japonisme: 9/14/08 - 9/21/08

20 September 2008

in its own way


They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy- stern
And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.

Philip Larkin

though only tangentially related to the rest of the post, for some glimpses of japan around the times that we often discuss, have a look at this.

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18 September 2008

adam and noah and goose

when a japanese print shows many different animals, half of them become surreal, as we see in this image entitled 'the magician's party."

when we in the west, however, show multiple animals, we are much more realistic, showing real situations: the garden of eden, noah's ark, and mother goose.


Whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.

When the Deluge had passed,
into my head, by twos, came the creeping things,
the horn of their jawbones shining, and the things of the air,
wing-cases breaking like clasp knives, asking their names.

Storm-light colored their passing
with an animal imminence.
They wheeled
on the pile of their plumage, in the dread of their animal being,
and rode in the ark of my head

where the possible
worked like a sea.
Nothing was given me there. Nothing was known.
Feather and scale,
concussions of muscle and fur,
the whale
and the name for the whale
rose on the void
like a waterspout,
being, and ceasing to be:

till keel clashed and I spoke: mayfly,
wood-weasel, stingray, cormorant, mole—
choosing the syllables,
holding a leaf to the torrent,
unharmed and infallible, while Creation descended, in twos.

Ben Belitt

Ben Belitt, “Second Adam” from The Enemy Joy (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1964). Source: Poetry (January 1964).

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17 September 2008

when brittany was a place

gauguin stressed the need for firm outlines filled with flat areas of color. some call it cloisonne-ism, but i'd call it something else.

frequently, he used the same yellow paper for his prints as hokusai used as covers for his manga.

it is said he both used and was influenced by emile bernard. it is also said that the reverse is true.

with the advent of railroads and portable painting kits, artists rushed to the edges of france, to brittany, to pont-aven and beyond. artists from throughout the world, even japan.

As an artist escaping in search of “primitivism,” Gauguin was not the first to find Pont-Aven, Brittany. According to historian Caroline Boyle-Turner, the small French village had been drawing in artists since the early 1860’s. Artists were attracted to the region because of its strong local culture and religious fervor. The village, located on the Aven river, was populated by a group who, as Boyle-Turner puts it, maintained qualities of “a cultural past that was governed less by French culture then by a fascinating amalgam of Celtic, Druidic and medieval Christian folklore.” This blend of ancient elements created an environment where artists believed they could encounter a more “primitive” and “true” people.

As Gill Perry points out, this “primitivism,” while still in existence, had diminished by the 1880’s, the peak of Pont-Aven’s popularity among artists and the period when Gauguin was working there. Technical advances in farming as well as the continuing increase in revenue from tourism had helped to move Brittany forward into the modern world and away from the timelessness artists had come looking for. Thus, Perry asserts that artists working in Brittany were more specifically recreating ideas of the “primitive” they were in search of rather than representing the true Breton culture around them. 1

gauguin said, ""Study the silhouette of every object; distinctness of outline is the attribute of the hand that is not enfeebled by any hesitation of will." is this not the heart of calligraphy as well?

"Gau- guin paid little attention to classical perspective and boldly eliminated subtle gradations of colour, thereby dispensing with the two most characteristic principles of post-Renaissance painting." again.

whatever the context, the explanation, or audience, the impressionists, the nabis, and the pont-aven circle of printmakers, benefited themselves from exposure to the prints from japan, and changed western art forever.

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15 September 2008

a diamond in pearls

her survival was in the recreation of herself; her success was in the recreation of fashion. in the recreation of her life, on, appropriately, lifetime tv, we are shown a lot of truths, a good number of fictifi- cations, and some of the most beautiful players on the screen today.

prettified, possibly, but somehow, the woman is caught. one can view photographs of the original and see that the leap has not been too great.

the costumes are inter- esting, and also appear to be rather accurate. one wonders, now, what the audrey tautou chanel will be like.

we see a woman with a series of affairs, but we are not told they lasted as long as they did, or that they sometimes occurred simultaneously. literally.

we understand easily now how narrow the line between 'courtesan' and 'friends with benefits' might be.

even shirley maclaine, headliner if minor character, disappears in turning into the stoop-shouldered coco, which she pulls off wonderfully.

perusing the real woman's life, as seen through the eyes of the biographers of her lifetime best friend and bitterest enemy, misia sert, we see her as a diamond: beautiful, unique, and hard.

the film does not hide this.

nor does it hide the aston- ishing changes chanel made in the ways women allowed themselves to appear in the world,
hair, fashion; the way we move.

the film points no fingers. what would you have done with this life? i suppose that theme is common to lifetime tv movies; this time they've really out- done themselves.

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14 September 2008

a thesis of weaves and hallows

Beware of gnawing
the ideogram of nothingness:
Your teeth will crack. Swallow it whole, and you’ve a treasure
Beyond the hope of Buddha and the Mind. The east breeze
Fondles the horse’s ears:
how sweet the smell of plum.

Karasumaru-Mitsuhiro (1579-1638) 1


The first night at the monastery,
a moth lit on my sleeve by firelight,
long after the first frost.

A short stick of incense burns
thirty minutes, fresh thread of pine
rising through the old pine of the hours.

Summer is trapped under the thin
glass on the brook, making
the sound of an emptying bottle.

Before the long silence,
the monks make a long soft rustling,
adjusting their robes.

The deer are safe now. Their tracks
are made of snow. The wind has dragged
its branches over their history.

Chase Twichell

“Pine” by Chase Twichell from The Snow Watcher published by Ontario Review Press. © 1998 by Chase Twichell.


When lying beneath a ponderosa
pine, looking up through layers
of branches, mazes of leaf-spikes

and cones—contemplation grows
receptive to complexity,
the pleasant temptation of pine-
scented tangle. Sky as proposition
is willingly divided and spliced
into a thesis of weaves and hallows.

Name them something else
if you wish, but needled shadow
and substance are, in this hour,
an architecture of philosophy.

And a rising wind, called ”a rough
and bawdy wind“ by a rough and bawdy
voice, is that wind and that voice
transformed. The structure of words
sways and bends in the blow.

Looking away into the clear sky, expectation shifts. Vision becomes/ a welcome to guests
of crows in new/ dimensions who themselves become/ not only depth and horizon
in a circus/ of wings but old vision’s startling visitors.

Not soul alone, but soul consumed
by a single bee descending into the center
of a purple mountain lily is soul
to a soul suckled in sleep.

Earth and human together
form a unique being. A brief era
of immortality is lent to each
by the other. Move momentarily
now—with hovering granite cliff,
with sun-stripe flick of perhaps
vagrant shrew, with raised tack
of mightly larkspur—into this company.

Pattiann Rogers

“This Little Glade, Remember” from Generations.
Copyright © 2004 by Pattiann Rogers.

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