Sunday, December 31, 2006
There is another site for 'Carrigskeewaun' here and a further poem inspired by the landscape, 'Remembering Carrigskeewaun', is at the Poetry Archive.
With the publication of his new collection, Kate Kellaway in The Guardian interviewed Michael Longley. He told her "I don't go to Carrigskeewaun for escapist reasons. I want the beauty, the psychedelic wild flowers, the calls of the wild birds. I want all of that shimmering beauty to illuminate the northern darkness. We have peace of a kind, but no cultural resolution – the tensions which produced the Troubles are still there. It is important for me to see beautiful Carrigskeewaun as part of the same island as Belfast. I might be most a Belfast man when I am in Carrigskeewaun." And then a bit later, in the same interview, he envisaged his own death. "There is a headland as you approach Carrigskeewaun and that is where I want my ashes scattered. And I just want one little stone, with my name on it, to be blown around by the wind and to mingle with the sand grains."
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Source: Wikipedia Commons
One thing the two articles share almost word for word is this memorable opening sentence: 'It is splendid, in infinite loneliness by the shore of the sea under a cheerless sky, to stare at a limitless expanse of water; in part, this is due to the fact that one has gone there, that one must return, that one would like to cross over, that one cannot do so; that everything belonging to life is missing and that one hears one's own voice in the roar of the tide, in the billowing of the wind, in the passing of the clouds and in the lonely cry of the birds; in part it is due to a demand which is made by the heart and by the withdrawal of nature...'
Sunday, December 24, 2006
Perhaps the most effective of Jonathan Richman's landscape evocations is the moment in some versions of 'Roadrunner' where he breaks off to describe the way the world seems from his car:
A friend and fellow Jonathan Richman fan once went to Boston and brought back a photograph of a sign with those magic words 'Route 128'. Looked at here in England I knew it was a resonant metonym for something, but of what I wasn't quite sure: Jonathan Richman? Rock & Roll? American road songs, road movies, road stories...? Or just a sense of freedom?
Saturday, December 23, 2006
"There were no maps in our house when I was growing up, none that I remember. At least not in the obvious places where I saw them in other houses--on the walls, framed, or as pages open on a table. If there were I have no image of them. But there were maps at school... Every day I sat there--six years old, then eight, then ten--always coming back to the same classroom for history, for science, for English, for religion. Always seeing a teacher in front of the map, speaking with certainty and precision. Often entering the strange illusion and that the teacher was mute and the map was speaking through her. Look what I own it said. See what you have lost... I was certainly aware, long before I wrote this poem, that the act of mapmaking is an act of power and that I--as a poet, as a woman and as a witness to the strange Irish silences which met that mixture of identities--was more and more inclined to contest those acts of power. The official version-and a map is rarely anything else--might not be suspect as it discovered territories and marked out destinations."In 'That the Science of Cartography is Limited', Boland writes about an incident where she came upon an Irish famine road in a wood. This road is not on the map. As she explains in the later essay, "the fact that these roads, so powerful in their meaning and so powerless at their origin, never showed up on any map of Ireland seemed to me then, as it does now, both emblematic and ironic."
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Of course only a subset of cultural landscapes are likely to give insights into particular places, and this is true for all periods of art. For example, I could boost the number of postings on forests by mentioning Charnwood in Leicesterhire, which features in Michael Drayton's Poly-Olbion (The Sixe and Twentieth Song). But being written in 1622 it sounds like this:
'No tract in all this isle, the proudest let her be,And so on. It is possible to strip out the classical allusion here and focus on what the satyrs were weeping about: greedy (gripple) cottagers killing off the deer. But the dryads provide further distraction: they rove to Sharpley and Cademon, real places which are not described, and on Bardon Hill we are merely told that they are joined by 'harmless elves.' To be fair, there are brief bursts of description in this poem but it does not engage directly with the Leicestershire landscape.
