"Rose is a rose is a rose." -- Gertrude Stein
"It is what it is." -- contemporary version
Leslie McGrath's recent post about the similarities between writing and cooking reminded me of this passage, by Charles Simic:
If not in bed, my next writing-place of choice is the kitchen, with its smells of cooking. Some hearty soup or a stew simmering on the stove is all I need to get inspired. At such moments, I‘m reminded how much writing poetry resembles the art of cooking. Out of the simplest and often the most seemingly incompatible ingredients and spices, using either tried-and-true recipes, or concocting something at the spur of the moment, one turns out forgettable or memorable dishes. All that’s left for the poet to do is garnish his poems with a little parsley and serve them to poetry gourmets.
-- Charles Simic, New York Review of Books, February 10, 2012
You can love both, of course, and we do, but it is fun to compare these peerless singers, and one of our friends may have nailed it. "Billie makes me feel like things are only going to get worse," he said. "Ella makes me feel like things are looking up." The reflection occurred to us today while driving on a spidery network of roads that have "High" in their name -- Highland, Highgate, with different suffixes, "place" and "road" and "avenue" -- and we were in no hurry and were trying out the new Siirus-XM satellite car radio. And then we heard Lady Day's cover of a happy Irving Berlin song from Top Hat, "Isn't This a Lovely Day to Be Caught in the Rain?" She made this cheerful tune sound like a dirge, albeit one with a kick -- DL
"Venus will look like a dark pea drifting across a bowl of carrot soup."
Robert Siegel, Senior Host NPR's All Things Considered, June 5, 2012
Democratic literatures are always crawling with authors who see literature as nothing more than an industry, and for every great writer there are thoiusands of retailers of ideas.
Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (trans. Arthur Goldhammer)
I remember a poet's writing to me several years back, You are the most underrated poet in the country. But then, he added, that's better than being the most overrated poet in the country. I was and remain impressed by the short distance between the two extremes.
-- Howard Nemerov, Journal of the Fictive Life (1963)
“The point is not so much to understand the poems (for when we understand something, we don’t need it anymore, and we don’t read it again); the point is to inhabit the poems. By doing so, we recognize that our humanity is not constituted by our ‘mastery’ of something. It is constituted by our willingness to humble ourselves to the ‘mystery’ of something.”
Read the entire post here.
From "Out the Window" by Donald Hall in the New Yorker, January 23, 2012:
[My mother] died a month short of ninety-one. Her brain was still good. A week before she died, she read "My Antonia" for the tenth time. Willa Cather had always been a favorite. Most of the time in old age she read Agatha Christie. She said that one of the advantages of being ninety was that she could read a detective story again, only two weeks after she first read it, without any notion of which character was the villain.
New poems no longer come to me, with their prodigies of metaphor and assonance. Prose endures. I feel the circles grow smaller, and old age is a ceremony of losses, which is on the whole preferable to dying at forty-seven or fifty-two.
Much modern architecture fails that general human challenge: how to look good when you're no longer so young.
Alain de Botton via twitter @alaindebotton
Nominees for this category of modern architecture?
From Aldous Huxley's The Perennial Philosophy:
"Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die." This is not a very noble, nor even a very realistic kind of morality. But it seems to make a good deal more sense than the revolutionary ethic: "Die (and kill), for tomorrow someone else will eat, drink and be merry."
Marv Levy, when he coached the Buffalo Bills, was asked whether an upcoming game was a "must win." Levy paused, then said, "World War II was a 'must win'." -- DL
Last evening, when listening to Paul Violi's friends and colleagues and students and admirers read his poems, I thought of the last two lines of Yeats's "The Municipal Gallery Revisited." Here are the culminating lines of this multi-part poem. DL
You that would judge me, do not judge alone
This book or that, come to this hallowed place
Where my friends’ portraits hang and look thereon;
Ireland’s history in their lineaments trace;
Think where man’s glory most begins and ends,
And say my glory was I had such friends.
I remember hearing about an incident that befell the scholar and critic Frank Kermode, several years ago. He was moving, and had put boxes filled with all his most precious books (his fiction, his poetry, his signed first editions, and the like) on the street. The garbage collectors came by, and mistakenly took the boxes, leaving Kermode with a great deal of contemporary literary theory. The story once seemed horrifying to me; now it seems almost wonderful. To be abruptly lightened like that, so that one's descendants might not be burdened!
I too remember the Kermode incident and the way it made me shake my head and smile. although I suspected myself of Schadenfreude masked as poetic justice. If only Kermode had taken a stronger stand against literary theory!
Wood's thoughtful and thought-provoking piece ("Shelf Life") makes you take another look at the shelves above your desk -- as captured in my case by the photograper Brian Adams. -- DL
I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark
from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman
THE RULE OF THUMB
Ringfinger was nervous
when they learned
that Hand might succumb
to the rule of Thumb.