Music while


(Jeremy Denk plays Bach’s ‘Goldberg Variations’  via NPR First Listen . I shall not try to decipher for I do not know music.)

I know nothing, really, about anything which brings us round to my original thought for this evening’s post:

is it still okay to blog when I am an authority on nothing?

Is it okay for me to expound on the latest piece of art spied at the local gallery via a weaving of words in rumination and prose/poetry? Is that just word vomit, as one of my classmates opined today in the forum? May I write about Emily Dickinson – share thoughts on #___ or #____ – imagining the possibilities from her small hands?  Should I cast away everything, even the creative voice that whispers via lines of poetry, because of no MFA?

YHC is just a place to express thoughts,  but many of my classmates feel this should only be done by the professionally educated, not anyone with a keyboard and connection. I may create misinformation….what do you think?


(changing brews –  a quick note about drowning)

In no time the black river yoked all my strength
I saw the lesser waters great and the soft banks steep and high.

The above are the first two lines  (7 lines in total) from Egon Schieles’s poem, “Music While Drowning”.  Two days ago, I didn’t know who Egon Schiele was until Mark Kerstetter shared “Portrait of Wally”. Since then there has been a snowball effect – Schiele has suddenly taken over my world with sweet serendipity.

You see, at the used book shop yesterday, I found, “Egon Schiele’s Portraits” by Alessandra Comini. It was a bit more than I usually like to spend, but it was so well reviewed on the back, and a National Book Award finalist in 1974, the copy called to me. Before leaving, still searching for art books, I visited the $2.00 area. Without much thought, a thin volume of German Expressionism poetry caught my eye. I bought it for the woodcuts, not realizing in 24 hours it would mean so much more.

After reading the first chapter of Comini’s book on Schiele, I decided to read a bit of poetry. As I skimmed the table of contents for a place to start, I found three poems by Schiele listed. Ironically, I had just written in the margins of Comini’s book a thought on portrait and writing:  could a poet compose a self-portrait? Schiele, it seems, questioned the same thing:

I am everything at once, but never will I do everything at once. – “Self Portrait 1″ Egon Schiele

There are actually two self-portrait poems by Schiele, the above and “Self Portrait 2″, but I do not like to fringe on copyright, so shall not post no. 2 – it is rather long.

Schiele, from what I can discern after the first chapter, helped to change portraiture. Gustave Klimt paved the way for this new expression of portrait, and Schiele took it to another level with his technique and content. Schiele was in part, a product of his time, as German Expressionism had started to appear in painting, as well as music, dance, and literature.  It had become vogue to reflect in one’s art – exploring the depths of the inner psyche. (tbc)

*A brief note on Egon Schiele (1890-1918) – he was an Austrian painter – part of the Viennese Expressionism movement. Hence, it was not expected to find him included in the German Expressionism poetry book.

I am inspired to fit Schiele into my course readings, as well as visit something I used to enjoy despite the lack of talent. You’ve been forewarned, self-portrait attempts may be posted in the future.  I guess this really is a blog that should be avoided, especially if you fear drowning ~ 

guilty / incubation

A being can only be touched where it yields. – Georges Bataille

(Will you get naked with me Will you yield Will you shed your completeness in order to reveal your innocence Is there innocence or is that only for a cyborg What is a cyborg beside a lustful being that has turned beyond monster When do we yield to our inner monster and break free There are no question marks here for there is no here… we are just )

Bataille writes that the woman is complete with her clothes on, but reveals her incompleteness when she offers her nakedness, revealing her wound. His words are interesting, ones that cause me to hold my breath as if breathing prevents expansion of thought. I wrote in the margins of Guilty - ‘where is man’s wound- his point of entry for communication.’

The non-satisfaction implicit in the turmoil of history, the movement of knowledge that destroys every possibility of rest, the image of God that ends up only as torment, the desperately sick whore who lifts up her dress – so many means of “communication experienced as nakedness, ” without which everything is empty. – Bataille, “Guilty” p.27

We must communicate, or we risk a life on non-existence. Is this writing to you communication? Do we enter into this realm, reader/writer, with our wound showing? Bhanu Kapil address this very thing in her book, Incubation (or was it Bataille – this is the problem when you ping-pong read in one sitting) Does she not question the role of reader/writer – who has more influence over the other. Her words overlay in my mind the writings of Bataille. Both ‘mystics’, painting a world with words in which we can escape – no, not escape, but explore, perhaps become even closer to what is ‘truth’.

