Javier Marìas, Fever and Spear
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My grandmother lying in her hospital bed is the beginning of her great silence. A cancellation that sees into the faults of her eras, the great poverty of married women in the middle of the last century, fed "shit on a shingle" during the Great Depression, silenced by her parents and sent back to her husband like some smudged Ophelia, scorned by her grandchildren for being unable to become anything else, misunderstood by her daughters and sons, who want always to idolize her with vicious love and blame.
Why does life seem like such a waste, no matter what works are remembered, regretted, wished for, facted into being? Wearily. The hospital bed. The tubes and juices. All of it antiseptic, like a resort. Like being drugged up in an airport.
The last lover in his aphoristic monologue of blissful ego-mania, his infantry: "the most important, beautiful, amazing, wonderful thing is monogamy."
My one raised eye-brow in the dark: "I don't agree." Because I think the mask we wear protects us from the difficulties of our own inherent infamy. The skeptic heart beats because it must, as relentlessly as it must, until the final shocked rest robs us from us. "Lovers are boundaries." "Life is being able to see Contradiction Equals Beauty."
What is "Un-Beauty"?
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How does a poet write history?
Adrienne Rich: "Amid profiteering language, commoditizing of intimate emotions, and public misery, I want poems that embody--make into flesh--another principle. A complex dialogic, coherent poetry to dissolve both complacency and despair."
I hope I will grow up into stronger poetry. Re-reading Rich's Dream of a Common Language, because I like those love poems that refuse privacy, their brave considerations that admit despair without legitimizing or romanticizing it. Because I want to write something that has a necessary pulse, in letters that travel by newspaper, digital billboard, satellite, graffiti.
Also reading those Floridians, with their maniacal metrics. Especially Michael Hoffmann, whose blend of prescient vernacular, linguistic dexterity, and alliterative humor results in stark presentations of personal incidence and curious elegy. There is something so ash-like about his poetry that nonetheless offers us a generous intellect; facts in his work are graceful precisely because they do not seek to be more than themselves. I love that. I crave that. I fail that.
Max Beckmann, 1915
Nurse, aesthetician and war-artist:
not unpatriotic, not unfeeling.
Calm--excitable. Noted yellow shell-holes,
the pink bones of a village steeple, a heated purple sky.
Bombardments. Tricks of the light. Graphic wounds.
An aviator overflew him in the rose night,
buzzed him, performed for him. Friend or foe? Libellule!
A room of his own in a villa. Kriegsblick.
Medics intellectually stimulating,
one, from Hamburg, familiar with his work.
A commission to decorate the baths
--an Oriental scene, how asinine!--
deserts, palmettos, oases, dead Anzacs, Dardanelles.
A second fresco, of the bath-house personnel.
One thousand male nudes per diem.
A prey to faces. Went for a squinting Cranach.
A man with half a head laughed at his sketches,
recognising his companions. ('He died today.')
'Several hours' tigerish combat, then gave up
the assault'; his description of a sitting.
Some esprit de corps. Marching songs
weirdly soothing, took him out of himself.
Ha, the amusing pretensions of a civilian
trying to commandeer a hotel room.
English prisoners, thirsty mudlarks, plucky, droll.
In the trenches the men had kissed their lives goodbye.
A ricochet, a sniper. In the midst of life.
Crosses plugging foxholes, stabbed into sandbags.
A man with a pistol, head down, intent, hunting rats.
Another, frying spuds on a buddy's grave.
The Flemish clocks told German time.
Sekt and Mosel to wash down the yellow vin de pays.
Dr Bonenfant, with his boozy babyface.
'We poor children.' A commission
to illustrate the army songbook. Invalided out.
(Michael Hoffman, from Corona, Corona)
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But while his frenetic brushwork and highly complex, metaphysical iconography have much in common with German Expressionism, Beckmann's paintings never succumbed to the Modernist tendency to render the world abstractly. In his 1938 lecture "On My Painting," Beckmann explained: 'I hardly need to abstract things, for each object is unreal enough already, so unreal that I can only make it real by means of painting.'
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The question is not how does a poet write history, but how do we poets make the unreal real.
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