A Farewell to Arms

=== “Because we would not wear any clothes because it was so hot and the window ope and the swallows flying over the roofs of the houses and when it was dark afterward and you went to the window very small bats hunting over the houses and closed down over the trees and we would drink the capri and the door locked and it hot and only a sheet and the whole night and we would both love each other all night in the hot night in Milan. That was how it ought to be. I would eat quickly and…

Tender is the Night

Well, you can’t exactly drag your Complete Works of William Shakespeare all around the islands off Maine in the height of the summer, onto sailboats and down to docks or to beaches, however quiet. So for the season I’ve returned to Fitzgerald and to Hemingway, most of which I’ve read before, but some of which I’ve been saving for days like these. The Beautiful and Damned and Tender is the Night seem a blithe shimmer on the water over the unfathomable Gatsby. But here are some moments from Tender I loved most. ~~~ “The chauffeur, a Russian Czar of the…

The Life and Death of King Richard II

+++ A jewel in a ten-times-barr’d up chest Is a bold spirit in a loyal breast. +++ Let him not come there To seek out sorrow that dwells everywhere. +++ Rouse up thy youthful blood, be valiant and live. +++ Strong as a tower in hope, I cry amen. +++ O thou, the earthly author of my blood, — +++ There is no virtue like necessity. +++ So, weeping-smiling greet I thee, my earth, +++ Like an unseasonable stormy day, Which makes the silver rivers drown their shores, As if the world were all dissolv’d to tears +++ I live…

Under the Volcano

“‘Do you really like it?’ M. Laruelle asked him, and the Constable, sucking a lemon, felt the fire of the tequila run down his spine like lightning striking a tree which thereupon, miraculously, blossoms.” -Malcom Lowry

Infinite distances continue

“Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky.” – Rilke

King John

+++ But from the inward motion to deliver Sweet, sweet, sweet poison for the age’s tooth === He that perforce robs lions of their hearts May easily win a woman’s. +++ Shadowing their right under your wings of war: I give you welcome with a powerless hand === The shadow of myself form’d in her eye; Which, being but the shadow of your son, Becomes a sun, and makes your son a shadow: I do protest I never lov’d myself Till now infixed I beheld myself Drawn in the flattering table of her eye. +++ There is no sin but…

Lines from the sonnets

Thyself thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel. And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field, Thou art thy mother’s glass, and she in thee Nature’s bequest gives nothing, but doth lend For never-resting time leads summer on Beauty o’ersnowed, and bareness everywhere: Then, were not summer’s distillation left, A liquid prisoner pent in walls of glass, Beauty’s effect with beauty were bereft, Nor it, nor no remembrance what it was. Make sweet some phial; treasure thou some place And having climb’d the steep-up heavenly hill Music to hear, why hear’st thou music sadly? Whose speechless song, being many,…

King Lear

— Nothing will come of nothing: speak again. — For by the sacred radiance of the sun,The mysteries of Hecate, and the night,By all the operation of the orbs,From we do exist and cease to be;Here I disclaim all my paternal care,Propinquity, and property of blood,And as a stranger to my heart and meHold thee, from this for ever. — Ingratitude, thou marble-hearted fiend, — The terrors of the earth. — Strives in his little world of man to out-scornThe to-and-fro conflicting wind and rain — I am a manMore sinn’d against than sinning — When the mind’s freeThe body’s…

Othello

— For when my outward action doth demonstrate That native act and figure of my heart In compliment extern, ’tis not long after But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve For daws to peck at: I am not what I am. — Tying her duty, beauty, wit and fortunes In an extravagant and wheeling stranger Of here and everywhere. — Our bodies are gardens, to the which our wills are gardeners. — A liberal hand: the hearts of old gave hands; But our new heraldry is hands, not hearts. — No, let me know; And knowing what I…