1.  “A monster hallucinates; a cyborg has a more sexual agenda. It is sexual to mate with surfaces. It is sexual to write in the cafe like an émigré.”

4. I am writing to you because it is private and separate, like thinking.

-Bhanu Kapil, Incubation: A Space For Monsters

Kapil’s use of cyborg, however, is never definitive (to this reader) if she is addressing the typical cyborg for her cyborg, Laloo, does not represent the machine. Laloo, however, may be monster. Is Bhanu the cyborg? (In my defense, Bhanu Kapil, a professor at Naropa, is an experimental writer who is a pleasure to read, but much like reading a surrealist – one never knows where one is, so to speak). 

Bataille intersperses sexuality within his ruminations on God. His line is very fine between the two ecstasies. Should this be termed ecstasy? Bataille sees a communion with both through the same process – to become naked, to sacrifice. I cannot explain it now, but hope to with more time. Ecstasy should not be confused with sexuality unless we goes as far as to infer that it is that state that is found when there is no division with the universe when experienced.

The point of ecstasy is bared if inside myself I shatter individuality that confines me to myself. – Bataille, p. 35

(I cannot define this being I cannot say whether this is monster or cyborg or a child of God writing because I finger the fracture when writing these lines Fractures within the confines of a universe never ending Nietzche found the answer in not knowing Bataille tells me to breathe and concentrate further on breathing to locate that place of ecstasy I think I understand the idea of the wound I think I desire the ability to communicate with the Other Who is the Other Is it You Is it the fracture Is it the silence that remains in that state when we fall from dreaming)


No greater desire exists than a wounded person’s need for another wound. – Bataille

(This rather disjoined blog post is the product of reading several chapters from “Guilty” and “Incubation” today, one after the other – back and forth. I intended to compose the email I shall send to BK in regards to a question she posits in her book – complete with an email address to respond. There is not enough time – besides, it makes this too long. I wish to thank MK’s blog for introducing me to Bataille. I just happened to find “Guilty” last weekend at the used book shop – highly recommended. Ironically, Bhanu Kapil blogged this week about reading a book about Bataille – I’d like to think this is a sign that I’m on the right path in this incomplete universe as we know it. ~ a)


not cyborg not monster not… just


“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” – Jorge Luis Borges

Borges was a fortunate fellow as he worked in a library. Shall we infer that he was in paradise every single day.  Life is never that easy, and while reading Borges this evening (Collected Fictions, “In Praise of Darkness” and bits of “Aleph” to be exact) I would say that Borges thought life not paradise.

Paradise, though, seems to be tonight’s theme per se for lecture was about life after death. I sat there pondering what was being fed to me and was not certain what I was trying to consume agreed with this constitution. There is something distasteful about the statement that Adam and Eve were set up to fail because God loves, ergo, they had the freedom to disobey. Not that I have a God complex (far far from it), but I wish that analogy had been in my back pocket eons ago when a professional told me to stop testing people. Based on the information gleaned tonight from the cheap seats, my little tests are hard-wired from father himself (if you wish to follow that type of belief system).

I digress, today (well, actually it was yesterday) was Borges’s birthday. I wonder where he is today – do we think he is reading? How would he celebrate his birthday if in paradise. A paradise library certainly should be one that allows one to order up any book ever written and delivered by the author…perhaps with an option to sit before a fire with a fine beverage for a short Q & A. Perhaps, she sings, perhaps, perhaps

Paradise unfolded before me today. A friend and I visited the local art center for an installation by British artist Phyllida Barlow. Barlow designed “Scree Stage” for the Des Moines Art Center’s I.M Pei wing. I wish they allowed photographs. Barlow’s design was no small feat – the main sculpture is this amazing amalgamation of painted board, metal, sculpted poles and material to create a rather vast piece. My first thought:  it was a wave that started at the crest and then descended to meet you. It was easily twenty feet at the highest point (begging to be walked under), but this was not allowed per the guard. Sad, art like that NEEDS its audience to experience its energy from the inside – not just on the fringes.

