Monday, October 31, 2005

"heartbreak" [ghazal]

Others desire love     I desire   heartbreak
what was I thinking of?     my desire   heartbreak

O you whose cheeks & eyes   suggest such happiness!
can you fulfill enough     of my desire   heartbreak?

Loveliness first is required     cruel can come later
& when the going gets tough?     I desire   heartbreak

I speak of sailing ships     & kings   & cabbages
I yearn for waters rough     & my desire   heartbreak

Every pleasure I sought     fell short of this treasure
where's the pain could snuff     my desire   heartbreak?

O happiness!   O beauty!     O insanity!
here are my wrists!   come cuff   my desire   heartbreak

The beloved existed before the world arose
the rose's thorn won't rebuff     my desire   heartbreak

Did your heart profess its happiness?   what a young cigarette!
here's a vintage cigar   come puff   my desire   heartbreak

Politeness is for kindergardeners     Ph.D.s
need language fuckin' gruff     they desire   heartbreak

Sweet gentle thought!     is it civilization's   trumpcard?
O why does the cardsharp's bluff     so desire   heartbreak?

I sing the beloved!     & love the pain   of singing
I cry to the bank     a chuff   who desired   heartbreak

When Majnun's love for Laila matured     did he need to meet Laila?
his heart fell in love with the love     of desiring   heartbreak

It's true that Farhad reached Shirin     past the mountain of pain
did he love Shirin more than his suffering   desire for   heartbreak?

Ardeo!   just give me the minimal scoop     skip embellishment
what use has all of your stuff?     why desire   heartbreak?

Erik's Divali haiku

Odd at times are the ways of our technologies. As I rode a cab last night to Penn Station, via cell phone I took a glance at my email inbox, and was pleased to find a note from Erik Solibakke -- a poet-friend and Meher Baba devotee. Last I knew he was in his native Northern Europe (Norway? Finland? -- I lost track, pardon); turns out he's now living at Meherabad; so I can expect to see him when I make a quick trek out there before my Panvel dhrupad workshop. I'd sent Erik a note not long ago, alerting about this blogging. His generous (flattering) reply encourages me to think there may be some use in this curious pastime; Erik kindly wrote:
Thanks for turning me on to your blog. It seems vast and self-renewing at a faster pace than I manage these days now that I'm at Meherabad. I appreciate your original works, insightful and urbane, and the wealth of links you provide; it has become a kind of online culture center for me. Thank you very much for bringing it together and inviting me to share it.
-- followed by this haiku:
Diwali fireworks rumble
Sita sets foot in Ayodhya
In the night sky flash

Lost in rural Maharashtra and his own thoughs, I'm sure Erik was not referencing the tragic bomb-blasts which wracked crowded markets in Delhi 2 days ago. I know precious little about how Divali is celebrated (other than w/ lighting of lamps); but evidently firecrackers must be part of it. A friend meanwhile had tipped me off to the origin of the festival as a celebration of Raama & Sita's return to Ayodhya -- the happy event near close of the Ramaayana. The haiku evocation is a happy one. Partly responsive to this poem, was my series of verses below (though musing on other storms & sagas). In my own 3rd verse, I was remembering Ghalib's ghazal that begins:
you should have waited here for me   a little longer
now gone you there alone should stay   a little longer
(though the thought in mine is turned differently. Merely the phrase I was pleased to borrow from Mirza Ghalib.)

Back to Erik's haiku. The reference to (night) sky happens to remind me that when Raama and Sita returned to Ayodhya (in the ancient tale), they did so by peculiarly modern means: riding on the (legandary) Pushpaka -- maybe the first airplane in literature. I know the story thru Rajagopalachari's likeable English version, which -- along with his Mahabharata -- I devoured in my teens. I can't seem to recall exactly what spin Rajaji put on the Pushpaka; but certainly he did compare it to an airplane.

4 Divali stanzas

Divali season
end of war : end of exile
ancient happiness

When Ramachandra
& his beloved return
to those who love them

O my distant friend
postpone Divali for me
a little longer?

Raama in my heart
still wanders in Dandaka
asking after you

"returning home" [boomerang poem]

Returning home
the eastern window glows
an orange sun
peeks o'er the near horizon

the greeny trees tone yellow
not surprising
for a late October morning
heaven knows

I likewise turn autumnal
in my way
whle still I seek a spring
of love that flows

perennial (winter-deep or merry May)
returning home : the eastern window glows

Returning home : the train is slowing down
we're but ten minutes now from Union Station

in Washington (that nexus of a nation)
the wheel & track create a rumbling sound

I likewise seem to rumble in my way
I'm more a cello than a circus clown

my India journey's but ten days away
returning home : the train is slowing down

from Caffee Reggio [travel note]

That would be your faithful correspondent, ensconsed on the E Train heading south from Penn Station, circa 11pm of a Sunday. Got in from East Hampton (having spent an intense day reviewing video / preparing for edit, with Don Lenser at Ellen Frank's abode/atelier, on which more later). Surprisingly (not having advance-checked), no Amtrak to DC till 3am. Ergo the southward jaunt to my sometime home base: Caffee Reggio on MacDougal Street.

"Look what the wind blew in," quoth Jack Williams, now manager of the place (erstwhile -- in days I lived upstairs on 2nd floor -- one Theo, Britisher, painter, later opera-singing dabbler, and proprietor of a teashop or somesuch in distant Calcutta if I recall aright) had held that role. Jack though even back then (I'm talkinjg circa 1990) worked here. "I think the principal character is too unsympathetic," I allow -- giving him my terse critique of his play. Last time I was here (couple months ago), he sent me off with a DVD of a read-thru of his latest (and perhaps strongest, my critique notwithstanding) theatrical effort. Earlier he'd been writing screenplays, but has turned to stage-plays these days. I'd watched the DVD on the train south, that time. This train to DC, though, I'll need to be editing video ferociously -- since gameplan is to Fed.Ex. a rough-rough-cut (winnowing mainly, but perchance with some glimmers of the nascent organization) of the short work-in-prog. to Don tomorrow. Which means I should be basically done with that 1st phase of the edit by 10am or so....inshallah. My dayjob awaits at noon. [some of these particulars have tweaks-in-prog.]

Sitting with Don, exchanging thoughts and taking in his view as we pored over the footage from start to end (bit less than 3 hours of material in all) was a good experience in itself. The sense of deadline pressure with this editing stint is a bit intense (I leaving the country Nov. 10, and the work to screen in NYC Nov. 17).

I should hie me away to Cafe Esparanto (down the block) shortly, to begin some work on it maybe. Reggio is better for internet connection, but Esparanto is better for electricity! Furthermore, Esparanto is open all night (Reggio on a Sunday will close shope at the ungodly-early hour of 1am or such, I think). In gone years (well, in the one gone year I lived upstairs), I'd sometimes come down for espression around midnight -- then onward with painting for hours. Though much of the time I was working a graveyard shift uptown -- so the hours / espressos / painting would differ.

How I got into oilpainting upstairs: It started by painting my kitchen. I'd done some dabbling with oilpainting earlier in Walnut Creek (and I recall a couple of all-night oilpaint sessions when in high school -- the first taste of the art). When I moved into the apartment above Reggio, I was confronted with a likeable kitchen area with white small tiles. I begain painting them with oilpaints -- and laso the metal cabinets. Besides some simple geometricc patterns and landscape paintings (on the cabinets especially), I inscribed some lines of Hafez and Rumi. From Rumi:
Wherever a pain is     the remedy goes there
wherever a lowland is     the water runs there
if you want the water of mercy   go   become lowly
then drink the wine of mercy     & become drunken
And from Hafez? Alas, I don't recall the couplet(s) selected. I rather doubt the current tennant still has the evidence intact.

Anyway, Markar and Parkar (my tenants for a few months -- before they moved down south to live near the Meher Spiritual Center in Myrtle Beach -- where they remain to this day) encouraged me in my home-decor efforts. After I'd spent time painting walls (tiles, cabinets), I guess I felt ready to approach something like canvas. Though I also liked painting at times on wooden board. I admired the quote from Howard Hodgkin, to the effect: "Canvas -- it scares me." Hodgkin had made a career of painting on small wooden boards. I was willing to venture into canvas, Hodgkin's good apprehension notwithstanding.