Can show a sylvan nymph for beauty like to thee:
The satyrs and the fauns, by Dian set to keep,
Rough hills, and forest holts, were sadly seen to weep,
When thy high-palmed harts, the sport of bows and hounds,
By gripple borderers' hands, were banished thy grounds.
The dryads that were wont thy lawns to rove...'
There is a useful on-line summary of the Poly-Olbion by William Moore. His description of the twenty-sixth song from which the lines above are taken is as follows:
'Topographical competition continues in Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, and Derbyshire. The Vale of Bever (Belvoir) matches herself with previous boasting valleys. The Muse defends the slowness of the Soar River, by analogy to a young girl visiting a sumptuous palace for the first time. The Soar praises its Charnwood Forest for containing all the best features of every other forest. The Trent River, comparing herself favorably with the Thames and the Severn, catalogues her fish. Sherwood Forest, in competition with Charnwood, tells the story of Robin Hood and his bowmen. The Peak, a "withered Beldam," tells of her seven wonders (caves, wells, a hill of sand, and a forest) before the song flows down from the hills along the Darwin (Derwent) River.'
Saturday, December 16, 2006
Source: Wikipedia Commons
Friday, December 15, 2006
I went to Oslo at the start of the month. I was really disappointed by the Munch museum, more notable now for the extraordinarily high level of security than the art: airlock doors, whirring cameras, silent security guards watching your every move. Two landscapes were on display, Winter in Kragero (1912) which looks a bit like a Cézanne hillside suddenly covered in snow, and The Yellow Log (1911) in which a woodland scene is given some ostranenie with the prominent log of the title, a shining Symbol like a felled sunbeam. These two post-date most of Munch's best, and best known, paintings. There is an earlier landscape in the Nasjonalgalleriet which I much preferred: Vinterbillede (1899), a simple image of winter that achieves an atmosphere of oppressive stillness through heavy paint and a cropped view of dark trees in the snow.
Sunday, December 03, 2006
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Saturday, November 18, 2006
It will be interesting to see a tapestry mapping the sort of places favoured by the kind of people that visit Brighton's Fabrica gallery. However, when I saw it this afternoon, the pattern of stitches was already starting to look like conventional maps of the city. I was hoping visitors would deliberately subvert the city's network of main roads and shops, or employ the kind of chance procedures used in situationist dérives. So will Brighton be re-configured or end up stitched in a conventional pattern? We'll probably know before the exhibition finishes on 17 December.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Saturday, November 11, 2006
There is a study for a scene in the room in the Courtauld: Decorative landscape - study for a room at Norbury Park. But are the actual landscape decorations mentioned by the Redgraves still there? I'd be interested to know. The house is privately owned and not open to the public...
The house and park at Norbury have an interesting history. An old guidebook called Picturesque England by L. Valentine that has been made into an e-book has the following to say:
Edward the Confessor found the remains of a Roman stronghold at Norbury. He converted it into a district lordship held direct from the Crown. At the Conquest it was given to Richard of Tunbridge, and from him was inherited by Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester. He - the earl - may have taken hither the lovely little princess Joanna, when, after their marriage, she loved to visit his noble castles before settling down in their rural home of Clerkenwell. For many generations the Husee family were tenants of the Earls of Gloucester, and at length they purchased Norbury. A daughter received it as her portion when she married Wymeldon in the reign of Henry VI. Heirs male failing, Norbury passed to the Stidolphs, an old Kentish family. In time the Stidolphs also died out, and Norbury was sold to a man by the name of Chapman, who bought it to make money out of it, and cut down every saleable tree. Beautiful Norbury would have been destroyed had not Mr. Lock bought it of him in 1774.
He was a man of great taste, and restored and improved the place, building a fine house on the crest of the hill. The windows commanded an exquisite view, and the decorations of his saloon were so fine that they became the talk of the time.
He entertained here Dr. Johnson, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Burke and Gibbon, and all the most distinguished characters in England.
