Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Coutee Cullen / For A Poet



Coutee Cullen



For A Poet


I have wrapped my dreams in a silken cloth,
And laid them away in a box of gold;
Where long will cling the lips of the moth,
I have wrapped my dreams in a silken cloth;
I hide no hate, I am not even wroth
Who found earth's breath so keen and cold;
I have wrapped my dreams in a silken cloth,
And laid them away in a box of gold.


Coutee Cullen
Color, 1925




Friday, September 15, 2017

Countee Cullen / For a lady I know


For a lady I know
She even thinks that up in heaven
       Her class lies late and snores,
While poor black cherubs rise at seven
.       To do celestial chores

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Pablo Neruda / Ode to the Happy Day


Picture by Duy Huynh

Ode to the Happy Day
by Pablo Neruda
BIOGRAPHY



Pablo Neruda / Oda al día feliz ( Original en español)

Let me be happy
nothing has happened to anybody
I am nowhere special
I am only
happy
through the four chambers
of my heart, I am strolling,
sleeping, or writing.
What canI do? I'm
happy.

I am more uncountable
than the meadow grass
I touch the skin of a wrinkled tree,
and the water below,
and the birds above,
and the sea, like a ring
around my waist.

The Earth is made of bread and stone.
The air sings like a guitar.

You, by my side in the sand,
you are the sand.
You sing, and you are song.

Today the world
is my soul,
song and sand;
today, the world
is your mouth.

Let me be happy
on the sand, touching your mouth.


Let me be happy
to be be happy, because yes, because I am breathing,
and because you are breathing,
happy, because I am touching
your knee,
and it is as though.

I am touching the blue skin of heaven
and its pristine air.

Today let me be happy
with everybody – or without them,
with the deep green meadow,
and the sand,
with the air and earth,
happy!




Saturday, September 9, 2017

John Ashbery / The history of my life

John Ashbery


THE HISTORY OF MY LIFE

by John Ashbery
BIOGRAPHY

Once upon a time there were two brothers.
Then there was only one: myself.

I grew up very fast, before learning to drive,
even. There was I: a stinking adult.

I thought of developing interests
someone might take an interest in. No soap.

I became very weepy for what had seemed
like the pleasant early years. As I aged

increasingly, I also grew more charitable
with regard to my thoughts and ideas,

thinking them at least as good as the next man’s.
Then a great devouring cloud

came and loitered on the horizon, drinking
it up, for what seemed like months or years.



Friday, September 8, 2017

John Ashbery / A Conversation With Kenneth Koch

John Ashbery
Poster by 


John Ashbery BIOGRAPHY
A Conversation With Kenneth Koch

Kenneth Koch met John Ashbery at Harvard, where the two became fast friends. Before his death in 2002, Koch became known for the quality of his teaching and his prolific career as both a poet and a playwright. The rare heterosexual member of the New York School, Koch's 1965 conversation with his friend takes on the staginess of drama while revealing much about how the two viewed each other's artistic work and private life.

KENNETH KOCH: John, do you think we both might be too much concerned with matters of taste? Or don't you think it's possible to be too much concerned with it?
JOHN ASHBERY: What else is there besides matters of taste?

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

John Ashbery / Hotel Lautréamont




Hotel Lautréamont 

1. 
Research has shown that ballads were produced by all of society 
working as a team. They didn’t just happen. There was no guesswork. 
The people, then, knew what they wanted and how to get it. 
We see the results in works as diverse as “Windsor Forest” and “The Wife of Usher’s Well.”   

Working as a team, they didn’t just happen. There was no guesswork. 
The horns of elfland swing past, and in a few seconds 
we see the results in works as diverse as “Windsor Forest” and “The Wife of Usher’s Well,” 
or, on a more modern note, in the finale of the Sibelius violin concerto. 

The horns of elfland swing past, and in a few seconds 
the world, as we know it, sinks into dementia, proving narrative passé, 
or in the finale of the Sibelius violin concerto. 
Not to worry, many hands are making work light again. 

The world, as we know it, sinks into dementia, proving narrative passé. 
In any case the ruling was long overdue. 
Not to worry, many hands are making work light again, 
so we stay indoors. The quest was only another adventure. 


   2. 
In any case, the ruling was long overdue. 
The people are beside themselves with rapture 
so we stay indoors. The quest was only another adventure 
and the solution problematic, at any rate far off in the future. 

The people are beside themselves with rapture 
yet no one thinks to question the source of so much collective euphoria, 
and the solution: problematic, at any rate far off in the future. 
The saxophone wails, the martini glass is drained. 