It was also in the place upstairs that I unfuled a sequence of dinner parties. A happy memory. Someday, inshallah, perhaps I'll get into the dinner party racket again. But for now: I'll down the mocha, and pack up the laptop before the battery expires.

Reggio, incidentally, is the place for caffee mocha par excellence.

A day later, it occurs to me: this was the Hafez verse I'd oil-painted (amid landscape) on the old MacDougal Street metal kitchen cabinet (16 years ago):
By the marge of the stream   sit
          and the passing of life   behold
for this example of the passing world
          is for us enough
Really only some handful of friends saw that ephemeral art. Of course the landscape included a stream.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Gary's haiku

Life spilling symbols

running across blackened fields

settle artfully

[might add a bit to this later -- am running out the door shortly. I'd pointed a friend to this blog; he did me the kindness of sending the above by way of overall response. I like how the poem addresses the blog gestalt overall -- as immediate visual/mental experience.] A responsive ku:

only a brief span

seven syllables at most

each lifetime so quick!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

O moon! [boomerang poem]

O moon! If I'd only known
how sweet would become my question
when its blooming swirl were shown
in your tender recollection
when petals dark in tone
find silvern seas' reflection
you baffle like perfection
O moon! If I'd only known

[Responsive to the latest fractal to appear on River's blog.]

conventional wisdom

You're too good to be other than true
Too many cooks enhance the kitchen

A watched pot is wonderful
If you can't stand the heat -- learn to stand it

Every cloud has a dark side
Curiousity distinguished the cat

There's no place like no place
All roads lead to you

There was so much there there
A rose is not a rose is not a rose is not a rose

This might be your 15 seconds of obscurity
God is even more famous than the Beatles

The internet was not invented
America discovered Columbus

If not now -- certainly later
If there were world enough & time -- & there is!

First thought -- second thought
I am not -- therefore I don't think

How often I step into the same river twice!
Once smitten -- twice sly

One swallow makes a summer
One flower makes a garland

When it rains -- it merely drizzles
All good things must begin again

Three of the original sayings (that is, adages underlying my rewrites) were located here: wise old sayings

"romantic tropes" (sonnet)

Romantic tropes   like darling   & I love you
transcribe & assemble meaning in the mind
alike paint   (the earth below the sky above you)
they compose the parts   from core to seed to rind

the conceit of being in love has particular shape
it's not some vapid dab of garrulous color
the ear just so   the eye discerns a nape
the flap of cloth can nake a neck nigh collar

the funnels of faces channel one's comprehension
or can close the sluice upon being's possibility
the courtesies glimpsed in love describe dimension
love's manner (for instance) shoulders keen docility

and language!   O does it whisper into your ear?
if it's got a throat   it conceivably could clear

[If oftentimes, as a form, the sonnet might occasion conventional expressions & familiar thoughts, yet alternatively it can seem to wave a torero flag encouraging some headlong charge into more recondite, less sure directions. Maybe (amid arrows consequent on such a gallop) this poem illustrates such a notion?

Lest the above paragraph prove more baffling than the poem, I should (remedially?) quote myself. I wrote to a friend:
I spent the last hour [now it's 5 a.m.] mainly revising a poem ("romantic tropes")... It explores & plays with a few notions in a fairly abstract way, I daresay.
Maybe this doesn't clarify very much. Anyway, there's the poem. What-all it means, is anybody's guess.]

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

"enough time" (ghazal)

time was : there was enough time
because : there was enough time

the hourglass one-way journey
undoes : there was enough time

the gist of the lies of the flies?
their buzz : there was enough time

the flowers lamented the hours
faint lust in the dusting of time

the autumns remembered the springs
what was it one does with the time?

why's every endeavor distorted?
because : there's not enough time!

the temporal dress grew threadbare
this wasn't : there was enough time

how the box of time becomes empty
it doesn't dream up enough time

nor wit nor spit nor money
give up there was enough time

half stream half dream this music
how does it anticipate time?

the Space-wife lives forever!
her husband was enough : Time

if "endless" should ironize endless
which was : what was enough time?

so the hare's soon passing the tortoise?
it doesn't nonplus (enough time)

the joy of the athlete & thief
is just : there was enough time!

when the train departed the station
did cussing give us enough time?

who could step two times in one river?
did you sus : there's not enough time?

yes much is contained in the Talmud
yet does it discuss enough : time?

enough words! (the silent one gestured)
who suffers recovers in time

the rub-a-dub-tub was a clubhouse
where Bubba could bluff enough time

in the higgledy-piggledy pub
it's shuffling-to-Buffalo time

Godiva : who rode through the village
was buff on the bluff enough times

wherever you look there's a mirror
for us : it wasn't of time

precocious in youth : now the graybeard
finesses the pluses of time

subtraction became the solution
dissolving the cussing of time

the twirling gyro was spinning
we trusted the cusp of the time

why rankle the ranks of the burnt-out?
for us : there wasn't much [time]

in the circles infernal : did Dante
discuss if there was enough time?

the rising & setting so stately
God must grant us enough time!

the heavenly plan converged
for Brahm : there was enough time

the ocean suddenly surged
Sat Nam : there was enough time

a circular pattern emerged
because : there was enough time

though hustle & bustle may tussle
the bus said : bas! enough time!

in this yug : do they jog in the womb?
"what a fuss! yet there was enough time!"

Ardeo! quit messing with ghazals!
it doesn't leave us enough time!

[written -- um -- in haste]

Brahm (Hindi): the Creator (= Brahma [Skt.])

Sat Nam (Punjabi, etc.): lit. "the Name of Truth" (a conventional expression of blessing and God-remembrance among Sikhs; the expression traces back to the ecstatic poetry of Guru Nanak)

bas (Farsi/Urdu): "enough!"

yug (Hindi) : age, era (= yuga [Skt.])
[In this poem, I was a bit fast & loose with the ghazal structure, admittedly sacrificing some rigor for sake of more muchness. Generally speaking, these days I prefer to be more rigorous with it; but sometimes one lets one's hair down, so to speak. It has some of the imperfections of a doodle, no doubt.]

dhrupad & the art of "searching"

Early this morning, my email inbox included material relating to the dhrupad workshop I'm gearing up to attend in mid-November -- traveling to India for the purpose. (Got airline tickets yesterday morning.) The material (and some consequent return correspondence) largely involved practical matters, typical for a situation of international students traveling abroad to a small educational institution. (We will all be lodged at the gurukul -- the teacher's abode -- for the workshop period, practicing & listening, living & eating; the school is opened up once a year in this way; the rest of the year, only longterm-resident students study there. Most workshop students will be present for a full month; my stay will be two weeks.) The material from the school did also include some reflective prose about the music and the approach to its teaching. This was included in my reply-note:

Glancing at the material you attached, I'm struck by this beautiful observation:
This is a music that depends very little on virtuosity. Here whatever becomes music is what has been contemplated upon. The onus of riyaaz goes beyond touching the purity of the swaras and ragas, to reflect on the nature of relationship that exists between the musician and the music he seeks to create; and eventually beyond to when this dichotomy dissolves and all that remains is the musical search alone.
This has been my hunch about dhrupad in general -- and serves as a kind of "explanation" for what draws me to this line of study per se. As a listener, I certainly love khayal and other Hindustani musical forms. But my feeling, or hunch, is that as a music-student (and life-student), the approach found in your dhupad school -- emphasizing the principles noted here -- may prove most suited to my basic nature as an "inquiring artist." My feeling, too, is that the feeling of search and discovery lodged in this musical tradition, is in principle in open "communication with" (or can have infinitely various application or expression through) any and every art form. I am a practicing poet and painter, and am turning now to dhrupad -- partly in an effort to deepen my understading of what's expressed (and how it's discovered) through any medium. What's learned from dhrupad can (I feel) be expressed in painting and poetry, even though its chief application and "voice" is musical.

I don't know to what degree I may blog from Panvel (where the Dagars' school is located -- an olden village some ways beyond Mumbai along the Mumbai-Pune Expressway); likely to some small extent. Most of the time we'll be occupied with the music.