When the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror drove the noblesse of France into emigration the fame of Mr. Lock's house and hospitality, which had long before reached Paris, brought some remarkable exiles to Surrey. At Juniper Hill Madame de Stael established her menage with Talleyrand, the Comte de Narbonne, the Duc de Montmorency, Monsieur Sicard and General D'Arblay; they were all entertained at Norbury. Fanny Burney, the novelist, used to stay at the house, and there fell in love with General D'Arblay. They were both very poor, hut Miss Burney had a pension of a hundred a year from Queen Charlotte, in whose hard service she had spent the best of her life, and she made money by her pen, though not to any great amount. However, they married, and Mr. Lock gave them "a piece of ground in his beautiful park," she writes, "upon which we shall build a little neat and plain habitation." Her novel "Camilla" furnished the funds for building the house, which was finished in 1797, and called after the book, Camilla Cottage. It is now Camilla Lacey. Her diary contains amusing and graphic accounts of their residence here, of General D'Arblay cutting down asparagus with his sword, etc., etc.
At Norbury, in 1819, Mr. Lock's son died, and the property was sold to a Mr. Robinson, then to Mr. Fuller Maitland, who exchanged it with Mr. Speding. At length it was bought, in 1848, by Mr. Grissell, grandson of the builder of the new Houses of Parliament, who has greatly improved the grounds. There is a grove of yews here that are a perfect show, and Sir Joseph Paxton has been seen to embrace and kiss the bark of a magnificent beech here: he declared that the yews and beeches of Norbury were the finest in England.
Saturday, November 04, 2006
John Cage composed a series of works inspired by Ryoan-ji, the Zen garden in Kyoto, starting with a version for oboe and adding other versions for flute, double bass, trombone, voice and orchestra. For each composition Cage traced the outlines of stones onto staves, creating ascending or descending glissandi for the lead instrument. It is quite easy to hear the shapes of the stones after listening for a while, and the simple percussion accompaniment fills the surrounding spaces like gravel in the garden. The music thus outlines a kind of sparse landscape and the path taken on the page by Cage's pencil is like the flow of air pressing against and swirling around a group of rocks, turning them into a a wind instrument. Listening this morning to versions of Ryoanji for flute (played by Dorothy Stone) and trombone (James Fulkerson), I was also reminded of the sounds of birds and animals, heard in the depths of the forest or high among the mountains in Japanese poems.
I took the photograph of Ryoan-ji below in 1998. It shows how the rocks appear quite isolated in the sea of gravel. One of the things I remember being particularly moved by was the beauty of the old wall framing the garden.
Postscript 2015: Youtube clips come and go and so I have replaced the one I originally had with a new one.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Following the recent Robert Smithson retrospective in New York and the re-emergence of Spiral Jetty, there seems to be an ever growing number of people making the pilgrimage to Rozel Point. A quick search reveals several recent accounts of journeys: Jerry Saltz, Contemporary-Pulitzer, Mike Owens... I can imagine going all the way to Utah and finding the place full of land art Grand Tourists (next stop De Maria's Lightning Field). Already the trip Tacita Dean made in Trying to Find Spiral Jetty (1997) seems to belong to another age. In the artsblog Jonathan Jones says "I think a work of art worth travelling to see has to be a really great statement about serious things. Something not just to fill your life but deepen it." Perhaps Spiral Jetty doesn't really fulfil these criteria, but I wouldn't really know as I've not yet seen it...
Monday, October 30, 2006
The Phaidon contemporary artists series includes an 'Artist's Choice' section and Tacita Dean has selected a poem by W.B. Yeats and a brief extract from W.G. Sebald's The Rings of Saturn in which the author gazes across the sea at a retreating cloudbank. This cloud formation, glistening 'like the icefields of the Caucasus', reminds Sebald of a dream in which he had walked a mountain range that had felt strangely familiar, and which later he placed as the view from a bus of the Vallüla massif, seen once on a childhood outing. 'I suppose it is submerged memories that give dreams their curious air of hyper-reality. But perhaps there is something else as well, something nebulous, gauze-like, through which everything one sees in a dream seems, paradoxically, much clearer. A pond becomes a lake, a breeze becomes a storm, a handful of dust a desert...'