Yet no one thinks to question the source of so much collective euphoria. 
In troubled times one looked to the shaman or priest for comfort and counsel. 
The saxophone wails, the martini glass is drained, 
and night like black swansdown settles on the city. 

In troubled times one looked to the shaman or priest for comfort and counsel. 
Now, only the willing are fated to receive death as a reward, 
and night like black swansdown settles on the city. 
If we tried to leave, would being naked help us? 


   3. 
Now, only the willing are fated to receive death as a reward. 
Children twist hula-hoops, imagining a door to the outside. 
If we tried to leave, would being naked help us? 
And what of older, lighter concerns? What of the river? 

Children twist hula-hoops, imagining a door to the outside, 
when all we think of is how much we can carry with us. 
And what of older, lighter concerns? What of the river? 
All the behemoths have filed through the maze of time. 

When all we think of is how much we can carry with us 
small wonder that those at home sit, nervous, by the unlit grate. 
All the behemoths have filed through the maze of time. 
It remains for us to come to terms with our commonality. 

Small wonder that those at home sit nervous by the unlit grate. 
It was their choice, after all, that spurred us to feats of the imagination. 
It remains for us to come to terms with our commonality 
and in so doing deprive time of further hostages. 


   4. 
It was their choice, after all, that spurred us to feats of the imagination. 
Now, silently as one mounts a stair we emerge into the open 
and in so doing deprive time of further hostages, 
to end the standoff that history long ago began. 

Now, silently as one mounts a stair we emerge into the open 
but it is shrouded, veiled: We must have made some ghastly error. 
To end the standoff that history long ago began 
must we thrust ever onward, into perversity? 

But it is shrouded, veiled: We must have made some ghastly error. 
You mop your forehead with a rose, recommending its thorns. 
Must we thrust ever onward, into perversity? 
Only night knows for sure; the secret is safe with her. 

You mop your forehead with a rose, recommending its thorns. 
Research has shown that ballads were produced by all of society; 
only night knows for sure. The secret is safe with her:
The people, then, knew what they wanted and how to get it.


John Ashbery
“Hotel Lautréamont” from Notes from the Air: Selected Later Poems.


Monday, September 4, 2017

John Ashbery and Pierre Martory / With eyes wide shut


John Ashbery (right) and Pierre Martory stroll along the Seine in Paris, 1958

John Ashbery and Pierre Martory

With eyes wide shut


Adam Thorpe enters a world of vivid dreams but elusive meanings

Adam Thorpe
Saturday 25 October 2008 00.01 BST


John Ashbery is regarded as America's leading poet, the grand old master of a "difficult Modernism". The Landscapist is his translation of the poems of his one-time companion Pierre Martory, in a handsome dual-language edition intended to establish a poet almost entirely unknown.
What it certainly establishes is the importance to Ashbery's career of his nine-year stay in Paris in the 1950s, when he lived with Martory and discovered the richness of modern French poetry. His fluid translations sound at times like a "lite" version of his own verse - which in his introduction he claims was something of a surprise: "I started to find echoes of his work in mine . . . though I hope I haven't stolen anything." Even the arch titles sound similar - "What I Say, Perhaps, Isn't True" - while "A Widow" manages to be eerily prescient of a specifically American catastrophe (Martory died in 1998): "How does one get to the foot of the twin towers? / One doesn't. The towers have stifled the streets. / Then nothing leads to the river under the bridges? / A recognized city reproaches us with yesterday."

Martory, born in 1922, belongs firmly to the post-second world war generation, while sharing the experience of resistance and combat (he fought in Morocco, where he'd grown up) with older poets such as René Char, Louis Aragon or Paul Éluard. In an interview he claims to have written poetry out of loneliness during the war, starting as a "descriptive" poet but swiftly turning dream-like and, well, hard to understand. Even his army experiences have left little overt trace, although Morocco flashes its exotica here and there.
While Ashbery claims the poems are sui generis, with just faint echoes of Rimbaud or Char, they seem to me, like most contemporary French poetry, firmly in the symbolist-surrealist tradition (as a dissident once put it to me: "Blame Mallarmé!"). They sound gorgeous in the original language, and conjure no end of images and associations, but their concrete meanings are always just around the corner. Zig-zagging from phrase to phrase, changing the dynamics mid-flow, they typically leave you either more space or none at all. The final lines of the aptly named and very obscure poem "Collusion" seem to be addressing this frustrated reader with some glee: "He has lost: I've invented for myself a friend / Without a face."