The Winter’s Tale

— We were, fair queen, Two lads that thought there were no more behind But such a day to-morrow as to-day, And to be boy eternal. — Is whispering nothing? Is leaning cheek to cheek? is meeting noses? Kissing with inside lip? stopping the career Of laughter with a sigh? — A note infallible Of breaking honesty; — horsing foot on foot? Skulking in corners? wishing clocks more swift? Hours, minutes? noon, midnight? and all eyes Blind with the pin and web, but their, their only, That would unseen be wicked? is this nothing? Why, then, the world and all…

All’s Well That Ends Well

— He hath persecuted time with hope; and finds no other advantage in the process but only the losing of hope by time. — When thou hast leisure, say thy prayers; when thou hast none, remember they friends: get thee a good husband, and use him as he uses thee: so, farewell. — Our remedies often in ourselves do lie,Which we ascribe to heaven: the fated skyGives us free scope; only doth backward pullOur slow designs when we ourselves are dull. — By our remembrances of days foregone,Such were our faults: — Or then our faults seemed none. — Youth,…

As You Like It

— Hereafter, in a world better than this,I shall desire more love and knowledge of you. — Beauty provoketh thieves sooner than gold. — Here feel we but the penalty of Adam, —The season’s difference: as the icy fangAnd churlish chiding of the winter’s wind,Which when it bites and blows upon my body,Even till I shrink with cold, I smile and say,This is no flattery: these are counselorsThat feelingly persuade me what I am.Sweet are the uses of adversity;Which, like the toad, ugly and venomousWears yet a precious jewel in his head;And this our life, exempt from public haunt,Finds tongues…

The Merchant of Venice

— By my troth, Nerissa, my little body is a-weary of this great world. — If to do were as as easy as to know what were good to do, chapels had been churches, and poor men’s cottages princes’ palaces. — The devil can cite scripture for his purpose. — Some there be that shadows kiss;Such have but a shadow’s bliss — Then, if he lose, he makes a swan-like end,Fading in music: that the comparisonMay stand more proper, my eye shall be the streamAnd wat’ry death-bed for him. — The world is still deciv’d with ornament — How many…

Love’s Labour’s Lost

— Let fame, that all hunt after in their lives,Live register’d upon our brazen tombs,And then grace us in the disgrace of death;When, spite of cormorant devouring time,The endeavour of this present breath may buyThat honour which shall bate his scythe’s keen edge,And make us heirs of all eternity.Therefore, brave conquerors, —for so you are,That war against your own affections,And the huge army of the world’s desires, —Our late edict shal strongly stand in force:Navarre shall be the wonder of the world.Our court shall be a little Academe,Still and contemplative in living art. — The mind shall banquet though the…

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

— Ah me! for aught that ever I could read,Could ever hear by tale or history,The course of true love never did run smooth: — War, death, or sickness did lay siege to it,Making it momentary as a sound,Swift as a shadow, short as any dream;Brief as the lightning in the collied nightThat, in a spleen, unfolds both heaven and earthAnd ere a man hath power to say, Behold!The jaws of darkness do devour it up:So quick bright things come to confusion. — And by that fire which burn’d the Carthage queen,When the false Trojan under sail was seen,—By all…

Much Ado About Nothing

— I looked upon her with a soldier’s eye,That liked, but had a rougher task in handthan to drive liking to the name of love:But now I am return’d, and that war-thoughtsHave left their places vacant, in their roomsCome thronging soft and delicate desires — Shall quips, and sentences, and these paper bullets of the brain awe a man from the career of his humor? No: the world must be peopled. — I will requite thee;Taming my wild heart to thy loving hand — He hath a heart as sound as a bell. — Could she here denyThe story that…

Measure for Measure

— Elected him our absence to supply;Lent him our terror, drest him with our love — Well, heaven forgive him! and forgive us all!Some rise by sin and some by virtue fall:Some run from brakes of vice, and answer none;And some condemned for a fault alone. — For every pelting petty officerWould use his heaven for thunder: nothing but thunder. —Merciful heaven!Thou rather, with thy sharp and sulphurous bolt,Splitt’st the unwedgeable and gnarled oakThan the soft myrtle; — but man, proud man!Dress’d in a little brief authority, —Most ignorant of what he’s most assured,His glassy essence — Go to your…

