Archive for March, 2010

Fishing post no. 1

March 28, 2010

Since this is the inaugural post, we’ll talk about getting started with flyfishing or to be precise buying gear. Next will will be about learning how to use that gear. If you just want the fishing report, scroll down past this.

The first thing to worry about is what sort of fishing you will do. Different sorts of fishing require different gear-the sort of rig that works like a charm for a little moutain trout stream is probably not enough for largmouth bass bass and a rod that can handle surf-fishing(yes, people do that with fly rods) is massive overkill for sunfish. Here’s a rundown on what goes well for what. Since in fly-fishing most of the work is done by the line itself, the number refers to the rating on the line. Rods are designed to work with specific line weights-a 3 weight rod uses 3 weight line, a 4 weight 4 weight line, and so on. Some people do like to overload the rod, but I’ve never tried it and it could easily be more trouble than it’s worth.
1-2 weight-don’t bother.
3-4 weight-lightweight trout fishing. Good for fishing dries on mountain streams or headwaters.
5-weight-utility trout rod. If you are getting started with trout, pretty much the only thing you really need. Bit heavy for brookies and light for heavier nymph rigs.
6-weight-slightly heavier. Good for heavier trout flies and smallmouth, and some lighter saltwater fishing.
7-8 weight-good for heavier freshwater(bass, shad, other warmwater stuff) and saltwater
9-good for saltwater and some heavy-duty freshwater.
10-weight and above-don’t bother unless really heavy-duty saltwater fishing is involved.
Note how much overlap there is-in most cases, if you have about the right rod you can press it into service. The important thing is to not go overboard. If all you plan on is trout and possibly a little smallmouth, all you need is a 5-weight and possibly a 6 weight.
Reels don’t really matter as much-all they do is hold line so all that really matters is that they’re not too heavy for the rod and hold all your line. If you have a choice between splurging on a rod and splurging on a reel, spurge on a rod.
Leaders-Most leaders are tapered-they thin the further you get from the line. Prepackaged leaders can be found in most any flyshop(an aside-locate the nearest flyshop or if you don’t have one reasonably nearby the fly-fishing guy at your local sporting-goods store), and usually list a taper(6X, 4X) and a length. With taper, the higher the taper the finer the tip of the leader. The exact sort of leader needed depends on the sort of fishing being done; whoever’s in charge of the flyshop can usually give you a good idea what to use. Everyone has their own feelings about leaders, but as long as you have approximatly the right thing on it really doesn’t matter. The fish, after all, are the best judges of rigs.
Flies-this is the important bit. There are about a gajillion different sorts of them, but most fishermen stick to the same dozen or so. The major kinds of flies are dries(floating flies that look like surface insects), nymphs(sinking flies that look like insects), streamers(flies that look like fish) and poppers(hard-bodied surface flies that look like…food, I guess). The local flyshop manager can probably give you an idea what works best in your area. Usually, what happens is that fishermen wind up with 6 flies they fish 75-ish% of the time.
Waders/wading boots/hip boots-you may need them, you may not. Waders go to the chest, hip boots only to the belt. This is also worth splurging on, mostly because a good pair of waders and wading boots are just that much more comfortable. On the latter, make sure to go for cleats and rubber soles because felt soles are being phased out and/or banned in many places.

Right now, the big issue is rain. With record snowmelt, everything’s been up and we need a few days without rain to bring things down. Unfortunately, we can’t seem to get a rain-free week around here. In the trout department, tailwaters(Gunpowder, a bit of the Patuxet) should be mostly fishable but the catcoctin freestones might be touch-and go for a week or two. If you must go there, go for the headwaters and fish brookies since those usually clear quicker. The potomac may or may not rise depending on where exactly it rains. If it only rains in DC, things should be fine, if not then we’re in for higher water and no boat rentals at Fletchers. The fish don’t seem to mind; white perch and hickory shad are showing up, with rockfish probably right behind them. Flourescent green or pink shad darts were the ticket. The catfish are also hitting; someone caught a 30-pounder today. If fletcher’s isn’t renting, you can always fish under chain bridge but be warned that it’s dangerous there. Go with a buddy and rember that if you fall in under the bridge they’ll find you at the bay.

