IT ISN'T THE SUN

Hiroshi Sugimoto | Seascape:   Aegean Sea, Pillon,  1990.         via   c4gallery

Hiroshi Sugimoto | Seascape:   Aegean Sea, Pillon, 1990.        
via c4gallery

POEM

The minute gears mutely whir. To put your ear
Against it is to put your ear inside it.
It does not tick. It isn’t a heart.
It has no pulse. It isn’t a clock or a wrist.
Scrutiny can coax no secret from it.
There is no hearse with one flat tire
In endless circuit, headlights dispersed
In fog like sunset behind a veil.
A paving stone extends a grave through iron
Gate to a door at home. To knock
Your hand against it puts your hand inside it,
As in a cloud at night the pale moon
Gathers itself outside itself its own light
And glows dimly behind the dust that outshines it.
It has no heat. It isn’t the sun.
It isn’t uncertain. It does not think
About the sun or the distant balls of dirt
And ice that circle closer to the star
With each circuit done. Comet tails
Darkly flowing back as the horse leaps
Forward, straining against the catafalque
All November, predict disaster as grammar
Predicts breath, the need to breathe, or the mind
Must rest. It is its own edgeless disaster.
It is there as if it were not there. Vague
Repetitions haunt the circumference.
To walk out the door is to place your foot
On a stone worn away by another’s foot.
Rumor has it that the sun sends heat in form
Of sight. Watch the ice as it melts
For proof: water pools, darkens on a stone,
Becomes as a shadow on a stone,
A horse’s hoof as it rises off a stone,
Except it rises forever, and the shadow is gone.
Such processes turn the minute gears.
It is not a note in the margin. The margin is
Covered with snow. When the winter fog
Disperses a black horse stands on ice
And cannot move. It is as if a breathless song
Hovered like a veil in the air. The black
Horse’s breath spirals upward like smoke.
Pyre-smoke like a thumbprint as a cloud.
Similes sing mutely in it, likening the unlike.
Mourners name the peace they find and walk
Away. To step into it is to find it missing.
The footprints are before you as you go.
— Dan Beachy-Quick

Yet another of those beautiful seredipitous moments this morning when, having read and loved and re-discovered this poem three times, I read the accompanying interview at How a Poem Happens. Only then did I discover that 'the whole poem arose out of reading Levinas' - Levinas, of course, being one of the key foundational thinkers in my thesis.

Moreover, the poem seems intricately related to one of my own entitiled Palms which is long  wanting a revision; or perhaps a sister poem.

All that is to say: this poem's really got me. 


HOTERE, MANHIRE AND MCQUEEN - CONVERSATIONS IN SPACE

   Dawn/Water Poem, 1986. Ralph Hotere.

 

Dawn/Water Poem, 1986.
Ralph Hotere.

Language makes arrangements. These might be compared to the behaviour of water, an expression of energetic relations among molecules. There is activity at the meniscus where tensions arise from oppositions juxtaposed.

Understanding the singularity of the present moment, you invent a syntax with materials close to hand. A language evolves. Becoming skilled in it you can modify, rough it up and stretch it by experiment and exploration. Like this? Like this?

Whether canvas, timber, iron, steel, words or light, harmonies arise between materials. Meaning is spun. There are riches: rhyme, assonance, dissonance, melody, harmony, percussion, onomatopoeia and the mighty dimension of metaphor.

The painting puts the poem visually. Synaesthesia allows me to hear the voice in it, pick up nuances. Shapes shift behind the surface. In a certain light, at a certain angle it seems that the surface is permeable, that I have gone through it and look out from within my own reflection.
— from Dark Matter, Ralph Hotere and Language by Cilla McQueen

Language, space, syntax, material, the physical, the spoken, the written, and the felt.

Reflecting on the work of New Zealand artist Ralph Hotere, Cilla McQueen folds each of these elements into the others - searching for a way to describe the manner in which Hotere's work precedes the poem, rewrites the poem, and critiques the poem at once. Words become material for the artwork to be produces from, rhythm for the head-voice of viewers to replay, and their meaning becomes a dimension for the artwork to extend. 

