Saturday, June 18, 2011

If Equal Affection Cannot Be—

What is the poet's purpose? The artist's? Varied, I suppose, as the sensibilities of the neurotic human beings who populate the arts, but with some commonality, I hope.

So often—too often, today—art seems exclusionary. Too hip by half, self aware, even masturbatory, created by a select few for the edification of a select few. It is a bitter truth that few poets today can sell their books (beyond the sales imposed by teacher-friends upon hapless underclassmen). Some of these writers are, frankly, those of limited ability and muddled ideas; others certainly have talent, and some notion of something to say, but neither group seems too awfully concerned with the 99% of the world who have given up trying to read their work. Perhaps this is to be expected; after all, there are a number of reasons for the dimunition of the audience for poetry and literary fiction. Because the slide into (relative) irrelevancy began for reasons beyond the control of individual artists, the bitterness I mentioned at the outset is understandable.

However, the attitude of the artist in the wake of that slide has largely been to stop considering any kind of greater audience, and instead to play to the first couple of rows; in the case of some, the aim does not extend, as it were, beyond the lurkers in the wings.

I believe this is sad, for everyone. For the restive many out there yearning for the solace of art, many eroding, piecemeal, beneath the wheel of off-the-rails radical capitalism; and for the artists who never come to full realizations of their talents or themselves, because they never locate their identities within a larger context—the zeitgeist, or whatever you want to call it—the place where their identities and those of the poor slobs at the People of Walmart blog, who hipsters love to ridicule, are the fucking same—because face it, they are the same, we are the same, we are equal in our humanness, occupying the same spaces in time, regardless of what the Dumbass Idea Worm may tell us. Our differences matter far, far less than our sameness—our commonality, to sound banal, but the idea is far from that. In your soul, you know this is true. And like one of the most humane of souls once told us, We must love one another, or die. This is so, now more than ever.

We must not lose our love. Not only for our families, not only for our friends, but for all the people out their estranged from our senses of community by the blurred nature of modern perspective—we must not set ourselves up as being so different, because in every crucial way, we are not (do not be so dense as to ask which way this is—you know, and I know you know—we share senses, we share fears, and hopes, and desires, we share skin and blood and bones—we share death, for crissakes).

At a conversation during lunch, the topic concerned protesters of an ilk not much sympathized with among many I know. It occurred to me that I know of the sincerity of each side in the struggle at issue—the struggle itself having no bearing on this thought—and how fucking sad that is. The vitriol, and the rage, invested toward people who share far more than they differ, separated by imaginary walls, set upon one another by often cynical forces, beyond their understanding or control. It made me tired, and melancholy, desirous of another way of relating—can you understand what I mean? I am sick, thoroughly sick, of bitterness, and venom, and acrimony.

These lines occurred to me then, from the same poet I mentioned a few paragraphs ago, coupled with the title of this entry: Let the more loving one be me.

This is how we should live our lives, how I want to live my life, by that credo. Is it possible, do you think?

Let the more loving one be me.

And is it possible that poets, like Auden, can once again speak to us with humanity and love, and teach us how to live?


Here is the poem, once again, in its entirety—from a time when poets had a thing or two to say. The More Loving One, by WH Auden:

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total darkness sublime,
Though this might take me a little time

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ralph Emery

go see for yourself


The Thing Redux

(from last year)

Watching one of those chicken-fried hoe-downs—"Pop Goes the Country", hosted by Ralph Emery, who has this enormous dead animal on his head (very disconcerting, and it feels like its staring at me). I dvr'ed a bunch of these shows from the RFD channel (quality programming like this is obviously the reason everyone should have dish network).

Ronnie Milsap came on, few minutes ago. I used to like ol' Ronnie when I was in high school, and it's kinda nice seeing him again. Now he's sitting at the piano, singing a medley of pop songs (originally sung by women, a strange, curious choice). "You're No Good", was the first one, now "Let Me Be There"...and I really can't tell you how good it is, cause Ralph Emery is sitting next to him on the piano stool, and that damn thing on his head is hypnotizing me. There are mean beady little eyes inside that thing somewhere, I'm sure of it, and I think it has somehow burrowed into Ralph Emery's brain, because when he was talking to Charlie Daniels a few minutes ago he called him "funky" about 3 times, and I swear, at one point he reached over and stroked Charlie's hair—could he be planting one of those things in Charlie's head, too?