Udate: Shaw and unrelated announcement

March 25, 2010

Today we’ll see ekphrasis(fanc-schmancy word for “when visual arts inspire work in another medium) with the Shaw Memorial.

Agustus St-Gaudens. Memorial to Col. Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Regiment

A couple of things about this monument I’d like to draw your attention too. First of all, the soldiers(and as a quick tour of DC suggests, it’s rather unusal for these monuments to show the common soldiers) are shown on the march rather than in battle and the horse is on the same level as them. Second, Gaudens took the trouble to model the heads from life. Anyhow, the first work inspired by this memorial that comes to mind is this peice for Ive’s suite Three Places in New England titled “Impression of the St. Gaudens in Boston Common”. Listen for the hint of a military march and the general somber tone:

The other piece is this poem by Robert Lowell, hopefully self-explanatory. A quick note is called for to clarify one or two things, however: Col. Shaw was buried in a trench with his men unlike the other officers killed in the assault on Ft. Wagner. After the war, when proposals were made to exhume him, his family felt it more appropriate and honorable that he remain with his men.

For the Union Dead

Relinquunt Ommia Servare Rem Publicam.

The old South Boston Aquarium stands
in a Sahara of snow now. Its broken windows are boarded.
The bronze weathervane cod has lost half its scales.
The airy tanks are dry.
Once my nose crawled like a snail on the glass;
my hand tingled to burst the bubbles
drifting from the noses of the crowded, compliant fish.

My hand draws back. I often sign still
for the dark downward and vegetating kingdom
of the fish and reptile. One morning last March,
I pressed against the new barbed and galvanized

fence on the Boston Common. Behind their cage,
yellow dinosaur steamshovels were grunting
as they cropped up tons of mush and grass
to gouge their underworld garage.

Parking spaces luxuriate like civic
sandpiles in the heart of Boston.
a girdle of orange, Puritan-pumpkin colored girders
braces the tingling Statehouse,

shaking over the excavations, as it faces Colonel Shaw
and his bell-cheeked Negro infantry
on St. Gaudens’ shaking Civil War relief,
propped by a plank splint against the garage’s earthquake.

Two months after marching through Boston,
half of the regiment was dead;
at the dedication,
William James could almost hear the bronze Negroes breathe.

Their monument sticks like a fishbone
in the city’s throat.
Its Colonel is a lean
as a compass-needle.

He has an angry wrenlike vigilance,
a greyhound’s gentle tautness;
he seems to wince at pleasure,
and suffocate for privacy.

He is out of bounds now. He rejoices in man’s lovely,
peculiar power to choose life and die-
when he leads his black soldiers to death,
he cannot bend his back.

On a thousand small town New England greens
the old white churches hold their air
of sparse, sincere rebellion; frayed flags
quilt the graveyards of the Grand Army of the Republic

The stone statutes of the abstract Union Soldier
grow slimmer and younger each year-
wasp-waisted, they doze over muskets
and muse through their sideburns…

Shaw’s father wanted no monument
except the ditch,
where his son’s body was thrown
and lost with his “niggers.”

The ditch is nearer.
There are no statutes for the last war here;
on Boylston Street, a commercial photograph
shows Hiroshima boiling

over a Mosler Safe, the “Rock of Ages”
that survived the blast. Space is nearer.
when I crouch to my television set,
the drained faces of Negro school-children rise like balloons.

Colonel Shaw
is riding on his bubble,
he waits
for the blessed break.

The Aquarium is gone. Everywhere,
giant finned cars nose forward like fish;
a savage servility
slides by on grease.

And now for the unrelated announcment. Starting this weekend or Monday, there will be weekly fishing posts consisting of DC area fishing reports and general flyfishing talk, especially, “how to get started flyfishing” stuff.

El Greco

March 23, 2010

I’m not a big El Greco person(too cadaverous), but by special request here’s an El Greco post!

El Greco, A view of Toledo.

One of the few El Grecos I like:

El Greco. Fray Hortensio Felix Paravincino.

El Greco. The Opening of the Fifth Seal of the Acopalypse.

