Friday, May 26, 2006

Keats on the Big Screen

Who do you think will play Keats? I'm thinking Johnny Depp.

Jane Campion unveils drama on poet John Keats

New Zealand filmmaker Jane Campion will direct a drama based on 19th century poet John Keats.
At the Cannes International Film Festival, Campion said she was writing the screenplay for Bright Star, which follows the story of a three year romance between Keats and Fanny Browne.
The relationship came to an untimely end when Keats's life was cut short at age 25 in 1821.
Campion, who is based in Sydney, told The Hollywood Reporter that British poet Andrew Morton is working with her on the script, which has been commissioned and will be produced by Pathe UK. No production date has been set.
Short film part of UN feature

Campion was in Cannes this week with her new short film, The Water Diary, which screened yesterday out of competition.
The Water Diary is one of a series of eight short films commissioned by the United Nations that combine into a feature, called 8, highlighting issues of poverty, hunger, education and health in developing countries.
The short was shot near Cooma in NSW and tells the story through a child's eyes about living through a drought. It stars an unknown cast of children alongside well-known actors such as Justine Clarke and Russell Dykstra.
Film credits

Campion won the Palme d'Or in 1982 with her short Peel. She won the award again in 1993 for The Piano, for which she later won an Oscar for original screenplay.
Her other film credits include The Portrait of a Lady, An Angel At My Table, In The Cut and Holy Smoke.
The 59th Cannes International Film Festival closes on Sunday.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Damn It Feels Good To Be James Burke

I was doing some internet sleuthing on James Burke, the creator of the documentary series Connections, and found that he has started a KnowledgeWeb Project. I can't wait to see how this turns out.

"The Knowledge Web today is an activity rather than a web site—an expedition in time, space, and technology to map the interior landscape of human thought and experience. Thanks to the work of a team of dedicated volunteers, it will soon be an interactive space on the web where students, teachers, and other knowledge seekers can explore information in a highly interconnected, holistic way that allows for an almost infinite number of paths of exploration among people, places, things, and events."

And this is just funny.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Sunset Limited @ Steppenwolf

A few months ago I heard that Steppenwolf was putting on a play written by my favorite author, Cormac McCarthy (Blood Meridian, Suttree, All The Pretty Horses, etc..), so I bought a couple tickets. It was in the Garage Theater which is where they put on the more "cutting edge" shows. When we got there I was amazed to see the man himself, Mr. McCarthy or as I now call him, Big Mac. Well actually I was a bit intimidated so I sent Maggie to get his autograph on the playbill. I am a wuss, yes. Then he sat right in front of us! It really is amazing how being in the presence of someone like that can turn you into a blubbering pool of schmutz. The play itself was amazing. The basic premise is a religous black man saves a non-religous white man from killing himself. The rest is a dialogue between the two. I really can't recommend it enough. Anymore would give away too much and you really must go and see it. This is our second Steppenwolf play and we can't get enough. Each individual performance is such a once and a lifetime event. Yes, you can go the next day and see it again, but it isn't the same play. And the theater only sat about 80 people so it really is an intimate affair. I want to go see the Don Delillo play Love Lies Bleeding, but it is a little more pricey so we'll have to go with student standby tickets.

Austin Pendleton (left) and Freeman Coffey (right)

Cormac McCarthy

After the play I got the nerve to ask him (Big Mac) to sign our other playbill for my friend Steve, who may be an even bigger admirer of his than myself. But of course nothing of any intelligence would come out of my mouth. I said something about enjoying his work, shook his hand and then ran away like a wee child.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Kurt Cobain

I thought this was kind of interesting (from the poetry foundation site).

Desire to Burn
by Tim Appelo

Kurt Cobain was a tenth-grade dropout who bitterly regretted his truncated education. Yet he was a scholar in his weird way, and not just of obscure B-sides. As he noted in his journals, “When I read, I read well.” Cobain’s poetic mentor was Courtney Love, the fitfully bookish granddaughter of novelist Paula Fox (ranked higher than Bellow, Roth, and Updike by Jonathan Franzen).

Love thrust improving books on him, and some he took to heart. He wrote out lines by the 1920s poet Elinor Wylie in his journals.

