I am gong and cotton and snowy song... Michaux & Carracci

I have really become hard only by thin layers;
If anyone knew how marrowy I am at bottom.
I am gong and cotton and snowy song,
I say so and am sure of it.

Henri Michaux - I am Gong

details; Annibal Carrache (Annibale Carracci) (Bologna 1560 - Rome 1609); Pietà avec saint François et sainte Marie-Madeline. Vers 1602-1607; Louvre, Paris (originally in the Mattei chapel in the Church of San Francesco a Ripa, Rome).

Annibale Carracci, an exemplary Baroque painter, along with his brother Agostino and cousin Ludovico, combined Florentine draughtsmanship with Venetian use of colour and texture to create an emotionally charged colourful core. Baroque painting - coinciding with the Council of Trent and its reformulation of the Catholic Church's representational style - emphasised exaggerated emotion, theatricality, expressive lighting, and clear intention; painting, and art in general, should become the literature of the illiterate, conveying story and moral in their stylistic vernacular - simple, direct, powerful. The restraint apparent in the Renaissance's sculptural and architectural influences gives way to dynamism and even sensationalism. Competing contracts and wealthy patronage saw ever more fabul-ist/ous works being produced inside a similarly aggrandising architecture. The modern pejorative use of the term Baroque, as anything with excessive ornamentation and sensationalist dynamism, derives from this development, as well as the Baroque's transition into Rococo.

you have crouched too long in the bruising darkness...

A Conceit

Give me your hand

Make room for me
to lead and follow
beyond this rage of poetry.

Let others have
the privacy of
touching words
and love of loss
of love.

For me
Give me your hand.

On the Pulse of Morning

A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Marked the mastodon,
The dinosaur, who left dried tokens
Of their sojourn here
On our planet floor,
Any broad alarm of their hastening doom
Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.

But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
Come, you may stand upon my
Back and face your distant destiny,
But seek no haven in my shadow,
I will give you no hiding place down here.

You, created only a little lower than
The angels, have crouched too long in
The bruising darkness
Have lain too long
Facedown in ignorance,
Your mouths spilling words
Armed for slaughter.

The Rock cries out to us today,
You may stand upon me,
But do not hide your face.

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

The free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and is tune is heard
on the distant hillfor the caged bird
sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze
an the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom. 

Passing Time

Your skin like dawn
Mine like musk

One paints the beginning
of a certain end.

The other, the end of a
sure beginning. 

The Vale of Rest - John Everett Millais // poems - Maya Angelou

tambourines in the dark ditch of the night...

Bergman's Through a Glass Darkly

The Storm

Les princes n'ont point d'yeux pour voir ces grands merveilles,
Leurs mains ne servent plus qu' à nous persécuter . . .†                                                    

(Agrippa D' Aubigné: À Dieu) 

The storm that trickles its long March
thunderclaps, its hail, onto the stiff
leaves of the magnolia tree;
(sounds of shaking crystal which startle you
in your nest of sleep; and the gold
snuffed on the mahogany, on the backs
of the bound books, flares again
like a grain of sugar in the shell
of your eyelids)
the lightning that blanches
the trees and walls, freezing them,
like images on a negative (a benediction and destruction you
carry carved within you, a condemnation that binds you
stronger to me than any love, my strange sister)
and then the tearing crash, the jangling sistrums, the rustle
of tambourines in the dark ditch of the night,
the tramp, scrape, jump of the fandango. . .and overhead
some gesture that blindly is groping. . .
                                                           as when
turning around, and, sweeping clear your forehead
of its cloud of hair,
you waved to me—and entered the dark.

// Eugenio Montale, trans. Charles Wright
† (The princes have not eyes to see these great wonders,
Their hands do not serve but to persecute us)

For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child,
I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

// 1 Corinthians 13

Does the infinite space we dissolve into, taste of us then?