The "riyaaz" is the musical practice -- an Urdu word somewhat akin to the Sanskrit sadhana. It's said the great progenitor of the Dagar lineage (now in its 20th generation with Bahauddin Dagar) was a Hindu, a Brahman -- who converted to Islam through a curious stroke of fate. I'll relate that tale (and others) a bit further along in this dhrupad blogging. Early on in our workshop period, there will be the three-day Barsi (dhrupad music festival). I'll surely take a few notes of impressions. The only time I've heard Ustad Zia Fariduddin Dagar sing was in one rooftop concert, well after midnight, in Pune nearly 20 years ago. The music struck me favorably. Ustad Fariduddin heads the Dagars' music school -- a duty he assumed after his cousin Ustad Zia Mohiuddin passed away in 1990. Evidently, at one time, Mohiuddin was called the "bara Ustad" [big / elder maestro] and Fariduddin the "chota [little / junior] Ustad." I suspect Zia Fariduddin must be a Maha-Maestro at this stage. Whatever the dimension of the personality, it's a puissant music he and his kin have carried forward into the 21st century. I look forward to a serious dose of this rare music, a few weeks hence. (My flight departs November 10th from the airport at Baltimore. Traveling via London, I'll arrive in Mumbai just after midnight into the 12th. The workshop begins early-morning Nov. 15. In the 3-day interim: other activities, to be noted later.)

Dhrupad could be deemed a kind of endangered musical species; but the Ustads Zia Fariduddin and Bahauddin have been actively teaching: both at Panvel, and also in Mumbai (including via the "dhrupad sansar" for benefit of students at IIT-Bombay, a university). Dhrupad study can also be pursued at the dhrupad gurukul in Bhopal. But I tend to favor Panvel -- ensconsed between Mumbai and Pune. Both Mumbai and Pune have attractions.

Monday, October 24, 2005

You and I [gatha]

I caught in musing
you nabbed by notions
I sound confusing?
look at your oceans!

[Inspired by Gautami Tripathy's eponymous poem.]

evening meditation (1)

If you alone exist
        you're present everywhere   already
if you alone exist
        we can cease worrying   at once
if you alone exist
        hard though it be   to find you
if you alone exist
        it would be harder still   to lose you

[The phrase "you alone exist" has an immediate literary antecedent in the eponymous ghazal written in 1959-1962 by Bhau Kalchuri in collaboration with Meher Baba (a poem composed in Hindi, though popularised in English). The same phrase also has a deeper historical antecedent in a classic song (in the Gujarati language) by 15th-century poet-saint Narsinh Mehta: "In this entire universe, you alone exist, Shri Hari / Yet, in infinite forms you seem to be!" Vaguely, this seems (in recollection) to be a poem possibly sung/quoted by Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, -- although I'm not aware he spoke Gujarati. Perhaps there was some similar/kindred poem he would sing. Suffice to say, the line is in no wise original with the present poetry-dabbler! At this point, the bon-mot about "geniuses steal outright" might be invoked, but to what effect? Clearly, so do novices.
      Questions of the repeating phrase aside, I was pleased with the rhetorical play in the final two lines of this (essentially) quatrain. Classically, in the 3rd line of a quatrain one wants to venture away on a limb, then return to the trunk in the 4th line. It was practiced this way in olden Chinese (in Tang dynasty shi for instance), and (many centuries later) the same principle's noted in Farsi rubai of Khayyam & others.
      Turning from poetry to music, in my view, this same movement in the four lines of a classic shi was taken up by Indian classical music in the four phrases of tintal (the most popular of myriad rythmic cycles in this tradition in modern times -- but popularity of tintal dates from e.g. the 18th century?; it marks the transition from dhrupad to khayal, no doubt). Just look at how tintal is counted with hand gestures! In the 3rd section, the hand turns away, in the 4th section, it ruturns. This dance of the hand in counting the beats of tintal [or for that matter, a kindred 4-phase hand-dance in counting the 8 beats of adital in Karnatic music] illustrates (in my view) the basic structural principle found in rubai verse -- and in shi before it, as one ventures back into antiquity.]

Jivatman (epigram 4)

The crowd in life is deeply you
        though loudness cover calm
the doubt in life is steeply you
        though certitude be balm
your empty proves profoundly pure
        your full o'erbrims with joy
estranging seas live-souls endure
        till sighting land   ahoy!

[With minor archaisms & its distinctly pre-modern form, this verse could be deemed my homage to Swami Vivekananda's measured & memorable English poems.]

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Sound of the Soul [documentary film]

Tonight, enjoyed Stephen Olsson's marvelous SOUND OF THE SOUL: The Fez Festival of World Sacred Music (2005) -- a most satisfying music documentary. The week-long, annual summer festival it covers (international in scope) is one I should hope to enjoy, some future year. The gamut of musical offerings amounts to a glut of goodness. The (quick-sketched) history of Fez, too, was fascinating.

The filmmaker's blurb describes the work (in part) thus:
SOUND OF THE SOUL begins with the historic city of Fez itself: its heritage of tolerance as an ancient sanctuary for Muslim, Jewish and Christian inhabitants; its mystical Islamic foundations; its evocative medieval sites. This is the ideal location for an exceptional festival that brings together a unique array of musicians -- a transcendent chorus of African Berber women, a Portuguese Fado singer, a French early music ensemble, and players and vocalists from Afghanistan, England, Russia, Ireland, Mauritania, Turkey and even a gospel band from Harlem. All are intermixed with unforgettable Moroccan Sufi performers and all are connected through their artistry by profound expressions of love and longing.
A friend who spent some seasons in Morocco on a Fullbright recently -- and attended the Festival seen in this film -- remarked that this Harlem band was particularly enjoyed by the Fez denizens. I'm thinking this may partly be for sheer novelty; but open musical curiousity and wide trans-cultural appreciations were evidently ubiquitous among international visitors & locals alike.

Besides the filmmaker's worthy contextualizing, music-wise I was pleased by the rare (to my ears) chance to enjoy the opening couplets of Rumi's Mathnawi -- the classic song of the reed, sung superbly by notable Afghani vocalist Ustad Farida Mahwash. Along with this film's world premiere at the Mill Valley Film Festival two weeks ago, a post-screening concert featuring this singer, smartly, was on offer.

Likewise absorbing were sounds from the renowned Tallis Scholars -- leading exponents of Renaissance British & European a'cappella sacred song.

Possibly most arresting for me (must one choose among these riches?) was the exquisite Fado singing by Katia Guerreiro, whose brief explication of the Portuguese conception of saudade (spiritual loneliness & longing) was movingly exemplified in her performance. A prayer-song addressed to the Virgin Mary proved bewitching.

If I were a scholar in comparative esthetics, I can imagine launching a study pondering points of similarity among the Portuguese saudade, the Spanish duende (memorably expounded upon by Garcia-Lorca in his lecture), the conception of dard central to the poetry of the Urdu ghazal, and perhaps also the idea of karuna in the Sanskritic esthetic theory of the rasas [universal emotions] (diversely illustrated through centuries of sacred & secular literature & music throughout India). [Tagore's "pang of separation" is but one of myriad expressions of this.] But my days for such academic scholarship (if ever such a window existed) appear long gone. Indeed, I should pull myself from blogdom & get busy transferring video awaiting editing. The days & nights pass all too quickly.

Even so, who needs that academic study of concepts? Best to absorb their vivid essence through music like this. When we hear, we know (& feel) what we most need to know (through hearing/feeling).

My notes above of a few highlights in this film give a mere, imcomplete smattering. See the thing yourself, savor it directly. In fine, Uncle David suggests: keep eyes peeled for this film! Ears & heart seem to require food like this.

Visit to Mt. Vernon

Small-scale grandness
here is the circle where
carriages could arrive
who'd say arrivo?
far indeed from Italy
"deposit all gum here"
what a beautiful table
now let's see the video

George Washington was a farmer
he favored paintings of water
the key to the Bastille
is framed in olden glass
First in war
First in peace

be sure to watch your head
below is his private study

Mildly drizzly Saturday afternoon: went with friends on a little drive to visit this local tourist spot; even with the sporadic rain, a steady stream of visitors are lead through the house by a team of docents, who recite their prepared spiels in their designated places. There's an odd kind of unintended postmdernism afoot -- through the overlap of heard spiels from more than one source (the overall space being a bit small, the spielers not always far enough apart). It was a relief to make it out of the labyrinth of the house and view the wide river.