So, now, like I said, he's sitting next to Ronnie, and Ralph is casting these furtive glances his way, and, you know, Ronnie is vulnerable...'Cause he's fucking blind, you know? And even though this ostensibly happened in 1975, I feel sure it's happening right now—I think Ralph Emery winked at me, man! Jesus!!!—Although, intellectually, I know this can't be so—

Reaching for the remote...Must somehow destroy this thing before it...telepathically... reaches across the decades...and though i can tangibly feel a force trying to induce me otherwise...I have turn

Silence now...I can feel...the thing's influence...waning... My God, what was it? Did it infect Ronnie? Charlie? This is impossible to know... i just googled Ralph Emery's current image... He has to be 80 now...And there is a different thing on his head now, a sleek gray animal which appears to be dead. One thing I feel pretty sure of, though--if I could peak beneath it, and see the top of his natural dome—something I expect no one has seen in many, many years—at the very least a slight indentation would be revealed...Most likely, though, it is a crater...

And Ralph still has furtive, crazy eyes...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sexy Film Scenes—I Know Where I'm Going!

(from last year)

The scene I'm posting (and the movie it's taken from) is a favorite of both mine and of Paula Jane's; after seeing it again the other day, it prompted a discussion of the sexiest film scenes we know, especially those which don't show sex explicitly (and while you may disagree, I think that's a disqualifier anyway). She thought it would make a good topic, and I agreed—obviously, because here we are—and hopefully she'll have some things to impart, as well. I'm gonna choose my top ten, and post em in no particular order over the next few weeks, beginning with the scene in question, from I Know Where I'm Going!.

The Film was a production of The Archers, a legendary British film unit led by director/screenwriters Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, and consisting of a remarkable group of actors and crewman who collaborated to make some of cinema's best and most criminally under-seen masterpieces, among them The Life and Times Of Colonel Blimp(1943), The Red Shoes(1948), Black Narcissus(1947), A Matter of Life and Death(1946), and numbers of others, including of course, I Know Where I'm Going!, in 1945.

Similarly, the films stars are actors not much celebrated these days, but far superior to legions who are. Pamela Brown plays Catriona MacLaine Potts as though she was both a person and an element. Seeing her in the film for the first time, climbing a grassy hill with the easy grace and earthiness of a Celtic Goddess—clutching a brace of rabbits in one hand, a rifle in the other, and leading a yammering pack of hounds—she could've been Danu, in the flesh. When she enters the house a few frames later--rather, bursts into it, free and large and passionate as any man or god—she rather takes one's breath away (watch the stunned reaction of Wendy Hiller—mirroring the audience). She and Michael Powell were beginning a life-long love affair, and it's easy to see how he fell under her spell; and although her role is a supporting one, it is vital. The strength and authenticity of her character, as well as her odd, disquieting beauty, reflect the place, its people, and the way of life they hold to.

Roger Livesey is a key actor—perhaps the key actor, considering the vehicles he starred in—in the annals of Archer films. His performance as the title character, Clive Candy, in The Life and Times of Colonel Blimp demonstrated his astonishing range, conveying deep humanity to a character only seen as caricature to that point. It is a performance for the ages, one I encourage you to see immediately. A Welshman of lumbering appearance, and soulful aspect, there is a bit of Prufrock about him, ostensibly; deeper investigation reveals an actor whose gentle masculinity is more genuine (to me) than a dozen Clark Gables stacked together. In this film he plays Torquil MacNeil, the Laird of Kiloran. He is a naval officer on leave, and has leased his property to a rich London industrialist. He has done so from necessity, because he cannot afford to maintain it. If he leases it for 2 years, he reckons he can live on it for 6.

Wendy Hiller plays Joan Webster, the singularly determined young woman (she knows where she is going) engaged to be married to the industrialist. Hiller was George Bernard Shaw's favorite actress, and she is among my favorites, too. Brilliant in everything, she acted primarily on the stage, and is probably best known for being the original, and most compelling, Eliza Doolittle (on both stage and screen) in Shaw's Pygmallion, as well as the idealistic heroine of Shaw's Major Barbara. (Additionally, Anne of Green Gables fans undoubtedly remember her as the difficult and invalid Mrs. Harris, from Anne of Avonlea.) Not conventionally beautiful, with perpetually surprised eyebrows, insolent lips, broadset eyes, and little visible softness, she bore the more credible and genuine attributes of talent, intelligence, and luminescence to great effect.

