japonisme: 9/23/07 - 9/30/07

29 September 2007

things i didn't know i loved


it's 1962 March 28th
I'm sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
night is falling
I never knew I liked
night descending like a tired bird on a smoky wet plain
I don't like
comparing nightfall to a tired bird

I didn't know I loved the earth
can someone who hasn't worked the earth love it
I've never worked the earth
it must be my only Platonic love

and here I've loved rivers
all this time
whether motionless like this they curl skirting the hills
European hills crowned with chateaus
or whether stretched out flat as far as the eye can see
I know you can't wash in the same river even once
I know the river will bring new lights you'll never see
I know we live slightly longer than a horse but not nearly as long as a crow
I know this has troubled people before
and will trouble those after me
I know all this has been said a thousand times before
and will be said after me

I didn't know I loved the sky
cloudy or clear
the blue vault Andrei studied on his back at Borodino
in prison I translated both volumes of War and Peace into Turkish
I hear voices
not from the blue vault but from the yard
the guards are beating someone again
I didn't know I loved trees
bare beeches near Moscow in Pere- delkino
they come upon me in winter noble and modest
beeches are Russian the way poplars are Turkish
"the poplars of Izmir
losing their leaves. . .
they call me The Knife. . .
lover like a young tree. . .
I blow stately mansions sky-high"
in the Ilgaz woods in 1920 I tied an embroidered linen handkerchief
to a pine bough for luck

I never knew I loved roads
even the asphalt kind
Vera's behind the wheel we're driving from Moscow to the Crimea
formerly "Goktepé ili" in Turkish
the two of us inside a closed box
the world flows past on both sides distant and mute
I was never so close to anyone in my life
bandits stopped me on the red road between Bolu and Geredé
when I was eighteen
apart from my life I didn't have anything in the wagon they could take
and at eighteen our lives are what we value least
I've written this somewhere before
wading through a dark muddy street I'm going to the shadow play
Ramazan night
a paper lantern leading the way
maybe nothing like this ever happened
maybe I read it somewhere an eight-year-old boy
going to the shadow play
Ramazan night in Istanbul holding his grandfather's hand
his grandfather has on a fez and is wearing the fur coat
with a sable collar over his robe
and there's a lantern in the servant's hand
and I can't contain myself for joy
flowers come to mind for some reason
poppies cactuses jonquils
in the jonquil garden in Kadikoy Istanbul I kissed Marika
fresh almonds on her breath
I was seventeen
my heart on a swing touched the sky
I didn't know I loved flowers
friends sent me three red carnations in prison

I just remembered the stars
I love them too
whether I'm floored watching them from below
or whether I'm flying at their side

I have some questions for the cosmonauts
were the stars much bigger
did they look like huge jewels on black velvet
or apricots on orange
did you feel proud to get closer to the stars
I saw color photos of the cosmos in Ogonek magazine now don't
be upset comrades but nonfigurative shall we say or abstract
well some of them looked just like such paintings which is to
say they were terribly figurative and concrete
my heart was in my mouth looking at them
they are our endless desire to grasp things
seeing them I could even think of death and not feel at all sad
I never knew I loved the cosmos

snow flashes in front of my eyes
both heavy wet steady snow and the dry whirling kind
I didn't know I liked snow

I never knew I loved the sun
even when setting cherry-red as now
in Istanbul too it sometimes sets in postcard colors
but you aren't about to paint it that way
I didn't know I loved the sea
except the Sea of Azov
or how much

I didn't know I loved clouds
whether I'm under or up above them
whether they look like giants or shaggy white beasts

moonlight the falsest the most languid the most petit-bourgeois
strikes me
I like it

I didn't know I liked rain
whether it falls like a fine net or splatters against the glass my
heart leaves me tangled up in a net or trapped inside a drop
and takes off for uncharted countries I didn't know I loved
rain but why did I suddenly discover all these passions sitting
by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
is it because I lit my sixth cigarette
one alone could kill me
is it because I'm half dead from thinking about someone back in Moscow
her hair straw-blond eyelashes blue

the train plunges on through the pitch-black night
I never knew I liked the night pitch-black
sparks fly from the engine
I didn't know I loved sparks
I didn't know I loved so many things and I had to wait until sixty
to find it out sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
watching the world disappear as if on a journey of no return

Nazim Hikmet
19 April 1962 Moscow

Translated by Mutlu Konuk and Randy Blasing

From Selected Poetry by Nazim Hikmet. Translation copyright © 1986 by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk.
Reprinted by permission of Persea Books, Inc. 1

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28 September 2007



I went to the dances
at Chandlerville,
And played snap-out
at Winchester.
One time we
changed partners,
Driving home in the moonlight of middle June,
And then I found Davis.
We were married and lived together for
seventy years,
Enjoying, working, raising the twelve children,

Eight of whom we lost
Ere I had reached
the age of sixty.
I spun, I wove, I kept the house,
I nursed the sick,
I made the garden,
and for holiday
Rambled over the fields
where sang the larks,
And by Spoon River gathering many a shell,
And many a flower and
medicinal weed--
Shouting to the wooded hills, singing to the green valleys.
At ninety-six I had lived enough, that is all,
And passed to a sweet repose.
What is this I hear of sorrow and weariness,
Anger, discontent and drooping hopes?

Degenerate sons
and daughters,
Life is too strong for you--
It takes life to love Life.