Paradise, no matter what it is, is certainly to be experienced from the inside. So much of this life is experienced from the fringes. Digital lifestyles seem to encourage life as observation. It reminds me a bit of Edward Abbey’s beef with the automobile (to paraphrase) – no one was getting out of their GD tin can to actually experience the Canyon lands, just drive thru with sunglasses on (he was pretty angry – do believe he said GD) “Desert Solitaire” was the best damn required reading in college – it changed how I approach nature. That summer, I went to the mountains, got out of the GD car and hiked until altitude consumed me. Years later, hit the Canyon in full stride until her burnt sienna layers melded with my vision, sans sunglasses. 

I’ve yet to determine paradise – actually, there is more anxiety thinking about eternity than just to imagine not living…but, that is a post for another hour. What about you – are you like Borges, is your vision a library, or is it something equally beautiful… ~ a


This is not the installation, but it is a good representation of the shape. IMG_0942 (Photo credit: trevor.patt)

(and just for a bit of fun)

Her husband, she answered, was a writer, too – at least, after a fashion. …

…. Oh no, it was not a work of fiction which one dashes off , you know, to make money;  it was a mad neurologist’s testament, a kind of Poisonous Opus as in that film. …

The above are excerpts from card 1 & 2 of Vladimir Nabokov’s The Original of Laura.  I shall post my quick and dirty GR review below, but opened with these curious lines because they made me immediately infer that Nabokov was being very meta in his approach. One wonders if ‘that film’ was the ‘meta’ Fellini film, “81/2″. Nabokov, as Fellini did in his film, considers the success and failure of the work that is now being viewed.  Unfortunately, Nabokov’s ill health does not have time to complete these fragments, leaving us to wonder if this could have been his final “Lolita”.

(I shall stop here and post my brief  Goodreads review…)

When I spied this on the shelf at the used book shop (looking for Pale Fire) I couldn’t resist. Not knowing its back story (still in its wrapper), I took it home, read GR comments, and then let it sit for months until today. Hours later, the fragments linger as one imagines what might have been the final story. One thing that turns over in my mind is the curious inside ‘subtitle’ (found on the inside and outside of the bound book), and the title page…”Dying Is Fun”. Indeed, there are several fragments that talk of suicide, death, and self mutilation…yet, the feel is not dark. Nabokov seemed to be delving into memory, perhaps piecing together his story in the face of mortality.

The brilliance of this book is that one could take it apart and play conceptual artist. Each page is a copy of the actual index card, which has been perforated for easy removal. It seems odd in the beginning since there is a flow from one card to the next. After a while, though, the story breaks down and there are several character sketches and ruminations of storyline. These fragments lead us into a couple of different streams of thought giving it a surreal feel (or, perhaps that is just my take as it is my penchant). It would certainly be interesting to see what someone would do with the “Wild” cards or the “D” cards.

As for the ethical dilemma – this being published posthumously by Nabokov’s son despite the expressed wishes that this unfinished novel be burned – meh, Emily Dickinson and Kafka requested the same…what a shame had their wishes been honored. Is that a bad attitude? Seriously, to be able to read these cards to get a glimpse at the creative mind is a gift for readers and writers.

The Original of Laura

A book for the Nabokov fan, or for those of us who enjoy books whose form becomes a piece of art. ~

got blues ~

History adds that before or after he died, he discovered himself standing before God, and said to Him: I, who have been so many men in vain, wish to be one, to be myself. God’s voice answered him out of a whirlwind: I, too, am not I; I dreamed the world as you, Shakespeare, dreamed your own work, and among the forms of my dream are you, who like me are many, yet no one.  – Jorge Luis Borges, “The Maker”

Every page turned today (first day off after 7) spoke of death. Borges spoke of death; Kierkegaard spoke of death; Cormac McCarthy spoke of death– but not just death, but suicide. Even the pages I turn online have happened upon dialogues addressing the taking of one’s life. I do not seek the darkness, yet it always finds me. Is it wrong to say there is comfort to be found in these dialogues?

