Some Cranky Aphorisms

If you have something to say, why not say it clearly?

If you have nothing to say, why are you writing?

A sequence of words, no matter how arranged, doesn’t always justify itself.

Art isn’t the deconstruction of meaning.

Perhaps deconstruction should be applied to itself.

THE EYES OF ALL NEED NOT WAIT UPON ME

He turned toward me

As if for comment, or what didn’t need to be said

To indict Borofsky’s words painted black on a white canvass

I want to be great

I, a Swedenborgian divinity student; he, a photographer married to a conceptual artist

 

The lust to be great is quite a thing different from what is

Great in se

Not likely to produce what is great

 

–What is great–

Greatness is a gift

Vibrational resonance on the sound-board heartstrings thrilling the ode

That is what is human

A gift to us all—co-cooperation—collective consciousness all-soul

That is we human solidarity together

It is great to share all together collected around

A Prime Mover of soul

As is to me Borofsky’s Hammering Man and Picasso’s Untitled in Chicago’s Daley Plaza

Condense what is human freely among the affairs of daily life

These are not what humans commonly thought are metrics of greatness

A publication, a work alive 100 years after the artist’s demise, to be a class in a university, a

critic’s nod, mass appeal

 

Peace breathes in the spirit attendant relaxation of the choke-hold that is

The lust for greatness

And insignificance be not a curse;

The eyes of all need not wait not upon me

The satisfactions of being a good man among our common men are great enough to sustain

To be happy with the faces that you meet

And perhaps to touch a soul or two or two or three among the faces that you meet

And to touch the sky in private

For you don’t have to be tall to see the moon

And to walk humbly with a soul or two or two or three

And to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God

A RAKE’S PROGRESS: A COMEDY IN TWO ACTS

Prologue:

When you are the tempest

You don’t notice the gale

Swirling tumult menace

 

In the calming after the threat

You shudder at what could have been

Destruction skirting rash choices, obnoxious, noxious

Act I:

For this life it was long life in schools,

For others it could be other—say, family, workplace, working the land, art

My academic life so much this life, persistent

How I absorbed—no—consumed knowledge

Guided and goaded through many books, no one could count how many books

Reasoning, disputing, inquiring, assimilating, dissipating in pubs after class

Academic identity, subjects discussed, discussing how to discuss

 

Learning to learn to continue to learn

Living to learn at leisure and pleasure

Learning to grow trying on life, lives

Trying a Hemingwayesque character (to become a man), or The Artist as a Young Man,

evolving into self

Yet it wasn’t the schools, the books, for this, my life

Nor would it be family, workplace, working the land, art alone for others

In a critical life worth living, not unexamined—passing time unaware

 

To see in a single vision the course of a life

While karma is lived out of developmental stages

Surrounded, bounded, encased within

The facts, the academic style, the collegial camaraderie

Do not make the personality’s lasting completion

Make person, mark lasting brain synapses firmware

Within the encounter with environment, the contours of self are carved

Not necessarily unchanged but the self, persistent

Act II:

A seed, a stem, a blossom, growth—becoming

The single flower—but is it?

From raging adolescence into combative adulthood

Through economic cooperation vocation teamwork

Emergence: genuine caring, community, the other

The shell that was learning and environment

Husking through what becomes self-development

In fact, new self, though persisting

 

The process of my formal education was

But a shell in which I formed.

The facts, forms of knowing, interlocutor interactions

Outside, the self incubating within the process

How ill-suited I was for a serious academic career

Working through the karma of a developing self,

Headstrong, too sure of a developing self

Indifferent to social norms—“What have I to do with thee?”

The wisdom I acquired was not in the books—the many books, no one could count the books

But in the crucible the walls of which were the process of my education

Epilogue:

In the calming after the threat

You shudder at what could have been

Destruction skirting rash choices, noxious, obnoxious

 

A narrow escape from who I was

 

The wisdom I acquired, and did become and am becoming,

And decorum, more or less, contours of cooperation—no—eco-operation

In sync.  Sympatico become peaceful and am becoming peaceful, become peace

DISCOVERING ART, ARTISTS

It’s taken me this many years, in my mature age

To understand, and, more, to enjoy Shakespeare

For in my younger years, I couldn’t, didn’t

I look forward to the delight in store for me

As play by play, I will open the heavy, leather volumes

Of Shakespeare in my home library

 

I recall, in my youth, my delight

As symphony by symphony, I discovered Beethoven

I recall my sadness, when there were no more symphonies to discover

Symphony by symphony, I had heard them all

Though I can still listen to them time and again

 

I recall, in early manhood, my delight

As novel by novel, I discovered Hemingway

I recall emulating Hemingway’s characters, Hemingway

As I was young, and searching for an identity

 

I recall, also in early manhood, my awe

As I viewed paintings in museums

That I had previously seen only as prints in books

And I could, can, view them time and again

 