Edgar Lee Masters

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27 September 2007

wearing these colors


Do you remember when it was
people stopped calling you
young lady and you became
just ma'am or madam?
Around the same time it became
too much trouble to go out?

These days I tell my kids
not to do things I'd begun doing
well before I was their age,
and yard work once a torture
is now a fine escape.

There is a chain saw in the forest
taking out old trees. Once
I would have tried to stop them,
now I enjoy the opened space.

John Enright

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26 September 2007

sunday, actually


Because in my family
the heart goes first
and hardly anybody makes it
out of his fifties,
I think I'll stay up late with
a few bandits
of my choice and resist good advice.
I'll invent a secret scroll
lost by Egyptians
and reveal its contents:
the directions
to your house,
recipes for forgiveness.
History says my ventricles
are stone alleys,
my heart itself a city with a terrorist
holed up in the mayor's office.
I'm in the mood to punctuate

only with that maker of promises, the colon:
next, next, next, its says, God bless it.
As García Lorca may have written:
some people
forget to live as if a great arsenic lobster
could fall on their heads at any moment.
My sixtieth birthday is tomorrow.
Come, play poker with me,
I want to be taken to the cleaners.
I've had it with all stingy-hearted
sons of bitches.
A heart is to be spent.
As for me, I'll share
my mulcher with anyone
who needs to mulch.

It's time to give up
the search for the invisible.
On the best of days there's little more
than the faintest intimations.
The millennium,
my dear, is sure to disappoint us.
I think I'll keep on describing things
to ensure that they really happened.

Stephen Dunn

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not fade away

Well love is love and not fade away
Well love is love and not fade away
Well love is love and not fade away
Well love is love and not fade away
Well love is love and not fade away
Well love is love and not fade away
Well love is love and not fade away
Well love is love and not fade away
Well love is love and not fade away
Well love is love and not fade away
Well love is love and not fade away
Well love is love and not fade away
Well love is love and not fade away

Well love is love and not fade away
Well love is love and not fade away
Well love is love and not fade away
Well love is love and not fade away
Well love is love and not fade away
Well love is love and not fade away
Well love is love and not fade away
Well love is love and not fade away
Well love is love and not fade away
Well love is love and not fade away
Well love is love and not fade away
Well love is love and not fade away
Well love is love and not fade away
Well love is love and not fade away
Well love is love and not fade away
Well love is love and not fade away

Well love is love and not fade away
Well love is love and not fade away
Well love is love and not fade away

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24 September 2007

the prankster flatters

Pen- field was at the fore- front of the poster art form. His particularly American approach to the Art Nouveau movement downplayed the dramatic curving lines of the European version and emphasized flat, simple areas of form and color as seen in Japanese prints and the work of the Post-Impressionists, especially Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Penfield’s posters became a means by which he could introduce avant-garde aesthetics to the American public. He is, in fact, credited with bringing abstraction to American commercial art. He had an art director’s understanding of what was required for a successful advertisement. As he noted, “It is more a question of what to leave out than what to put in.” 1

a little while back i posted the two images above, penfield's 'salute' to bairei kono, as mentioned in meech and weisberg's japonisme comes to america. then, a couple of days ago i came across penfield's poster to the right, on a website that stated it was his homage to steinlen's illustration to the left.

then i came across one of his illustrations i hadn't really noticed before, below, and the row of carriages reminded me of something.

i went and checked the bonnard painting i had remembered (above), and just really had to smile.

a wonderful (if unfinished) website all about penfield pointed out this penfield/ toulouse- lautrec similarity.

naturally, this got up my curi- osity. i feel like if i only were a little bit more knowledgeable about art history, having memorized all of the japanese and french artists of the last century or so, i would find many more of these. but in the meantime i offer.... (both penfield/steinlen pairings)

similar? coincidence? hat doffing? i love all this stuff. anyone out there know of any more of penfield's playful posters?

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23 September 2007



Seven years ago I went into
the High Sierras stunned
by the desire
to die. For hours I stared
into a clear
mountain stream that fell down
over speckled rocks, and then I
closed my eyes and
prayed that when
I opened them I would be gone
and somewhere a purple and golden
thistle would overflow with light.
I had not prayed since I was a child
and at first I felt foolish saying
the name of God, and then it became
another word. All the while
I could hear the water's chant
below my voice. At last I opened
my eyes to the same place, my hands
cupped and I drank long from
the stream,
and then turned for home
not even stopping
to find the thistle
that blazed by my path.
Since then
I have gone home to the city
of my birth and found it gone,
a gray and treeless one now in its place.
The one house I loved the most
simply missing in a row of houses,
the park where I napped on summer days
fenced and locked, the great shop
where we forged, a plane of rubble,
the old hurt faces turned away.
My brother was with me, thickened
by the years, but still my brother,
and when we em- braced
I felt the rough
cheek and his hand
upon my back tapping
as though to tell me, I know! I know!
brother, I know!
Here in California
a new day begins. Full dull clouds ride
in from the sea, and this dry valley
calls out for rain. My brother has
risen hours ago and hobbled to the shower
and gone out into
the city of death
to trade his life for nothing because
this is the world.
I could pray now,
but not to die,
for that will come one
day or another. I could pray for
his bad leg or my son John
whose luck
is rotten,
or for four
new teeth, but
instead I watch my eucalyptus,
the giant in my front
yard, bucking
and swaying in the wind
and hear its

tidal roar. In the
strange new light
the leaves overflow
purple and gold,
and a fiery dust showers
into the day.

Philip Levine

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