Late St. Patrick’s Day post

March 18, 2010

With your good friend and mine James Joyce. To give some non-The Dead stories of his face time, I’ll post A Painful Case from his major short story collection Dubliners. Despite Joyce’s reputation, the stories in Dubliners are pretty acessible. A Painful Case is in much the same key as the other stories from Dubliners, and the plot delivers a bit more punch than some of the other stories. Enjoy!


MR. JAMES DUFFY lived in Chapelizod because he wished to
live as far as possible from the city of which he was a citizen and
because he found all the other suburbs of Dublin mean, modern
and pretentious. He lived in an old sombre house and from his
windows he could look into the disused distillery or upwards along
the shallow river on which Dublin is built. The lofty walls of his
uncarpeted room were free from pictures. He had himself bought
every article of furniture in the room: a black iron bedstead, an
iron washstand, four cane chairs, a clothes- rack, a coal-scuttle, a
fender and irons and a square table on which lay a double desk. A
bookcase had been made in an alcove by means of shelves of
white wood. The bed was clothed with white bedclothes and a
black and scarlet rug covered the foot. A little hand-mirror hung
above the washstand and during the day a white-shaded lamp stood
as the sole ornament of the mantelpiece. The books on the white
wooden shelves were arranged from below upwards according to
bulk. A complete Wordsworth stood at one end of the lowest shelf
and a copy of the Maynooth Catechism, sewn into the cloth cover
of a notebook, stood at one end of the top shelf. Writing materials
were always on the desk. In the desk lay a manuscript translation
of Hauptmann’s Michael Kramer, the stage directions of which
were written in purple ink, and a little sheaf of papers held
together by a brass pin. In these sheets a sentence was inscribed
from time to time and, in an ironical moment, the headline of an
advertisement for Bile Beans had been pasted on to the first sheet.
On lifting the lid of the desk a faint fragrance escaped–the
fragrance of new cedarwood pencils or of a bottle of gum or of an
overripe apple which might have been left there and forgotten.

Mr. Duffy abhorred anything which betokened physical or mental
disorder. A medival doctor would have called him saturnine. His
face, which carried the entire tale of his years, was of the brown
tint of Dublin streets. On his long and rather large head grew dry
black hair and a tawny moustache did not quite cover an
unamiable mouth. His cheekbones also gave his face a harsh
character; but there was no harshness in the eyes which, looking at
the world from under their tawny eyebrows, gave the impression of
a man ever alert to greet a redeeming instinct in others but often
disappointed. He lived at a little distance from his body, regarding
his own acts with doubtful side-glasses. He had an odd
autobiographical habit which led him to compose in his mind from
time to time a short sentence about himself containing a subject in
the third person and a predicate in the past tense. He never gave
alms to beggars and walked firmly, carrying a stout hazel.

He had been for many years cashier of a private bank in Baggot
Street. Every morning he came in from Chapelizod by tram. At
midday he went to Dan Burke’s and took his lunch–a bottle of
lager beer and a small trayful of arrowroot biscuits. At four o’clock
he was set free. He dined in an eating-house in George’s Street
where he felt himself safe from the society o Dublin’s gilded youth
and where there was a certain plain honesty in the bill of fare. His
evenings were spent either before his landlady’s piano or roaming
about the outskirts of the city. His liking for Mozart’s music
brought him sometimes to an opera or a concert: these were the
only dissipations of his life.

He had neither companions nor friends, church nor creed. He lived
his spiritual life without any communion with others, visiting his
relatives at Christmas and escorting them to the cemetery when
they died. He performed these two social duties for old dignity’s
sake but conceded nothing further to the conventions which
regulate the civic life. He allowed himself to think that in certain
circumstances he would rob his hank but, as these circumstances
never arose, his life rolled out evenly–an adventureless tale.

One evening he found himself sitting beside two ladies in the
Rotunda. The house, thinly peopled and silent, gave distressing
prophecy of failure. The lady who sat next him looked round at the
deserted house once or twice and then said:

“What a pity there is such a poor house tonight! It’s so hard on
people to have to sing to empty benches.”

