I admit I’ve strayed a bit in the last couple of weeks… I had an ill family to attend to for a week, Mary had her birthday, and we celebrated our 32 year of marriage together. I have been swimming through the Social Media phenomena of FB, and am now in the process of weaning my time there.
It has been a creative time, and soon shall bear fruit in other ways. I have been doing collage work again, intensive stuff really, going into new areas I hadn’t explored before. I love a new direction, it gives me purpose, and I feel the Muses are with me.
We lost our beloved Cherry Tree in the back yard. It was cut down, and now its corpse is strewn across the grass and garden beds. We have more sky, but the squirrels and birds have one less hang out. Birdsong has been a bit absent from our yard.
This is a poetry heavy edition, two poets! Good music!, A tale from Breton! I hope you like it!
Hope Life Is Sweet!
On The Menu:
John Foxx & Robin Guthrie – My Life as an Echo
Norouas, the North-West Wind
Jean Cocteau – Poems
The Prose Poems of René Daumal
John Foxx & Robin Guthrie : Spectroscope (Mirrorball)
Surrealism! What is Surrealism? In my opinion, it is above all a reawakening of the poetic idea in art, the reintroduction of the subject but in a very particular sense, that of the strange and illogical. – PAUL DELVAUX, lecture, 1966
Surrealism in painting amounted to little more than the contents of a meagerly stocked dream world: a few witty fantasies, mostly wet dreams and agoraphobic nightmares. -SUSAN SONTAG, On Photography
Surrealism is born of a consciousness of the derisory condition allotted to the individual and his thought, and a refusal to accommodate oneself to it. –JEAN-LOUIS BÉDOUIN, 1961
Surrealism was a perception of reality over which reason was denied the opportunity to exercise confining restrictions. – -JOHN HERBERT MATTHEWS, The Surrealist Mind
Surrealism is merely the reflection of the death process. It is one of the manifestations of a life becoming extinct, a virus which quickens the inevitable end. – -HENRY MILLER, The Cosmological Eye
John Foxx & Robin Guthrie – My Life as an Echo
Tales From Breton:
Norouas, the North-west Wind
Brittany has an entire cycle of folk-tales dealing with the subject of the winds–which, indeed, play an extraordinary part in Breton folk-lore. The fishermen of the north coast frequently address the winds as if they were living beings, hurling opprobrious epithets at them if the direction in which they blow does not suit their purpose, shaking their fists at them in a most menacing manner the while. The following story, the only wind-tale it is possible to give here, well illustrates this personalization of the winds by the Breton folk.
There was once a goodman and his wife who had a little field on which they grew flax. One season their patch yielded a particularly fine crop, and after it had been cut they laid it out to dry. But Norouas, the North-west Wind, came along and with one sweep of his mighty wings tossed it as high as the tree-tops, so that it fell into the sea and was lost.
When the goodman saw what had happened he began to swear at the Wind, and, taking his stick, he set out to follow and slay Norouas, who had spoiled his flax. So hasty had he been in setting forth that he had taken no food or money with him, and when evening came he arrived at an inn hungry and penniless. He explained his plight to the hostess, who gave him a morsel of bread and permitted him to sleep in a corner of the stable. In the morning he asked the dame the way to the abode of Norouas, and she conducted him to the foot of a mountain, where she said the Winds dwelt.
The goodman climbed the mountain, and at the top met with Surouas, the South-west Wind.
“Are you he whom they call Norouas?” he asked. “No, I am Surouas,” said the South-west Wind.
“Where then is that villain Norouas?” cried the goodman.
“Hush!” said Surouas, “do not speak so loud, goodman, for if he hears you he will toss you into the air like a straw.”
At that moment Norouas arrived, whistling wildly and vigorously.
“Ah, thief of a Norouas,” cried the goodman, “it was you who stole my beautiful crop of flax!” But the Wind took no notice of him. Nevertheless he did not cease to cry: “Norouas, Norouas, give me back my flax!”
“Hush, hush!” cried Norouas. “Here is a napkin that will perhaps make you keep quiet.”
“With my crop of flax,” howled the goodman, “I could have made a hundred napkins such as this. Norouas, give me back my flax!”
“Be silent, fellow,” said Norouas. “This is no common napkin which I give you. You have only to say, ‘Napkin, unfold thyself,’ to have the best spread table in the world standing before you.”
The goodman took the napkin with a grumble, descended the mountain, and there, only half believing what Norouas had said, placed the napkin before him, saying, “Napkin, unfold thyself.” Immediately a table appeared spread with a princely repast. The odour of cunningly cooked dishes arose, and rare wines sparkled in glittering vessels. After he had feasted the table vanished, and the goodman folded up his napkin and went back to the inn where he had slept the night before.
