Category Archives: Arts

Så som i himmelen

I saw this really beautiful Swedish film last night, As it is in Heaven, and now I see that there is a sequel in preparation, Så ok på jorden, to be released in the fall. In the meantime you should see Så som i himmelen which is, of course, quite Swedish.


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Things you could not do in Spanish classes before the Internet


He advertido que en general la aquiescencia concedida por el hombre en situación de leyente a un riguroso eslabonamiento dialéctico, no es más que una holgazana incapacidad para tantear las pruebas que el escritor aduce y una borrosa confianza en la honradez del mismo. Pero una vez cerrado el volumen y dispersada la lectura, apenas queda en su memoria una síntesis más o menos arbitraria del conjunto leído. Para evitar desventaja tan señalada, desecharé en los párrafos que siguen toda severa urdimbre lógica y hacina­ré los ejemplos.

No hay tal yo de conjunto. Cualquier actualidad de la vida es enteriza y suficiente. ¿Eres tú acaso al sopesar estas inquietudes algo más que una indiferencia resbalante sobre la argumentación que señalo, o un juicio acerca de las opiniones que muestro?

Yo, al escribirlas, sólo soy una certidumbre que inquiere las palabras más aptas para persuadir tu atención. Ese propósito y algunas sensaciones musculares y la visión de límpida enramada que ponen frente a mi ventana los árboles, construyen mi yo actual.

Fuera vanidad suponer que ese agregado psíquico ha menester asirse a un yo para gozar de validez absoluta, a ese conjetural Jorge Luis Borges en cuya lengua cupo tanto sofisma y en cuyos solitarios paseos los atardeceres del suburbio son gratos.

Aside from the importance of the argument being made, look at the beautiful writing.


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Postscript on fine arts

I would of course love to do a BFA in plastic arts, painting, ceramics, sculpture especially (I would never have known that had I not tried it, I did not like sculpture to look at, very much, until I had a sculpture assignment and to my surprise, really liked it). I would also like to do an MFA in writing, just for the sake of having time to develop craft. Nonetheless I am so allergic to MFA-generated poetry, and the words “he has good writing credentials, he has an MFA” make me want to run in the other direction with my fingers in my ears.

Just sayin’.



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Carl Djerassi

Carl Djerassi died todayLook at his life and look at thisartist residencies we must be selected for.

I think it is interesting how he allowed himself to do so many things in life. I identify.

We were not supposed to do so many things because we were not considered talented enough and also because it was not genteel to put so much effort into life.
In my first education trying so hard was something to be ashamed of, as if you thought you were worth something, and also as if you needed the money — and as if you needed to try, were not a natural.

In Reeducation one was to be leaving off trying for thingsBut I am ambitious. I can so clearly see all that could be done. I think my student can get one of these residencies.


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Love, I learned as a child, was a rare honor one should not refuse. It meant material support and sometimes caring and even joy, but the main reason one should not refuse it was that people who loved were in pain. If someone loved you, which would be rare in my case since I was not lovable, you must accept them to alleviate their pain. There was food and shelter in it for you as well, but most primordially you owed it to them to let them hurt you.

The people I loved, on the other hand, were not in as much pain as that and they only scared us, they did not actually hurt us. And I loved the cat who was not part of this game, and school, where this game was not played.

(People who read these posts should not be too alarmed. I do not have an analyst who is really an analyst so I speak to the blog. I also wonder about using the paragraphs above in some kind of literary text.)


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The first paragraph of a bad review by me

It is good that people write, but this person is not a good poet. It is difficult to come up with things to say that are diplomatic yet still true, and I feel I am putting more effort into the review than the writer did into the poems (as happens with grading papers). Of course I should not complain, I do not publish poems, but I also wouldn’t have sent these poems out if they were my writing.

The title of —‘s collection Lavando la Dirty Laundry (Norman, OK: Mongrel Empire Press, 2013) recalls most immediately Carlos Drummond de Andrade’s series “A vida passada a limpo” or “Life in a clean draft,” first published in Poemas (Rio de Janeiro: Livraria José Olympio, 1959). Poetry for Drummond does not purify life, but heightens experience by stripping it down to essences. In the series’ title poem the moon illuminates both the bedroom it has entered and an obscure corner of the self, stirring dark residues to bloom and superimposing sky, room, and consciousness in a “shimmer of death that recalls love.” Treviño’s cleaning metaphor, on the other hand, does not work toward metaphysical abstraction but embraces instead the detritus of life, the crumbs swept up, and the significance of the stories these may tell. The prose poem “A Lesson in Elements” (38) explains how atoms seek mates to form molecules that join again to form soap. Soap and water make suds, which join dirt in an eager marriage that undermines the contrast between clean and dirty, taking life all together. Love is like that.