Twelfth Night; Or, What You Will

— Confine? I’ll confine myself no finer than I am. — If you be not mad, be gone; if you have reason, be brief. — Lady, you be the cruelest she aliveIf you will lead these graces to the grave,And leave the world no copy. — Make me a willow cabin at your gate,And call upon my soul within the house;Write loyal cantons of contemmned love,And sing them loud, even in the dead of night;Holla your name to the reverberate hills,And make the babbling gossip of the airCry out, Olivia! — For folly, that he wisely shows, is fit;But wise…

Two Gentlemen of Verona

— Speed. If you love her, you cannot see her.Val. Why?Speed. Because love is blind. — Speed. How now, sir? what are you reasoning?Val. Nay, I was rhyming: ’tis you that have the reason. — Or fearing else some messenger that might her mind discover,Herself hath taught her love himself to write unto her lover– — Ay, but hearken, sir; though the chameleon Love can feed on air, I am one that am nourished by my victuals. — Jul. If you turn not you will return the sooner:Keep this remembrance for your Julia’s sake. (Giving a ring.) — So true…

The Tempest

Finally found a Collected Shakespeare I love, and thus have set forth to read the whole thing cover to cover. For whatever reason it starts with The Tempest. Bits from The Tempest I love: Full fathom five thy father lies;Of his bones are coral made;Those are pearls that were his eyes;Nothing of him that doth fade,But doth suffer a sea-changeInto something rich and strange. — I am the best of them that speak this speech,Were I but where tis spoken. — And, like the baseless fabric of this visionThe cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,The solemn temples, the great globe itself,Yea,…

Death in Venice

“‘You see, Aschenbach has always lived like this’ — here the speaker closed the fingers of his left hand to a fist — ‘never like this’– and he let his open hand hang relaxed from the back of his chair. It was apt.” (pg 9, translation by H.T. Lowe Porter)“His love of the ocean had profound sources: the hard-worked artist’s longing for rest, his yearning to seek refuge from the thronging manifold shapes of his fancy in the bosom of the simple and vast; and another yearning, opposed to his art and perhaps for that very reason a lure, for…

Let us compare then, you and I

I think it is undeniable that Frank O’Hara’s “To the Harbormaster” is based in some part on Shakespeare’s sonnet number 117. Either that, or we can just take comfort from the fact that the same metaphors have been used by two minds from across the ages to express the same idea. Sonnett 117by William Shakespeare Accuse me thus: that I have scanted allWherein I should your great deserts repay, Forgot upon your dearest love to call, Whereto all bonds do tie me day by day; That I have frequent been with unknown minds And given to time your own dear-purchased…

A small poem I am loving

It is a lovely day in Hanover and this is a lovely poem I am loving while missing the people who make this town what it used to be for me. This Room by John Ashbery The room I entered was a dream of this room.Surely all those feet on the sofa were mine.The oval portraitof a dog was me at an early age.Something shimmers, something is hushed up. We had macaroni for lunch every dayexcept Sunday, when a small quail was inducedto be served to us. Why do I tell you these things?You are not even here.

Elizabeth Bishop

My favorite poems by the ever-graceful Elizabeth Bishop. Anaphoraby Elizabeth Bishop Each day with so much ceremonybegins, with birds, with bells,with whistles from a factory;such white-gold skies our eyesfirst open on, such brilliant wallsthat for a moment we wonder“Where is the music coming from, the energy?The day was meant for what ineffable creaturewe must have missed?” Oh promptly heappears and takes his earthly natureinstantly, instantly fallsvictim of long intrigue,assuming memory and mortalmortal fatigue. More slowly falling into sightand showering into stippled faces,darkening, condensing all his light;in spite of all the dreamingsquandered upon him with that look,suffers our uses and abuses,sinks…

