Hold It All

Making the Whirling World Stand Still

Arthur Rimbaud, Complete Works
Translated by Paul Schmidt

And so I come back to the boy-genius, enfant terrible whose Illuminations I bought while at Bellarmine (under the influence of a Kerouac whose words I enjoyed but whose life was not a practical model).  And true as well with Rimbaud — what a mess of adolescence, what dissolution, no wonder the Beats jumped on his bandwagon.  No thanks.  I’ve more sympathy for the adult, boring Rimbaud than the precious, self-conscious, self-centered Poet of the universe, even with his theory of illuminism and the consequent perverting of the senses.  Demais!  

Although I must  say, I like parts of A Season in Hell  for which selections see below (Schmidt:  A Season in Hell has literary precedents:  It is a set of philosophical meditations, a confessional handbook, a mystical vision of the Soul.  But it wakes new vibrations in its style:  a nervous, compacted, often vernacular use of poetic language in prose.  It is, as Rimbaud said, ‘absolutely modern.’”)  For I am impressed by the devotion & delirium & detachment it took to compose such a “confession.”  

I can’t say that there really are many poems herein worth memorizing. Sure, I could use some lines and maybe images, but other than the list of re-readables (principally Bateau Ivre and Saison), I can put this away till another day (maybe after I’ve read Baudelaire and Breton) and want to give him another try.  

I don’t get the fascination, although there were some lines in poetry and letters that did catch me.  But I wonder if I will ever be tempted to reread him, to sit down and spend 2 to 3 hours with this Seer.  It’s a coin-flip.

_____________________

Poems Worth Rereading—- Read the rest of this entry »

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A Sangha with Tu Fu, Milarepa, Lady Murasaki, Li Ching-chao, Basho, and Jack Kerouac,

Anne Waldman and Andrew Schelling, editors, Disembodied Poetics:  Annals of the Jack Kerouac School

Rereading this collection  after many years, I’m struck by the following perspectives from various writers I noted then and that still rev me up now …

Until you assert yourself nothing ever happens to you.
Jack Kerouac

This underground vehicle [along with local, cosmopolitan, and diamond vehicles in Buddhism] has equipped itself to trade in marketplaces across the planet. Its riders include Tu Fu, Milarepa, Lady Murasaki, Li Ching-chao, Basho, and Jack Kerouac. It is a night-wandering caravan, loaded down with strange and desirable goods, the goods of Poetry, and it picks its way along the treacherous trade routes of History, generously alert to the perils and needs of our own epoch. One could call it by a Sanskrit term, kavyayana—the Poetry Vehicle. Here the gospel lyric comes to mind—You don’t need no ticket, you just get on board.
Andrew Schelling

There is perhaps the poet’s Bodhisattva vow: to be a bridge, a boat, a fountain pen, a typewriter, a publisher, a school to anyone who has need of these “vehicles”—not personally, mind you, that it’s my particular style bridge, made in my image, my brand of typewriter of poetry.
Anne Waldman Read the rest of this entry »

How To Live in Many Times at Once

Over the years, I have been the blessed recipient of many poems by Katie Murphy, whose birthday it is today. I invite lovers of poetry to purchase her e-book, How to Live in Many Times at Once.

 

Here’s one of her poems from a previous collection she sent me–

Song for Wretched Hearts

I haven’t written a heartbroken poem
since I met you
but I play all of them on the ukulele now.

I crawl under as many layers as I have.
No touch, no glance, no reassuring word
could prevent the disaster,
even in hindsight.

Take care not to jostle it,
my wretched heart,
and the moments when I put away
my instrument will be all yours.

 

 

Share the Wealth: Summer Writing Class 2018

The unexamined life is not worth living.
—Socrates

I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.
—Alice Walker

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
—Mary Oliver

I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.
–Oscar Wilde

For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
—Walt Whitman

 

For many years now, I’ve asked friends to “share the wealth,” typically after we have a potluck dinner together. For example, six years ago, I invited my friend Fatima Rhodes to tell us about her journey to become a better speaker of Modern Standard Arabic when she was in her forties. Nine months ago, I encouraged Laura Lapinski to hold forth about one of her life’s great passions, the cinema of Wes Anderson.

In this summer class, I invite you to get in touch with the wealth of your curiosity, travels, maxims, relationships, resiliency, antiwar speeches, polyglotism, culinary gusto, enthusiasm for Russian literature, political compromismo, penchant for rollercoasters, Chiapas seminars, book project in the making, sense of history, athleticism, biophilia, bibliophilia, talents, relatives, gifts, musical verve, progeny, legal acumen, vivid memories, and awakenings. By writing on such topics, we will be in a position to share first with people in the course, both those in the Wednesday night class and those joining us online. We will also consider how we may share with others beyond and after this class. Read the rest of this entry »

“So Don’t Flip”*

When it comes to righteous indignation
She makes Arundhati Roy seem timid

At a public reading of The Book of Mev
I made sure she read last reading aloud the last chapter

To mark the occasion of her medical school graduation
I gave her the original of Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine

If I see her once a year for a few hours
I consider it a very good year

For the last year she’s been working
One hundred-hour weeks

The Stoics advised long ago
Know what you can and can’t control

I can buy three sheets of Harvey Milk stamps
Send her reminders of her sri and satyagraha

 

*Jack Kerouac, to Allen Ginsberg

Giving No Peace to Those in the Country Who Are Violating All the Laws of Truth  

She represented the honor and conscience of Russia, and probably nobody will ever know the source of her fanatical courage and love of the work she was doing.

