Grand Union Canal, London, Summer 2008
Back sometime soon.
Wood s Lot is special because it bucks the seemingly universal trend towards ever more simplified and edited sources of information. Although it is cunningly disguised as a collation of fragmentary links and severed chunks, the blog as a whole presents a consistent and coherent engagement with art, literature, politics and the world of thought... So when Wood s Lot picked up on my... post, I felt rather like a small child seeing the Presidential cavalcade stop, and the great man getting out of his limo to congratulate me on my flag waving skills.Yup.
Albrecht Dürer: Young Woman with Bound Hair, 1497
The exhibition was worth the major effort it cost me to get out of bed at the weekend. Such treasures of deep, luminous, intelligent beauty. Gazing at this lovely painting – the colours! the gravity! the delicacy! her nose! her wrist! - I heard myself silently ask: are you enough? Is art enough to make life worth living? And got no answer. I suppose the answer is ‘sometimes’ – better than ‘no’.
The wonderful PsychoTherapist likes my use of negative space (below). My current space is not just visually negative! Wondering whether words worth reading can come from such a space. Can there still be a perception of beauty or a satisfying verbal pattern? Or better shut up? Andy decides to shut up for now, and I’m sorry. His words, even when bleak, are never unengaging because he writes so well. Hmm.
Derek Walcott writes a poem for Barack Obama, who’s been sighted with a copy of his Collected Poems. Walcott’s Omeros sits on my bookshelf, a present a dozen years ago from an older, better read colleague - sits unopened: I didn’t read poetry then. These days, a long reading voyage later (through books but mostly, amazingly, through the Internet) I’ve begun, very late, to read poetry, and now eye the book.
How Fresh, O Lord, how sweet and clean
Are thy returns! ev’n as the flowers in spring;
To which, besides their own demean,
The late-past frosts tributes of pleasure bring.
Grief melts away
Like snow in May,
As if there were no such cold thing.
Who would have thought my shrivel’d heart
Could have recover’d greennesse? It was gone
Quite under ground; as flowers depart
To see their mother-root, when they have blown;
Where they together
All the hard weather,
Dead to the world, keep house unknown.
These are thy wonders, Lord of power,
Killing and quickning, bringing down to hell
And up to heaven in an houre;
Making a chiming of a passing-bell,
We say amisse,
This or that is:
Thy word is all, if we could spell.
O that I once past changing were;
Fast in thy Paradise, where no flower can wither!
Many a spring I shoot up fair,
Offring at heav’n, growing and groning thither:
Nor doth my flower
Want a spring-showre,
My sinnes and I joining together;
But while I grow to a straight line;
Still upwards bent, as if heav’n were mine own,
Thy anger comes, and I decline:
What frost to that? what pole is not the zone,
Where all things burn,
When thou dost turn,
And the least frown of thine is shown?
And now in age I bud again,
After so many deaths I live and write;
I once more smell the dew and rain,
And relish versing: O my onely light,
It cannot be
That I am he
On whom thy tempests fell all night.
These are thy wonders, Lord of love,
To make us see we are but flowers that glide:
Which when we once can finde and prove,
Thou hast a garden for us, where to bide.
Who would be more,
Swelling through store,
Forfeit their Paradise by their pride.
What happens when you stop?, I’d been wondering, and thinking: nothing good - and it wasn’t. Yesterday was TOIL (who invented that bloody acronym?), and I slept and walked and cried and slept a lot more, twelve, fifteen hours, with needy, disturbing dreams. Cathartic, I suppose, but wretched.
Working like this, I plod on, losing myself in work, losing myself in expanding flesh (that horrible Spanish expression, entrada en carnes - encased in meat), the small spark of self threatening to be squeezed and squeezed until it snuffs out. I wonder why I mind so much, since I can’t but view this ‘self’ as a cumulative disaster. But I do, I do.
Lately, on the bus, I’ve been reading books about the brain, about neurological damage (Oliver Sacks: Musicophilia; Claire Morrall: The Language of Others), reading with a chill of recognition and wondering if some of my deficits are neurological as well as psychological (does it matter?). Painful thoughts, but the will not to be snuffed out is strong for all that.
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In brief periods of wakefulness yesterday, I was glad to have read two excellent and very different blog posts from Zen Habits and from Via Negativa, for Blog Action Day on Poverty.