My Favorite ‘Dream Songs’

Sometimes the neurotic aesthetic of Berryman’s Dream Songs just feels migrainous to me; other times it’s sublime. That said, I think these two poems are two of the best poems there are. Period. Dream Song 145by John Berryman Also I love him: me he’s done no wrongfor going on forty years — forgiveness time —I touch now his despair,he felt as bad as Whitman on his towerbut he did not swim out with me or my brotheras he threatened — a powerful swimmer, to take one of us alongas company in the defeat sublime,freezing my helpless mother:he only, very early…

A Measure of Perfection

‘Master, I asked, ‘after the great Judgmentwill these torments be greater, lessor will they stay as harsh as they are now? And he replied: ‘Return to your science,which has it that, in measure of a thing’s perfection,it feels both more of pleasure and of pain. ‘Although these accursed peoplewill never come to true perfection,they will never be nearer it than they are now.’ -Dante’s Inferno, Canto VI, trans. Hollander

Louise Bogan

Born in Maine, Louise Bogan (1897 -1970; imagine having lived those years) was admired by W.H. Auden and served as poetry editor of The New Yorker for decades. In her exquisite poems, intellect rules over emotion, and “beauty is wrested from dark places” as Auden put it. Here are my favorites. … A Tale This youth too long has heard the breakOf waters in a land of change.He goes to see what suns can makeFrom soil more indurate and strange. He cuts what holds his days togetherAnd shuts him in, as lock on lock:The arrowed vane announcing weather,The tripping racket…

Balance on the broken

These are two of my favorite poems, both of which work in a very similar way. I suppose you would call it Deep Image, or an incarnation thereof; clarity of image bordering on symbolism, punctuated by the searing honesty of a human voice. … Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota by James Wright Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly, Asleep on the black trunk, Blowing like a leaf in green shadow. Down the ravine behind the empty house, The cowbells follow one another Into the distances of the afternoon. To my right,…

In Praise of Limestone

Perhaps my favorite Auden. Which is really saying something. In Praise of Limestone by W.H. Auden If it form the one landscape that we the inconstant onesAre consistently homesick for, this is chieflyBecause it dissolves in water. Mark these rounded slopesWith their surface fragrance of thyme and beneathA secret system of caves and conduits; hear these springsThat spurt out everywhere with a chuckleEach filling a private pool for its fish and carvingIts own little ravine whose cliffs entertainThe butterfly and the lizard; examine this regionOf short distances and definite places:What could be more like Mother or a fitter backgroundFor her…

Goodbye to All That

This is my favorite essay of all time; perhaps my favorite piece of prose of all time. Anyway, having just returned home from my own summer in the city, I’ve been revisiting this one. GOODBYE TO ALL THAT by Joan Didion How many miles to Babylon?Three score miles and and ten—Can I get there by candlelight?Yes, and back again—If your feet are nimble and lightYou can get there by candlelight. It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends. I can remember now, with a clarity that makes the nerves in the back of…

Notes from the Iliad

“The cry went out, the men came crowding, officers from their commander’s side went swiftly down to form each unit — and the grey-eyed goddess Athena kept the pace behind them, bearing her shield of storm, immortal and august, whose hundred golden-plaited tassels, worth a hecatomb each one, floated in air. So down the ranks that dazzling goddess went to stir the attack, and each man in his heart grew strong to fight and never quit the melee, for at her passage war itself became lovelier than return, lovelier than sailing in the decked ships to their own native land….