Incidentally, the Artist's Choices in Phaidon's contemporary artists series make up a great reading list: Louise Bourgeois - Francois Sagan; Luc Tuymans - Andrei Platanov; Doug Aitken - Jorge Luis Borges; Uta Barth - Joan Didion; Mark Dion - John Berger; Richard Deacon - Mary Douglas; Jimmie Durham - Italo Calvino; Olafur Eliasson - Henri Bergson; Tom Friedman - Robert Walser and Timothy Leary; Antony Gormley - Saint Augustine; Dan Graham - Philip K. Dick; Paul Graham - Kazuo Ishiguro and Haruki Murakami; Mona Hatoum - Piero Manzoni and Edward Said; Jenny Holzer - Samuel Beckett and Elias Canetti; Roni Horn - Clarice Lispector; Ilya Kabakov - Anton Chekhov; Alex Katz - New York School Poets; Mike Kelley - Charles Fort; Mary Kelly - Julia Kristeva and Lynne Tillman; Paul McCarthy - Jean Paul Sartre; Cildo Meireles - Jorge Luis Borges; Raymond Pettibon - George Puttenham, Laurence Sterne and John Ruskin (what would Ruskin have made of Pettibon!); Pipilotti Rist - Anne Sexton and Richard Brautigan; Doris Salcedo - Paul Celan and Emmanuel Levinas; Thomas Schütte - Seneca; Lorna Simpson - Suzan Lori Parks; Nancy Spero - Stanley Kubrick and Alice Jardine; Jessica Stockholder - Julian Jaynes and Cornelius Castoriadis; Lawrence Weiner - W.B. Yeats and Kenneth Patchen; and Franz West - Kathryn Norberg.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Saturday, October 28, 2006
Source: Wikipedia Commons
Monday, October 23, 2006
John Ruskin's description of the famous waterfall in Modern Painters (Vol. I, Part II) is itself a torrent of language:
“Stand for half an hour beside the fall of Schaffhausen, on the north side, where the rapids are long, and watch how the vault of water first bends, unbroken, in pure velocity, over the arching rocks at the brow of the cataract, covering them with a dome of crystal twenty feet thick, so swift that its motion is unseen except when a foam-globe from above darts over it like a fallen star; and how the trees are lighted above it under all their leaves, at the instant that it breaks into foam; and how all the hollows of that foam burn with green fire like so much shattering chrysopase; and how, ever and anon, startling you with its white flash, a jet of spray leaps hissing out of the fall, like a rocket, bursting in the wind and driven away in dust, filling the air with light; and how, through the curdling wreaths of the restless crashing abyss below, the blue of the water, paled by the foam in its body, shows purer than the sky through white rain-cloud; while the shuddering iris stoops in tremulous stillness over all, fading and flushing alternately through the choking spray and shattered sunshine, hiding itself at last among the thick golden leaves which toss to and fro in sympathy with the wild water; their dripping masses lifted at intervals, like the sheaves of loaded corn, by some stronger gush from the cataract, and bowed again upon the mossy rocks as its roar dies away; the dew gushing from their thick branches through drooping clusters of emerald herbage, and sparkling in white threads along the dark rocks of the shore, feeding the lichens which chase and chequer them with purple and silver.”
Sunday, October 15, 2006
What landscape questions are asked by Alan Sonfist’s artworks? The obvious answer is that they ask environmental questions by creating sanctuaries for pre-industrial landscapes within cities. As the Green Museum puts it: ‘for almost 40 years, Sonfist has dedicated his work to linking city-dwellers and suburbanites to a nature that civilization has destroyed, with the hope that a greater appreciation of nature would encourage them to protect its future.’ His best known work is Time Landscape in Greenwich Village, proposed in 1965, realised in 1978, which creates an urban oasis based on the pre-colonial landscape. Sonfist has been criticised for mere preservationism which disguises present environmental issues by ‘fixing an image of the landscape frozen in the past, privileging one moment in ecological history over all others, and including more complex interactions with various inhabitants, native or other’ (Brian Wallis in Land and Environmental Art). However, this historical aspect of his work may also be one of the things that make it interesting.