We strolled down, past meadows, to the water-side. The enigmas of slavery shadow the place of course. Apparently the Washingtons had an endless stream of house-guests. The "double harpsichord" was a happy detail. When (in car driving north again) I read my little poem to friends, Ginger Hammer remarked (vis-a-vis the final lines), "And actually, his study [on 1st floor] is directly below his corner-chair chamber-pot [2nd floor]." A detail I'd not noticed. I've lived in Washington, DC for almost 15 years; perhaps a brief visit to the city's namesake's own abode was due.

Later at dinner, Virginia Sheridan observed the founding fathers had pointedly back-burnered the slavery question -- due for discussion in 1806; GW felt there was no way the nascent nation could survive the tussle that would ensue if that matter were addressed at once. As it turned out, he himself expired -- untimely in his 60s -- before the appointed date arrived. A good deal later, Abe Lincoln took it up in earnest. Virginia also allowed (responsive to my thoughts) that Washington freed his slaves; those who remained, were his wife's (predating the marriage) and beyond his jurisdiction. Considering they presumably worked his fields, it could seem (from hindsight vantage) a thin distinction. Every age has its myopias, doubtless. Anyway, it's a history I've no expertise in. Jefferson and Franklin I feel some rapport with; Washington is more remote. The atmosphere of the house was for me, rather cold & lonesome (on this overcast day). Its erst holder, anyway, has my hat-tip & retrospective nod.

The key to the Bastille was an interesting detail. After the storming of the Bastille in 1789, Washington (our docenet told us) received a key to that erstwhile hateful prison: a symbolic gift of thankfulness from France's revolutionaries. Prizing this deep gesture, he kept the key in promiment display. (On the wall, in a glass case, it dangled above a lithogaph of the Bastille.)

No photos were allowed in the house. Here, instead, is a recent bust of Washington, on view beside the modern gift-shop. I also snapped a photo of the sign reading "Restrooms/ATMs" -- but it seems rather pointless to show that. (The machine, anyway, doesn't dispence bills in the denomination bearing this farmer's visage.)

Friends in the rather large boathouse (pergola?), viewing the water.

I'll consider this installment 2 in an occasional blogo-series of notes on DC-area monuments & suchlike. The first such item was here (the "bas reliefs at night" part).

Friday, October 21, 2005

"a door" (ghazal)

An open door!   but then the door looked closed!
it seemed before   not open     nor quite closed!

no door is seen   unless a door has been opened
the opening store   requires a door not closed

embracing her   a door disclosed a shore!
to love her more   I swore   before it closed

don't close the door!   the window also open!
the heart she tore   became a door unclosed

I sleep on the floor   I abide in my rustic squalor
a palace door   each night grows more unclosed

the closing of doors   itself is an opening of doors!
each season's door   exposes yet more unclosed

the door of snow   of drifting leaves   of verdure
the summer door   where golden ore   is not closed

I spoke with a genuine doorman!   quite marvelous!
his conviction wore the uniform for   not closed

unless you test the door   can you deem it a door?
the mere lore of "open"   could be the lore that's closed

the depicted door   represents the possible door
is it actually a door   if it's never more than closed?

O authentic door!   your vivid traits   we laud!
a moving door's   soft-creaking   roars   "not closed!"

the veils that hide the beloved appear impenetrable
look sharp for gore   & blood   if the war is not closed

when the hurricane came   the city became her host
when the levees tore   she found no door was closed

in water   the door of water leads to   water!
the hermit's door   is at its core   unclosed

love's conversation opens   in every syllable
love's semaphore   could become a door   unclosed

I yearned for a tryst in the vernal park   she sighed
"autumnal more describes the coer   when closed"

we were really floored   and swore   we'd find a door!
what further story lies in store?     disclose!

life's wolverine trial eats lakhs & crores for breakfast
scant chance to snore   till the case galore is closed!

from world to world & life to life   we flow!
nor end nor shore!   from form to spore   no close!

sometimes we drift along   unfashionable streams
sometimes we score such fine decor!   and clothes!

how we've passed our relentless days   since Adam & Havva
the apple core   & the shiny floor   disclose

one day   our enchantment gorws in exquisite arbors
one day it's a chore to suppress a snore   till we close

a time of closing arrives   when the store has gone dark
dawn's sky glows pink   and look!   no shore is closed

his majesty keeps a rule that applies to supplicants
only one who adores the king   finds a door unclosed

Ardeo!   you head your nose   toward hard illusions!
your soft-heart chore?   discern what door is not closed

        (detail borrowed from Vermeer)

Thursday, October 20, 2005

3 haiku for priyanka's basho

One look at the cup
turning it so carefully
her own kiln makes one

Basho in English
is oftentimes so dilute
there seems no there there

how did you find this?
in the empty rivulet
a live jumping fish!

On a discussion board (or forum), the precocious-&-dedicated literary artist / Chennai-girl-in-Bristol (New Hampshire) Priyanka Joseph this evening posted a startlement.

Duly startled by the keen evocation of the long-gone Basho, I dashed off the above responsive verses. Sanity must be preserved by hook or crook; how deal with sudden presence of Basho, other than thus?


uranium poesy

would the poem's slow uranium
buried within my cranium
at a spitfire bhopal incident
wreak alarums in my branium?

the halflife of the element
is a myriad thousand years
the shelflife of this filament?
-- how swift it disappears!

With hat-tips to Gautami Tripathi's Elemental Chemistry

some recent paintings

here's a quick upload of snapshots of some of my oil sketches (a topic discussed in a couple of earlier blog entries).

In future, I expect to improve the quality of documenting & showing paintings.

But for the moment,

for those curious to see some more of what I've been doing with oilpaints,

this swift cellphone-camera sampling gives an idea of it.

In the latest painting group session, rather than painting, I spent the whole time affixing wires to canvases (and then finally hanging the paintings) -- a process that's nice to do, but rather time-consuming (the affixing-wires part, I mean). From the 21 canvases I'd (way-overly-ambitiously) selected earlier with an idea of displaying them all, I only managed to get wires on some 6-8 or so (these photos show most of them; there are a couple other wired-ones unsnapped at moment).

A bird in the hand -- or a digital image uploaded as opposed to merely hypothesized about -- is worth something, in the bramble-whir of these days. Apolgies for the poor (auto) focus above. Bear with me, friends. More in future.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

"I lost my way" (ghazal)

In the path of long goodbyes     I lost my way
until I find your eyes     I've lost my way!

I thought perchance the moon would illume the pines
but under the moon   I've pined     & lost my way

O hourglass!   what a charmer!     what a cheat!
as sand descends   our time     is lost away

a time for the singing of birds arrives in the land
the voice of the turtle surprises     the castaway

in the deeps of night     the lover is wrung with anguish
in the shallows of dawn     who chimes his loss away?

is engagé or dégagé   more appropriate now?
will the ingenue soon sigh     I've lost the way?

if the buildings & stores implore   hey look!   we're for sale!
will a houseboat hide the mimes     who've lost their way?

when the gymnist twirls his globe     our heads revolve!
with an Atlas recognized     who's lost his way?

if a thousand times     I try to tie one shoe
there's a sock-in-the-mouth surmise     I've lost my way!

the raag of midnight!     who would sing darbari?
when lacking a king     the rhymes   had lost their way

the silent one     proved slippery   like   all get-out!
his pelucid paradigms       re-glossed the way

what if Raphael sets out to intone     your ghazal?
whose alchemy     could sublime   his loss away?