Thinking about the above quote, ripped from pages of brilliance of Borges, is a comfortable place to reside. What if we stopped pretending that we were somebody, that really just makes us everybody, but the point is to be no body. Do we walk the precipice, or worse, fall from it, before we discover that the shoes we left bear the mark of a sole that leaves the same imprint as the one now before us.

Dreams are curious things. Sometime during yesterday’s dreams, I dreamed of a place I’ve never been, but the ‘actors’ all have been a part of my history. Waking, this dream nudged forward after reading Borges, and I realized that it was not so much a vision of progress than of memory. I was the subject of others objections. I was the outcast. It did not alarm me as much as it caused me pain. Pain, as the writers above remind me, is just a reminder that one is alive; of this world in existence. Does that mean that we are never fully awake if all we feel is sunshine when the clouds are dumping rain.

I digress…it is late, and it is time to beg for sleep that really doesn’t wish to come for a few hours. I shall leave you with a quirky little song that I stumbled upon while skimming Spotify for writing inspiration…it just seamed apt, especially since I’ve been also reading about kitsch.  ~




If it aint what you lost that is more than you can bear then maybe it’s what you wont lose. – Black

fatigue had already set in as the hill approached. music fading in and out testing the final wire of semi-broken earbuds. the song came on beneath a layer of slow breathing. it was the kitsch lyrics that caught the quiet of the morning

No, it aint. I got what I needed instead of what I wanted and that’s just about the best kind of luck you can have – Black 

the peddling became automatic as the lawns blurred past. vision became the inside of the song. there was no turning off the energy remembering walking into that room, the beeping. the oxygen pumping. this heart pumping.  i realized tears were coming. there was no room for their escape. lungs already taxing. why so many years later this flood could come despite our breakdown.  you knew this shadow. a life without a road. it wasnt what you wanted but needed 

Let me finish. I dont regard my state of mind as some pessimistic view of the world. I regard it as the world itself. Evolution cannot avoid bringing intelligent life ultimately to an awareness of on thing above all else and that one thing is futility. – White

Cormac McCarthys words tonight remind me that the body continues dying. somewhere you may be breathing. it was not your desire nor your belief. who was more the professor – you or me – death was always black and white with no inbetween

Cormac McCarthy leaves us rather unsettled with “The Sunset Limited”. McCarthy pens another story that captures the dark side of the human psyche – but not without reason. This short play reminds me why there is genius in brevity; an art to minimal poetry…the tale lingers long after the page ends. “The Sunset Limited” is one of those short works that begs to be reread after you’ve contemplated its words. I stood with White, understanding his skepticism of this world and God. I cheered for Black to succeed just to see where it would take the ending. One wonders if McCarthy knew going in how this tale would end. I cannot tell you who ‘wins’, but will say, it was wonderful to wade into the depths of McCarthy’s blues once again. 

although our story ended before it ever began there shall always be a forever and again. this isnt a candle. this is the promise of a beginning when the darkness begins. if that darkness never comes then it shall be a surprise to all of us who forever wondered but never worried a path. do we speak in hush tones as we walk the road alone. perhaps it is the shadow that never escapes into the sun. if that is this fate then it was never undone. but somewhere there is almost a slice of your laugh remembered. you shake your head at this ability to stop living while breathing. it was what killed us in breath and what will kill the ability to live. there is no sunset limited tonight only the limited. you said you believed in what stood before you. did you after this shadow grew invisible. do you now ~ 

[bold quotes are lines from Cormac McCarthy’s “The Sunset Limited”]

The Sunset Limited

The Sunset Limited (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



“Beauty will be CONVULSIVE or will not be at all.”

One cannot call this a spoiler, though, that is the last line of this curious novel.

Nadja is the ‘beginning’ as is indicated of her chosen Russian name as she explains it. Perhaps she is Breton’s vision of the beginning of any love affair or the beginning of exploration of beauty or love or both. Nadja is the unattainable in reality who becomes attainable in dreams. She is not so much flesh as she is portal. Nadja could be anyone. Nadja could be Breton’s surrealist dream in female form – his mirror whose hand is his hand, a hand that practices surrealist art – automatic drawing while writing letters of dream pursuits.

