Maybe all my life I will find lines from A Room with a View. This week for example, yet another week of trying not to think too hard about those who would have me believe I don’t deserve an answer (let alone a response)... This week, there is this:
But if we act the truth, the people who really love us are sure to come back to us in the long run.
I said this to Khala today. Then I added, “Or not.”
[Santo Spirito, Firenze]
[mercoledì 21 novembre 2018 ore 10:15:00] [¶]
These days I’m reading (though I’m far along enough into it—a dozen pages—to suspect that all my days I may be reading) the first volume of the Letters of Rilke. Already there are things, sentences and murmurs and whole truths untricked, that feel so important and immediate that I have trouble turning the pages.
Already there is this one in its entirety—this one I want for ever. Like letter 133 of Van Gogh, this one feels like a page from a holy book of my own small and large religion:
To Adolf Bonz
Im Rheingau, Berlin-Wilmersdorf
[December] 25, 1897
. . . I want to speak to you in all sincerity now . . . about the poems. You see, my view on this point is purely subjective, and it must be and must remain so. It is not my way to write poems of epic or lyric style that can stand five to ten years of desk air without becoming deathly sick. Short stories and dramas are results that do not age for me,—poems, which accompany every phase of my spiritual longing, are experiences through which I ripen. Short stories are chapters, poems are continuations, short stories are an appeal to the public, courtings of its favor and interest, poems are gifts to everyone, presents, bounties; with a short-story book in my hand, I am a petitioner before those who are empty,—with poems in my heart, I am king of those who feel. A king, however, who would tell his subjects in ten years how he felt ten years ago, is a sham. Seven sketchbooks full of things I am burning to utter await my choice, and they must be said either now or never. But because I knew that I would want to say them, I have undertaken to mark each lyric period by a book. Since the Dreamcrowned period seven sketchbooks have come into being and an eighth is begun which seems to me to indicate an entirely new stage.—So it is my plain duty to settle accounts with these ripe riches, that is, to commit what is good in them either to the fire or to the book trade. I prefer the latter, for my books have had success, that is, they have awakened here a smile, there a love, there a longing, and have given me an echo of that love, the reflection of that smile and the dream of that longing and have thereby made me richer and riper and purer. Please understand me, I grow up by them, they are my link with the outside, my compromise with the world. Now I can defend the verses as episodes, as little moments of a great becoming, as real, deep spring: if ever I have a name, they would be misunderstood as final products, as maturities, mistaken for summer.—I cannot keep my springtime silent in order to give it out some day in summer, old and faded, and were I untrue to my resolve, which for four years has been fulfilled in Life and Songs, Wild Chicory, Offerings to the Lares, Dreamcrowned, all further publication, seeming to me a betrayal then, would probably cease too. But I am earnestly sworn to persevere, and this whole attitude is so bound up with my life that I cannot dismiss it. Quite the contrary, if I ever have a name, that is, have become (and the becoming is much too glorious for me to long for that), then the poems will be entirely superfluous; a selection can then be made, a complete edition which will then also have something about it of a comprehensive result—but then they will be blossoms, memories of spring, lovely and warm with the summer that lies over their stillness. Until then is further than from today until tomorrow. What I am saying today is nothing but the word “heart’s need” of the other day, a rocket sent into the air, bursting into these thousand words of my innermost conviction. And valued and dear as your advice is to me, you will now not take it amiss any more if I do not follow it, but do everything to consecrate a new book of poems, Days of Celebration, to young ’98.
I cannot do otherwise, so help me God. . . .
And look—just think. Thank goodness he didn’t.
[Santo Spirito, Firenze]
[giovedì 15 novembre 2018 ore 11:10:15] [¶]
In Berlin, I went one day to the Hamburger Bahnhof. They were running a show called Hello World: Revising a Collection. I didn’t see the whole show, didn’t even come close. But I spent a lot of time with one particular chapter (as they were calling the different sections of the show), which focused on works by Keith Haring, Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol, and others.