Atlas : the Greek god Atlas, said to shoulder the pillar on which the world rests. Secondarily, of course an atlas is a map (e.g., a map of the world).

darbari : the raag called (for short) darbari (literally, "of the darbar" [aka durbar]) is traditionally attributed to the singer Tansen, a gifted & prized musician in Emperor Akbar's court.

engagé & dégagé (French) : engagement & detachment

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Hermitage (epigram 3)

The sadness of the world is but a phrase
within the cinema-dream of recollection
the pool if still enough for some reflection
describes an old & sylvan hermitage

open (door & book) [boomerang]

I open the door   of speaking words to you
& there you sit   within the room of words
the window has   a green & vernal view
one notices   a sense of trees & birds
your presence &   your absence keep a table
it's set with china   & a glass of dew
beside the glass?   a book perchance of fable
I open the book   it's speaking words to you

within the book of   speaking words to you
rest many a tale   difficult to parse
a woodblock picture   is the picture new?
the river flows   with images though sparce
perchance a boat?   perhaps a folkish flute
a horizontal   happenstance of blue?
a sky for hints of cloud   a bough for fruit
amid the book of   speaking words to you

Monday, October 17, 2005

De/Reconstructing Mata Hari [dance preview]

Got email just now from Nejla Yasemin Yatkin, noting her new solo multimedia thing upcoming at Dance Place, titled as above. I've been wanting to see Nejla's work for past couple years: since meeting her at the said venue. I was there for a dance-film event with my choreographer-friend Vladimir Angelov. Vladimir is Bulgarian. Nejla is a mix of Turkish and German. This genetic blend works well for her: her striking, unusual look makes one curious about what happens when she takes on the "large but intimate canvas" (so to say) of an evening-length solo dance/theatre performance. What does she think about, what express, how express it? If I manage to get to the show (early November), I'll let you know. The blurb notes:
The name Mata Hari evokes many images: exoticism, eroticism, dance, espionage, nudity, feminism, criminal proceedings; most of all, the name evokes confusion and uncertainty. Who was she? What was she? Experience Yatkin’s unique use of ancient myths, Eastern dance traditions, contemporary dance, cinema techniques, poetry, physical and psychological theories to unravel the mystery of Mata Hari in this world premiere performance . . .
This memorable empigram is attributed to Mata Hari:
The dance is a poem of which each movement is a word.

"Hello!" (ghazal)

You who discern all things       & say Hello!
what word could pauperize kings       like your Hello?

You for whom the stars are charming toys
what cosmonaut out-springs       in your Hello?

Because of you     courageous deeds are dared
the ending of all things       is your Hello!

In general       I struggle night & day
yet specificitings       has your Hello!

The pinball wizard learns the art in blindfold
who hears the dongs & dings     of your Hello?

Beneath the sea       a pearl (they say) abides
no foot to shore-life clings       in your Hello!

You read us letters from a distant friend
puissant are the wings       of your Hello!

The bee is so befraught with honey's labor
the meddler feels the stings of her   Hello!

Autumnal clouds a'drift through languorous skies
are searching for the springs       of your Hello!

I peer into the glass of such a pir
each glint of me she brings exclaims   Hello!

I'll carol your fond name from land to land
my wayward language clings     to your Hello!

Ardeo!     in the path of long goodbyes
what word (while short) so sings     like her Hello!

specificitings :   neologism pron. like "specificity" w/ "-tings" [gerund = "bringing into a state of specificity"]

pinball wizard :   may suggest Pete Townsend's eponymous song

pir (Urdu) :   literally old, and oftentimes signifying saint

"so brief the hours" (ghazal)

Too swift the days & years       so brief the hours
too soon the dawn appears       so brief the hours

We started out on foot       our pride was leisure
O train! the station nears       so brief the hours

I used to view a decade as a mountain!
the molehill disappears       so brief the hours

A proper raag requires more than an hour
three-minute-raag pioneers?       so brief the hours

One phrase could take a life       why speak of paragraphs?
the bookshelf raises fears       so brief the hours

Paul Bowles desired to live far from New York
eternity in Tangiers?       or brief the hours?

The Peloponnesian war consumed three decades
but when hits home one spear       how brief the hours

The morning mushroom lasts a single morn
O heaven with its spheres!       how brief the hours

We'd entered school       aspiring for a doctorate
the doc   his voice why clears?       so brief the hours

The sun had barely set in the western sky
already chanticleers?       how brief the hours

I accept a thousand chores       & manage three
to do a fourth one cheers       so brief the hours

When Raphael resolved to build a house
he bought one door of tears       so brief the hours

Unfortunately, this poem employs a good deal less hyperbole than I would wish. I post it here both as an example of what I understand (and aspire to) with regard to "the English ghazal," -- and furthermore as an implicit apology to the many good people awaiting things from me! (Hopefully I'll even manage a 5th or 6th task, as time's carpet unfolds a little further.)

Regarding the American expatriate writer Paul Bowles, see e.g. here.

"Al most Touch ing" (Micheline Frank artwork)

A few days ago, in two posts here (Landscape with figure and Brianna as Buddha), I sketched stories of my participation in a congenial artists' circle, and something about my current experiments in figurative painting. It may be some while yet before I get many other images of my own paintings blogged. Meanwhile, just now I've received an email notice of the seasonal group exhibit (an open studio showing) we'll be doing soon.

The email came from Micheline Klagsbrun Frank -- host of our little group. Her studio is in the 52 O Street Studios building. This is one of four such buildings participating in the NoMA Fall Open Studios (NoMA signifying "North of Massachusetts Avenue" -- the inevitable acronyming following the antecedent naming-model of SoHo ("South of Houston Street"), the archetypal erstwhile-warehouse-turned-arts neighborhood in downtown Manhattan).

Accompanying Micheline's email happened to be an image showing a detail from one of her works. It seems suitable to show that image here. Digital photography and web presentation can conspire to bring forth some qualities in visual art. (Many things may be lost, others at times gained, in the translation to cyber-viewing.)

The painting's full title is Al most Touch ing: Violet-Rose 1 (mixed media on paper, 2002). I believe it's one from a series of her works that bear a relationship to tales from Greek mythology (but don't recollect which specific story).

As for the NoMA Fall Open Studios, in case there are a few readers of this blog in the Washington, DC area, here's details:
Saturday-Sunday, October 22-23, 12:00-5:00pm, at:
52 O Street NW
411 New York Avenue NW
443 I Street NW (Art Studios)
57 N Street NW (Fine Arts)
All four are former warehouse buildings now given over to artist studios. The printed announcement-postcard includes a blurb encouraging one to visit and "be a part of the other DC -- the art world beyond the Mall." But some other day here, perhaps we'll look at a few things at said Mall, too. Only by enjoying both monde & demimonde can one hope for a complete education, no?

Sunday, October 16, 2005

auto-blogo-graffiti / technorati tagging / "What would Jesus blog?" (boomerang poem)

a note before dawn
Been tinkering with a treehouse
it rests before your eyes
been tacking links to branches
& scrawling one surprise
graffiti (as I phrase it)
scroll downward & appraise it
you're squinting at the mellow?
well I'm a happy fellow

Last night I registered w/ Technorati, and tagged this blog for English Ghazals. This poses a dilemma. Either I should (on 2nd thought) presto-chango the blogo-tag (moderately tagging only the scant particular post), or alternatively -- for sheer moral rigor, intellectual seriousness, and um, et cetera -- oughtn't I (repeatedly & liberally, if not to say forthwith) post some more, like, you know -- English ghazals?
The tecnorati tag discretely gleaming
what English ghazal was your psyche scheming?
the treehouse -- stood it ready for the guest?
the tag-o-brag required some redeeming
Mayhap I'll do something about this situation in future days.

As you might be knowing ;-), blogo-spam is the new trend percolating in the lower tiers of electro-evolution. To this very post, I received a comment whose patent purpose was to point me (or you) to some website where we might procure loans for things like building materials. It's true I had just been writing about a treehouse (a thing for which some literalist might presume I needed tangible materials, and ergo, perchance, funds). It's also true that my stalled entrepreneurialisms could stand some cash-infusion butress. The commentor might have intuited all this. And I might be the Queen of England.

My reason for the above prefatory note, however, involves neither treehouses, nor building materials, nor blogo-spam (except in passing). Amazingly, the gratuitous advertisement stuck its foot in the door mentioning Jesus (of all people). The post was pleased to begin with the sentence (or, I guess, rhetorical question) I've memorialized in my "boomerang poem" (as I call this form) seen below. That curious poser was followed by news that some conference, somewhere -- apparently in the real world as we say -- had recently convened for purposes of collectively pondering the conundrum and its implications.

I salute their efforts, and apologize to the construction-stuffs loan-offerer for deleting her comment before tipping my hat. I have, anyway, consructed a poem out of all that, I present it not on loan, but for use without limitation. It may endure only as long as the morning mushroom (as Zhuang-ze might say) -- but that seems true of many things.