Nadja’s reality, or lack there of, bothers me less than the ‘you’ at the end of “Nadja”. Breton addresses ‘you’ for several pages; these pages are filled with admiration that one would assume are directed toward a love, but that love is not Nadja. The you is not an enigma. In fact, Breton states:

“You are not an enigma for me.

I say you have turned me from enigmas forever.”

The rather lengthy paragraph that follows these lines is curious, almost denoting that this postscript was to explain why he wrote the rest though he no longer deemed it necessary.

This post could become as nonsensical as some shall view surrealism, so I shall conclude with why I found the ending so intriguing BEYOND the ‘you’….

In the last few pages, Breton mentions a sign he sees, THE DAWNS. This seemed rather odd as other signs were noted in the book, but not in bold. Couple that with the last paragraph ,which ends with the wonderful sentence that started this entry, and there is a bit of a curious puzzle. Why – the last paragraph is simply a bit of news taken from the paper (it reminded me of today’s conceptual art’s weather reports). That said, I don’t believe it was random.

You see, the news report was of a plane crash, “X December 26″  One line that caught my eye was: “The message said, in particular: “There is something which is not working”. I was curious about this bit of news…was it indeed real. Why would Breton close his novel with it? So, I Googled a couple of things and found a report of a plane crash on December 25. 1927 – Frances Wilson Grayson (female American pilot) and Brice Goldsborough (ironically, born in Iowa) were flying Grayson’s plane “The Dawn” to Newfoundland so that she could then attempt to cross the Atlantic.

I shall not go on for this probably too much information, but I am even more curious about this story published in 1928. Do you think that Breton included this as a surrealist game and composed Nadja – or was this news an attempt to explain the ghosts in which he opens the novel….

(as an aside: this book is composed in three sections – the opening, which reads rather autobiographical and setting place – the middle which is the story of Nadja – and the end, which is more like an epilogue, but rather philosophical not really about Nadja, but about Breton and a bigger question on beauty. )

when a blind man sees

Do you ever close a book and wonder what the hell just happened? How can a book that is a mere 250 pages (perhaps less) leave so much unease, so much to ponder? That, my friend, is the brilliance of Cormac McCarthy. It is why I resolved to now add the Border Trilogy to my reading lists. McCarthy has a unique hold over my imagination. Damn, what I wouldn’t do to have a throw down of drinks with him some autumn night while the porch swing squeaks and a dog somewhere welcomes the rising of the moon. Yes, I do believe that would be magic….

Here is the brief summation I posted over at Goodreads:

When the final sentence was read, read again, read once more – I closed the book reluctantly knowing that McCarthy had presented me with a bit of knowledge yet to be absorbed.

What amazes me about McCarthy’s style is his ability to create a story in which one is immersed in the lives of the characters he presents without us really needing to know much more than the present circumstance. Their voices are important, but we never really care about them – that is not the point. Case in point in “Outer Dark” I followed Rinthy and Culla, but only because they were the portals into the outer dark. I never root for a McCarthy character to live or die – I just wish to see how their story concludes.

Many have called this Southern Gothic or Gothic, but for me it cannot be labeled as such since it could be as easily backwoods Appalachia today, minus the hangings and tinker. McCarthy’s minimal text does not mean minimal context – he has so much going on in this story that the mind still whirls.

Bottom line – if I were a biblical scholar (or even, just a bible reader) I do believe that this parable would hit me between the eyes. That said, the blind man certainly wants us to know one thing – he sees more than most of us.

The only thing I would add to that is the amazing parallel of writing style to the other book I picked up again today, Breton’s, “Nadja”. Granted, McCarthy is not writing as a surrealist, but this book certainly had that feel to it as we bounced about the story – characters introduced without warning and then reappearing without seeing the door open. This story was especially brilliant – a patchwork quilt whose pattern seemed seamless, yet there was a common thread in the end.

One thing I shall posit in order to help form a more cohesive thought in the future — does McCarthy use roads as a tool to tell a story. It seems that in each book read thus far, the road offers the story a mode of transport – no direction is ever a given, and often, a back road or a side road has to be taken in order to forge on, even if it leads to peril….