Pasolini's Teorema

The Second Elegy, trans. Stephen Mitchell

Every angel is terrifying. And yet, alas, I invoke you,

almost deadly birds of the soul, knowing about you.
Where are the days of Tobias, when one of you, veiling his radiance, 
stood at the front door, slightly disguised for the journey, no longer appalling;
(a young man like the one who curiously peeked through the window).
But if the archangel now, perilous, from behind the stars took even one step down toward us:
our own heart, beating higher and higher, would beat us to death.
Who are you?

Early successes, Creation's pampered favorites,

mountain-ranges, peaks growing red in the dawn of all beginning,--
pollen of the flowering godhead, joints of pure light, 
corridors, stairways, thrones, space formed from essence,
shields made of ecstasy, storms of emotion whirled into rapture, and suddenly alone:
mirrors, which scoop up the beauty that has streamed from their face
and gather it back, into themselves, entire.

But we, when moved by deep feeling, evaporate; we breathe ourselves out and away; 

from moment to moment our emotion grows fainter, like a perfume.
Though someone may tell us: "Yes, you've entered my bloodstream, the room,
the whole springtime is filled with you . . . "--what does it matter? he can't contain us, 
we vanish inside him and around him.
And those who are beautiful, oh who can retain them?
Appearance ceaselessly rises in their face, and is gone.
Like dew from the morning grass, what is ours floats into the air, like steam from a dish of hot food.
O smile, where are you going?
O upturned glance: new warm receding wave on the sea of the heart . . .
alas, but that is what we are.
Does the infinite space we dissolve into, taste of us then?
Do the angels really reabsorb only the radiance that streamed out from themselves,
or sometimes, as if by an oversight, is there a trace of our essence in it as well?
Are we mixed in with their features even as slightly as that vague look
in the faces of pregnant women?
They do not notice it (how could they notice) in their swirling return to themselves.
Lovers, if they knew how, might utter strange, marvelous words in the night air.
For it seems that everything hides us.
Look: trees do exist; the houses that we live in still stand.
We alone fly past all things, as fugitive as the wind.
And all things conspire to keep silent about us, half out of shame perhaps, half as unutterable hope.

Lovers, gratified in each other, I am asking you about us.
You hold each other. Where is your proof?
Look, sometimes I find that my hands have become aware of each other,

or that my time-worn face shelters itself inside them.
That gives me a slight sensation.
But who would dare to exist, just for that?
You, though, who in the other's passion grow until, overwhelmed, he begs you:
"No more . . . "; you who beneath his hands swell with abundance,
like autumn grapes; you who may disappear because the other has wholly emerged:
I am asking you about us.
I know, you touch so blissfully because the caress preserves, 
because the place you so tenderly cover does not vanish;
because underneath it you feel pure duration.
So you promise eternity, almost, from the embrace.
And yet, when you have survived the terror of the first glances, 
the longing at the window, and the first walk together, once only, through the garden:
lovers, are you the same?
When you lift yourselves up to each other's mouth and your lips join,
drink against drink: oh how strangely each drinker seeps away from his action.

Weren't you astonished by the caution of human gestures on Attic gravestones?
Wasn't love and departure placed so gently on shoulders 

that it seemed to be made of a different substance than in our world?
Remember the hands, how weightlessly they rest, though there is power in the torsos.
These self-mastered figures know: "We can go this far,
this is ours, to touch one another this lightly; the gods can press down harder upon us.
But that is the gods' affair."

If only we too could discover a pure, contained, human place,

our own strip of fruit-bearing soil between river and rock.
For our own heart always exceeds us, as theirs did.
And we can no longer follow it, 
gazing into images that soothe it or into the godlike bodies where,
measured more greatly, it achieves a greater repose.

to render, say, out of sight out of mind as invisible lunatic

excerpt from Employment for the Castes in Abeyance

I was a translator at the Institute:
fair pay, clean work, and a bowerbird's delight
of theory and fact to keep the forebrain supple.

I was Western Europe. Beiträge, reviste,
dissertaties, rapports turned English under my
one-fingered touch. Teacup-and-Remington days.