Let me anyway tip my hand (if not hat), and w/o more ado reveal the ditty occasioned as I've now described.
What would Jesus blog?
is this the burning question?
I think I'll ask a frog
if he has some suggestion
the frog replies in pablum
best suited to a bog
eluding thus the problem
of what would Jesus blog?

What would Jesus blog?
I'm properly perplexed!
were Gog & old Magog
by such an issue vexed?
but one might wonder next
where would Athena jog?
her cellphone gets the text
-- whatever Jeez may blog

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Saddness (epigram 2)

whatever you say it listens
embracing its reticent lovers
autumnally shedding its covers
wherever you turn it glistens

Muse Ballade Impromptu

I'm not messems a floozie for the Muse
(the Muse methinks is decorous & choosy)
her methods might resemble talking blues
(I'm crying all the way to the jacuzzy)
but say again what was your question? scusi
does "poetry" mean nothing left to lose?

Some babble with a bottle full of booze
while others more abstemious refusie
one pays in many ways the varied dues:
one doesn't get a waiver -- if you're rusey
you might perchance perfect poetic doozie
you might as well: there's little left to lose

The lawyer with the ornery client sues
the golden-throated crooner grows enthusie
the lover in a thousand letters woos
the patient gets impatient when he's woozy
antiquity returns! & you're its newsie?
read all about what wasn't left to lose

Flash-drafted yesterday (amid blogo-comments, but now revised), when a visitor (courteously & flatteringly) asked, "Are you a disciple of the Muse or what?" The poem's first line takes up (via disposing of) merely one (of myriad possible) "or what"s. While this might not (far as I'm aware) follow some established ballad form, I've filched the word ballade (ignoring the specific form) as hat-tip to François Villon's ballades (some trace tincture of which I'd be pleased to imagine might infuse itself into this oddment of a poem). This Villon mention now reminds of Merwin's superb poem "Search Party" (in his volume Travels) -- directly modelled on a (likewise superb) Villon ballade. Perhaps I'll expand on that thought in some future blogo-musing. ("Search Party" I'd count among my fave poems.)

But back to the present specimen. I feel some justification for neologisms "refusie" and "enthusie" –- when recollecting Robbie Burn's "wee little mousie" in its "housie." Newsie, woozy, floozie and doozie are well-known & scarcely demand apology; for the Italian scuzi [pardon moi] I need proffer no excuse. N'est pas?

Riding in morning cab with a printout of this blogopost, I changed two words -- bringing into the poem both "decorous" and the (I presume) new coinage "rusey." Am particularly happy w/ the latter word -- it's both more rusey & more choosy than the word ("choosy" in fact) that erstwhile inhabited its seat. Whether the spelling should be rusey or rusy (or rusie) seems a question.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Happiness (epigram 1)

like poison it's fearsomely effectual
a smidgeon might alter you forever
it touches each shade of endeavor
though shy of the bright intellectual

Thursday, October 13, 2005

regarding "as" in Annie Zaidi's "Celebration"

about this matter of shallow silence....

Rereading this poem, it occurs to me how pitifully impoverished is my vocabulary for zeroing in on certain interesting techniques of language. There should be words for many things that either don't have technical words, or anyway I don't know 'em.
Here's an example:
Often, I go looking
for a silence as shallow as ambition
Talk about complex. Presto! the utterance insinuates itself into a crucial position between expected & unexpected, conventional & novel, unintuitive & its opposite. In one micro-leap, it's performed a macro-astonishment -- but so stealthily we might scarcely notice what curious thing it's accomplished, how it's rewired or reprogrammed expectation.

Conventionally, "silence" is "deep"; who's heard of (or much thought to mention) a shallow silence? Ambition, presumably, can be deep or shallow. If shallow, perchance it's shallow due to the shallowness of its objectives. Alternatively, it might be shallow if it's just not very strong. So ambition apparently can be shallow in those differing ways. The shallowness of ambition might furthermore reflect back (in several ways) on the assumed shallowness or depth of those who entertain it.

But silence. Well, cannot silence have shallowness?
Such a silence (a shallow silence), what would be its characteristics?

These are among the questions drawn into the ambit of the poem by the poet's quick phrase a silence as shallow as ambition.

The desirability of this sort of silence (that it's an object of search) undoubtedly gives us clues to its qualities and character. That line takes us to other destinations, but I'd like to linger on the prestidigitation of Zaidi's "as."

That rapid operation -- the swift invocation of an extensive (metaphysical / ontological / poetical) scenery-change -- serves to remind how powerful & complicated a tool is this trope of the simile: how large can be the linkage of the tiny word as:

like a connecting wire that suddenly joins people on different continents, as connects far-distant meanings. Sometimes with electric consequence.

autumn haiku

the poems that fell
were never anthologized
winter drew a blank

[written after reading another haiku on this extensive thread]

I hear the drizzle
from inside my studio
raindrops are waiting

rain-sounds growing
I like to listen
from where I am

let me linger
for two more minutes
the day will wait

because of rain-sounds
the beauty of this season
it reaches deeper

they call this autumn
everything receives a name
dying has nuance

Brianna as Buddha

In blog yesterday, I described the painting group I've been lucky to be a part of for the past couple years. And in a comment, I elaborated about one of the models who'd come to sit for our group one evening; perhaps that was nine months ago? I know it was around the time of anti-globalisation demonstrations of some sort: a theme Brianna -- the girl -- waxed verbose about. (Whether she'd lately been jailed, or was about to be -- those details of her tale are a blur now. Of course the model doesn't talk when sitting; but we have a few breaks -- e.g. every half hour.)

Before she ran off, our sitter snapped pictures of the various paintings we'd all done. Here's one she emailed of my painting from the session. I daresay the visage might bear only faint resemblance to the sitter. (In my quick-sketch oilpaint method, I don't usually achieve even the questionable verisimilitude that I might be able to get if working over a longer period of time on a painting.) This, anyway, gives some notion of my style (presumably). Typically, the surround (background) isn't at all naturalistic; it's an imagined / improvised portion of an else figurative work (in this case merely diffuse, but sometimes more detailed). The image is assuredly imperfect as representation of the girl who sat. Overall -- and particularly in this one-session oil-sketch method -- my "untutored" (self-taught) art might nod some ways in direction of nature; but it tends to imagine its own version of things. What the eye sees is a beginning point, but not necessarily the destination. The brush has its own ideas to follow.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

cities of peace

Shortly, I'll be editing video about Ellen Franks's remarkable new series of paintings -- tapes (raw footage) arrive by Fed.Ex. Friday. So many video projects are "in progress" (problem with video: easier to shoot things than to complete editing; this is a burden in my life at present). Deadline pressure sometimes serves to get one focused. In this case: needed for show in November.

The footage (showing work in Ellen's atelier) was shot by Don Lenzer -- noted cinematographer. (Ellen says he's quite good.) In his filmography, I'm astonished to see he shot Woodstock (1970). So: he's been a documentary cinematographer for 35 years -- starting w/ Woodstock. Now, this short work on Cities of Peace. The cities (depicted in large-scale paintings) include Jerusalem, Kabul, Baghdad and Beijing. All have been sites of major human conflict, and nerve centers of history. Ellen is dynamic. The video should be likewise.

There'll be another, final shoot later in October.

Landscape with figure

Once a week, I join a circle of painters downtown. For upwards of 3 hours, we share the relaxed studio ambiance, drawing or painting (each from a differing angle & in medium of choice) a nude model. This figurative painting setup is doubtless akin to what's found in art schools. Here, of course, there's no teacher, nor instruction, no correction; we work as we please. Irene often favors feet (various media). Yahyo has been making strides w/ acrylics. Renato does meticulously realistic, large-scale detailed portraits & figures in light colored pencil. Micheline (who lends us the use of her studio for this once-a-week gathering: she's been doing this for better part of 2 decades; she also serves wine, and spins a superb array of CDs) -- she's typically working on handmade papers: sketches that she then sometimes expands into paintings.

Me, I've consistenly been doing oil sketches: one new one each week. I use a canvas as my pallete; then, at end of the session, spread paint & damar varnish all over the canvas (erstwhile palette): it thus is prepared (with this ground) for use in the following week's oil sketch. So these are "quick" paintings done essentially in one session: a method that's not traditional for oilpainting; but I've developed this way of working, and it seems to encourage some manner of growth for me.