He took the remark as an invitation to talk. He was surprised that
she seemed so little awkward. While they talked he tried to fix her
permanently in his memory. When he learned that the young girl
beside her was her daughter he judged her to be a year or so
younger than himself. Her face, which must have been handsome,
had remained intelligent. It was an oval face with strongly marked
features. The eyes were very dark blue and steady. Their gaze
began with a defiant note but was confused by what seemed a
deliberate swoon of the pupil into the iris, revealing for an instant
a temperament of great sensibility. The pupil reasserted itself
quickly, this half- disclosed nature fell again under the reign of
prudence, and her astrakhan jacket, moulding a bosom of a certain
fullness, struck the note of defiance more definitely.

He met her again a few weeks afterwards at a concert in Earlsfort
Terrace and seized the moments when her daughter’s attention was
diverted to become intimate. She alluded once or twice to her
husband but her tone was not such as to make the allusion a
warning. Her name was Mrs. Sinico. Her husband’s
great-great-grandfather had come from Leghorn. Her husband was
captain of a mercantile boat plying between Dublin and Holland;
and they had one child.

Meeting her a third time by accident he found courage to make an
appointment. She came. This was the first of many meetings; they
met always in the evening and chose the most quiet quarters for
their walks together. Mr. Duffy, however, had a distaste for
underhand ways and, finding that they were compelled to meet
stealthily, he forced her to ask him to her house. Captain Sinico
encouraged his visits, thinking that his daughter’s hand was in
question. He had dismissed his wife so sincerely from his gallery
of pleasures that he did not suspect that anyone else would take an
interest in her. As the husband was often away and the daughter
out giving music lessons Mr. Duffy had many opportunities of
enjoying the lady’s society. Neither he nor she had had any such
adventure before and neither was conscious of any incongruity.
Little by little he entangled his thoughts with hers. He lent her
books, provided her with ideas, shared his intellectual life with
her. She listened to all.

Sometimes in return for his theories she gave out some fact of her
own life. With almost maternal solicitude she urged him to let his
nature open to the full: she became his confessor. He told her that
for some time he had assisted at the meetings of an Irish Socialist
Party where he had felt himself a unique figure amidst a score of
sober workmen in a garret lit by an inefficient oil-lamp. When the
party had divided into three sections, each under its own leader
and in its own garret, he had discontinued his attendances. The
workmen’s discussions, he said, were too timorous; the interest
they took in the question of wages was inordinate. He felt that they
were hard-featured realists and that they resented an exactitude
which was the produce of a leisure not within their reach. No
social revolution, he told her, would be likely to strike Dublin for
some centuries.

She asked him why did he not write out his thoughts. For what, he
asked her, with careful scorn. To compete with phrasemongers,
incapable of thinking consecutively for sixty seconds? To submit
himself to the criticisms of an obtuse middle class which entrusted
its morality to policemen and its fine arts to impresarios?

He went often to her little cottage outside Dublin; often they spent
their evenings alone. Little by little, as their thoughts entangled,
they spoke of subjects less remote. Her companionship was like a
warm soil about an exotic. Many times she allowed the dark to fall
upon them, refraining from lighting the lamp. The dark discreet
room, their isolation, the music that still vibrated in their ears
united them. This union exalted him, wore away the rough edges
of his character, emotionalised his mental life. Sometimes he
caught himself listening to the sound of his own voice. He thought
that in her eyes he would ascend to an angelical stature; and, as he
attached the fervent nature of his companion more and more
closely to him, he heard the strange impersonal voice which he
recognised as his own, insisting on the soul’s incurable loneliness.
We cannot give ourselves, it said: we are our own. The end of
these discourses was that one night during which she had shown
every sign of unusual excitement, Mrs. Sinico caught up his hand
passionately and pressed it to her cheek.

Mr. Duffy was very much surprised. Her interpretation of his
words disillusioned him. He did not visit her for a week, then he
wrote to her asking her to meet him. As he did not wish their last
interview to be troubled by the influence of their ruined
confessional they meet in a little cakeshop near the Parkgate. It
was cold autumn weather but in spite of the cold they wandered up
and down the roads of the Park for nearly three hours. They agreed
to break off their intercourse: every bond, he said, is a bond to
sorrow. When they came out of the Park they walked in silence
towards the tram; but here she began to tremble so violently that,
fearing another collapse on her part, he bade her good-bye quickly
and left her. A few days later he received a parcel containing his
books and music.