He was attracted by Wylie’s doomy voice, scandalous life, and young death by stroke the day after she finished her last book. He would have loved a Wylie line like “My flesh was but a fresh-embroidered shroud,” and these quatrains, about a hero who fled humanity to live in a cave:

If you would keep your soul
From spotted sight or sound,
Live like the velvet mole;
Go burrow underground.
And there hold intercourse
With roots of trees and stones,
With rivers at their source,
And disembodied bones.

But Cobain didn’t read with an open mind. He sought what resonated with his fiercely puritanical disenchantment, and with his plan to get rich and famous “and kill myself like Jimi Hendrix,” which he announced to at least seven friends in junior high school.

We can study his poetical imagination at work by reading the only poem in his published journals, “A Young Woman, a Tree,” by award-winning poet Alicia Ostriker. Cobain’s response to Ostriker’s poem demonstrates that he died by a willful act of misreading.

On page 204 of his journals, he incorporated “A Young Woman, a Tree” into a drawing. It was a page so painfully revealing that reviewers were forbidden to reprint it, presumably on Love’s orders. Cobain took a comic-book version of his life story, tore out the cartoon portrait of his head heroically shrieking his number-one lyric “Here we are now, entertain us,” and drew onto it a rather good expressionist sketch of his emaciated body. The drawing is meant to contrast the muscular comic-book superhero head—the public myth—with the shabby private reality of what he called his “Auschwitz” body, which shamed him.

Above the drawing, he clipped six lines from Ostriker. The girl in the poem envies a tree, whose explosion of fall color makes her own life feel pallid:

Passing that fiery tree—if only she could
Be making love,
Be making poetry,
Be exploding, be speeding through the universe
Like a photon, like a shower
Of yellow blazes—

Cobain places these lines above his self-portrait, which seems to represent a painful absence of creative energy. Ostriker tells me that this is her subject, too. “The poem is from the point of view of a girl who wants to live more intensely than she is doing.” But Cobain stops there, missing the ultimate point of the poem, which is one of endurance. The poem continues:

She believes if she could only overtake
The riding rhythm of things,
Of her own electrons,
Then she would be at rest
If she could forget school,
Climb the tree,
Be the tree,
Burn like that.

So far, Ostriker sounds the same yearning note that Cobain does elsewhere in the journals: “I used to have so much energy and the need to search for miles and weeks for anything new and different. Excitement. I was once a magnet for attracting new offbeat personalities who would introduce me to music and books of the obscure and I would soak it into my system like a rabid sex crazed junkie hyperactive mentally retarded toddler who’s just had her first taste of sugar.” If he didn’t get his idea fix, he got suicidal. When he sought refuge from despair in the creative process, it was a process very like suicidal sehnsucht.

But as the poem continues, the girl lives to learn the true lesson of creativity:

She doesn’t know yet, how could she
That this same need
Is going to erupt every September
And that in 40 years the idea will strike her
From no apparent source,
In a Laundromat
Between a washer and a dryer,
Like one of those electric light bulbs
Lighting up near a character’s head in a comic strip—
There in that naked and soiled place
With its detergent machines,
Its speckled fluorescent lights,
Its lint piles broomed into corners as she fumbles for quarters
And dimes, she will start to chuckle and double over
Into the plastic baskets’
Mountain of wet
Bedsheets and bulky overalls—
Old lady! She’ll grin,
beguiled at herself,

Old lady! The desire to burn is already a burning! How about that!

Maybe Cobain would never have been able to read the redemptive message of the poem. His imagination was all about the moment of explosiveness, not the wisdom of reflection. He felt he had exhausted all creative possibilities: if you think his posthumously released tune “You Know You’re Right” sounds like the same old formula, he felt the same way. In his journals, he sarcastically envisions Nirvana as a washed-up oldies act.

But his biochemistry made him believe from the start that all hope was exhausted before he was born. He writes in his early journals that it’s all been done, there’s no point in music, and yet “it’s still fun to pretend” that his generation could find a living music of its own. As the forbidden page shows, he no longer had the spirit to keep up the pretense. He could not see that his restless questing, his gnawing hunger to create, and his ability to pour that frustration into art was in itself potentially his deepest gift.