In the film, Hiller’s Webster is in a hurry to join her fiancĂ© in Kiloran, where they are to be married. It is a small island in the Irish Sea, off Scotland’s western coast, and it is often inaccessible, because of the fierce seas surrounding it. When she arrives at the little hamlet where the ferry to Kiloran is located, it is during one of these periods of high winds and dangerous waters, and she is compelled to wait for days at Mrs. Potts’ house, in the company of Livesey’s MacNeil, who is waiting to cross over, too. He is immediately and unabashedly drawn to her—as she is to him, although she fights it for all she’s worth. The scene that follows is a depiction of a typical Celtic Ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee), in particular a Clan Campbell celebration of an elder’s 60th wedding anniversary. The people are vivid, and unaffected in a way that is unfamiliar to Joan, but nearly as magnetic to her as MacNeil is. They watch the action from outside, she on a ladder, to get a better view, he directly beneath her. When the pipers—her pipers, hired for her wedding, stranded on the mainland just as she is—play My Nut Brown Maiden, MacNeil quotes a verse:

Ho ro my nut-brown maiden,
Hee ree my nut-brown maiden,
Ho ro ro maiden,
You're the maiden for me.

The pay-off is his delivery of the last line—the audacity of it, as he looks directly at her, with sudden, smoldering, unapologetic intensity. Cheeks blazing, her alarm and excitement are palpable.

Enjoy it (and watch the damn movie, if you haven’t seen it):

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Maud Gonne: O Love is the crooked thing

(Too tired to post. This is a retread from last year. I stand by it.)

Yeats wrote that. Then he said, "there is nobody wise enough to find out all that is in it."

Me, I've seen all kinds of it. A blonde girl black and blue, carrying a tiny yapping rat-sized dog in a purse slung over her shoulder, eating french fries from a paper bag, maundering to an unfurnished trailer on the beach. A lanky, glowering dark-haired guy, undone by his best intentions, and events beyond his control. A small, quiet, chubby kid, who loved to laugh and fish and drink beer, too afraid to ever declare himself. He ran out of time one Saturday, the fast lane of south-bound 45, between Galveston and Texas City.

Seen other kinds, too. Passion enduring for decades, passion that wanes, passion that never was, at least the way we might think of it—there's no recipe, really—lives completed, interrupted, ruined—crushed, beneath gnarled metal—haunted, by ghosts.

Could Yeats have loved Maud Gonne as deeply as he claimed to love her, if she did not reciprocate, in kind? I have always doubted that. Perhaps his love, impossible as it seemed, was merely a tool, an extension of his artifice, like Plath's resentment of her father, or Steven's evocations of human feeling.

I've always thought unrequited love to be an illusion—a projection, i guess—expressing the desire of the projector, and having little to do with the projectee. It is a desire, too, that can come at an oppressive cost.

But what the hell do I know?

Maybe Dante really loved Beatrice—the essence of Beatrice—with a pure and simple heart. Maybe his idealized vision of her was some kind of fucking truth.

And maybe the best thing he could do, loving her so, was to stay the fuck out of her life, so that she could be really loved—good and loved, so to speak—by someone with a pulse.

Maud Gonne was born 145 years ago, today. God bless your constant heart, Maud—for living on your terms. For rejecting objectification. For not permitting the throbbings of the ravening, flailing, desperate sex to define you.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Cool Sign

Saw this sign Monday night at the parking lot on the SE corner of Seventh & Congress, going to poetry at The Hideout with George and Steve.

They interrogated everyone on the scene, and no one fessed up to being the Imposter, though I guess it's kinda doubtful the Imposter would ID him or herself, isn't it?

Cool sign, though.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

R.I.P., My Dangerous Beard, December 10, 2009—June 8, 2011 (or, In Memoriam TMB)

It was a happy beard.

It loved good food—Madras Masala—and beer.