The art was amazing, of course. But between and around and interspersed among the paintings were these collages, full of associative bits and pieces — newspaper headlines and scraps of articles clipped from magazines, record sleeves and strips of filmreel, ads and cartoons and slogans and logos, letters and telegrams and postcards and polaroids — all kinds of things that were collected together in what looked like very large speech or thought bubbles, pasted on the walls between the works. I fell in love with what kept happening among and around these juxtapositions. How to explain? In a blog I found later, a Berlin-based art-historian called it a dialogue (between the modern masterpieces and contemporary collages), that offers a cloud of associations.
Dialogue is a good word. So are clouds and associations. So too, are collisions, tangents, repercussions and spirals. For me, it was as if the things in the thought bubbles were conversing with the actual art. Or no, better and weirder: it was like the things in the thought bubbles were triggering conversations in my own mind, about the actual art and about themselves and about the times in and out of which the things and the art and everything, really everything, ever happened.
Think of litanies without words. A list poem in pictures. A medley without music. Imagine what it would feel like to take a Rorschach test, except instead of inky images, you were presented, one by one, with objects from everywhere and all of time:
That shot of Marilyn Monroe with her dress swirling up like wings around her. A picture of a calla lily and a picture of the bust of Nefertiti. Muybridge’s Dancing Woman and Mao and Madonna. Van Gogh in a straw hat and Saint Sebastian in arrows. Tiananmen Square and a manatee and Mike Tyson’s tattoo. Adam and Eve by Masolino and an Elvis the Pelvis Dashboard Doll. That Walker Evans photograph of Allie Mae Burroughs and that violin-playing angel by Melozzo da Forlì. A headline about an electrocuted elephant at Coney Island. A headline about the Rosenbergs. A headline about a boy for Meg. A shot of some graffiti in the West Bank, of Donald Trump in a kippah, standing by the Israeli separation barrier (“I’m going to build you a brother...”). The front page of a German newspaper (“Die Mauer ist weg! Berlin ist wieder Berlin!”) Elvis as a Flaming Star. Elvis as a big-haired kitchen sponge. Jesus and Mary and the landing on the moon.
Some other things I have discovered, in writing this:
That despite evidence to the contrary (for example, here, and here), she is not an object, not nine and one-half of an inch tall by seven and nine-sixteenths of an inch wide, not made of gelatin silver, not matted.
That she died of colon cancer, and is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery.
That they used to call it working from can’t to can’t: “You go to work, it’s so dark you can’t see your hand, and when you finish, you still can’t see your hand.”
That maybe that was a long time ago. But this isn’t:
About 350 people work the first shift at the plant, where starting pay is $5.50 an hour and drops down to $5.15 for the week if you’re late to work even once, or ever have to leave before the line shuts down for the day. Nearly all the workers are black women.
Yolanda Robinson, who works in quality control, is a sharecropper’s granddaughter and is black. She won prizes for elocution in high school, joined the Navy, married young, and was widowed in her 20s. She’s on her second stint at the catfish plant, had hoped she’d never have to go back. Searched for a clerical job in Tuscaloosa, left her résumé on car windshields in executive parking spaces, gave it her all, but finally gave up and went back to the one job she knew she could get. Her sister has worked at the plant for 13 years, and makes $6.75 an hour.
Yolanda Robinson, who has one of the best jobs in a county where 59% of single mothers live below the poverty line; whose hourly pay is less than twice the price of a gallon of gas (“just enough to get you but not enough to get you up and out”); who takes home between $205 and $220 a week after deductions for extra aprons, gloves, and earplugs beyond the standard weekly allotment; who pays $50 every three days to fill up the minivan, and $140 a month for the light bill, $60 for telephone, $18 for county garbage pickup, $200 on her rent-to-own home, plus food and clothing and last week’s surprise, $114 for school supplies for her three daughters; who would qualify for food stamps but can’t find time to visit the office and fill out the application; who dreams of going to college to become a math teacher, and takes my hand and holds it as I’m leaving, and lets herself be pulled just a little, and lets go.
That Google Translate turns ‘Lichtenhägern’ (as in, the people from Lichtenhagen, in Rostock, where the race riots happened in 1992), to ‘light hunters.’
That as part of the Nationalgalerie network of museums in Berlin, the Hamburger Bahnhof has been dubbed the Museum für Gegenwart. The Museum of the Present.
[Santo Spirito, Firenze]
[mercoledì 07 novembre 2018 ore 19:01:01] [¶]