In that sense, Ashbery and Martory are the perfect match. "So I don't need reality's trampoline for flight?" cries Martory in "Serenity", a poem about being frank with himself. Poetry for him is a flinching from brute physicality and disappointment, something like a retreat into what is passing through his head (he suffered periodically from depression). In the title poem, shutting his eyes reveals a vast, forested landscape: depth is not in sight but in a willed blindness, a looking inwards that reveals "these bouquets, this fog of leaves, words of the wind . . . "
Martory wrote for himself, inhabiting his "private domain" and barely showing his poetry to anyone. It is significant that one of the few identifiable places in his work is the Père Lachaise cemetery, itself risen to symbolic status. "Père Lachaise" is a prose-poem written for a book of etchings, and is unusually approachable: "adolescents listen to the sap rising in them which shall one day flower under these flagstones and don't give a damn". The poem finally disappoints, however, never really rising above its descriptiveness.
If "Life" is a "whore with false eyelashes", there are many fractured glimpses of a paradise, an Eden linked to "ancestral memory" or the deeper layers of consciousness that, once reached, justify the act of writing verse in this associative way. Behind this, however, is emptiness or absence: "Door opening on nothing to say" (Porte ouverte sur rien à dire). This is the reality - the existential understanding of personal and general extinction. A poem ostensibly about drinking wine is haunted by the end of such pleasures, albeit drunkenly mixing its metaphors: "I know that of my footsteps nothing will remain / But a trace a cluster a drop."
I wonder if there's enough vigour in the impressionistic lines for more than a handful of the poems to be memorable, in either language - the kind of vigour, that is, that fires Ashbery's equally hermetic verse and sparks exhilaratingly across to the reader. My favourite poem is "Red and Black Lake", in which a straightforward storm on the water ends with a superb image: "Then the rain breaks loose in long curtains / that tuck themselves up from the asphalt in the glare of the headlights." Even without the music of the original, the vivid observation survives, and sticks.
 Adam Thorpe's Between Each Breath is published by Cape.
THE GUARDIAN







RETRATOS AJENOS

DE OTROS MUNDOS


KISS


Sunday, September 3, 2017

John Ashbery dies age 90


John Asbery

Poet John Ashbery dies age 90


Ashbery, who won the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for his collection, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, died at his home on Sunday of natural causes
Sunday 3 September 2017 21.54 BST

John Ashbery, an enigmatic genius of modern poetry whose energy, daring and boundless command of language raised American verse to brilliant and baffling heights, died early Sunday at age 90.
Ashbery, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and often mentioned as a Nobel candidate, died at his home in Hudson, New York. His husband, David Kermani, said his death was from natural causes.
Few poets were so exalted in their lifetimes. Ashbery was the first living poet to have a volume published by the Library of America dedicated exclusively to his work. His 1975 collection, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, was the rare winner of the American book world’s unofficial triple crown: the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle prize. In 2011, he was given a National Humanities Medal and credited with changing “how we read poetry”.
Among a generation that included Richard Wilbur, WS Merwin and Adrienne Rich, Ashbery stood out for his audacity and for his wordplay, for his modernist shifts between high oratory and everyday chatter, for his humor and wisdom and dazzling runs of allusions and sense impressions.
“No figure looms so large in American poetry over the past 50 years as John Ashbery,” Langdon Hammer wrote in the New York Times in 2008. “Ashbery’s phrases always feel newly minted; his poems emphasize verbal surprise and delight, not the ways that linguistic patterns restrict us.”
But to love Ashbery, it helped to make sense of Ashbery, or least get caught up enough in such refrains as “You are freed/including barrels/heads of the swan/forestry/the night and stars fork” not to worry about their meaning.
Writing for Slate, the critic and poet Meghan O’Rourke advised readers “not to try to understand the poems but to try to take pleasure from their arrangement, the way you listen to music”. Writer Joan Didion once attended an Ashbery reading simply because she wanted to determine what the poet was writing about.
“I don’t find any direct statements in life,” Ashbery once explained to the Times in London. “My poetry imitates or reproduces the way knowledge or awareness comes to me, which is by fits and starts and by indirection. I don’t think poetry arranged in neat patterns would reflect that situation.”
Interviewed by the Associated Press in 2008, Ashbery joked that if he could turn his name into a verb, “to Ashbery”, it would mean “to confuse the hell out of people”.
Ashbery also was a highly regarded translator and critic. At various times, he was the art critic for the New York Herald-Tribune in Europe, New York magazine and Newsweek, and the poetry critic for Partisan Review. He translated works by Arthur Rimbaud, Raymond Roussel and numerous other French writers.
He was a teacher for many years, including at Brooklyn College, Harvard University and Bard College.
Starting at boarding school, when a classmate submitted his work (without his knowledge) to Poetry magazine, Ashbery enjoyed a long and productive career, so fully accumulating words in his mind that he once told the AP that he rarely revised a poem once he wrote it down. More than 30 Ashbery books were published after the 1950s, including poetry, essays, translations and a novel, A Nest of Ninnies, co-written with poet James Schuyler.
His masterpiece was likely the title poem of Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, a densely written epic about art, time and consciousness that was inspired by the 16th century Italian painting of the same name. In 400-plus lines, Ashbery shifted from a critique of Parmigianino’s painting to a meditation on the besieged 20th century mind.