Sonfist’s art can take the form of simple works about reclamation, e.g. Pool of Virgin Earth (1975), a circle of ‘pure’ earth on a chemical dumping ground in Lewiston, New York, designed to attract windblown seeds. However, in some larger scale works he has been able to question (or at least illustrate) the way landscapes evolve over time and space. For example, Time Landscape not only uses ‘pre-colonial’ trees and grasses: it also involved planting them on the original land elevations. In Circles of Time (1986-89) Sonfist traces the history of the Tuscan landscape in concentric rings: primeval forest, first settlers, Greeks, Romans and finally a ring linking the sculpture to the surrounding farmland. And his Secret Garden (2001) in Ontario used rocks arranged according to their position in geological time. Judged purely on environmental grounds some of these works may be inadequate, but then it might be asked what kinds of art intervention could ever be consider genuinely adequate to address current environmental concerns?
Saturday, October 14, 2006
Kenneth Hurlstone Jackson’s A Celtic Miscellany (originally published fifty-five years ago) contains a whole section on Nature, something the early Celtic writers treated with particular freshness. There are poems on the changing seasons, on rivers, mountains and woodlands, on snow and mist and stars. A few of them describe specific landscapes, like the Hill of Howth, ‘the peak that is the loveliest throughout the land of Ireland.’ The anonymous fourteenth century author of this piece describes the hill in terms that now seem like oxymoron: a ‘vine-grown pleasant warlike peak’ and ‘the hill full of swordsmen, full of wild garlic and trees, the many-coloured peak, full of beasts, wooded.’ It is as if the beauty of this ‘bright peak above the sea of gulls’ can only be enhanced by the part it played in the battles of Irish legend, as the place where ‘Finn and the Fianna used to be.’
Friday, October 13, 2006
The keiki (landscape) style of Haikai was dominant in the period Basho was writing, with its fusion emotion and the external scene. Some of Basho’s verse appears to consist solely of a brief landscape description. For example, Haruo Shirane quotes a hokku written in January 1691: kakurekeri shiwasu no umi no kaitsuburi (hiding in the water – the grebes of Lake Biwa – at year’s end). However the wider context for this poem is provided by the season word ‘shiwasu’ which literally means “teacher running” and has associations of ‘the end of the year, when everybody is rushing about cleaning up and settling their financial accounts’, so that the author of the poem appears in contrast to be ‘a carefree, reclusive person, someone who has the leisure to observe grebes at the busiest time of the year… At first glance, the hokku seems focused on a seemingly minor, if not insignificant, detail, but it gradually expands in the eye of the beholder, creating a tension between the smaller object and the implied landscape, or between the specific moment and the larger river of time.’ (Haruo Shirane’s Traces of Dreams p49).
Sunday, October 08, 2006
Apparently the Louvre does not own a single painting by Dughet. However, there is at least one place where Dughet is honoured: Rome’s Doria Pamphilj Gallery. There they have a Poussin Room entirely full of his paintings (Dughet is also known as Gaspard Poussin after his better known brother in law). It is an amazing space - a total immersion in classical landscape.
Postscript: January 2014
Kenwood has recently re-opened after refurbishing. The Dughet Landscape with Hunters is still high up but better lit than when I wrote this post in 2006...
