Wednesday, February 16, 2005

No Painting Apocalyptic Enough

And so it was very late at night, at the end of one of those days that just sits on your chest like that elephant of heart attack descriptions. It’s very late—when I usually write—sitting at my desk without distractions, worldly ones, but conspiracies abound to make one of those days even better, greater, though I assure you I am not schizophrenic as of yet (to my knowledge). I have always known that Little Emerson could not be trusted, especially when he’s reading Faust ad naseum. Little did I know you also cannot trust Blogger.

So I sit late at night, writing, something about the rumor of some future (in Galician), dark stuff, no doubt. I then go on into this raving rant, holier-than-thou speech. This is draft stuff that always goes into my notes—this endless pit of nonsense in my computer. (It’s so bad that my hard disk threatens—and, yes, I do hear its voice—to format itself if I don’t stop. So I write about my anger and the world and how poetry just isn’t the same without things being my way, apparently, no doubt, because I am an ILLUMINED one. This goes as a “draft” in blogger. All my pre-posts go into blogger as drafts because—and now you know why—I must edit my thoughts carefully. And so it stays a draft, but I go back, cause I can’t leave well enough alone, no sir. I change some things. I believe I added something as pastoral as “licking so much ass that the tongue ought to hurt.” (I’m not about to look up the exact definition of rudeness at this time.)

Morning finds me with this dumbfounded look when I see that my “draft” is not a draft. Not any more. I actually f****** posted this apocalyptic aberration. Not only did I post it, but C. Dale has already read it and has already commented on it. Shit! Resignation. He posted his comment in Spanish. There’s still time to undo, but no. Very little time passes when others make comments before I can delete my “draft”. And I delete it. Boy do I delete it! (People in my office: “Everything alright, Alberto.” Alberto stares at people. They go away.)

I found my post to be extremely insulting. Those who read it know this, though they were gracious enough to let it slide. (Those who haven’t read it can get a free copy from me by e-mail because I can’t do censorship, not even of the self-protecting kind.)

Yes. I am probably leaving the blog world, but surely for no reason involving the blogworld or other bloggers. And certainly not because of what hard-working poets are doing. I certainly did not want that to be the message and I certainly did not want to insult anyone. I came too damn close to that edge and I cannot allow myself to do that because I’m going through a bad time or cycle or moon phase, or simply because Taurus’ celestial horns have turned slightly askew on me.

My apologies to all the kind people who had enough sense to let this episode slide. It was an obnoxious, pretentious way to express my feelings, thoughts and frustrations. I am not being politically correct here; my thoughts, I think, are by now fairly well known and that won’t change. I simply apologize if I insulted anyone. No more Faust for the little fellow.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The House of Asterion

A Casa de Astérion by Nuno Medeiros

I know they accuse me of arrogance, and perhaps of misanthropy, and perhaps of madness. Such accusations (for which I shall extract punishment in due time) are derisory. It is true that I never leave my house, but it is also true that its doors (whose number is infinite) are open day and night….Anyone may enter. [Jorge Luís Borges]

Excellent conversations all over Blogland. Concerns, concerns, concerns. (Rachmaninov playing in the background. I’m looking for desperate effect here guys.) But, really, some interesting stuff going around. Eddie Corral concerned over his manuscript possibilities (it’s almost there) and C. Dale giving some great advise on getting published. Bino’s to-do list I cannot do here, but here is my naïve question, as usual: in light of the existing immediacy offered by Internet, its far-reaching potential, is it possible to “publish” on the net maintaining the same quality standards that exist in print? Why can’t poetry, of all written literary media, find its respected place on the net thereby demystifying the publishing labyrinth?

I realize the economic implications involved in what I’m asking. Those implications draw a double-edged sword. On the one hand the big houses publish in order to make money or to win prices or to create prestige and, yes, eventually more money. Everyone knows that artistic merry-go-round. Fair enough. At the same time poetry, we hear, makes no money so publishers can’t afford to spend valuable resources on it. Fair enough too. So much fairness, in fact, that it all ends up being a game: there are only so many possibilities to publish and only so many poets that can be published. Supply and demand. Call the equation what you will. Since “getting published” is a game —one that requires a great deal of effort and a command of obstacle course rules as C. Dale and others have demonstrated— the best poetry may not necessarily be what gets published. (The one-handed clapping poet I’ll leave for another day.) Let’s not get all huffed and puffed here; not just yet, I haven’t thrown sand in anybody’s eyes. It just seems to me that the accomplishment of publishing has become more and more a career trail than an artistic one. Can a well-disciplined M.B.A. with a sure hand (a bit of compass, ruler and metronome) and that steady pulse for the line break have a better chance of getting published than the best crop reciting out of Iowa, Columbia or Timbuktu? You tell me.