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A good review by me, from the past

A novella in pictures: Lives of Passion

Gene McCormick’s Lives of Passion: Edward and Antoinette (Rockford, Illinois: RWG Press, 2013), the author’s thirteenth book, is a series of interlocking prose poems that tell, in seventeen short pieces, the story of an ordinary couple–mid-century figures whose lives have run together–from childhood on. The meanings of “passion” here include a strong connection to life through physical experience and contact with things: the sensations of childhood, when everything touched is an experiment or discovery and time seems long, or the sensuality that persists in the characters even when only manifested through Edward’s mild voyeurism or Antoinette’s taste for wine. Passion also signals the slow erosion of their bond and their bodies as they struggle against, but also toward death.

The bright and impersonal light that bursts on the characters when, as children, they come up from play in a darkened basement, “back up the stairs, through the empty kitchen into the wide sunny yard” (II) is not mentioned directly but appears to break again after Antoinette’s lonely death in a dim apartment—

It is a broad avenue of young cars, of people of an age to possess them, of dusty dreams long ago set aside. Antoinette lived on this passageway, and so did Edward, but they don’t anymore.


These changes in light are also the indices of time that structure this collection in a complex rhythm. Between youth and middle age decades flash by, and we only catch glimpses of the couple’s lives. Sections of days, on the other hand, are slow and richly drawn, with a painterly emphasis on lines and dimensions, color, shadow, and luminosity:

On a straight-back wooden chair alone in her bedroom, Antoinette lifts her bare leg as high as it will go—not straight like a horizon line but bent sharply, knee-to-ankle hanging vertically as a faded orange swath painted on air.

The room is enveloped in dusk-gray, with dim white lights bordering the mirror. Focusing, she draws a Band-Aid on her right wrist with a mascara brush, rendering it not at all life-like.


Painterly as well is the weight given physical objects, and the treatment of the characters as figures in a visual field. Textures are thrown into relief as our eye is drawn in close, while tableaux like photographs come into view as we step back. Subtle shifts in perspective work to create a thickly layered realism:

On Tuesday mornings the elderly lady shops for discounted fruits and vegetables, near-rotted and priced at a dollar a box. Other shoppers bump her ankles with their carts and reach and grab items from in front of her. It is terrifying.


Things have as much substance as people, and are granted equal weight. Visual tension is tight and the characters’ struggle with the material world (or the inanimate, or what comes before words and lies beyond them) is closely framed–

. . . do you remember the primordial days of school . . . when teachers awarded gold stars for accomplishments and they had glue on the back you had to lick came unstuck anyway and fell off . . . and when you tried to pick them off the ground . . . or even the top of your shoe, the corners would get bent because your stubby fingers weren’t adroit?


There are conversations in this book but we do not hear the characters reflect, or speak to themselves except, perhaps, in this passage, where Edward contemplates the Taiwanese girl he hired the night before:

A half-empty wine glass sits on the edge of the nightstand, her underwear is beside the bed and other clothes scattered about. Christ, he says to himself, running a hand through matted hair, Christ.


Instead we see them act and dissimulate. The scenes they set as mirrors in which to form themselves and later, to keep up appearances are also spaces of investigation, or frames for a kind of quest. Passion is this search, purposeful even if not explained as these complicit, isolated, only apparently aimless characters contemplate first each other, then the dark.

Edward disappears from the narrative before Antoinette, whom we last perceive in a precarious old age. The soup can in her cabinet is the now only object in the house etched clearly. The narrow dank of this life at its end makes the series’ last shot, of the avenue of “young cars” where Antoinette and Edward once lived, but “don’t anymore,” seem almost a spiritual revelation. It may not be news that the world is made of small lives and draws its depth from this, but the vista still startles.

These characters are not interesting or even particularly likeable as people, and there are sordid undercurrents in their life together from early on. Unlike Antoinette’s family friends (III) they do not entirely avoid interaction, do not keep things under control; this is why their path through the world is an addition to it.

Gene McCormick’s poetic prose hits no false notes, and he sketches the story out as quickly as we can follow it. Read straight through the narrative is heady, taking us in just a few minutes from the “primordial days” of childhood to the world as it appears after death. Each piece also stands on its own and entices the reader to look long and look again, as with a set of installations. McCormick is a skilled wordsmith and observer of souls; these are, perhaps, not different things.


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