“Well, did you get any satisfaction out of Norouas?” asked the hostess.
“Indeed I did,” replied the goodman, producing the napkin. “Behold this: Napkin, unfold thyself!” and as he spoke the magic table appeared before their eyes. The hostess, struck dumb with astonishment, at once became covetous and resolved to have the napkin for herself So that night she placed the goodman in a handsome apartment where there was a beautiful bed with a soft feather mattress, on which he slept more soundly than ever he had done in his life. When he was fast asleep the cunning hostess entered the room and stole the napkin, leaving one of similar appearance in its place.
In the morning the goodman set his face homeward, and duly arrived at his little farm. His wife eagerly asked him if Norouas had made good the damage done to the flax, to which her husband replied affirmatively and drew the substituted napkin from his pocket.
“Why,” quoth the dame, “we could have made two hundred napkins like this out of the flax that was destroyed.”
“Ah, but,” said the goodman, “this napkin is not the same as others. I have only to say, ‘Napkin, unfold thyself,’ and a table covered with a most splendid feast appears. Napkin, unfold thyself–unfold thyself, dost thou hear?”
“You are an old fool, goodman,” said his wife when, nothing happened. Her husband’s jaw dropped and he seized his stick.
“I have been sold by that rascal Norouas,” he cried. “Well, I shall not spare him this time,” and without more ado he rushed out of the house and took the road to the home of the Winds.
He slept as before at the inn, and next morning climbed the mountain. He began at once to call loudly upon Norouas, who was whistling up aloft, demanding that he should return him his crop of flax.
“Be quiet, down there!” cried Norouas.
“I shall not be quiet!” screamed the goodman, brandishing his bludgeon. “You have made matters worse by cheating me with that napkin of yours!”
“Well, well, then,” replied Norouas, “here is an ass; you have only to say ‘Ass, make me some gold,’ and it will fall from his tail.”
The goodman, eager to test the value of the new gift, at once led the ass to the foot of the mountain and said: “Ass, make me some gold.” The ass shook his tail, and a rouleau of gold pieces fell to the ground. The goodman hastened to the inn, where, as before, he displayed the phenomenon to the hostess, who that night went into the stable and exchanged for the magical animal another similar in appearance to it. On the evening of the following day the goodman returned home and acquainted his wife with his good luck, but when he charged the ass to make gold and nothing happened, she railed at him once more for a fool, and in a towering passion he again set out to slay Norouas. Arrived at the mountain for the third time, he called loudly on the North-west Wind, and when he came heaped insults and reproaches upon him.
“Softly,” replied Norouas; “I am not to blame for your misfortune. You must know that it is the hostess at the inn where you slept who is the guilty party, for she stole your napkin and your ass. Take this cudgel. When you say to it, ‘Strike, cudgel,’ it will at once attack your enemies, and when you want it to stop you have only to cry, ‘Ora pro nobis.’”
The goodman, eager to test the efficacy of the cudgel, at once said to it, “Strike, cudgel,” whereupon it commenced to belabour him so soundly that he yelled, “Ora Pro nobis!” when it ceased.
Returning to the inn in a very stormy mood, he loudly demanded the return of his napkin and his ass, whereupon the hostess threatened to fetch the gendarmes.
“Strike, cudgel!” cried the goodman, and the stick immediately set about the hostess in such vigorous style that she cried to the goodman to call it off and she would at once return his ass and his napkin.
When his property had been returned to him the goodman lost no time in making his way homeward, where he rejoiced his wife by the sight of the treasures he brought with him. He rapidly grew rich, and his neighbours, becoming suspicious at the sight of so much wealth, had him arrested and brought before a magistrate on a charge of wholesale murder and robbery. He was sentenced to death, and on the day of his execution he was about to mount the scaffold, when he begged as a last request that his old cudgel might be brought him. The boon was granted, and no sooner had the stick been given into his hands than he cried, “Strike, cudgel!”
And the cudgel did strike. It belaboured judge, gendarmes, and spectators in such a manner that they fled howling from the scene. It demolished the scaffold and cracked the hangman’s crown. A great cry for mercy arose. The goodman was instantly pardoned, and was never further molested in the enjoyment of the treasures the North-west Wind had given him as compensation for his crop of flax.