The trade was uneasy about computers, back then:
if they could be taught not to render, say, out of sight
out of mind as invisible lunatic

they might supersede us - not
because they'd be better. More on principle.
Not that our researchers were unkindly folk:

one man on exchange from Akademgorod
told me about Earth's crustal plates, their ponderous
inevitable motion, collisions that raised mountain chains,

the continents rode on these Marxian turtles, it seemed;
another had brought slow death to a billion rabbits,
a third team had bottled the essence of rain on dry ground.

They were translators, too, our scientists:
they were translating the universe into science,
believing that otherwise it had no meaning.


Les Murray's Employment for the Castes in Abeyance and Andrei Tarkovsky's Nostalghia, featuring a Piero della Francesca in the chapel where the Italian cult of the Virgin is ritualised; miraculous birds fly out of the Madonna as a woman prays for a child. The Madonna is a protector of women and symbol of childbirth, and although she doesn't feature heavily in the bible, over time, especially over the late middle ages and early Renaissance, she has become an equal figure to Christ himself, and most prominently in Italy. The film is about a writer who is as unsure about the modern age as the poet in Employment; he befriends a mad man convinced that 1 + 1 does not equal 2 but a more comprehensive 1, and that he must wade through a steam pool with a lit candle in order to save the world. Gorchakov begins to dissolve into a transferred madness, exacerbating his alienation from the modern world; fusing his wife, the Madonna, and his interpretor; and attempting to fulfil the madman's vital task.

Andrea Mantegna and cardiacesque coral

La Vierge de la Victoire // Madonna della Vittoria (1496)

Hither, Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506), one of my favourite painters and a principal figure in the Early Italian Renaissance, whose dramatic use of perspective and foreshortening combine with a sculptural style to emphasise arrested energy and the human subject. Trained in the study of marbles, he revered antique art over that of his time and even went so far as to avow it more eclectic in form than nature, (which would have had more than a slap of controversy about it). His painted cloths are always severe and closely folded; Mantegna is said to have dressed his models in paper or gummed weaves to achieve this stiff perfection of form.

This work is Completely Striking, particularly the ornately adorned arch filled with exotic birds, fruits, and precious stones, and the cardiacesque coral, a symbol of the Passion of Christ, which reminds me of another coral favourite, Piero della Francesca's Madonna di Senigallia (hither>>). 

The painting is a commissioned commemoration of the Battle of Fornovo in 1495; it shows the Virgin protecting Gonzaga (bottom left of frame), the military leader of the Holy League of Venice who successfully defeated the French invasion. The latin inscription, barely visible on the base of her throne, reads REGINA // CELI LET. // ALLELVIA (Queen of Heaven, rejoice, Alleluia). 

Ironically, around three centuries later, the painting was looted by the French army during the Napoleonic invasion of Italy and exhibited in the Louvre, where it remains, and where I visit it with antique adoration.

wastes and wonders in the gyre

“You gave me hyacinths first a year ago;  
They called me the hyacinth girl.”
—Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden,
Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not
Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither
Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,
Looking into the heart of light, the silence.
Öd’ und leer das Meer.

Kermit Oliver, the wonderful painter-mystic

treasures from the palais de tokyo book fair

Asiatische Adlernase; Thomas Jeppe / Edition Taube

BALDISCHWYLER – But you know this quote from Plato, where he is comparing the artist to someone who is building a table? 

BARON – Maybe in Plato's time, it was easier to do something like this. Art now is different. I had the impression, especially in conceptual art, that so many charlatans are on the road with no ideas about what they are doing, but they try to give their work a very complicated and super intellectual look. And then you have along with it the word Adorno or something, and you think "Okay, maybe I don't understand it but it must be something serious." For me it got so confused in the end that it was not easy to say whether something was good or bad art.

BALDISCHWYLER – The effect is that there is no good or bad art.

BARON – No, it's not always possible to say. I believe in art still of course, but for me tea was a kind of relaxing idea of understanding things. To see this leaf here, and to have it in your hand, you can really feel it. A good high mountain tea, it's not falling apart so fast. If it's very bad, the structure is very thin, and normally it breaks very easily. In art, it's not so simple. 