Saturday, October 07, 2006
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Apollinaire's poem (below) features a building, a tree and a man smoking. The four elements are themselves individual 'calligrammes', but are united in a landscape composition with a simply delineated foreground and background. Torre published his 'Plastic Landscape' in 1919, a year after Apollinaire's posthumous Caligrammes (it is described in Willard Bohn's book The Aesthetics of Visual Poetry, 1914-1928). It is a longer poem than Apollinaire's, depicting the countryside in the heat of midday ('Mediodia igniscente') and ending with a squadron of aeroplanes flying overhead, to somehow harvest the fields of wheat. Only some of the text resembles landscape elements visually - there is a river flowing diagonally through the poem and a curved line of text describing the gleaners, which may relate to the physical action of their work. Much of the rest of Torre's poem uses typography only for visual emphasis, like the words that stand out in capitals: 'SOL', 'SIESTA', 'LA SED' etc. The two works are ostensibly similar but operate on a different balance between word and image: Apollinaire's poem is easier to see on the page, but Torre's landscape is easier to picture in the mind.
Monday, October 02, 2006
Source: Wikipedia Commons
Sunday, October 01, 2006
Promisingly, it says on his website, 'Paul Holberton is currrently writing a book on the history of Arcadia in art and literature (working title: Sex in the Bushes).'
Saturday, September 30, 2006
To Dulwich today for the Adam Elsheimer exhibition, a welcome break from computing woes which are partly to blame for infrequent postings at the moment. The Dulwich Picture Gallery is a good place for classical landscape painting anyway: Claude, Canaletto &c. but also less renowned artists like Herman Saftleven, painter of a lovely misty View on the Rhine. Adam Elsheimer fits perfectly in this company – a forerunner who is, according to the exhibition leaflet, ‘little known today’, but was ‘recognised in his own time as a genius.’ There still doesn’t seem much danger of him suddenly becoming very popular and the exhibition was relatively quiet even on a Saturday. Three highlights:
- The series of Saints and Figures from the Old and New Testaments from the Egremont Collection at Petworth House show Elsheimer’s amazing gift for creating poetic landscapes on a tiny scale. The pictures are 9 x 7 cm each (like playing cards) and the landscape details are much smaller. An example is Saint John the Baptist (c. 1605), which can be seen on the National Galleries of Scotland site (the exhibition was on in Scotland before coming to Dulwich).
- Aurora (c. 1606) started as one of Elsheimer’s paintings after Ovid but was left as a nearly pure landscape. A print of it made by Hendrick Goudt was an influence on later Dutch landscape painting. As you look at the painting your eye drifts away from the figure and off into the distant vista of a golden morning in the Roman Campagna.
- The Flight Into Egypt (1609) is the last painting in the exhibition and is extraordinary for the realistic full moon and stars. There is an ongoing discussion about the extent to which Elsheimer was painting a particular night sky - astronomers have examined the position of the stars and suggested it was painted on 16 June 1609. It is thought Elsheimer may have used a telescope – he was in contact with scholars in Rome who were familiar with the new methods and ideas pursued by astronomers like Galileo . In some ways the sky is almost too accurate to seem realistic and the figures, glimmering by the light of a torch and a fire, have an unreal quality to them. Rembrandt’s Flight into Egypt (1647) is similar in composition but fmuch more believable, although it is difficult to imagine it without the example of Elsheimer's original vision.
Sunday, September 24, 2006
Friday, September 22, 2006
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Whenever I read about Charles Ives I find myself intrigued by the stories of his father George. As a seventeen year old, George’s musical talents were noticed by Ulysses S. Grant, who told
The third of Ives’ Three Places, ‘The Housatonic at Stockbridge’ records the memory of a walk that Ives took with his wife, Harmony, along the banks of the
… River mists, leaves in slight breeze river bed--all notes and phrases in upper accompaniment . . . should interweave in uneven way, riverside colors, leaves & sounds--not come down on main beat . . .
