Cathedral of St John the Divine back in 1992 were undone by such foreign language. Now, I wonder if they were not just becoming chorus to the larger pack?
Dr. Richard D. Hansen, an archaeologist with the Idaho State University has just completed a 30-year study of a pre-classic Mayan civilization on both sides of the Mexico-Guatamala border and concludes that it collapsed because of deforestation and damage to an overburdened agricultural system. I think we can take note of this. I don't want to collapse. Leave the forests. Let the forest leave.
Maybe the whales are not just mapping the ocean floor when they swim, but admiring the familiar view as they go back to the summer waters, the winter mating grounds, thoughtful of their days and nights. Maybe, there were a whole set of signals the Welsh devised to communicate more than warning. Even now, we can't keep to one subject---especially me--so how could the ancients do it?
I leave you with a song by the band, Whales and Wolves, called "What is Wrong".
Writers' Representatives' literary agent Glen Hartley just phoned with the good news that a federal judge in NYC has rejected a deal between Google and lawyers for authors and publishers that would have let the gigantic search engine make money presiding over the world's largest digital library. This is good news for authors! Read more here. Writers' Reps has been on this case since day one. You can read Writers' Reps attorney Lyn Chu's objections to the settlement here.
Last week in London I met with Mark Ford and concurred enthusiastically when he said that a cable TV station dedicated to the New York School would be a good idea. Jenny Quilter would serve as anchor at NYS headquarters and would moderate "Breakfast with James Schuyler" among other shows.
Some programs immediately come to mind as ideal for their time slots. "Lunch Walk" with Frank O'Hara (theme music from Poulenc's "Perpetual Motion"), "Happy Hour" with John Ashbery (theme music from Elliott Carter), and the aforementioned "Breakfast with James Schuyler" with Guests such as Barbara brought to you by Tiptree Gooseberry Preserve. Lewis Saul will compose music specially for the opening and closing credits weaving in fragments from JS's poem "June 30, 1974." Also, we plan to air "Gardening with Jimmy," at 3:30, hosted by Susan Baran and Marc Cohen with visits by C. North, E. Myles, et al, "Morning Prayer" with Anne Porter daily at 7 in lush interiors depicted by her husband, and "Fairfield's Opinions," Sundays at 11 AM, in which, against a backdrop of incredible seascapes, the painter airs his views on subjects ranging from cancer cures to risk-averse investment strategies. Maureen Owen will host "Telephone," with each show devoted to a phone call of note. Bonus feature: the poets' answering machine announcements and selected messages.
The "Harry Mathews Wine Hour," "Looking at Lookiing" with Jane Freilicher, and "Looking at the Dance with Edwin Denby" (hosted by Anne Waldman) are in the works. I have not yet consulted with Ron Padgett to determine whether he will produce and star in "The Tennis Court Coach" in the pilot of which Ron explicates Ashbery's The Tennis Court Oath in relation to the historical events preceding the actual tennis court oath in Paris in 1789.
For "Koch and his Circle," Kenneth Koch and friends will collaborate on poems and act in Koch's plays and skits such as "Keats and His Circle" set in Hampstead Heath in 1819. Harvard and Columbia students will receive course credit for regular viewing.
Larry Rivers and the Climax Band will play sets on weekend evenings at 9:30, 11, and 1 AM. We have been encouraging David Shapiro to bring his violin, Charles North his clarinet, and Larry Fagin his expertise on great girl singers of the Big Band Era, such as Louanne Hogan.
Vincent Katz will host a weekly "Studio Visit" featuring such painters, artists, and collage makers as Trevor Winkfield, Joe Brainard, Alex Katz, Joan Mitchell, the late Nell Blaine, the late George Schneeman, Jim Dine, Darragh Park. New work will be displayed by Star Black, David Shapiro, Susan Wheeler, Marjorie Welish, many others.
James Cummins will executive-produce and serve as chief writer on a brand new series of "PerryMason" courtroom dramas where everyone speaks only in sestinas.
Special consultant: Paul Violi (see his poem "Triptych"). Bureau chiefs: John Tranter in Sydney, Pyotr Sommer in Warsaw, Amy Gerstler in Los Angeles, David Trinidad in Chicago, Alice Notley in Paris, Terence Winch in DC, James Cummins in Cincinnati, Paul Hoover in San Francisco. Denise Duhamel wil report from Miami, Karin Roffman from West Point, Tony Towle from the taxi, and Nin Andrews from the AWP Conference. David Shapiro will be himself. These are just preliminary thoughts. More to come. This is as they say in French a "work in progress." (Like Finnegans Wake.) Suggestions welcome. -- DL
It is highly debatable whether graffiti falls under the definition of today's Wordsmith word "usufruct" but I took this picture this morning and afterwards, saw my word-a-day email. Close enough. From the Latin usus et fructus, use and enjoyment, the definition is "the right to use and enjoy another person's property without destroying it." I like the expression of satisfaction on this face, freshly sprayed on the side of an empty warehouse for sale nearby. I think of drawings I've seen by Ben Shahn, Henri Matisse, and Pablo Picasso with just a few strokes of pen or brush. Last weekend, I saw a team of guys let out of a truck with brooms and rags and watched them fan out and clean, and it could be that the building is now sold, or about to be shown to the first interested buyer in years. I like the face of welcome on the loading dock, although I may be the only appreciative one.