Four years passed. Mr. Duffy returned to his even way of life. His
room still bore witness of the orderliness of his mind. Some new
pieces of music encumbered the music-stand in the lower room
and on his shelves stood two volumes by Nietzsche: Thus Spake
Zarathustra and The Gay Science. He wrote seldom in the sheaf of
papers which lay in his desk. One of his sentences, written two
months after his last interview with Mrs. Sinico, read: Love
between man and man is impossible because there must not be
sexual intercourse and friendship between man and woman is
impossible because there must be sexual intercourse. He kept away
from concerts lest he should meet her. His father died; the junior
partner of the bank retired. And still every morning he went into
the city by tram and every evening walked home from the city after
having dined moderately in George’s Street and read the evening
paper for dessert.

One evening as he was about to put a morsel of corned beef and
cabbage into his mouth his hand stopped. His eyes fixed
themselves on a paragraph in the evening paper which he had
propped against the water-carafe. He replaced the morsel of food
on his plate and read the paragraph attentively. Then he drank a
glass of water, pushed his plate to one side, doubled the paper
down before him between his elbows and read the paragraph over
and over again. The cabbage began to deposit a cold white grease
on his plate. The girl came over to him to ask was his dinner not
properly cooked. He said it was very good and ate a few mouthfuls
of it with difficulty. Then he paid his bill and went out.

He walked along quickly through the November twilight, his stout
hazel stick striking the ground regularly, the fringe of the buff Mail
peeping out of a side-pocket of his tight reefer overcoat. On the
lonely road which leads from the Parkgate to Chapelizod he
slackened his pace. His stick struck the ground less emphatically
and his breath, issuing irregularly, almost with a sighing sound,
condensed in the wintry air. When he reached his house he went
up at once to his bedroom and, taking the paper from his pocket,
read the paragraph again by the failing light of the window. He
read it not aloud, but moving his lips as a priest does when he
reads the prayers Secreto. This was the paragraph:


Today at the City of Dublin Hospital the Deputy Coroner (in the
absence of Mr. Leverett) held an inquest on the body of Mrs.
Emily Sinico, aged forty-three years, who was killed at Sydney
Parade Station yesterday evening. The evidence showed that the
deceased lady, while attempting to cross the line, was knocked
down by the engine of the ten o’clock slow train from Kingstown,
thereby sustaining injuries of the head and right side which led to
her death.

James Lennon, driver of the engine, stated that he had been in the
employment of the railway company for fifteen years. On hearing
the guard’s whistle he set the train in motion and a second or two
afterwards brought it to rest in response to loud cries. The train
was going slowly.

P. Dunne, railway porter, stated that as the train was about to start
he observed a woman attempting to cross the lines. He ran towards
her and shouted, but, before he could reach her, she was caught by
the buffer of the engine and fell to the ground.

A juror. “You saw the lady fall?”

Witness. “Yes.”

Police Sergeant Croly deposed that when he arrived he found the
deceased lying on the platform apparently dead. He had the body
taken to the waiting-room pending the arrival of the ambulance.

Constable 57 corroborated.

Dr. Halpin, assistant house surgeon of the City of Dublin Hospital,
stated that the deceased had two lower ribs fractured and had
sustained severe contusions of the right shoulder. The right side of
the head had been injured in the fall. The injuries were not
sufficient to have caused death in a normal person. Death, in his
opinion, had been probably due to shock and sudden failure of the
heart’s action.

Mr. H. B. Patterson Finlay, on behalf of the railway company,
expressed his deep regret at the accident. The company had always
taken every precaution to prevent people crossing the lines except
by the bridges, both by placing notices in every station and by the
use of patent spring gates at level crossings. The deceased had
been in the habit of crossing the lines late at night from platform to
platform and, in view of certain other circumstances of the case,
he did not think the railway officials were to blame.

Captain Sinico, of Leoville, Sydney Parade, husband of the
deceased, also gave evidence. He stated that the deceased was his
wife. He was not in Dublin at the time of the accident as he had
arrived only that morning from Rotterdam. They had been married
for twenty-two years and had lived happily until about two years
ago when his wife began to be rather intemperate in her habits.

Miss Mary Sinico said that of late her mother had been in the habit
of going out at night to buy spirits. She, witness, had often tried to
reason with her mother and had induced her to join a League. She
was not at home until an hour after the accident. The jury returned
a verdict in accordance with the medical evidence and exonerated
Lennon from all blame.