The Scarlett Letter

Last night I finished reading The Scarlett Letter for the first time since high school. Is better than I remember. There aren’t really entire passages I want to quote, just these spectacular turns of phrase: …having given my best years to feed the the hungry dream of knowledge……whether tenderness or terror……the hall re-echoes, and the armour rang with it —…that the destinies of nations should be revealed, in these awful hieroglyphics…since that first moment, it has all been a dark necessity.…What was it? The complaint of a human heart, sorrow-laden, perchance guilty, telling its secret, whether of guilt or sorrow,…

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Re-read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn last night and finished it today, basking in the premature Spring sunlight. I loved this book easily two or three times as much, this time around — not saying much, I guess, since the last time was high school, but nevertheless. Huck breaks me. This passage, for example: Sometimes we’d have that whole river all to ourselves for the longest time. Yonder was the banks and the islands, across the water; and maybe a spark — which was a candle in a cabin window — and sometimes on the water you could see a…

The Awakening

Yesterday I reread The Awakening for the first time since high school. It was a slightly surreal experience — I wasn’t reading my same copy of the book, but I still stumbled across sentences I remember loving, with vivid memories attached. I remember which passages struck me as important, then, and which I used in writing our god-blessed Five Paragraph Essays, etc. Anyway, I do love this novella, especially a few passages which I’ll be glad to have at hand from here on out. “Why?” asked her companion. “Why do you love him when you ought not to?” Edna, with…

I’m so vain I think Moby Dick is about me

It’s an all-nighter; I’m writing a paper on Moby Dick side-by-side with the boy I’ve been kissing… Closest to romantic one comes in college, I imagine. Anyway, this passage is TDF: “…the tormented spirit that glared out of bodily eyes, when what seemed Ahab rushed from his room, was for the time but a vacated thing, a formless, somnambulistic being, a ray of living light, to be sure, but without an object to color, and therefore a blankness in itself. God help thee, old man, thy thoughts have created a creature in thee’ and he whose intense thinking thus makes…

Saturday of Winter Carnival, sigh

I’m a little bit drunk, in a conference room in Fairchild, with dozens and dozens of my poems laid out on the table, drawing diagrams and writing epigrams on a whiteboard, moving in and out of landscapes, frames of mind. Hilary is writing a chapter for her art history thesis on early modern portraiture, Andrew is working on his earth sciences thesis about core samples and climate change… I am working on my poems. Hah. Anyway, just need to record this moment in time when this I cannot think of another poem I have ever loved more than “To the…

Robert Lowell

All my favorite Robert Lowell poems in one place, just in case I need them. Which I often do. ON THE END OF THE PHONE My sidestepping and obliquities, unableto take the obvious truth on any subject—why do I do what I do not want to say,able to understand and not to hear?Your rapier voice—I have had so much—hundred words a minute, piercing and trilling…the invincible lifedrive of everything alive,ringing down silver dollars with each word….Love wasn’t what went wrong, we kept our daughter;What a good father is is no man’s boast—to be still friends when we’re no longer children….Why…

Poem (a la recherche du Gertrude Stein)

Objectively this is not one of his better poems, but I still love it right now. Enemies – “yours in you and mine in me” – le sigh. POEM (À LA RECHERCHE DU GERTRUDE STEIN) By FRANK O’HARA When I am feeling depressed and anxious and sullenall you have to do is take your clothes offand all is wiped away revealing life’s tendernessthat we are flesh and breathe and are near usas you are really as you are I become as Ireally am alive and knowing vaguely what isand what is important to me above the intrusionsof incident and accidental…

quote- Deleuze/Guattari

“Analysis again. But where? How? Well, everywhere possible. Where unskirtable contradictions come to the surface. Where disturbing breaches of meaning trip us up amidst daily banalities, impossible yet perfectly viable loves, all kinds of constructivist passions that mine the edificies of morbid rationality… It can be individual, for those who tend to lead their lives as if it were a work of art; dual in all possible ways, including, why not, a psychoanalytic couch, as long as it has been dusted off; multiple, through group, network, institutional, and collective practices… leading, through a systematic decentering of social desire, to soft…

Quotes – Nietzsche, "Thus Spoke Zarathustra"

“And we should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at lest once. And we should cal every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh.” “To every soul there belongs another world; for every soul, every other soul is an afterworld. Precisely between what is most similar, illusion lies most beautifully; for the smallest cleft is the hardest to bridge.” “O Zarathustra,” the animals said, “to those who think as we do, all things themselves are dancing: they come and offer their hands and laugh and flee — and come back. Everything goes,…