It's hard to imagine the usufruct possibilities. I do think about the houseboats on the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, whose owners do not have docking rights but are renting the spaces in front of properties belonging to others. Citizens of New York are not supposed to be living on their houseboats on the Gowanus, just using them for their enjoyment, and yet, I do think there is a resident ornithologist on one. As long as he or she doesn't fish the canal for supper like the beautiful egret I have seen, or like each year's mallard family, the cormorant, and the occasional swans bored with Prospect Park, I say stay where you are. You help make a polluted canal attractive.
KGB Monday Night Poetry is pleased to present... ourselves!
Laura Cronk, Megin Jimenez + Michael Quattrone We are having a reading to celebrate Laura winning the Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize <http://www.perseabooks.com/poetryprize.php> from Persea Press & to give Michael a proper send-off. He is hosting his final season after 4 years of curating the series & graciously hosting more than 100 poets at KGB Bar. And did we mention its our birthday month?
Monday, March 21 Reading starts at 7:30pm Admission is FREE
85 East 4th Street * New York, NY 10003 * Phone: 212-505-3360
***** Laura Cronk's first book of poems won the 2011 Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize and will be published by Persea Press in 2012. Poems have appeared in journals and websites such as Barrow Street, Conduit, Ecotone, RealPoetik, and Washington Square Quarterly and in the anthologies Best American Poetry (2006, 2008), Best American Erotic Poems, and The Bedside Guide to No Tell Motel. She is an Associate Director of the Writing Program at The New School, where she coordinates the Riggio Honors Program: Writing and Democracy. She co-curates the Monday Night Poetry Series at KGB Bar, founded by David Lehman and Star Black.
Megin Jimenez's poems have appeared in Barrow Street, La Petite Zine, LIT,Sentence and other journals. A graduate of the New School Writing Program, she co-hosts the Monday Night Poetry series at KGB Bar. She works as a translator at the United Nations and lives in Brooklyn.
Michael Quattrone is the author of the chapbook Rhinoceroses. His work has appeared in Octopus Magazine, Barrow Street and Jacket, and in the anthologies Best American Erotic Poems and The Bedside Guide to No Tell Motel—Second Floor. He is a co-curator of the KGB Monday Night Poetry reading series.
March 28 Matthew Yeager + David Lehman April 4 Brian Teare + Jean Valentine April 11 Matthew Zapruder + Eileen Myles April 18 Saskia Hamilton + Karl Kirchwey April 25 Gabrielle Calvocoressi + TK May 2 Dorothea Lasky, Star Black + David Yezzi May 9 Angie Estes + Mitch Sisskind May 16 Dan Chiasson + Deborah Landau
Here are the kaleidoscope windows of The Ethical Society of St. Louis in yesterday's early afternoon light in the midst of a celebration of the late George Hitchcock, editor of an influential literary journal, Kayak, that ran 64 issues from 1964 to 1984. I had many wonderful conversations and eavesdrops at "Kayak at the Confluence" and a funny coincidence in a workshop I taught. My friend, Liz Hughes Wiley, a former student of George's, put together this festival and brought in past contributors, ex-students, friends, an archivist, local actors, and his long-time love to share their experiences, perform his play, revel in the work, and give context to the surrealist editor's singular sensibility and influence on American poetry.
It was also at a festival that welcomed new poets into the fold, and I was there to teach a 16 year old girl and three poets reviving their interests in poetry how to find publishers for their work, and also to sit on a panel of publishers talking about community and individualism in literary magazines. It was funny, then, to be reading a prose poem, "Murder Mystery" by Nick Admussen, to the participants in my class to illustrate the interests of the editors at Epiphany Magazine, and have one of them, Susie Morice, remark that she taught a Nick Admussen in high school maybe 10 years ago who was brilliant and wildly imaginative. I read his contributor's note, which included graduate school at Princeton and current residency in Beijing. That sounds like him, she said, and later, with the help of someone's iPad, brought up a picture that confirmed it. When I choose poems from magazines to read aloud, I am both encapsulating the style interests and inviting poets to discover new voices. This connection was a joy to discover especially in light of Susie's own late blooming as a poet, and one who has a clear command of her own voice.