“What I wonder is where Cobain would have gotten to if he’d survived,” wrote Ostriker in a recent e-mail. “We are so drawn to the ones who burn out early—some sort of compelling romanticism about death fascinates us—the Cobain cult seems to me very much like the cult of Sylvia Plath as a poet. Passion and power as artists, tangled in poisonous self-contempt, contempt for the world, two sides of the same coin. Here are some lines of Plath’s, from the poem ‘Lady Lazarus’:

Is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.
I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I’ve a call.

“If there’s an afterlife,” writes Ostriker, “I can picture Plath and Cobain prowling through it together.”

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Duino Elegies--Rainer Maria Rilke

The First Elegy

Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels'
hierarchies? and even if one of them pressed me
suddenly against his heart: I would be consumed
in that overwhelming existence. For beauty is nothing
but the beginning of terror, which we are still just able to endure,
and we are so awed because it serenely disdains
to annihilate us. Every angel is terrifying.
And so I hold myself back and swallow the call-note
of my dark sobbing. Ah, whom can we ever turn to
in our need? Not angels, not humans,
and already the knowing animals are aware
that we are not really at home in
our interpreted world. Perhaps there remains for us
some tree on a hillside, which every day we can take
into our vision; there remains for us yesterday's street
and the loyalty of a habit so much at ease
when it stayed with us that it moved in and never left.
Oh and night: there is night, when a wind full of infinite space
gnaws at our faces. Whom would it not remain for--that longed-after,
mildly disillusioning presence, which the solitary heart
so painfully meets. Is it any less difficult for lovers?
But they keep on using each other to hide their own fate.
Don't you know yet? Fling the emptiness out of your arms
into the spaces we breathe; perhaps the birds
will feel the expanded air with more passionate flying.

Yes--the springtimes needed you. Often a star
was waiting for you to notice it. A wave rolled toward you
out of the distant past, or as you walked
under an open window, a violin
yielded itself to your hearing. All this was mission.
But could you accomplish it? Weren't you always
distracted by expectation, as if every event
announced a beloved? (Where can you find a place
to keep her, with all the huge strange thoughts inside you
going and coming and often staying all night.)
But when you feel longing, sing of women in love;
for their famous passion is still not immortal. Sing
of women abandoned and desolate (you envy them, almost)
who could love so much more purely than those who were gratified.
Begin again and again the never-attainable praising;
remember: the hero lives on; even his downfall was
merely a pretext for achieving his final birth.
But Nature, spent and exhausted, takes lovers back
into herself, as if there were not enough strength
to create them a second time. Have you imagined
Gaspara Stampa intensely enough so that any girl
deserted by her beloved might be inspired
by that fierce example of soaring, objectless love
and might say to herself, "Perhaps I can be like her”?
Shouldn't this most ancient of sufferings finally grow
more fruitful for us? Isn't it time that we lovingly
freed ourselves from the beloved and, quivering, endured:
as the arrow endures the bowstring's tension, so that
gathered in the snap of release it can be more than
itself. For there is no place where we can remain.

Voices. Voices. Listen, my heart, as only
saints have listened: until the gigantic call lifted them
off the ground; yet they kept on, impossibly,
kneeling and didn't notice at all:
so complete was their listening. Not that you could endure
God's voice--far from it. But listen to the voice of the wind
and the ceaseless message that forms itself out of silence.
It is murmuring toward you now from those who died young.
Didn't their fate, whenever you stepped into a church in
Naples or Rome, quietly come to address you?
Or high up, some eulogy entrusted you with a mission,
as, last year, on the plaque in Santa Maria Formosa.
What they want of me is that I gently remove the appearance
of injustice about their death--which at times
slightly hinders their souls from proceeding onward.
Of course, it is strange to inhabit the earth no longer,
to give up customs one barely had time to learn,
not to see roses and other promising Things
in terms of a human future; no longer to be
what one was in infinitely anxious hands; to leave
even one's own first name behind, forgetting it
as easily as a child abandons a broken toy.
Strange to no longer desire one's desires. Strange
to see meanings that clung together once, floating away
in every direction. And being dead is hard work
and full of retrieval before one can gradually feel
a trace of eternity. Though the living are wrong to believe
in the too-sharp distinctions which they themselves have created.
Angels (they say) don't know whether it is the living
they are moving among, or the dead. The eternal torrent
whirls all ages along in it, through both realms
forever, and their voices are drowned out in its thunderous roar.