Monday, September 11, 2006
Sunday, September 10, 2006
Saturday, September 09, 2006
Postscript 2019: I was thinking back on this post as I've been tempted to read Edward S. Casey's latest book on the phenomenology of edges, which might have been useful for my study of cliffs, 'Frozen Air'. I was also wondering about Michelle Stuart's more recent work over the last decade. This has dealt with bigger themes of space, time and evolution, e.g. 'These Fragments Against Time' (2018), an installation shown in a New York exhibition earlier this year. You can read an Apollo interview from last year which looks back over her career. There is also now a photograph of 'Sayreville Strata (Quartet)' available on Wikimedia Commons.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
À la recherche du temps perdu includes some memorable seascapes. You get the impression that Proust’s descriptions would be much more impressive than the paintings he describes by his fictional seascape painter, Elstir. Here for example is one of Proust’s sentences on the view from his narrator’s window at Balbec, where he notes the way the waves recede to that point in the distance where they resemble the glaciers one sees in the backgrounds of the Tuscan Primitives:
'Fenêtre à laquelle je devais ensuite me mettre chaque matin comme au carreau d'une diligence dans laquelle on a dormi, pour voir si pendant la nuit s'est rapprochée ou éloignée une chaîne désirée, -- ici ces collines de la mer qui avant de revenir vers nous en dansant, peuvent reculer si loin que souvent ce n'était qu'après une longue plaine sablonneuse que j'apercevais à une grande distance leurs premières ondulations, dans un lointain transparent, vaporeux et bleuâtre comme ces glaciers qu'on voit au fond des tableaux des primitifs toscans.'
(from Project Gutenburg)
Marcel Proust’s first book, Les Plaisirs et les Jours (1896) includes a beautiful passage headed ‘Seascape’. He thinks of the sea at Normandy, or rather ‘the wooded paths from which you occasionally catch sight of it and where the breeze mingles together the smell of the salt, damp leaves and milk…. Suddenly I would see her; it would be on one of those days of somnolence beneath a dazzling sun, when she reflects the sky that is as blue as she is, only paler. Sails white like butterflies would be dotted over the motionless water, happy not to move any more, almost swooning in the heat. Or alternatively, the sea would be rough, yellow in the sunlight like a great field of mud, with swells that, from such a distance, would appear stationary and crowned with dazzling snow’ (trans. Andrew Brown). The last two sentences are like paintings, but the first part of the quotation here hints at the full power of words, with the subject moving through the landscape and the different senses engaged.
Monday, September 04, 2006
William Everson (1912-94) was a very Californian poet. Part of the San Francisco Renaissance, he was known as the Beat Friar, having become a Dominican monk in 1951, and it was as Brother Antoninus that he wrote one of his best known poems, ‘A Canticle to the Waterbirds’. However he was also a literary critic: the author of Archetype West: The Pacific Coast as a Literary Region. The Modern American Poets site has a description by Everson of the Californian landscape. Here are some brief excerpts:
'It is early morning. The sun, peering over Mescal Ridge, leaves its near flank in shadow. The giant redwoods that line Bear Trap Canyon, huddled together without distinction, are deep in shade.'
'A slight haze has thickened against Mescal Ridge, but the cool of the morning is not all dispelled. The distant redwoods, as I anticipated, stand out like phallic flames, each green cone thrust at the sun. Bear Trap Canyon kinks its wrinkle up the groin of Bixby Mountain. Time seems to hang over the world, suspended.'
'Pausing in my writing I look out over the vast expanse of Bixby Canyon. It is mid-afternoon. The sun is beginning to slant down toward the western rim, but the solar intensity is still at crescendo. Down below me a redtail hawk circles and dips, his remorseless gaze searching for prey on the slopes beneath. After a time he gives up and cries angrily, disturbed by something intruding below him which I can't see. In the redwoods over my head a jay answers the hawk feebly, only a scrawny imitation of the master he cannot rival.'
Saturday, September 02, 2006
Thursday, August 31, 2006
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Monday, August 28, 2006
For werre wrathed hym not so much þat wynter nas wors,
When þe colde cler water fro þe cloudez schadde,
And fres er hit falle my3t to þe fale erþe;
Ner slayn wyth þe slete he sleped in his yrnes
Mo ny3tez þen innoghe in naked rokkez,
Þer as claterande fro þe crest þe colde borne rennez,
And henged he3e ouer his hede in hard iisse-ikkles.