Thankfully, before it died, it learned the pleasures of tamales and tacos. And experienced the golden rays of the actual sun (Senor Macho) upon it, after knowing only the timidity of its weak-ass brother (Carlos) up north.

I'd like to say it died a gentle death, but that would not be true. It died screaming, clawing for life. Accusing me, as it circled the drain.

It knew that its life was little, and would be extinguished, and that only darkness was immense, and everlasting. And it knew it would die with defiance on its lips, and that the cry of its denial would ring with the last pulsing of its heart into the maw of all-engulfing night.

(Thomas Wolfe wrote that, presumeably about his own doomed beard)

In lieu of flowers, please send donations to The Beard Foundation.

Now, please enjoy this selection from Mozart's Requiem:

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Sunshine and Tacos

As some of you know, I've been working on a manuscript for awhile now, and am actually nearing completion, a proposition which has been demanding a lot of my free time recently. I've been somewhat energized, being home and all, which is good, though it hasn't left much time for this blog. The ideas are sort of swirling round my head, cause now's time to create some of the anchors, thematically—mainly, a short story tentatively titled Adahy's Testimony, which is assuming a life of its own. All the poems—around 70, in all—are tied together by this story, and its ideas are the bedrock of what I believe, and what I am. Heady stuff, and a little daunting, and I'm questioning a lot of what I thought I wanted to say. This is not to say that I'm gonna change it—may not change an iota—but I think it's important to examine it, closely, before I commit the heart of my project to it. I'm sure I'll be writing about some of these ideas soon—though I've written of many of em already, since this blog began, a year ago—but just so you know, that's where I'm at.


I love the way of life here, in Austin. Our culture's filled with many things, none more than sunshine and tacos. And how much more do you need, really???

You know about Austin's sunshine already, I'm sure—like my friend Christopher was saying the other day, the difference between Austin and other sunshine cities is how we fucking embrace the sunshine here—we don't groan about the heat, we take joy from it, design our lives around it. It's part of our identity, and we wouldn't change it, for anything.

A few words about tacos, though, cause I know many of you are fucking gringos and gringas (which isn't your fault, don't get me wrong—you are still entitled to enjoy our amazing tacos). Taco wagons are everywhere here, and most of em are pretty fucking good, plus there's Torchy's, Taco Deli, Taco Maria, El Chilito, et al—you could have tacos every meal here, easy. And it would be great.

Just one thing, though: a taco is made from a soft, warm, corn tortilla. That's it. This can be extended, by the unsophisticated among you, to included tortillas that have been deep-fried, into a U shape. However, if it's made with a flour tortilla, it is NOT A TACO. It is a burrito, no matter how you fucking fold it.

So, you find yourself at an authentic taco stand, don't embarrass yourself. Don't embarrass the taco, for God's sake. Order it right, eat it right. You'll be glad you did.

Now, they'll serve it to you on a flour tortilla, alright—when you walk up, they may even assume you want it that way. Remember, they serve dumb white people all day—but believe this: When you're walking away, clutching your little bag of misshapen burritos, they're thinking, Dumbass.

So, yeah, don't be a dumbass. Ask for corn.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

had tamales again today, and they were killer

never ever ever take tamales for granted.

i did, once.

then i went to michigan.

so, yeah, consider this is a public service announcement...

because i care, man...

you ever find yourself the, um, great state of michigan...and you're hungry, whatever...and only mexican food will do...

evacuate...flee—by plane is best, or locomotive, car, if you must, bicycle, on foot if you have to, just get the fuck out as fast as you can...but do not—under any conditions—no matter what the bastards tell you—or how much you think you need your texmex—

do not ever ever ever ingest what they claim to be texmex there...

evereverever, alright? those poor deprived bastards, what does it matter? they don't know any better—but to us, we of the faith and the heritage—we, who have eaten of mama ninfa's cheese enchiladas and golden rice and lard-laden refried beans—it is a twisted and immoral joke...

it is more than an affront, it is an is a murderous rampage on our expectations—fuck that, on our texans, dig???—

and the memory of it can linger, for years, in our psyche's...and even stain the sacred store of our tex-mex Collective Memory—

and when that's gone, what the hell is left???

seriously—i ask you—what can be left???

(so, yeah, don't try it)...