Quality publishing on the net might be a solution. It should be the solution though it is of no interest that it be so at this time. Hard-binders and toilet-seat readers beware. In every country more and more people are trying their hand at poetry —poets being few and far between no matter what medium is involved— but those trying are beginning to do so by having their voices heard, literally heard, on the Internet. Why then so many submission rules for that poem on paper? Why so many restrictions? How many stamps must still be licked? I know: supply and demand. But if poetry is what it’s supposed to be, don’t laugh, that most special of arts, then why so many walls to climb, so many moats to cross? Yes, in this new millennium, most editors will not read three poems submitted via e-mail and assess them and reply to them in the time it should take (less than how many months?) because part of the game requires that you —desperate post office roamer— lick yet another stamp. It’s harder to reach the Ivory Tower than to write something worthy of it. Otherwise the song remains the same: Wake me up when this dream is over.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The Devil's Music

Sergei Rachmaninov

A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul. [Goethe]

I know little about classical music. Little indeed. This prompted my friend Luís—who loves classical and particularly opera—to record for me some classical works that might be accessible to me “based on your personality,” he said. OK, I’m into Freudian approaches. And so we did. We went through Mahler’s “The Titan” in fairly good shape; Bach’s Goldberg Variations, Schumann’s Piano Sonata No. 1, Op. 11, and a few others. All went well I must happily say. While the music at first seemed to my untrained ear to lack the passion of Bruce on the boardwalk, the strangeness of Floyd’s “Animals” or the psychedelic vision of Hendrix, overall this “classic”, sit-in-the-dark-study-stuff turned out quite promising and, ultimately, dangerous. The devil’s music, I’ve no doubt.

While listening to Rachmaninov for the past couple of weeks (cause Luís means business when he shares his passions), I suddenly had this urge to read Faust. I’d been through it years ago in English and so I thought why not give it a go in Spanish. So I began to read Fausto leisurely. Half-hour here, half-hour there. But this strange desire to read Goethe kept pushing and pushing at me. And I kept listening and listening to Rachmaninov; the reading feeding the music and the music the reading. How strange, no?

And then suddenly today I jumped on Google for no reason other than to know something about Rachmaninov. (The copy of the CD Luís made for me only had the picture cover of The Piano Concertos.) So what was the story behind them, I wondered? Interestingly —shockingly— I found this in reference to the First Piano Sonata:

The First Piano Sonata dates from 1907, only slightly earlier than the Third Concerto. Rachmaninov was characteristically modest about the work's prospects, stating that "no one will ever play this work because of its difficulty and length and perhaps too... because of its dubious musical merits." In fact the sonata is extremely interesting, not the least due to its hidden program. That the work was inspired by Goethe's Faust and that its three movements seek to portray in turn Faust, Gretchen (Margareta), and Mephistopheles was not revealed even to Konstantin Igumnov, who gave its first performances. Yet a number of musical ideas in this sonata can only be explained in terms of this program. For example, according to Rachmaninov scholar Barrie Martyn,

The Faustian motto with which the sonata opens consists of two elements: the first starkly arches the interval of a fifth in quiet questioning; the second, marked forte, peremptorily dismisses the preceding phrase and emphatically asserts a perfect cadence. The juxtaposition of abruptly contrasting dynamics and of doubt and certainty seems to reflect the struggle of opposing aspirations that goes on in the mind of Faust and Everyman.*

So there you have it. Mephistopheles at work; it wasn’t only Led Zeppelin that spoke the devil’s words in music, backwards. What messages lurk behind sound and cadence? Some of this —somewhere— has to do with poetry.

* Lyn and Lawrence Schenbeci, quoting, Rachmaninoff: Composer, Pianist, Conductor. London: Scolar Press, 1990, p. 188.