So all these years, these good years

Bring me to the doorstep of Shakespeare

And like an eager youth, I anticipate

The delight in store for me

As play by play, I open the heavy, leather volumes

Of Shakespeare in my home library—

A surprising boon bestowed on my advanced years

A LITANY

The Keepers of intellectual trends hold apparent power

And to make it, some are slaves to the Keepers’ fashion

I am a free man to my own muse

I am a priest who intones the litany:

 

Blake was a free genius, self-published,

And died in literary obscurity

Until T. S. Eliot gave him a name

Shelley knew, “Nor fame, nor power, nor love, nor leisure”

Whom all English students now study

Though F. Scott knew fame and wealth,

Gatsby didn’t even sell out its first printing

And F. Scott never knew the book as all high school students do

They suppressed Hemingway’s Pulitzer

They fiercely debated whether Frost were a poet, Wyeth a painter

The Impressionists showed in the Exhibition of Rejects

And Moreau, in the National Paris Salon

Pollock had his 10 years, before his suicide

Mozart died unknown, unsung

 

We can’t give our contentment to the Keepers

It rests in the beauty of our art manifesting,

In the pen of the writer alone with paper or laptop screen,

And a  happy finished project

In the living-room, study, or dorm room

With, or without, the blessing of the Keepers

ODE TO THE NIGHT

I feel more at home, and love the dark of night

Then, my creativity, my psyche’s spark,

Flows into art and I drink in others’ insight

I love the peacefulness when everything is dark

 

Daylight is a threat to this contemplative

I strain to shut it out and turn into my mind

In night, the dark, the stillness lets my spirit live

And music, verse, and thought flow freely as the wind

 

I walk the night and love the darkness, the quiet

Day is noisy; light is a distraction

When I try to grasp a poem or express my spirit

Only nighttime gives my spirit satisfaction

THAT PARTY I CRASHED

I think back fondly of the time I crashed that party

Across the street, in that wealthy neighborhood

Where the graduate school I attended was located

I had a good time, enjoyed myself and they me

In the house that hosted the party I crashed

I noticed authentic early Christian art and statuary

Just before the sun broke, we were sitting on the floor

The daughter was holding a grey box in her hand

Which contained her father’s ashes

He was an organist and purchased the art

Before it became valuable, at a good price, she said

We partied all night, and when the sun rose

She had to drive away to her job as a waitress

I walked across the street to the quiet graduate school

Found my room down the dark hallway, and crashed

ETUDE

I paint with words the colors of my moods

In language, I play the notes of my soul

With nouns and verbs, I construct structures of meaning

The script that is scene and act of my life’s issues

And if I am true, my words are yours

Poetry that is about language only

Means nothing to the ages

Word play, alliteration, assonance, rhyme and rhythm

Are scholastic toys unless vehicles of meaning

When dancing language denotes reality

Poetry is loved and lasting

Contrasting Dynamics between Old and New Literature

I’ve recently been reading the contemporary Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami, and the 19th century Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev.  I’m finding a marked contrast in the development of the stories that each tell.  I am sad to say that I fail to understand the artistry of the contemporary novelist Murakami, while I am stimulated and captivated by the 19th century novelist Turgenev.

In the first chapter of Turgenev, there are four developing story tensions: 1) youth and age, 2) aristocracy and peasantry, 3) social grace and casual social insouciance, 4) science and art.  All this is evolving through four characters.  I can’t wait to see how these tensions play out.  By contrast, I am half-way through Murakami and there are no plot tensions; there have been a long succession of characters who appear then fall out of the narrative; and the story is a succession of episodes with nothing driving them other than the main character’s fascination with a woman who has something wrong with her.

The New York Times likes Murakami, and that makes me think that I’m missing something.  But I’ve read no critical commentary on Turgenev and I’m hooked.  Am I witnessing a clash of aesthetics between contemporary art and 19th century art?  Have my sensibilities failed to keep up with contemporary culture?

In my own aesthetics, a work of art commands attention by its own presentation.  I don’t need to read a book of art criticism to admire a Rembrandt painting–or a Monet landscape.  But I do, in order to appreciate Miro.  I don’t need to read criticism to enjoy Hemingway or Turgenev or Shakespeare or Tom Wolfe.  But someone needs to tell me why I should keep reading Murakami, because the author himself isn’t compelling my attention.

With so much art, I seem to leave off with early modernism.  Perhaps I am living witness to the plot tension in Turgenev between youth and age.  But then, that would commend Turgenev’s 19th century aesthetic.

A WELL-LOVED LIFE

I treasure the measure allotted me, perhaps
Because I have known
Want and bitterness
Admittedly, self-imposed pursuant to
Higher education want and bitterness and isolation
The currency I’m currently earning renders
Me middle-class, statistically, actuarially, actually, without apology
I can buy my heart’s desire, for my
Wants and happiness
Are within grasp of my middle-class
Earning;–yearning not for all the world:
Some art, a guitar, travel to distant parts
On occasion; means for an artistic avocation
Wants and happiness
Gifts of a middle-class
Earning—living out my learning
Through a life well-lived, well loved life

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