I feel the carousel starting slowly
And going faster and faster: desk, papers, books,
Photographs of friends, the window and the trees
Merging in one neutral band that surrounds
Me on all sides, everywhere I look.
And I cannot explain the action of leveling,
Why it should all boil down to one
Uniform substance, a magma of interiors.


Ashbery was born in Rochester, New York, in 1927 and remembered himself as a lonely and bookish child, haunted by the early death of his younger brother, Richard, and conflicted by his attraction to other boys.
He grew up on an apple farm in the nearby village of Sodus, where it snowed often enough to help inspire his first poem, The Battle, written at age 8 and a fantasy about a fight between bunnies and snowflakes. He would claim to be so satisfied with the poem and so intimidated by the praise of loved ones that he didn’t write another until boarding school, the Deerfield Academy, when his work was published in the school paper.
He grew up on an apple farm in the nearby village of Sodus, where it snowed often enough to help inspire his first poem, The Battle, written at age 8 and a fantasy about a fight between bunnies and snowflakes. He would claim to be so satisfied with the poem and so intimidated by the praise of loved ones that he didn’t write another until boarding school, the Deerfield Academy, when his work was published in the school paper.
Meanwhile, he took painting lessons and found new meaning in Life, the magazine. An article about a surrealist exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art so impressed him that he kept rereading it for years. At Harvard University, he read WH Auden and Marianne Moore and met fellow poet and longtime comrade, Kenneth Koch, along with Wilbur, Donald Hall, Robert Bly, Frank O’Hara and Robert Creeley. He would be grouped with O’Hara and Koch as part of the avant-garde “New York Poets” movement, although Ashbery believed what they really had in common was living in New York.

His first book, Some Trees, was a relatively conventional collection that came out in 1956, with a preface from Auden and the praise of O’Hara, who likened Ashbery to Wallace Stevens. But in 1962, he unleashed The Tennis Court Oath, poems so abstract that critic John Simon accused him of crafting verse without “sensibility, sensuality or sentences”. Ashbery later told the AP that parts of the book “were written in a period of almost desperation” and because he was living in France at the time, he had fallen “out of touch with American speech, which is really the kind of fountainhead of my poetry”.
“I actually went through a period after The Tennis Court Oath wondering whether I was really going to go on writing poetry, since nobody seemed interested in it,” he said. “And then I must have said to myself, ‘Well, this is what I enjoy. I might as well go on doing it, since I’m not going to get the same pleasure anywhere else.’”
His 1966 collection, Rivers and Mountains, was a National Book Award finalist that helped restore his standing and Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror raised him to the pantheon. In 2011, he was given an honorary National Book Award for lifetime achievement and declared he was “quite pleased” with his “status in the world of writers”.
His style ranged from rhyming couplets to haiku to blank verse, and his interests were as vast as his gifts for expressing them. He wrote of love, music, movies, the seasons, the city and the country, and was surely the greatest poet ever to compose a hymn to president Warren Harding. As he aged, he became ever more sensitive to mortality and reputation. How to Continue was an elegy for the sexual revolution among gays in the 1960s and 70s, a party turned tragic by the deadly arrival of Aids, “a gale [that] came and said/it is time to take all of you away”.
Reflecting on his work, Ashbery boasted about “strutted opinion doomed to wilt in oblivion”, but acknowledged that: “I grew/To feel I was beyond criticism, until I flew/Those few paces from the best.”
In the poem In a Wonderful Place, published in the 2009 collection Planisphere, he offered a brief, bittersweet look back.

I spent years exhausting my good works
on the public, all for seconds
Time to shut down colored alphabets
flutter in the fresh breeze of autumn. It
draws like a rout. Or a treat.
THE GUARDIAN







RETRATOS AJENOS

DE OTROS MUNDOS


KISS