Jean Cocteau – Poems
Angel Heurtebise on the steps
Beats me with his wings
Of watered silk, refreshes my memory,
The rascal, motionless
And alone with me on the agate
Which breaks, ass, your supernatural
Angel Heurtebise with incredible
Brutality jumps on me. Please
Don’t jump so hard,
Beastly fellow, flower of tall
You’ve laid me up. That’s
Bad manners. I hold the ace, see?
What do you have?
Angel Heurtebise pushes me;
And you, Lord Jesus, mercy,
Lift me, raise me to the corner
Of your pointed knees;
Undiluted pleasure. Thumb, untie
The rope! I die.
Angel Heurtebise and angel
Cegeste killed in the war—what a wondrous
The role of scarecrows
Whose gesture no frightens
The cherries on the heavenly cherry trees
Under the church’s folding door
Accustomed to the gesture yes.
My guardian angel, Heurtebise,
I guard you, I hit you,
I break you, I change
Your guard every hour.
On guard, summer! I challenge
You, if you’re a man. Admit
Your beauty, angel of white lead,
Caught in a photograph by an
Explosion of magnesium.
Grave mouths of lions
Sinuous smiling of young crocodiles
Along the river’s water conveying millions
Isles of spice
How lovely he is, the son
Of the widowed queen
And the sailor
The handsome sailor abandons a siren,
Her widow’s lament at the south of the islet
It’s Diana of the barracks yard
Too short a dream
Dawn and lanterns barely extinguished
We are awakening
A tattered fanfare
Sobre Las Olas (On The Waves)
The boys in striped knitware
make the waves sprout–is it a storm?
Everything coos and the bathing girl
consults the mirror of the skies
Waltz, emerald carriages
As a rosebush swells its sides
Once more on the merry-go-round
Spring at the bottom of the sea.
Preamble (A Rough Draft For An Ars Poetica) by Jean Cocteau
A rough draft
for an ars poetica
. . . . . . .
Let’s get our dreams unstuck
The grain of rye
free from the prattle of grass
et loin de arbres orateurs
It will sprout
But forget about
the rustic festivities
For the explosive word
the compact generations
and except for you
its sweet-scented dynamite
I discard eloquence
the empty sail
and the swollen sail
which cause the ship
to lose her course
My ink nicks
The mirror-paneled wardrobe
washing down ice-floes
the little eskimo girl
in a heap
of moist negroes
her nose was
against the window-pane
of dreary Christmases
A white bear
adorned with chromatic moire
dries himself in the midnight sun
The huge luxury item
all its lights aglow
sinks the evening-dress ball
into the thousand mirrors
of the palace hotel
it is I
the thin Columbus of phenomena
in the front
of a mirror-paneled wardrobe
full of linen
and locking with a key
The obstinate miner
of the void
his fertile mine
the potential in the rough
mingling with its white rock
princess of the mad sleep
listen to my horn
and my pack of hounds
I deliver you
from the forest
where we came upon the spell
Here we are
by the pen
one with the other
on the page
Isles sobs of Ariadne
for I betray you my fair stanzas
run and awaken
I plan no architecture
like you Beethoven
numberless old man
in the prairies of inner
and the work of the mission
and the poem of the work
and the stanza of the poem
and the group of the stanza
and the words of the group
and the letters of the word
and the least
loop of the letters
it’s your foot
of attentive satin
that I place in position
sucked up by the void
to the left to the right
the god gives a shake
and I walk
towards the other side
with infinite precaution
The Prose Poems of René Daumal
The Skin Of Light
The skin of light enveloping this world lacks depth and I can actually see the black night of all these
similar bodies beneath the trembling veil and light of myself it is this night that even the mask of the
sun cannot hide from me I am the seer of night the auditor of silence for silence too is dressed in
sonorous skin and each sense has its own night even as I do I am my own night I am the conceiver
of non-being and of all its splendor I am the father of death she is its mother she whom I evoke
from the perfect mirror of night i am the great inside-out man my words are a tunnel punched
through silence I understand all disillusionment I destroy what I become I kill what I love.
Last Letter to his Wife
I am dead because I lack desire,
I lack desire because I think I possess.
I think I possess because I do not try to give.
In trying to give, you see that you have nothing;
Seeing that you have nothing, you try to give of yourself;
Trying to give of yourself, you see that you are nothing:
Seeing that you are nothing, you desire to become;
In desiring to become, you begin to live.
One cannot stay on the summit forever –
One has to come down again.
So why bother in the first place? Just this.
What is above knows what is below –
But what is below does not know what is above
One climb, one sees-
One descends and sees no longer
But one has seen!
There is an art of conducting one’s self in
The lower regions by the memory of
What one saw higher up.
When one can no longer see,
One does at least still know.