— Liza Umarova, Chechen singer

 

Colleagues helped put together the volume, Is Journalist Worth Dying For? about the intrepid Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, assassinated in 2006.  The book contains writings from the last years of her life as well as stirring testimonies by those who knew her and respected her work.

For years she’d written about the horrors in Chechnya, which earned her the denunciation you’d expect from her own government.  From Tolstoy to Solzhenitsyn, such dissidents are ever a thorn in the side of Russian power, which thinks  it is, or should be, worthy only of praise.

Here is a small sample of her voice…

I have never sought my present pariah status and it make me feel like a beached dolphin. I am no political infighter. 

I will not go into the other joys of the path I have chosen: the poisoning, the arrest, the embanking by mail and over the Internet, the telephoned death threats. The main thing is to get on with my job, to describe the life I see, to receive visitors every day in our newspaper’s offices who have nowhere else to bring their troubles, because the Kremlin finds they stories off-message. The only place they can be aired is in our newspaper, Novaya gazeta.

What am I guilty of? I have merely reported what I witnessed, nothing but the truth.    [6]

Believe me, there is nothing more hateful than, in your own country, to feel that you are a target for shooting practice for parasites living it up, eating and drinking at your—a taxpayer’s—expense. And then they have the gall to denigrate you. [17] Read the rest of this entry »

Alexander Cockburn on Edward Said

Only last week did I learn that Alex Cockburn had a book that came out in 2013, A Colossal Wreck. Earlier today I was reading entries from 2003, and came across this tribute to Edward Said.  Here’s an excerpt, with reference to Christopher Hitchens (Andrew Ivers, take a peek): “He never lost the capacity to be wounded by the treachery and opportunism of supposed friends. A few weeks ago he called to ask whether I had read a particularly stupid attack on him by his very old friend Christopher Hitchens in the Atlantic Monthly. He described with pained sarcasm a phone call in which Hitchens had presumably tried to square his own conscience by advertising to Edward the impending assault. I asked Edward why he was surprised, and indeed why he cared. But he was surprised and he did care. His skin was so, so thin, I think because he knew that as long as he lived, as long as he marched onward as a proud, unapologetic and vociferous Palestinian, there would be some enemy on the next housetop down the street eager to pour sewage on his head.”

 

Three Questions

Gregg Krech, Naikan: Gratitude, Grace,  and the Japanese Art of Self-Reflection (Stone Bridge Press, 2001)

I learned of Naikan through consulting the bibliography of Patricia Ryan Madson’s book, Improv Wisdom.  Therein, she cited books on Constructive Living by  David K. Reynolds, and Gregg Krech’s manual on this “Japanese art of self-reflection,” which was the brainchild of Ishin Yoshimoto.

On retreats in Japan, one is encouraged to answer three questions about the most important people in our lives, typically beginning with one’s mother:
What have I received from my mother?
What have I given my mother?
What troubles and difficulties have I caused my mother?
The aim is to be factual, detailed and specific as possible in addressing the questions. Read the rest of this entry »

Three Views: Lévy, Golan, Chomsky

1.

Bernard-Henri Lévy wrote a “Love Letter to Israel in Seventy Lines,” published in The Tablet  under 70 REASONS TO CELEBRATE ISRAEL.   He is a philosopher who lives in Paris, France.  Here are a few lines from his tribute…

The first multiethnic nation, in other words, that really works.

Democracy is hard? Slow? It takes time to build a democracy? In Israel, one night—14 May 1948—was all it took.

Terrorism has been in Israel not for 7 days (as it had in the United States when the Patriot Act was passed) and not for 7 years (as in the France when the liberticidal measures of 1961 were adopted), but for 70 years—and yet its institutions hold and liberty is not infringed.

Yes, 70 years during which Israel has lived, as the verse has it, beside its sword, and yet the spirit of liberty has never waned or wavered.

70 years without a single day of peace, and no Israeli, Jew or Arab, would leave the country for another.

Athens, not Sparta. Read the rest of this entry »

“Why Must the Poet’s Mouth Be Bloodied, His Teeth Caved in?”

More than a decade ago, octogenarian  Jesuit felon Daniel Berrigan  spoke at the local Jesuit university (in the auditorium of the business school, no less).  During the Q & A, a friend of mine asked him this question, “Dan, what have you been reading these days?”  His response:  “The Gospels and the poets.” Read the rest of this entry »