It stands at opposite end of how I was painting a few years back. In those days, I'd paint the same canvas again & again & again -- layer upon layer. Typically, I might paint daily for about 2 months before reaching an end (if I even reached an end) with that canvas and proceeding to the next. This approach became most extreme with two small "imaginary portraits"; each of those I worked on for better part of a year -- small works on paper (thick paper that became very thick w/ paint), about one foot square.

So the shift to a one-sitting session-and-it's-done method, was a change.

Late tonight, I'll append a few snapshots of my last-night's sketch: the figure with (imaginary) landscape. It's on a stretched canvas, 6 inches x 36 inches. The landscape owes something (a little) to the year (in college) when I studied Chinese art history: landscape painting of the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. James Cahill was in those days an inspiring lecturer (long since retired). I later learned (from one of his grad students), those years (more than quarter-century ago) were later deemed the golden era of his teaching. He'd been associated with the Freer Gallery (Asian art gallery here in Washington, DC) before migrating to teach us all at UC Berkeley. His daughter, Sarah, a few years later was my arts-journalism colleague (we both were starting to write about music for the East Bay Express). She's become a notable concert pianist. But I digress.

Watch this space (as they say) for glimpses of the sketch.

[n.b.: might be a day or two before I get photos off my phone & onto this site. life's a bit busy of late.]

Riparian Ghazaliyat

I playfully address to you    a ghazal
pursuant to that request from you    a ghazal

time's coils are darkling   you of the swirling clockwork
O Kal!    might I suggest to you    a ghazal?

each day (like noon & midnight)    could one proffer
the highest & the best to you    in ghazal?

when minutes & hours unite in plangent namaste
radifs can gong (no jest to you)    in ghazal

whoever should dive    into the shaira's sheets
could dream in the cozy nest of you    O ghazal

Ardeo!    Plato's cave remains your jailhouse?
nice show!    but where's the rest of you    O ghazal?

if the play of rhyme suggests the clang of chains
I'm bound to try the test of you    O ghazal!

once you had magicked into this miniature mirror
what priya's nazaar were caressing you    O ghazal?

Ardeo!    why do you pile up teasing babblement?
what Tower of Babel were best for you?    a ghazal?

when torrents rush toward oceans    listen Ardeo
embrace this safety-vest for you    a ghazal

when you danced for Herod    losing so many veils
who lost his head for the breast of you    O ghazal?

when Ardeo was twirling his hula-hoop in dim twilight
did it turn to a garland blessed for you    O ghazal?

so she asked for a tumbler?    why do you haul a keg?
no keg    a sagaar works best for you    my ghazal

if dil-ki-dard describes the heart that wakens
what pain will be expressed in you    O ghazal?

the pattern of the world    which baffled sages
resolved its mottledness in you    O ghazal

in autumn    every vernal draem when challenged
recalled its eager zest in you    O ghazal

the poet died    the music lingered longer
he left his lone bequest to you    a ghazal

when the river conveyed my wave to the distant ocean
I heard its laughing crest in you    as a ghazal

if the dole of poetry charmed your youth Ardeo
come extoll this old-man's festival    the ghazal

[poem revised 10/13/05]

I'm illiterate vis-a-vis Urdu; yet I flatter myself with the notion I grasp two or three words of that noble language. Not satisfied with this dubious conceit of "erudition" (& to add insult to injury), I dapple my so-called ghazal with these trappings & scraps from the plate of antiquity. Those who know better can chuckle; those who are kind, can point out my errors. That said, I'll provide a paltry glossory, so that my fellow Urdu-illiterates may marvel at the copper coin I display, and those with actual bank accounts can shake their heads at the audacity of show-offs.

Another way of casting that fishnet would be: I felt disposed toward peppering the poem with a few Urdu words for the pleasure of polylingual play (and as a kind of shorthand pointing to a mesh of ideas), but I should not wish (for so doing) to leave in the dark those unfamiliar with such terms. If my verses befuddle, perplex, or baffle, they should do so for far better (or much worse) reasons than that!

[Besides the Urdu, I've tossed in a few additional gloss-able terms to boot.]

ghazal : a poem like this ;-); here's one outline of the form
ghazaliyat : a collection of ghazals
Kal : Time (also means: black, I think)
namaste : a gesture of worship / greeting / blessing / prayer, with fingers & palms of the two hands joined together vertically at the level of chest or head
radif : the given, repeating phrase always found in ghazal poetry
shaira : poet (cognate to sher [a poem / a couplet]
Ardeo : the present poet's nom-de-plum / takhallus / pen-name (pronounced ar-DAY-oh (in Greek, Ardeo signifies a god [deo] of fire [ard]; in Latin/Italian, it means "I love")
Plato's cave : (I'd suggest Google)
priya : beloved
nazaar : gaze / glance / look / blessing
Tower of Babel : (Google)
dance - Herod - veils - head : (Google)
sagaar : sea or ocean
dil-ki-dard : the dard [pain / anguish] of the dil [heart / one's inward nature]

(When I wanted to double-check dard, I discovered this handy Urdu-poerty-words website.)

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Films of interest (2): the SAWNET list

Following up curiousity about Khamosh Pani (noted in blog below) and that film's writer, Paromita Vohra [on left], a quick google [used as verb] brought me to the SAWNET [South Asian Women's Network] filmmakers list. Which seems a compendium of notables.

Email from Mumbai (Janet Fine)

I'd lately sent a chit to my friend-in-Mumbai, Janet Fine. She replied with a quick note which I'll take liberty of reproducing. To wit:
dear david,
years ago you invented the blog when you were to write an e mail report for indian express and editor nandita now editor of Elle Magazine said it was too advanced to comprehend. well my internet was off for four days, strange
but did write and read more and now getting ready to leave,
today the Vet to cut the cat's nails and different meetings
to go and flow like Michaelangelo
all love from a city that never sleeps well Janet

So according to Janet, I invented the (idea of the) blog? Per what I've heard, she may've coined the word Bollywood. (Janet is a film journalist; but I've not gotten the exact story of her possible neologism-coinage. It's amusing enough as unverified tidbit.) From one unsung neologist/conceptualist to another: grazie!

I certainly didn't invent the blog. But it's true enough that when I'd initially taken a dive into internetted life (circa 1996) -- which in those days seemed to consist for me more of email listserv activity than of web-surfing (let alone blogging), I assembled for Janet some complex email reportage based (I think) on fragments of correspondence from the Buffalo Poetics List (or something). She floated the idea of a newspaper column reporting on internet wanderings (or the like). The idea didn't quite fly.

Nostalgic-hat-tips to all waters under myriad bridges, most of which are -- like thoughts themselves -- finally impersonal (sans ownership): in endless flow in our mysterious world.

films of interest (1): Khamosh Pani ("Silent Waters")

Three years ago, I conceived the idea of launching a DVD production and distribution venture, and began work in that direction. I learned the ropes of DVD authoring, and managed to purchase (via a lease-to-buy deal -- paying $260 per month, it'll all be paid off in a few more months) professional authoring software [Sonic Scenarist]. I explored what works interested me, contacted filmmakers, etc. This began to get more specific when (about a year ago) I focused the diverse ideas into a first tangible project: a DVD series styled Digital Atelier -- comprised entirely of works produced in digital video. I boiled it down to an initial list of six such works, which I felt I could release at the modest pace of one every two months, for a first year's series. If things worked well, we could expand to one Digital Atelier title per month in a 2nd year. Sales to be primarily thru the OtherShore website. If I can attract a mere couple hundred-or-so regular subscribers, the operation becomes solvent and self-funding. And it then can grow in many directions.

Some of those further directions include expanding into other series (I've several up my sleeves, waiting in the conceptual wings), as well as small-press book publishing (will discuss the latter in future -- the Rasika Editions imprint).

I was gearing up to launch Digital Atelier in the (now bygone) springtime, but (stubbing toes on various hurdles) have not yet gotten it out the gate. I work fulltime (as a wordprocessor in law firm), have other activities & obligations, and furthermore ran into cashflow issues etc.; the thing got delayed, -- and I've a scad of additional work to complete before it happens. Still, we're not so far from manifest reality; God-willing, I'll get this in gear for initial DVD releases starting to roll out circa early next year.