The Holy War
(translated by D. M. Dooling)
I am going to write a poem about war. Perhaps it will not be a real poem, but it will be about a real war.
It will not be a real poem, because if the real poet were here and if the news spread through the crowd that he was going to speak—then a great silence would fall; at the first glimpse, a heavy silence would swell up, a silence big with a thousand thunderbolts.
The poet would be visible; we would see him; seeing him, he would see us; and we would fade away into our own poor shadows, we would resent his being so real, we sickly ones, we troubled ones, we uneasy ones.
He would be here, full to bursting with the thousand thunderbolts of the multitude of enemies he contains—for he contains them, and satisfies them when he wishes—incandescent with pain and holy anger, yet as still as a man lighting a fuse, in the great silence he would open a little tap, the very small tap of the mill of words, and let flow a poem, such a poem that it would turn you green.
What I am going to make won’t be a real, poetic, poet’s poem for if the word “war” were used in a real poem—then war, the real war that the real poet speaks about, war without mercy, war without truce would break out for good in our inmost hearts.
For in a real poem words bear their own facts.
But neither will this be a philosophical discourse. For to be a philosopher, to love the truth more than oneself, one must have died to self-deception, one must have killed the treacherous smugness of dream and cozy fantasy. And that is the aim and the end of the war; and the war has hardly begun, there are still traitors to unmask.
Nor will it be a work of learning. For to be learned, to see and love things as they are, one must be oneself, and love to see oneself as one is. One must have broken the deceiving mirrors, one must have slain with a pitiless look the insinuating phantoms. And that is the aim and the end of the war, and the war has hardly begun; there are still masks to tear off.
Nor will it be an eager song. For enthusiasm is stable when the god stands up, when the enemies are no more than formless forces, when the clangor of war rings out deafeningly; and the war has hardly begun, we haven’t yet thrown our bedding into the fire.
Nor will it be a magical invocation, for the magician prays to his god, “Do what I want,” and he refuses to make war on his worst enemy, if the enemy pleases him; nor will it be a believer’s prayer either, for at his best the believer prays “Do what you want,” and for that he must put iron and fire into the entrails of his dearest enemy—which is the act of war, and the war has hardly begun.
This will be something of all that, some hope and effort towards all that, and it will also be something of a call to arms. A call that the play of echoes can send back to me, and that perhaps others will hear.
You can guess now of what kind of war I wish to speak.
Of other wars—of those one undergoes—I shall not speak. If I were to speak of them, it would be ordinary literature, a makeshift, a substitute, an excuse. Just as it has happened that I have used the word “terrible” when I didn’t have gooseflesh. Just as I’ve used the expression “dying of hunger” when I hadn’t reached the point of stealing from the food-stands. Just as I’ve spoken of madness before having tried to consider infinity through a keyhole. As I’ve spoken of death before my tongue has known the salt taste of the irreparable. As certain people speak of purity, who have always considered themselves superior to the domestic pig. As some speak of liberty, who adore and polish their chains; as some speak of love, who love nothing but their own shadows; or of sacrifice, who wouldn’t for all the world cut off their littlest finger. Or of knowledge, who disguise themselves from their own eyes. Just as it is our great infirmity to talk in order to see nothing.
This would be a feeble substitute, like the old and sick speaking with relish of blows given and received by the young and strong.
Have I then the right to speak of this other war—the one which is not just undergone—when it has perhaps not yet irremediably taken fire in me? When I am still engaged only in skirmishes? Certainly, I rarely have the right. But “rarely the right” also means “sometimes the duty”—and above all, “the need,” for I will never have too many allies.
I shall try to speak then of the holy war.
May it break out and continue without truce! Now and again it takes fire, but never for long. At the first small hint of victory, I flatter myself that I’ve won, and I play the part of the generous victor and come to terms with the enemy. There are traitors in the house, but they have the look of friends and it would be so unpleasant to unmask them! They have their place in the chimney corner, their armchairs and their slippers; they come in when I’m drowsy, offering me a compliment, or a funny or exciting story, or flowers and goodies—sometimes a fine hat with feathers. They speak in the first person, and it’s my voice I think I’m hearing, my voice in which I’m speaking: “I am … , I know … , I wish …” But it’s all lies! Lies grafted on my flesh, abscesses screaming at me: “Don’t slaughter us, we’re of the same blood!”—pustules whining: “We are your greatest treasure, your only good feature; go on feeding us, it doesn’t cost all that much!”