The Deputy Coroner said it was a most painful case, and expressed
great sympathy with Captain Sinico and his daughter. He urged on
the railway company to take strong measures to prevent the
possibility of similar accidents in the future. No blame attached to

Mr. Duffy raised his eyes from the paper and gazed out of his
window on the cheerless evening landscape. The river lay quiet
beside the empty distillery and from time to time a light appeared
in some house on the Lucan road. What an end! The whole
narrative of her death revolted him and it revolted him to think that
he had ever spoken to her of what he held sacred. The threadbare
phrases, the inane expressions of sympathy, the cautious words of
a reporter won over to conceal the details of a commonplace
vulgar death attacked his stomach. Not merely had she degraded
herself; she had degraded him. He saw the squalid tract of her vice,
miserable and malodorous. His soul’s companion! He thought of
the hobbling wretches whom he had seen carrying cans and bottles
to be filled by the barman. Just God, what an end! Evidently she
had been unfit to live, without any strength of purpose, an easy
prey to habits, one of the wrecks on which civilisation has been
reared. But that she could have sunk so low! Was it possible he
had deceived himself so utterly about her? He remembered her
outburst of that night and interpreted it in a harsher sense than he
had ever done. He had no difficulty now in approving of the course
he had taken.

As the light failed and his memory began to wander he thought her
hand touched his. The shock which had first attacked his stomach
was now attacking his nerves. He put on his overcoat and hat
quickly and went out. The cold air met him on the threshold; it
crept into the sleeves of his coat. When he came to the
public-house at Chapelizod Bridge he went in and ordered a hot

The proprietor served him obsequiously but did not venture to talk.
There were five or six workingmen in the shop discussing the
value of a gentleman’s estate in County Kildare They drank at
intervals from their huge pint tumblers and smoked, spitting often
on the floor and sometimes dragging the sawdust over their spits
with their heavy boots. Mr. Duffy sat on his stool and gazed at
them, without seeing or hearing them. After a while they went out
and he called for another punch. He sat a long time over it. The
shop was very quiet. The proprietor sprawled on the counter
reading the Herald and yawning. Now and again a tram was heard
swishing along the lonely road outside.

As he sat there, living over his life with her and evoking
alternately the two images in which he now conceived her, he
realised that she was dead, that she had ceased to exist, that she
had become a memory. He began to feel ill at ease. He asked
himself what else could he have done. He could not have carried
on a comedy of deception with her; he could not have lived with
her openly. He had done what seemed to him best. How was he to
blame? Now that she was gone he understood how lonely her life
must have been, sitting night after night alone in that room. His
life would be lonely too until he, too, died, ceased to exist, became
a memory–if anyone remembered him.

It was after nine o’clock when he left the shop. The night was cold
and gloomy. He entered the Park by the first gate and walked along
under the gaunt trees. He walked through the bleak alleys where
they had walked four years before. She seemed to be near him in
the darkness. At moments he seemed to feel her voice touch his
ear, her hand touch his. He stood still to listen. Why had he
withheld life from her? Why had he sentenced her to death? He
felt his moral nature falling to pieces.

When he gained the crest of the Magazine Hill he halted and
looked along the river towards Dublin, the lights of which burned
redly and hospitably in the cold night. He looked down the slope
and, at the base, in the shadow of the wall of the Park, he saw
some human figures lying. Those venal and furtive loves filled him
with despair. He gnawed the rectitude of his life; he felt that he
had been outcast from life’s feast. One human being had seemed to
love him and he had denied her life and happiness: he had
sentenced her to ignominy, a death of shame. He knew that the
prostrate creatures down by the wall were watching him and
wished him gone. No one wanted him; he was outcast from life’s
feast. He turned his eyes to the grey gleaming river, winding along
towards Dublin. Beyond the river he saw a goods train winding out
of Kingsbridge Station, like a worm with a fiery head winding
through the darkness, obstinately and laboriously. It passed slowly
out of sight; but still he heard in his ears the laborious drone of the
engine reiterating the syllables of her name.