“I am the soul in limbo”

our demons lurk in the dark recess of living and crash upon us in the darkness of our dreams yet we find ways to persevere to carry our heavy loads forward until we find a weightlessness that may last a minute or years. many of us cannot pray about these horrors or ask that they disappear for there is a comfort in their shadow that reminds us why we are here. do not pity the person who wears the badge of ugliness or worry the friend whose tears never break for it is the reality that feeds their being and we must consider our hunger a vestige of living.

It is interesting to read your posts sometimes. I pause and wonder who is behind the words. Who, though, is perhaps not as intriguing as ‘What’.

Tonight has fortuned me time to read at least two of your blogs whose confessionals give me confidence that the idea of this platform is indeed the possibility of art. Art in its many forms. Art as words – art as action – art as a movement that brings all of the ‘who’ into focus.

Art was on my mind earlier today while listening to my weekend ‘lecture’. As I seem to draw further and further away from religious dogma, I find more usefulness in said dogma. There seems to be some conduit, some energy, that allows me to focus creatively while sitting amongst thousands of people ready to worship. Perhaps the divine really does wish me to be an artist, though, there is no doubt that these expressions are perhaps not divinely wrought.

“Who are you?” And she, without a moment’s hesitation: “I am the soul in limbo” ~ Nadja, 1928

Today, André Breton’s “Nadja” was one of my used book shop finds. I was searching for Bataille, but found Breton instead. Unbeknownst to me, “Nadja” is considered THE surrealist romance novel. I’m a bit perplexed by this as being halfway though the book and finding its opening a memoir of events and the introduction of Nadja a possible real person. Meh, what do I know…

…i know this… Breton posits “Who am I” early within this novel and continues the dialogue. If you read the last posts of this blog, the poem with no name, you will know that its words contain great turmoil; it is written in ugly truths. It is a true story – it was written hours after the incident – a female biking home late from work almost hit by a cyclist in her lane going the opposite direction. When she expressed in angry tone “what the hell” and perhaps called out asshole, the man came after her to ask her why she had to be so awful. The event has left me shaken- yes, a bit for safety on a secluded trail at night, but more for what I have become “who am i”. This blog is not a confessional, but I will confess this – at 40, perhaps it is time to reframe the anger and tear a few holes in the exterior…

I shall leave you with two things if you are still here:

1) a picture from “Nadja” – it was the selling point of the novel – Breton uses photos of Paris and people to help tell his story. This one is of the clairvoyant who informs him of his fate to meet a Helen (imagine French spelling). This made me smile for I once had a palm reader tell me I was to meet someone too… years later, I’m still waiting.


2) ideas kept pouring forth (inspired in part by a few of the things that the young pastor had used for his intro – one being how one artist chose to represent the human population with a grain of sand for each person)…this had me thinking about art – how i desire my art to be an interaction for thought, for inspiration, for participation, for action. One idea that came to mind was a way to represent those that die everyday due to starvation – to build a floor to ceiling plexiglass box with slots running the length – the slots would be for the observer to become artist by dropping in a piece of candy every time a person dies of starvation. It would be an ongoing commentary/recording of this travesty – and yes, the candy is intentional as statement. (At first, I thought fast-food wrappers but was not sure how that would work.) Below is a quick sketch on my phone during service.


a panharmonicon :

A note of note from David Shields’s Reality Hunger: A Manifesto,  ~ new type of literature as seen by Emerson, 1830,  ~ “a panharmonicon” – in brief, literature that included EVERYTHING… even the “lowest of personal topics” are permissible.

(on that note…is it not intriguing to dip our toes in another’s still waters)

I will end with a recommendation – Cormac McCarthy’s Outer Dark.

Today was a day for escape. The mind has been a bit full, the heart a bit withered, the blood a bit thin, so, there was a need to create a different vista. CM’s books oft take me to places that remind me of playing make-believe from childhood, when the tree scrub behind the railroad tracks became vast forests in which I traveled far and alone. Outer Dark takes you deep into the woods – the backwoods -where the unthinkable happens – the reader  is never quite prepared for the next page.

The story begs to be read outside, preferably near a deep woods. There really is no such a place around here, so, the dog and I traveled to the next best thing – a small lake. A tiny adventure that left the spirit a bit more calm, but still longing for another vista. Tonight, the book is half done, and I’ve begun to wonder just how deep into the dark of the human psyche McCarthy shall venture. An amazing read thus far…





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