n i g h t i n g a l e s h i r a z / blog
Well, art is art, isn't it? Still, on the other hand, water is water! And east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Now, uh... now you tell me what you know. (Groucho Marx)

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La Scuola Holden, Chaplin, Etc.

From “Right Margin Mani(festo): This Is How I Mean,” by Christopher Kennedy, in The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry (which yes I’m still reading):

...I dreamt I wrote a letter to J.D. Salinger, asking him to write a novel “just for me.”  I ended up hand-delivering the letter, and on the other side of it was a contract for him to give a reading at Syracuse University where I teach.  Salinger laughed at my brazen attempt to get him to leave his seclusion, but he told me he was touched by the part of my letter where I wrote that I needed him to write another novel “because it was the only way I could learn more about the human condition.”  After he quoted me that part of my letter, I looked around and saw there were other writers in Salinger’s living room.  We all left together, and when I woke up, I told my wife about the dream, and as I did it occurred to me that this notion of “the human condition” and getting to it through someone’s writing was why I became a reader.

Last night we watched City Lights, because the night before we’d gone to hear some Chopin at the British Institute, and the Chopin (it was Sonata Op. 65 in G minor) came along with some other gifts, including a series of pieces — arranged for piano and cello — by a certain Charles Chaplin.  And after the concert when I stopped the pianist and the cellist to thank them, and to ask what was that third piece, was it from one of the films and if it was which one was it, because it felt like something to me, like something that was already familiar, or that if it wasn’t yet it was meant to be and what had taken me so long, we got to talking about that last scene in Le Luci della Città, as they called it.  And I realized then that the entirety of my memory of City Lights lay in my memory of my father telling me about City Lights, not of watching it.  Had I ever even seen it?  Even now after having watched it last night, I could not tell you.

But the third piece.  That was the theme from Limelight.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Santo Spirito, Firenze]
[venerdì 16 febbraio 2018 ore 10:39:28] []

To Think Through Things

For some days now I have been wanting to re-read The Rose Metal Field Guide to Prose Poetry: Contemporary Poets in Discussion and Practice.  This morning I begin at last, at the very beginning:

In his book Looking at the Overlooked, art historian Norman Bryson discusses the distinction between megalography and rhopography.  Megalography, he says, “is the depiction of those things in the world which are great—the legends of the gods, the battles of the heroes, the crises of history.” Rhopography, on the other hand—“from rhopos, trivial objects, small wares, trifles”—“is the depiction of those things which lack importance, the unassuming material base of life that ‘importance’ constantly overlooks.”

And of course I like this, of course I am drawn in at once, intrigued immediately.  Not only because, here again is that thing I love about what happens all over this kind of writing, whatever you choose to call it (or whatever I choose to call it, which you then disagree about), this borrowing of something from somewhere else, to make us look a little differently at the thing we’re looking at.  Not only because of that, but also because (and here I don’t even need the next sentence, about how Bryson is talking about still life painting in his book, though it is like a confirmation of what I’ve already suspected, in having decided to stop and linger here, not even a page into this book I have just opened) I think at once of Mark Doty’s Still Life with Oysters and Lemon, go looking for and find it, become lost in places far beyond what I meant for the morning.

I read of how, in the evolution of still life as a genre, the earlier paintings of indulgence give way to something more rigorous, certainly more poetic—compositions in which the terms are reduced, and their import seems to lie not in plenty but in the poetry of relation: here is the sharpness and translucency of lemon beside the differently fragrant and more solid body of fish; here is light on a white damask cloth, a knife, a loaf of bread.  Here are harmonies and gradations of texture, of scent, of flavor, of light; look at these degrees of reflectivity, the way each of these elements responds to light’s lavish attentions.  “Lavish” is the word, though the bounty of the earlier paintings is gone; this is the realm of the ordinary sublime: the extraordinary, daily behavior of light.  The important event in the distance has vanished; the important event is here, now.

I consider how this is a language filled with the substance of worldly things, those containers of feeling and experience, memory and time.  And that this is why such paintings (and perhaps too, such poems) “increase the store of reality”—they offer us more images, more world.

I read of something vibrant in the quality of attention itself (a gaze that binds us to the world...), and of how Coorte’s asparagus, his gooseberries and shells, [distils] this quality down to its quietest, most startling essence: the eye suffuses what it sees with an I.  Not “I” in the sense of my story, the particulars of my life, the way my father tended his old asparagus beds each spring, the way my beloved loved the forms and colors of shells.  But “I” as the quickest, subtlest thing we are: a moment of attention, an intimate engagement.

I think of the bread and the knife, of qualia and quiddity and thisness.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Santo Spirito, Firenze]
[venerdì 09 febbraio 2018 ore 13:19:23] []

From an ever-growing grab-bag of thoughts on oneness...

...this from Peter Høeg, via Smilla's Sense Of Snow: I feel the same way about solitude as some people feel about the blessing of the church.  It's the light of grace for me.  I never close my door behind me without the awareness that I am carrying out an act of mercy toward myself.

And this from Rilke (because of course there would be Rilke), via John Banville at The New York Review of Books: I am my own circle, and a movement inward...

This from Hemingway, via A Moveable Feast: The only thing that could spoil a day was people.... People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.

This from me, in an email to a former student: I’m so glad you’re thinking about doing this.  Especially that part about not wanting to wait around anymore for the person.  The person is you.  Despite how it might sometimes seem, the odds are pretty decent that, starting some time sooner or later, you will no longer be single, and the non-singleness may well last a long time.  So do some things this way too, while you can.

This from Arkaye Kierulf, via this wonderful, quiet place: Sometimes wars are waged because there are too many people in too few rooms.

And this too, somewhat tangentially, from me: I like the word “single.”  It does not allow as easily for the kind of immediate negativity that the word “alone” seems to let into its bedroom.

[nightingaleshiraz] [?]
[Santo Spirito, Firenze]
[mercoledì 07 febbraio 2018 ore 09:02:19] []