He turned back the way he had come, the rhythm of the engine
pounding in his ears. He began to doubt the reality of what
memory told him. He halted under a tree and allowed the rhythm
to die away. He could not feel her near him in the darkness nor her
voice touch his ear. He waited for some minutes listening. He
could hear nothing: the night was perfectly silent. He listened
again: perfectly silent. He felt that he was alone.
P.S. Here is the obligatory link to Joyce’s most famous short story The Dead.

Comic verse

March 13, 2010

As a sort of apology for yesterday’s deperssing post, I present… Ogden Nash!
The Abominable Snowman
by Ogden Nash

I’ve never seen an abominable snowman,
I’m hoping not to see one,
I’m also hoping, if I do,
That it will be a wee one.

What’s the use?
by Ogden Nash

Sure, deck your limbs in pants,
Yours are the limbs, my sweeting.
You look divine as you advance . . .
Have you seen yourself retreating?

Candy is dandy
But liquor is quicker

And for extra fun, a link to The Rape of The Lock:
Gentle reader, doubtless this shall maintain thy mirth and jocularity.

Poetry week: John Berryman and other misuses of the sonnet

March 11, 2010
We've been studying sonnets in english class, which begs the question "how far can you take a sonnet?" Pretty far, as John Berryman knew:       
All we were going strong last night this time,
the mosts were flying & the frozen daiquiris
were downing, supine on the floor lay Lise
listening to Schubert grievous & sublime,
my head was frantic with a following rime:
it was a good evening, and evening to please,
I kissed her in the kitchen -ecstasies-
among so much good we tamped down the crime.

The weather's changing. This morning was cold,
as I made for the grove, without expectation,
some hundred Sonnets in my pocket, old,
to read her if she came. Presently the sun
yellowed the pines & my lady came not
in blue jeans & a sweater. I sat down & wrote.
This is a perfectly orthodox sonnet, but it also toys with syntax to rush forward in a way that a Shakespearean sonnet really should not. Unlike the sonnet as used by Shakespeare, furthermore, it claims the primacy of the writer in his relationship. It involves run-on sentences, but they help the poem flow instead of confusing it. And really, wouldn't the poet have been confused here, as most anyone would be?
Barryman's most famous work is his Dream Songs, a sprawling collection of poems that form a sort of psychic diary dealing with his father's suicide and his own depression. They're kinda, sorta like sonnets although they're not actual sonnets. Here's one of them:
Dream Song 1:
Huffy Henry hid    the day,
unappeasable Henry sulked.
I see his point,--a trying to put things over.
It was the thought that they thought
they could do it made Henry wicked & away.
But he should have come out and talked.

All the world like a woolen lover
once did seem on Henry's side.
Then came a departure.
Thereafter nothing fell out as it might or ought.
I don't see how Henry, pried 
open for all the world to see, survived.

What he has now to say is a long 
wonder the world can bear & be.
Once in a sycamore I was glad
all at the top, and I sang.
Hard on the land wears the strong sea
and empty grows every bed.

Here's another one. W.C.W is William Carlos Williams, noted american poet: Dream song 324 An Elgy for W.C.W., the lovely man

Henry in Ireland to Bill underground:
Rest well, who worked so hard, who made a good sound
constantly, for so many years:
your high-jinks delighted the continents & our ears:
you had so many girls your life was a triumph
and you loved your one wife.

At dawn you rose & wrote—the books poured forth—
you delivered infinite babies, in one great birth—
and your generosity
to juniors made you deeply loved, deeply:
if envy was a Henry trademark, he would envy you,
especially the being through.

Too many journeys lie for him ahead,
too many galleys & page-proofs to be read,
he would like to lie down
in your sweet silence, to whom was not denied
the mysterious late excellence which is the crown
of our trials & our last bride.

That's all. Sorry for the depressing poetry; tomorrow shall be comic poetry.

Poetry week!

March 10, 2010

I’m starting this with a selection from Ezra Pound’s cantos. Within this massive mess are some really startlingly beautiful passages. This is a passage from Canto II, one of the wonderful quasi-pastoral passages and one of the first of the transformative moments in the cantos. It’s about the incident wherein the young Dionysius was kidnapped by slavers and produced vines and the specters of wildlife onboard. The slavers were terrified and jumped overboard, wherupon they were turned into dolphins. Unfortunately, the typography’s all messed up but this will be something at least.  Enjoy!

