japonisme: library tumbling?

20 August 2008

library tumbling?

this was library. for centuries.

WALLACE STEVENS

The great poet came to me in a dream, walking toward me in a house
drenched with August light. It was late afternoon and he was old,

past a hundred, but virile, fit, leonine. I loved that my seducer
had lived more than a century and a quarter. What difference

does age make? We began to talk about the making of poems, how
I craved his green cockatoo when I was young, named my Key West

after his, like a parent naming a child "George Washington." He was
not wearing the business suit I'd expected, nor did he have the bored

Rushmore countenance of the familiar portrait. His white tee shirt
was snug over robust chest and belly, his golden hair long, his beard

full as a biker's. How many great poets ride a motorcycle? We
were discussing the limits of image, how impossible for word

to personate entirely thing: "sea," ocean an August afternoon; "elm,"
heartbreak of American boulevards after the slaughter

of sick old beautiful trees. "I have given up language," he said.
The room was crowded and noisy, so I thought I'd misheard.

"Given up words?" "Yes, but not poems," he said, whereupon
he turned away, walking into darkness. Then it was cooler, and

we were alone in the gold room. "Here is a poem," he said, proffering
a dry precisely formed leaf, on it two dead insects I recognized


as termites, next to them a tiny flag of scarlet silk no larger than
the price sticker on an antique brooch. Dusky red, though once

bright, frayed but vivid. Minute replica of a matador's provocation?
Since he could read my spin of association, he was smiling, the glee

of genius. "Yes," he said, "that is the poem." A dead leaf? His grin was
implacable. Dead, my spinner brain continued, but beautiful. Edge

curling, carp-shaped, color of bronze or verdigris.
Not one, but two
termites—dead. To the pleasures of dining on sill or floor joist, of

eating a house, and I have sold my house.
I think of my friend finding
termites when she reached, shelf suddenly dust on her fingers,

library tumbling, the extermi- nator's bill. Rapacious bugs devour,
a red flag calls up the poem: Blood. Zinnia. Emergency. Blackbird's

vermillion epaulet. Crimson of manicure. Large red man reading,
handkerchief red as a clitoris peeking from his deep tweed pocket—

Suddenly he was gone, gold draining from the walls, but the leaf,
the leaf was in my hand, and in the silence I heard an engine howl,

and through the night that darkened behind the window, I saw
light bolt forward, the tail of a comet smudge black winter sky.

Honor Moore

"Wallace Stevens" is reprinted from Red Shoes by Honor Moore.
Copyright © 2005 Honor Moore.


and then the world changed and the gods invented internet.

when i was a child, the childish things i played with i've never put away; i sat cross-legged against the library window, hidden amongst the stacks, reading poetry books. then over the years, this moment in art history, as you know, took me over.

one day i walked into moe's bookstore, and there in the rare books store-within- a-store was a complete bound set of s. bing's 'artistic japan.' moe traded me ads in my magazine for that set, and i treasure it still.

and i can now give it to you, the last three volumes of six, anyway, and arthur wesley dow's teaching manuals, and copies of 'the studio ,' and dorothy lathrop books, and every gift a library might bestow.

libraries tumbled? no; just transferred, maybe, from paper to bolts of light, a comet smudge across a winter sky.

start here.

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6 Comments:

Blogger Princess Haiku said...

This is an intriguing post and the photo on top of the library reflects my own asesthetic of libraries. I can't imagine a words without books, illustrations, text, covers, engravings, gorgeous paper. There will never be a substitute for a book.

20 August, 2008 23:02  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

ah yes, i understand your meaning. in fact i actually agree with you. i couldn't read an ebook, and can barely read online.

and yet at the same time i am grateful beyond words to have at my fingertips things that all of the dozens of link+ libraries would never loan me, even if they had them.

to go at my pace through all the back issues of 'the studio,' in which charles rennie mackintosh is included in the review, 'some glasgow artists'.... and where is a discussion of the vienna secession kolomon moser's name is listed with many others i've never heard of, before he had become 'a name,' and why he and not the next?

what images were selected to display, who is forgotten and who is not... all this and i don't have to get dressed --

and 'the studio' is but a tiny drop; as more libraries throughout the world put their collections online, access increases a millionfold.

it not as good as touching. but it sure is better than whatever is in second place.

20 August, 2008 23:56  
Blogger ZenCrafter said...

I'm completely blown away by your poem and its imagery!! I had no idea what was in store for me as I started to read, so that added to the jolt I got from the poem. I'm trying to create those little Zen-like collages of imagery that you described, and I like how the real things beget words and associations. You've captured that beautifully.

21 August, 2008 08:23  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

oh i'm so glad you felt that way zc--that's just how i felt when i first read it. honor moore can be so amazing.

21 August, 2008 09:26  
Blogger Margaret said...

The poem is lovely and the pictures you've chosen to accompany it are enchanting. I'm really in love with the drawing on the bottom. Whose is it?

22 August, 2008 13:40  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

thank you margaret

and didn't you send be off on a chase today. i know that image like the back of my hand; it was on the cover of many issues of 'the studio.'

but.... i couldn't find an attribution anywhere. not online. not in the several dozen of my books on the period.

yet... i do have a guess. i think it's will bradley, based on his style, and his participation in the magazine.

i'll figure it out someday, unless someone tells me first!

22 August, 2008 19:54  

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