In the end, those who were carried off early no longer need us:
they are weaned from earth's sorrows and joys, as gently as children
outgrow the soft breasts of their mothers. But we, who do need
such great mysteries, we for whom grief is so often
the source of our spirit's growth--: could we exist without them?
Is the legend meaningless that tells how, in the lament for Linus,
the daring first notes of song pierced through the barren numbness;
and then in the startled space which a youth as lovely as a god
has suddenly left forever, the Void felt for the first time
that harmony which now enraptures and comforts and helps us.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Trickster Poetry

Coyotes in Greenwich!

Here hedges are upholstered, each cobblestone
has an appointment, greening boughs aspire
in vain to Tudor style while even ramblers
know their place. And yet, we saw hibiscus
in high alarm, cat-slunk shivering it.

Coyotes invade. They claim to be the truth.
Black bears nose the bougainvillea, moving
eastward, indiscriminate, original.
Our sinks back up, our toilets will not drain,
our nature disobediently tends toward nature.

But we will have no blame, for we attend
our garbage as we always have, bury
and send away what could not prosper here.
In children's books we keep foxes and mice;
where are the Apaches to back us up?

Logically we sleep, though not in comfort
these days. Our wives keep turning in our beds
like roasting meat, the stones call out to us,
campfires fringe the Merritt. In our kitchens
pasta forks bare fangs, pans hang like scalps.

-- Julie Sheehan


There has been a lot of press about Stephen Colbert's performance at the White House Correspondent's Dinner. If you haven't seen it yet check it out here.


A couple weeks ago Dottie got a Urinary Tract Infection. After an emergency vet visit and a goodly amount of worry and money, things seem to be back to normal. After some research I am now a firm believer in giving her high-end canned food. This is a long ways from my childhood of throwing out the cheapest kibble possible to the barn cats. The main problem with kibble is that it has less than 10% moisture and the canned usually has around 75%. Cats evolved by getting almost all moisture from their food so it is almost impossible for a dry food fed cat to get the moisture it needs from a water bowl. This lack of water causes UTI's and a host of other problems. Additives and by-products are also a problem in dry and canned food so I've decided my precious kitty needs the most expensive food possible! We've been feeding her Wellness, but there are other good brands out there. Here are some links that go into the problem in more depth.


  • Max's House

  • Open Letter to Vets

  • Holisticat

  • More Holisticat

  • Cats live twenty years on dehydrated diseased cow parts all the time, but I feel like I should do the best I can since I have her locked up in this apartment.

    Thursday, May 04, 2006

    Evan S. Connell

    I just started reading "Notes From A Bottle Found On The Beach At Carmel" by Evan S. Connell. Wow! is all I can say. I can't wait to try out his other books.

  • More Evan S. Connell
  • Wednesday, May 03, 2006

    Falling George

    Here's a random screen shot from the planet dan website.

  • Georgie
  • Tuesday, May 02, 2006

    Quote Today

    "In a way, words are continually trying to displace our experience." -- Ted Hughes

    Poetry Today

    Barbed Wire

    One summer afternoon when nothing much
    was happening, they were standing around
    a tractor beside the barn while a horse
    in the field poked his head between two strands
    of the barbed-wire fence to get at the grass
    along the lane, when it happened-something

    they passed around the wood stove late at night
    for years, but never could explain-someone
    may have dropped a wrench into the toolbox
    or made a sudden move, or merely thought
    what might happen if the horse got scared, and
    then he did get scared, jumped sideways and ran

    down the fence line, leaving chunks of his throat
    skin and hair on every barb for ten feet
    before he pulled free and ran a short way
    into the field, stopped and planted his hoofs
    wide apart like a sawhorse, hung his head
    down as if to watch his blood running out,

    almost as if he were about to speak
    to them, who almost thought he could regret
    that he no longer had the strength to stand,
    then shuddered to his knees, fell on his side,
    and gave up breathing while the dripping wire
    hummed like a bowstring in the splintered air.

    --Henry Taylor

    Monday, May 01, 2006

    Walter Meayers Edwards

    I've been trying to find out what is going on in this photo by Walter Meayers Edwards. No luck as of yet.

    Does everyone think their "culture" is bland? I want to worship animals. Maybe I would start eating them then. As of now I feel fairly disconnected and wouldn't feel good about eating prepackaged meat stuff. What I wouldn't give for a garden!!