japonisme: 5/4/08 - 5/11/08

08 May 2008

apple picking


My long two- pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.

But I am done
with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep
is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.

I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning
from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.

It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep
before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.

Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.

I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.

There were ten thousand thousand
fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.

For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.

One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say
whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

Robert Frost

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07 May 2008

flooded with moonlight

you might wonder or even assume that i continue to print poems by pound and williams and lorca and dickinson et al because they've always been my favorites, but i'd barely read any of them before (and i did read poetry; i edited a literary magazine for fifteen years). no, it's because this imagist movement of poetry was the english language version of japonisme.

"In America in 1912, the most common and popular poetry was called genteel because it was very well-behaved. Take, for example, this poem by Richard Watson Gilder.

The Woods that Bring the Sunset Near

The wind from out of the west is blowing
The homeward-wandering cows are lowing,
Dark grow the pine woods, dark and drear, —
The woods that bring the sunset near.

Around 1912 in London, some British and American poets led by Ezra Pound started a poetic movement called imagism. These poets reacted against genteel poetry, which they saw as sentimental, soft-edged, and emotionally dishonest. Instead, they advised, in Ezra Pound's formulation,

1. Direct treatment of the ‘thing,
’ whether subjective or objective.

2. To use absolutely no word that did not contribute to the presentation.
3. As regarding rhythm: to compose in sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of the metronome.

In 1913, Pound added the following advice for aspiring imagist poets:

4. An 'Image' is that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex
in an instant of time.

5. It is the presentation of such a 'complex' instantaneously which gives the sense of sudden liberation; that sense of freedom from time limits and space limits; that sense of sudden growth, which we experience
in the greatest works of art.

6. It is better to present one Image in a lifetime than to produce voluminous works.

7. Use no superfluous word,
no adjective which does not reveal something.

8. Don't use such an expression as 'dim lands of peace.' It dulls the image. It mixes an abstraction with the concrete. It comes from the writer's not realizing that the natural object is always
the adequate symbol.

9. Go in fear of abstractions. Do not retell in mediocre verse what has already been done in good prose.

Imagist poems were influenced by Japanese haiku, poems of 17 syllables which usually present only two juxtaposed images. This poetry strives to suggests more than its literal meaning, yet avoids overt figurative devices like allegory and even metaphor." 1

see what you think:

"Mañana", dated 7 August 1918 in Fuente Vaqueros,
from Libro de Poemas:

But the song of water
is an eternal thing.
It is light turned into song
of romantic illusions.
It is firm and soft,
mild and full of heaven.
It is mist and it is rose
of the eternal morning.
Honey of the moon which flows
from buried stars.

What is the holy baptism
but God turned into water
to anoint our foreheads
with the blood of his mercy?
For some good reason Jesus
was confirmed in water.

For some good reason the stars
repose upon its waves.
For some good reason Venus

in its breast was engendered

Federico Garcia Lorca (1898–1936) 2

Midnight. No waves,

no wind, the empty boat
is flooded with moonlight.

Eihei Dogen (1200-1253) 3

(and in case you were wondering if lorca could be a reincarnation of dogen, i have provided a helpful aide.)

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06 May 2008

come may


the leaves

of wrist-thick

and old
stiff broken

loosely strung—

come May
white blossom

to spill

their sweets

and quickly






William Carlos Williams
Samidare o atsumete hayashi Mogamigawa
The Mogami River, gathering rain of May and even more rapid

Matsuo Bashō

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05 May 2008

the romance of the rails

what is it about train whist- les? they create a sense of wistfulness in the human heart that may be difficult to explain. the romance of the rails. they're featured in country songs, and there're several different guys on youtube who want to teach you how to create it on your harmonica.

i've always thought that it had to do with the ways it resembles the human voice, with it's multi- harmonics and its ability to wail. maybe it's how we're programmed: to respond to babies. like the sounds of accordions and, yes, harmonicas, that sound goes straight into the human heart. or could it be a response that's been manufactured?

as we've discussed here before, railways were instrumental in creating destinations -- national parks, resorts, etc. the early train posters were about the trains, but soon after they became about those wondrous places you might go. "audiences were eager for images of the territory west of the Mississippi. Paintings and sketches of places like Yosemite and Yellowstone suggested that America possessed scenery more majestic than Europe's and that despite the chaos of the Civil War and its aftermath, America was still destined for greatness. The founding of the National Park idea in these two very different Wests was a process by which images of the West were inserted into the national imagination.

Yellowstone and Yosemite were dedicated with the idea that wilderness formed an integral part of the American identity, but they were also places sponsored and promoted by the railroads to court investors and maximize profits. From the earliest days of discovery to the crucial National Park Act of 1916, the process of park development was shaped by needs of the railroads -- from acquiring investors to selling mass-market tourism, they modified their advertising strategies to win the patronage of new passengers with the promise of fulfilling their expectations of the West in 'America's playgrounds.'" 1

it was the same in great britian. " it was holiday travel that the railway poster came to be associated with—a world of sunshine, sandy beaches and endless fun. Growing prosperity led to increased demand for travel.

However, some companies had not always been keen to cater for holiday traffic, but it gradually came to be seen as an important source of revenue. Before the First World War, the railway companies were fortunate in having few competitors for this traffic. The train was quite simply the best and often the only way to travel.

"The rapid growth of seaside resorts owed much to the expansion of the railway network. Sea bathing increased in popularity during the nineteenth century and railways were able to provide fast access from the towns and cities for many more people who had the luxury of leisure time and paid and public holidays. The railways opened up parts of the country which had been previously inaccessible.

New resorts sprung up on Britain's coasts. However, the new visitors that the railways brought were not always welcomed with open arms. At Bridlington, in Yorkshire, day visitors were disliked by regular visitors and residents alike and the station was sited well away from the sea. Most of the larger resorts came to cater for all classes of visitor but others tried to retain a more select clientele.

"In some cases, railways created resorts where little had existed before. In 1871, Skegness in Lincolnshire had a population of less than 500. A railway line was opened to the town 2 years later and a large station was built with the hope of attracting holiday traffic to the sandy beaches. The crowds came and the facilities grew. By 1907, Skegness was attracting 300,000 visitors a year, mostly from the industrial towns of the East Midlands and Yorkshire." 2

we'll never know; this is the greatest success of modern advertising creating a need since platinum hair. aww, who cares. we seem to like longing, and at least they all had the good sense to emulate the japanese, whenever possible.

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