Several Clouds Colliding; Brian Catling / Iain Sinclair, Swedenborg Archive / Book Works.

Eyes No Eyes
Iain Sinclair

Werner Herzog, at a loose end in San Francisco, breathless from the absent hospitality of his patron, Francis Ford Coppola, and suffering from malarial tremors, fever dreams of encroaching jungle, took himself to the rock bastion of San Quentin. He was soothed, as he noted in his journal, by the 'linden-green' walls of the gas chamber, where so many famous scenes of True Crime newsreels played out their final scenes, eroticised and dissolved by the grudging inevitability of an antiquated chemistry. Gross intimacies are witnessed by implicated voyeurs who cloud a studded porthole with the breath of fear. We have the censored gaze. And colour going out of the eyes like airmail letters sent from secure wards to dead presidents. We have a complex and shocking exchange in real time. The serpentine hiss of pellets falling towards, but never achieving, a red fire bucket. Last words mimed for a disconnected microphone.


Tea. Hills and mounds of drying leaves. Terraces and paddies of south London suburbia. An empire of crescents and fishbone tributaries branching and rebranching in dying winter sunlight. Denmark Hill and Forest Hill. Dulwich and Peckham Rye. Ceylon and Assam. Verandahs. Conservatories. Post-colonial villas. Frederick John Horniman. His illegitimate bounty sold in tins and packets. 'Pure and delicious.' His neighbour traded in whale oil, boiling blubber in reeking vats on Bugsby's Marshes, and used the profit to commission whaling-voyage art by JMW Turner. There was a thirst for bones, for carvings, feathers, Day of the Dead vodun wax and tin. Fortunes measured in salvage, in sacks of tribal fetishes, mummy cases, torture chairs of the Spanish Inquisition reassembled in Whitechapel smithies. A slogan for the times, for the trade: 'A Right Royal Drink!' Coded for initiates. A secret embossed for the verminous multitudes, the bankers' clerks and remittance men of Carshalton and Upper Norwood. Royal rite. Inebriated princelings. Rituals of the the Royal Arch. Tea and sympathy. Annie Horniman appoints Mathers to curate her father's cabinet of curiosities, the madness that overwhelms the family home, Surrey House, forcing them to relocate. Closed down, shuttered, demolished. The museum on the hill: its mural like the screen of a cod-Egyptian cinema, its succulent curves and pillars. A blunt tower carved out of buttermilk.

Blood Rites of the Bourgeoisie; Stewart Home, Semina No. 7, Book Works

One of the funniest, sharpest satires I have read this year; dripping with all sorts of great stuff. Home homes in on, as it were, email spam for bigger, better, more satisfying Nigerian money scams and female artists, with the usual dose of soft core and razoring wit.

After Death: The Artist

I. Make Kara Walker Tremble with Desire for your Huge New Penis! 

You know very little about the philosophical sources from which aesthetic theory was constructed. Instead you approach most topics from the perspective of Freud and diagnosis. You decide that Abstract Literature is a product of the subconscious and therefore can't be precisely defined... You don't know that you are already falling behind positions articulated nearly a hundred years ago by the Surrealists.
You imagine the Abstract Literature Manifesto you are attempting to write being played in the key of G major, and you attempt to visualise it as deep space; black with flashes of darker blackness. Your text is pornographic, its obscenity lies in the fact that it can't be imagined, it can only be experienced in its totality as a concrete form. Blackness. The void. too many light-years between stars.

You try to think yourself into a state of suspended animation. You worship waste and claim to be drawing on Bataille's theory of solar economics. If nature abhors a vacuum then nature itself must be a social construction, there is nothing at all in deep space. You want to add some colour to your text... Space is deep.

You've ended up mirroring the slow drift of an ice floe, the imperceptible passage of distant galaxies through hyper-space. At this point your words in their opaque nothingness literally become 'the ill-will of the people', the spongy referent that animates all post-democratic societies. The cold of interstellar space thousands of degrees below freezing. Abstract Literature: A New Movement in the Visual Arts!