Dawn/Water Poem, an example of such work, was a collaboration between Hotere and poet Bill Manhire. It becomes more than a collaboration -  a criticism, a use, and a production at once. In her reflections in Dark Matter, Ralph Hotere and Language, McQueen transitions the discussion back to language. A conversation between artists, across mediums, and through time exists.

The work is spatial - in many ways, the interplay of voices, thoughts and images defines a kind of artistic site. Its hard not to be drawn in, to want to take part, to want to make physical this place or to enquire as to the physicality(s) of it. From where did Manhire, Hotere and McQueen write, paint, write? And perhaps more interestingly, to where?



MEMORY TRAPS

Paris, l'Opera. 2010.

It doesn’t take much. A deserted street at dusk, with the summer sunlight lingering on the upper floors of a row of buildings and the sidewalks down below already deep in shadow, may get some old movie in our heads rolling again. Since we are ordinarily better at forgetting than remembering, it is often a mystery why some such sight has stamped itself on our memory, when countless others that ought to have far greater meaning can hardly be said to exist for us anymore. It makes me suspect that a richer and less predictable account of our lives would eschew chronology and any attempt to fit a lifetime into a coherent narrative and instead be made up of a series of fragments, spur-of-the-moment reminiscences occasioned by whatever gets our imagination working.
 - Memory Traps, Charles Simic.NYRB Blog, November 2012.

Paris is, and will likely forever be, my memory trap.

I think it was that way before I had even been there the first time. But it was our second time, although our first together, which hangs in my mind most often these days.

After stashing our bags at the hostel mid-morning, we snuck out and wound our way through the tightly cobbled lanes of the Marais. The air was crisp, with a cool blueness settling over the rooflines. I can't seem to remember anyone else being out. In my mind, the streets were impossibly ours.

Each with a white-specked brioche tucked into a brown paper bags at a quiet boulangerie, we found a place to sit by the canal. The cobbles were warm, and the roughness didn't bother us. Our teenage knees and travel-worn legs dangled. We couldn't help ourselves but to grin.

We were here.

Thanks to the Paris Travel Guide over at A Minute Away from Snowing for bringing it all flooding back.

MARGARET DRABBLE

Sometimes, in the evenings, I find it hard not to get lost in The Paris Review - and even harder to find my way back out of the Interviews. There's something about the rich reality of these characters, many of whom have spent years envisaging other characters, which is just so affirming.

Margaret Drabble (with impeccable cashmere and bentwood),  1976

Margaret Drabble (with impeccable cashmere and bentwood),  1976

This evening, I have been lounging about with Margaret Drabble. I can't say that I've ever read one of her novels - although I have quickly added some of her classics to my reading list. Towards the end of the interview, she refers to Freud a few times. She's grappling with events, with how the passing of time relates to who you are, and to where you are. 

On surprises and familiarities (and a beautiful understanding of mortality):

There's an essay by Freud in which he discusses the uncanny feeling of being both familiar with and utterly surprised by something. I think this is one of the most distressing, but important feelings in life. The feeling that I knew this all along, but I never knew it before. Freud would argue we feel this about sex. The first time we find out what it actually is, we think “how absolutely astonishing and impossible,” but at the same time we know we knew.
I'm sure death feels a bit like that. In fact I've often had a dream in which I am just about to die and my last words are, “Oh, that was what it was like. I did know really, but now I know for real.” And then I wake up.

And on coincidence:

Freud takes a harsher view. His view is that they are coincidences and the idea that our need to see them as not being so, like our need to avoid that death really is death, contorts the whole of human life: that the whole of human culture is distorted by our desperate need to avoid the truth.
I'm perpetually tossed between these two interpretations of life. It is a fact that if you have faith of a certain sort, then certain things will happen for you or for those that you love. But this is only in a way like watering a plant. One of the images I like best is the plant in The Waterfall that Jane keeps on watering long after she thinks that it's dead. And then it begins to grow again.