The Marriage (between China and the US)

Andrew wants to kiss a Sarah, because it’s a lovely name without any immediate negative connotations. Meanwhile, in China, they are naming their daughter things likes, @, and &, because these neo-symbols don’t correspond to 1.9 million other @s, like there would be if you named her the symbol for Chang or whatever — There was a great article in National Geo about it, which I can’t find right now, but yeah. Derrida: “Such is the question: the marriage between speech and Being in the unique word, in the finally proper name. Such is the question that enters into the…

Lacan

“At the culmination of the historical effort of a society to refuse to recognize that it has any function other than the utilitarian one, and in the anxiety of the individual confronting the ‘concentrational’ form of the social bond that seems to arise to crown this effort, existentialism must be judged by the explanations it gives of the subjective impasses that have indeed resulted from it; a freedom that is never more authentic than when it is within the walls of a prison, a demand for commitment, expressing the impotence of a pure consciousness to master any situation; a voyeuristic-sadistic…

Derrida: Differance

“We could thus take up all the coupled oppositions on which philosophy is constructed, and from which our language lives, not in order to see oppositition vanish but to see the emergence of a necessity such that one of the terms appears as the differance of the other, the other as “differed” within the systematic ordering of the same (e.g., the intelligible as differing from the sensible, as sensible differed; the concept as differed-differing intuition, life as differing-differed matter; mind as differed-differing life; culture as differed-differing nature; and all the terms designating what in other than physis – techne, nomos,…

Nietzsche, niche

“In summa: the world as it ought to be exists; this world, in which we live, is an error — this world of ours ought not to exist.…The belief that the world as it ought to be is, really exists, is a belief of the unproductive who do not desire to create a world as it ought to be. They posit it as already available, they seek ways oand means of reaching it. “Will to truth” — as the failure of the will to create.” -Friedrich Nietzsche, from The Will to Power

Nietzsche, niche

“What therefore is truth? A mobile army of metaphors, metonymies, anthropomorphisms: in short a sum of human relations which became poetically and rhetorically intensified, metamorphosed, adorned, and after long usage seem to a notion fixed, canonic, and binding; truths are ilusions of which one has forgotten that they are illusions; worn-out metaphors which have become powerless to affect the senses; coins which have their obverse effaced and now are no longer of account as coins but merely as metal.” –Nietzsche, from On Truth and Lying in an Extra-moral Sense

Robert Lowell

Am currently reading Robert Lowell’s collected, and having that experience where a writer who previously seemed lifeless to me, suddenly seems utterly gripping and poignantly odd, fantastic, even – Anyway, I’m at “Life Studies” and I do realize things might go downhill from here, but all I really want to point out are these bizarre and amazing little snippets that punctuate his often oddly enjambed or rhymed or seemingly well-formed pieces – It’s as if snark and genius just shimmer in the otherwise fairly normal surface of his poems: “watery martini pipe dreams” “grasshopper notes of genius!” “fauve ooze for…

Wild wisdom

Andrew quoted this passage from Emerson in an e-mail to me today: “Crossing a bare common, in snow puddles, at twilight, under a clouded sky, without having in my thoughts any occurrence of special good fortune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration. I am glad to the brink of fear. In the woods, too, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period soever of life, is always a child. In the woods, is perpetual youth. Within these plantations of God, a decorum and sanctity reign, a perennial festival is dressed, and the guest…

“Now, all art which has only two dimensions, that of the work and that of the spectator, can create only a platitude, since it is no more than the capture of a shopwindow spectacle by a painter-voyeur. Depth is born only at the moment when the spectacle itself slowly turns its shadow toward man and begins to look at him.”– Roland Barthes, The World as Object Yesterday, reading Barthes’ collected essays, I became convinced I needed to start up keeping a journal again – his essay “Deliberation” discusses with grace and humility the difficulties of keeping a journal – so…