And by Scios,

                                   to left of the Naxos passage, 
Naviform rock overgrown,
                      algae cling to its edge,
There is a wine-red glow in the shallows,
                       a tin flash in the sun-dazzle.

The ship landed in Scios, 
                   men wanting spring-water,
And by the rock-pool a young boy loggy with vine-must, 
                ” To Naxos? Yes, we’ll take you to Naxos,
Cum’ along, lad” ” Not that way!’
“Aye, that way is Naxos.”
                   And I said: ‘It’s a straight ship”
And an ex-convict out of Italy
                 knocked me into the fore-stays,
(He was wanted for manslaughter in Tuscany)
                  And the whole twenty against me,
Mad for a little slave money.
                 And they took her out of Scios
And off her course . . .
                 And the boy came to, again, with the racket,
And looked out over the bows,
                     and to eastward, and to the Naxos passage.
God-sleight then, god-sleight:
                  Ship stock fast in sea-swirl,
Ivy upon the oars, King Pentheus,
                   grapes with no seed but sea-foam,
Ivy in scupper-hole.
Aye, I, Acoetes, stood there,
                 and the god stood by me,
Water cutting under the keel,
Sea-break from stern forrards,
                      wake running off from the bow,
And where was gunwale, there now was vine-trunk,
And tenthril where cordage had been,
                        grape-leaves on the rowlocks,
Heavy vine on the oarshafts,
And, out of nothing, a breathing, 
                     hot breath on my ankles,
Beasts like shadows in glass,
                     a furred tail upon nothingness.
Lynx-purr, and heathery smell of beasts,
                  where tar smell had been,
Sniff and pad-foot of beasts,
                  eye-glitter out of black air.
The sky overshot, dry, with no tempest,
Sniff and pad-foot of beasts,
          fur brushing my knee-skin,
Rustle of airy sheaths,
                   dry forms in the aether.
And the ship like a keel in ship-yard,
                   slung like an ox in smith’s sling,
Ribs stuck fast in the ways,
                   grape-cluster over pin-rack,
                   void air taking pelt,
Lifeless air become sinewed,
                    feline leisure of panthers,
Leopards sniffing the grape shoots by scupper-hole,
Crouched panthers by fore-hatch,
And the sea blue-deep about us,
                 green-ruddy in shadows,
And Lyaeus: ‘From now, Acoetes, my altars,
Fearing no bondage,
                   fearing no cat of the wood,
Safe with my lynxes, 
                    feeding grapes to my leopards,
Olibanum is my incense, 
                        the vines grow in my homage
The back-swell now smooth in the rudder-chains,
Black snout of a porpoise
                    where Lycabs had been,
Fish-scales on the oarsmen.
                        And I worship.
I have seen what I have seen.
                      When they brought the boy I said:
“He has a god in him, 
                  though I do not know which god”
And they kicked me into the fore-stays.
I have seen what I have seen:
                     Medon’s face like the face of a dory,
Arms shrunk into fins. And you, Pentheus,
Had as well listen to Tiresias, and to Cadmus,
                or your luck will go out of you.
Fish-scales over groin muscles,
lynx-purr amid sea …
And of a later year,
                 pale in the wine-red algae,
If you will lean over the rock,
                the coral face under wave-tinge,
Rose-paleness under water-shift,
                    Ileuthyeria, fair Dafne of sea-bords,
The swimmer’s arms turned to branches,
Who will say in what year,
                   fleeing what band of tritons,
The smooth brows, seen, and half seen,
                       now ivory stillness.

The Gardner

March 4, 2010

So, having talked about Europa, I’ll talk about the gallery in which it’s housed.
The Gardner was built(suprise suprise) by Isabella Stewart Gardner, who wanted a house for the sake of showing off her art collection. Out of that pecuiarly northern love for all things mediterranean, she cobbled together a venitian palazzo from quite unrelated architectural fragments.

The courtyard. The galleries are on the second and third floors. Yes, those are tropical plants in Boston.

The interior arrangement, as one might expect is less a typical gallery arrangement than a series of residential rooms filled with exceptionally valuable and lovely bric-a-brac. The best approach to the Gardner is to wander through it and see what one stumbles on.