And there are so many of them; and they are charming, they are pathetic, they are arrogant, they practice blackmail, they band together … but they are barbarians who respect nothing—nothing that is true, I mean, because they cringe in front of everything else and are tied in knots with respect. It’s thanks to their ideas that I wear my mask; they take possession of everything, including the keys to the costume wardrobe. They tell me: “We’ll dress you; how could you ever present yourself properly in the great world without us?” But oh! It would be better to go naked as a grub!
The only weapon I have against these armies is a very tiny sword, so little you can hardly see it with the naked eye; though, true enough, it is sharp as a razor and quite deadly. But it is really so small that I lose it from one minute to the next. I never know where I stuck it last; and when I find it again, it seems too heavy to carry and too clumsy to wield—my deadly little sword.
Myself, I only know how to say a very few words, and they are more like squeaks; while they even know how to write. There’s always one of them in my mouth, lying in wait for my words when I want to say something. He listens and keeps everything for himself, and speaks in my place using my words but in his own filthy accent. And it’s thanks to him if anyone pays attention to me or thinks I’m intelligent. (But the ones who know aren’t fooled; if only I could listen to the ones who know!)
These phantoms rob me of everything. And having done so, it’s easy for them to make me feel sorry for them: “We protect you, we express you, we make the most of you, and you want to murder us! But you are just destroying yourself when you scold us, when you hit us cruelly on our sensitive noses—us, your good friends.”
And an unclean pity with its tepid breath comes to weaken me. Light be against you, phantoms! If I turn on the lamp, you stop talking. When I open an eye, you disappear—because you are carved out of the void, painted grimaces of emptiness. Against you, war to the finish—without pity, without tolerance. There is only one right: the right to be more.
But now it’s a different song. They have a feeling that they have been spotted; so they pretend to be conciliatory. “Of course, you’re the master. But what’s a master without servants? Keep us on in our lowly places; we promise to help you. Look here, for instance: suppose you want to write a poem. How could you do it without us?”
Yes, you rebels—some day I’ll put you in your place. I’ll make you bow under my yoke, I’ll feed you hay and groom you every morning. But as long as you suck my blood and steal my words, it would be better by far never to write a poem!
A pretty kind of peace I’m offered: to close my eyes so as not to witness the crime, to run in circles from morning till night so as not to see death’s always-open jaws; to consider myself victorious before even starting to struggle. A liar’s peace! To settle down cozily with my cowardices, since everybody else does. Peace of the defeated! A little filth, a little drunkenness, a little blasphemy for a joke, a little masquerade made a virtue of, a little laziness and fantasy—even a lot, if one is gifted for it—a little of all that, surrounded by a whole confectioner’s-shopful of beautiful words; that’s the peace that is suggested. A traitor’s peace! And to safeguard this shameful peace, one would do anything, one would make war on one’s fellows; for there is an old, tried and true formula for preserving one’s peace with oneself, which is always to accuse someone else. The peace of betrayal!
You know by now that I wish to speak of holy warfare.
He who has declared this war in himself is at peace with his fellows, and although his whole being is the field of the most violent battle, in his very innermost depths there reigns a peace that is more active than any war. And the more strongly this peace reigns in his innermost depths, in that central silence and solitude, the more violently rages the war against the turmoil of lies and numberless illusions.
In that vast silence obscured by battle-cries, hidden from the outside by the fleeing mirage of time, the eternal conqueror listens to the voices of other silences. Alone, having overcome the illusion of not being alone, he is no longer the only one to be alone. But I am separated from him by these ghost-armies which I have to annihilate. Oh, to be able one day to take my place in that citadel! On its ramparts, let me be torn limb from limb rather than allow the tumult to enter the royal chamber!
“But am I to kill?” asked Arjuna the warrior. “Am I to pay tribute to Caesar?” asks another. Kill, he is answered, if you are a killer. You have no choice. But if your hands are red with the blood of your enemies, see to it that not a drop splatter the royal chamber, where the motionless conqueror waits. Pay, he is answered, but see to it that Caesar gets not a single glimpse of the royal treasure.
And I, who have no other weapon, no other coin, in Caesar’s world, than words—am I to speak?
I shall speak to call myself to the holy war. I shall speak to denounce the traitors whom I nourished. I shall speak so that my words may shame my actions, until the day comes when a peace armored in thunder reigns in the chamber of the eternal conqueror.
And because I have used the word war, and because this word war is no longer, today, simply a sound that educated people make with their mouths, but now has become a serious word heavy with meaning, it will be seen that I am speaking seriously and that these are not empty sounds that I am making with my mouth.
John Foxx & Robin Guthrie : Spectroscope (Mirrorball)