Later, I'll launch a separate blog relating to this DVD initiative. My (sadly) back-burnered (OtherShore) website meanwhile needs to get overhauled & fully developed. The purchase interface hasn't yet been designed; and many other aspects need to be developed as well. After I return from tvavels (which will consume most of November) -- if not sooner -- I'll direct full focus to that project.

The apparently patient (or resigned) superb filmmakers I've lined up for the initial Digital Atelier salvo haven't been bugging me about this; but I'll need to approach them with a rich cart of apologies-for-delay, cheer-for-future, and general enthus & energy: resources I feel remain at my beck. For the world's riches are with us, even if our hands are slow learners of the craft & dance of fruit-distribution. The trees are rife, the boughs hang low, the fruit is superb -- delicious & nutritious! And some time, it seems, remains still in the hourglass, although the sand does flow.

Anyway, meanwhile:
Herewith I'll launch a blog series [films of interest], noting certain films that come to attention -- for general interest, and perhaps (also) as potential titles to ponder for poss. DVD release in the US (when OtherShore finally gets in gear).

A blog is handy for such notes & tendrils! What with COMMENTS annotation, those who've seen the film (or the filmmakers themselves on occasion) might perhaps offer a word of feedback about things I've not (as yet) seen. In hayday of my early stab at DVD entreprenerialism, I would tend immediately to track down & email the filmmakers and launch into rosy discussions of release possibilities. I'm a bit more moderate in thinking right now (aware of limitations & things-yet-to-do); but that need not full-stop the flow of awareness & curiousity: one should keep eyes open and ears to the ground anent what's afoot in the quietly-growing realm of this remarkably rich world medium.

I could (if I took 5-6 hours) write ins-&-outs nonstop about this topic ad nauseum (or ad absurdum -- or, anyway, at some length). But I'll not just now go into all the tales, ideas, and works I've stashed up various sleeves (in a metaphorical shirt that must've been fitted for a being with many more than 2 upper extremities). Let me unfold such things in later musings. Likely in OtherShore's (not yet manifest) own blog ... further along into our here-autumn or anon-winter.

Now, I'll note one new (to me) film-of-interest. Got the report from a blog just now, from blogger in Delhi self-styled Purple Passion, here.

The film's reviewed here.
Director is Sabiha Sumar (born 1961).
Writer is Paromita Vohra.
Khamosh Pani. Silent Waters. A lovely title. A Pakistani village. Fiction, 99 minutes.
Khamosh Pani played at Rotterdam: a festival whose selections are oftentimes worth noticing.

For Digital Atelier's first title -- Jon Jost's London Brief -- I'm designing a booklet to accompany the DVD, featuring a talk Jost gave at that festival in 1999. Jost described the technology & advantages of DV [digital video}, as a low-budget filmmaking medium of promise. His observations -- at the remove of a few years now -- remain worth noting, appreciating, and holding up against the pattern of work that's been done (most of it not adequately available to its potential audience) in this swift interim of half a dozen years.

But now: have you seen Khamosh Pani? Care to share thoughts & impressions! (in handy comment), hmmm?

with thanks,

Sunday, October 09, 2005

my Frank Rich moment of (obscure) fame

A couple weeks ago, the New York Times (online) did what presumably they were pondering doing since they (long years ago) required registration as a condition for reading (free) their paper online. They began charging. But they've rolled this out in an unexpected way. Only certain, select (and, for some readers, most-desirable) content is under lock & key -- accessible to their new, paid subscribers; the rest remains open to freebie registrants. Well, they've long had in place paid access to archived articles of all sorts. What's new is the charge for current content. The payee-only treasure? Op-ed & sports pages.

I'd already been paying for privilege of (easier) access to over the past year; I fairly well can't live sans NYT daily opinionizers. In gone years I've subscribed to the physical paper; anyway: online access seems a modest habituation (whose withdrawal symptoms one needn't feel morally compelled to test). This subscription program flies under banner of TimeSelect. (Even the hoary NYT fell prey to the argot of a ComboLocution. WhatsNext?)

All that, mind you, is preface to my story. (I've frankly no burning opinion to dole out vis-a-vis the paper's attempt to nuance the to-charge-or-not-to-charge question.)

Besides the aforesaid lock-&-key items, TimeSelect will include some content that's internet-only. I've noticed (so far) one such item. Frank Rich -- erstwhile veteran theatre critic, more lately turned once-a-week (Sundays) politics commentator -- now returns to his old beat of the culture dodge/entertainment biz. In a small way. Rather than doling out his own views (as of yore), he'll raise each week some American culture issue, make remarks, and solicit input from readers (via email). Rich then selects a few responses and includes them in a subsequent roundup.

So it's a tid-bits online letters-to-Rich sampler. The hoi polloi speak; vox populi, sort of.

Rich's first topic tossed on table (couple weeks back) was (I now reveal with stage-shudder if not drum-roll): the fall television season.

So I dashed off a response to the good gent. Was bewildered to see email from TimeSelect several days thereafter. What's up? They ask me to confirm I'm me, wasn't paid to send 'em my email, & am not sending it elsewhere [to rival outlets]. In short, Rich wishes to publish my pearly words.

Was planning to display here said post (which this evening I noted in the NYTimes online -- dated from Oct.3). That was my concept for the current blog-bit. But come to think of it, I signed away rights to "publish" the paragraph. If verbatim is verboten, presumably paraphrase is permissible.

I allowed to this effect: Since I don't watch TV, it appears I'll need to sit out this Rich chatathon till another topic's raised, hmm? And yet, and yet -- this "raises a meta-question" (he says, self-quoting and arching an eyebrow), about why so many ostensibly intelligent people waste so much time watching TV-things scarcely worth the bother?

And (waxing almost thoughtful now): whether other media (poetry, theatre, dance, music) might not perchance suffer from the mass national energy-drain? hmmm?

So this gripping rhetorical eloquence found airing in the recondite precincts aforenoted & described. For any who've bought into the program, vide: here (Frank Rich / Everyone's a Critic / Oct.3, 2005).

Apologies if the above seems a joke sans punchline. Maybe you can deem it a shaggy dog tale? Or maybe I should stick with poetry.

[revised 10/10/05]

Sivakami Velliangiri's "Indian Very Contemporary"

The above-noted poet has today posted a wonderfully-crafted, strong-sounding poem here.

Further to the discussion of specific allusions in poetry -- here's a case in point. The poem catches my interest and has a moving feeling to it, although most of the (clearly specific) allusions are unknown / opaque to me. I'm clueless thus about some of the poem's more detailed meanings. Such a poem, if "studied" line by line with somebody in the know (providing requisite clues & parsings), would afford a far-more-rich (nuanced) reading. This seems a case where the critical discussion of a poem (in some form -- whether embedded in a close-reading review, or in footnotes, hyperlinks, or whatnot) would be valuable.

Now I'll return to my Sunday chores.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

"I write for a Google generation" (villanelle)

"I write for a Google generation"
the prof. hath explained to the poster
"we float! -- our post-biblio nation"

land-lubbers who get information
outside the domain of the hoster
can't grok with the Goog generation

on the Danube or from a space station
in forest or in life as a coaster
they're adrift -- this post-biblio nation

are references shy? use the suasion
of an engine compiling the moster
of goo for the Googling generation

could you get me a Googlish gig? hasten!
the best in the quest is a toaster
who'll drink to a post-bookish nation

are ya wonderin' just what in tarnations
inspires this diatribe-roaster?
she writes for a Goog generation
they're afloat! -- a post-biblio nation

Obviously a light / comic item (a bit too close to dogeral to warrant the word "poem"). A poet-plus-academic who styles herself River has favored this blog with commentary. In comments on her own blog -- in course of exchange about allusions in a poem of hers (and in poetry generally, and concerning the to-footnote-or-not-to-footnote issue) -- River allowed thus & to wit:
Oh mama! 

I suppose I write for a google-generation! ~:-O
[the first exclamation isn't directly germane to the above villanelle; rather, it expresses something akin to dismay at the present blogger's excess commentary; it seemed too quotable though to ellide here]. This Google generation bit seemed to call for memorializing & elaborating. Hence the villanelle.

In context (in brief): the intended sense of the original quote is: "...ergo, I don't need to append a bunch of footnotes; my google-gen readers can Google anything they don't get / any (e.g.) historical allusion they fail to recognize." Which appears (on the whole) true.