Non-Euclidean geometries. Voices green, purple and red. Strange folds in the fabric of time and space. The universe buckled, bent and sent into reverse. Apocalypse postponed, time running backwards and in slow-mo. Your words have developed an intolerance to alcohol. They are overwhelmed by feelings of existential dread and can't bear to be separated from each other. They've arranged themselves into a single extended sentence from some eldritch dimension unknown to man, a slow stuttering echo of Molly Bloom's soliloquy at the end of Ulysses.

Kahu, Mount Aspiring, New Zealand, 2009; Daniel Gustav Cramer, Berlin, 2010

Tales 01, Zeinigen, Switzerland, June 2008; Daniel Gustav Cramer, 2011.

These are small, adcinematic (neologistically ad 'toward, motion to, reduce to, change into' + cinema) photographic series composed of around 7 or 8 shots in sequence. I fell into them immediately, for their simplicity and their striking arousal of definite feelings; 'Ah,' I thought, 'yes, I've got it,' though you're not sure precisely what you have. Maybe a narrative, an echo of your own experiences, or the familiar desire to source mystery in other people, in looking at nuns and wondering, 'where are they going? Is the world sinister or sane?' They give away nothing, ask nothing, and so are replete with potential.

Georges Hugnet & the Love Life of the Spumifers

Georges Hugnet was a lesser-known Surrealist, publisher, and illustrator, who was heavily involved in underground resistance publishing in German-occupied France. He published one of the first histories of Dada in 1924, which was noticed by André Breton - Hugnet joined the Surrealists in 1932. La Vie Amoureuses des Spumifères, a series of overpainted postcards, was published as a book in 2010.

more, hither, hither, and hither>>

Orpheus and the Shadows of our Forgotten Ancestors; Rilke & Sergei Parajanov

The Kill

Far-conquering man . . . You’ve written, since you first
turned hunter, many a level new death-rule
of trap or net. Though I know the strip of sail
they hung into the caverns of the Karst,

so softly, like the flag of peace, or ceasefire . . .
Then, from the cave-mouth, a boy gave it a jerk
and tumbling dayward out of the cave-dark
came a handful of pale doves. This too is fair.

No one could take pity on their breath,
Least of all those men who raised their sights
and in that wakeful moment understood:

Our wandering sorrow takes the shape of death.
The spirit fallen into quietude
Knows that what befalls it must be right.

Don Paterson, a Scot and one of the greatest poets alive today, has created 'versions' of Rilke's Sonnets to Orpheus, of which The Kill is one. They are not strict translations, but new structures built of what Paterson calls the 'vernacular architecture' of the originals. Rilke often suffers in English, and his translators are often criticised for making him wordy and cold, descriptives of his work not familiar to native German speakers. The sonnets were written over three weeks in 1922, whilst Rilke was at work on the Duino Elegies. 'They are,' he wrote later, 'perhaps most mysterious even to me, in the manner in which they arrived and imposed themselves on me - the most puzzling dictation I have ever received and taken down.' Sergei Parajanov's highly symbolic 1964 film, alternatively titled Wild Horses of Fire, portrays the mythology and struggles of the Ukrainian Hutsuls through the love story of Ivan and Marichka. Hallucinatory and penetrating, the film is utterly delightful; it slows the blood.

Japanese collective, Dumb Type

 Dumb Type on Pleasure Life - "technology has in many ways created a network covering the globe, making the world smaller, and sending information tens of thousands of miles, from point A to point B, in just a few seconds. In reality, however, when we try to communicate, for example, the few words 'I love you,' just these words, we are forced to realise the vast distances that lie between us."

Pleasure Life was an ordered enterprise, and hi-tech. A performer throws away a banana and a robotic tractor whirrs out and cleans it up. There is no surprise, spontaneity, or ambiguity, and the natural landscape comes wrapped in the glass and plastic of television sets.

pH looks at the rise of Japanese information and consumer culture. Furuhashi - "pH is a science term and pH7 is the centre, where things are balanced. It's like heaven, limbo and hell. Japanese society now, especially Tokyo, is like limbo. People think it's heaven but it's not. It's really destructive."