From time to time I happen upon a bit of text that just has to be passed around. Here’s today’s:
Perhaps he was mothersmothered
(born into the muddlecrass, at a time when wimwin).
The mamafesta delivered when he was yung and easily freudened.
For a while, a tenorist who saw the world cycloptically—
in his bachelure flat, the life lamatory, listening to ladies’ lavastories—
bewilderblissed and inn sane, he mistributed the unfacts alcoherently.
Nowanights, he looks at the fadographs with violet indigonation.
An iciclist who fell on a pineapple but still climbs the bannistars
With his tellavicious langurge (or langwedge) points a colliderorscope
at the chaosmos, tells with puerity his rheumaniscences
and awaits a funferall, barks like a duck “quark quark”!
[* Almost all of these words were invented by James Joyce and used in Finnegans Wake]
Peter Kennedy, Literary Review Dec 2016/Jan 2017 pg 58
Christopher Lydon’s Radio Open Source has brightened a lot of the last decade for me, opening doors into places and subjects I hadn’t known I wanted to learn about, and introducing me to stuff I’ve since realized I care deeply about. A case in point: an interview with Colm Tóibín, towards the end of which he reads an Elizabeth Bishop poem which is achingly reminiscent of the Nova Scotia I know. His lead-in is absolutely spot-on (“…what was it that just hit you, emotionally? where it was in the poem where that began, and was sustained?”)
About the size of an old-style dollar bill,
American or Canadian,
mostly the same whites, gray greens, and steel grays
-this little painting (a sketch for a larger one?)
has never earned any money in its life.
Useless and free., it has spent seventy years
as a minor family relic handed along collaterally to owners
who looked at it sometimes, or didn't bother to.
It must be Nova Scotia; only there
does one see abled wooden houses
painted that awful shade of brown.
The other houses, the bits that show, are white.
Elm trees., low hills, a thin church steeple
-that gray-blue wisp-or is it? In the foreground
a water meadow with some tiny cows,
two brushstrokes each, but confidently cows;
two minuscule white geese in the blue water,
back-to-back,, feeding, and a slanting stick.
Up closer, a wild iris, white and yellow,
fresh-squiggled from the tube.
The air is fresh and cold; cold early spring
clear as gray glass; a half inch of blue sky
below the steel-gray storm clouds.
(They were the artist's specialty.)
A specklike bird is flying to the left.
Or is it a flyspeck looking like a bird?
Heavens, I recognize the place, I know it!
It's behind-I can almost remember the farmer's name.
His barn backed on that meadow. There it is,
titanium white, one dab. The hint of steeple,
filaments of brush-hairs, barely there,
must be the Presbyterian church.
Would that be Miss Gillespie's house?
Those particular geese and cows
are naturally before my time.
A sketch done in an hour, "in one breath,"
once taken from a trunk and handed over.
Would you like this? I'll Probably never
have room to hang these things again.
Your Uncle George, no, mine, my Uncle George,
he'd be your great-uncle, left them all with Mother
when he went back to England.
You know, he was quite famous, an R.A....
I never knew him. We both knew this place,
apparently, this literal small backwater,
looked at it long enough to memorize it,
our years apart. How strange. And it's still loved,
or its memory is (it must have changed a lot).
Our visions coincided-"visions" is
too serious a word-our looks, two looks:
art "copying from life" and life itself,
life and the memory of it so compressed
they've turned into each other. Which is which?
Life and the memory of it cramped,
dim, on a piece of Bristol board,
dim, but how live, how touching in detail
-the little that we get for free,
the little of our earthly trust. Not much.
About the size of our abidance
along with theirs: the munching cows,
the iris, crisp and shivering, the water
still standing from spring freshets,
the yet-to-be-dismantled elms, the geese.
In my freshman year at Harvard I studied Swedish (Scandinavian B –there was no Scandinavian A) under Göran Printz-Påhlson, a pleasant if (as I thought) somewhat lumbering Swedish poet (I particularly remember that he wore leather jackets which creaked when he moved). He was a friendly and generous teacher, though I was too much in awe to actually seek him out and, well, converse. Just today I happened upon an electronic version of his Letters of Blood, and Other Works in English, and learned that he died in 2006. The introductory materials tell me some of what I missed by not, well, conversing.
Poetics is a subject of which I am largely ignorant, but a quick flip through the pages of the prose parts of the book suggests that I might enjoy discovering on some winter night when the snow howls without. And I’m mostly immune to poetry, though sometimes my attention is caught. And caught it is by some bits of Printz-Påhlson’s, like this from My Interview with I.A. Richards
Inversion is a counterfeit experience there is but one irreversability. Chestnuts, rabid squirrels, slosh and sleet, the sullen, birdstained wisdom of John Harvard. O Fyffes bananas, obscene planks, the flexes bared to vision like the sinews in Vessalius. I grope my way through the intestines of heuristic house.
Last night we heard in Kresge Hall a lion-vested English poet fulminate like an under-paid volcano against Science, applauded by a host of boffins. Afterwards, a girl called Shirley took my hand and wished to lead me through the maze toward the magus posing there as Tannhäuser, fettered with electric wires in a great maidenform…
and here’s the whole of Songs of Dock Boggs
There are gridiron reverberations in the hills, sourmash blandishments bleating from the sheriff’s office
He offers a smile, mild as pick-axe handles a mile wide which kindles the hide of rutabaga; their red necks swabbed by cool, pale blue grass in the abstracted stare of poverty Bushwacking the melodies of God for the breakdown of bushfires he nurtures illustrious health with the grating pap of pink indulgence, plucking the lure of life from the audible mouchoir moment when distant authority suppurates the blueridge landscapes of childhood.
Raw death: a clodhopper shovel smack in the kisser.
and from The Lyndon Baines Johnson Lavatory Seat Refurbishing Rightwinding Leftbranching Recursive Selfperpetuating Paradox Memorial
Here I sit thinking: Aw, shit, think how great our country is.
Here I sit, scratching my ass, thinking: Aw, shit, think how great our country is.
Here I sit, smoking some grass, scratching my ass, thinking: Aw, shit, think how great our country is.
Here I sit, sticking my middle in, smoking some grass, scratching my ass, thinking: Aw, shit, think how great our country is. … Here I sit, waiting for the end, entertaining a friend, bridging a loan, blowing my horn, sucking my stick, flexing my prick, farting through my ring, sticking my middle in, smoking some grass, scratching my ass, thinking: Aw, shit, think how great our country is.