Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"The Laughing Heart"

Now that I think about it, I suppose I do have a favorite poem. The words are very lyrical and blend together so eloquently. My favorite part is the last line that seems to represent a role reversal and the glorification of the human being. It is odd to surmise religious figures elevating mortals -dare I say- above themselves, but in this moment I am reminded of inspiration and the potential power of mankind.

"The Laughing Heart"
Charles Bukowski

your life is your life
don't let it be clubbed
into dank submission
be on the watch;
there are ways out
there's light somewhere
it may not be much light,
but it beats the darkness
be on the watch
the gods will offer you chances;
know them . . . take them
you can't beat death, but you can
beat death in life . . . sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be
your life is your life
know it while you have it;
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight in you

A Blank Page

I enjoy spending my time dabbling in creative arts, but I almost always feel that the blank page I was staring at before is more beautiful than whatever I put on it. It's not to say that whatever I created is so awful it shouldn't exist, but rather I usually prefer that moment in time where I'm just about to put my pen or pencil or brush to paper and I see my whole work completed in its entirety in my head, and it is beautiful, and in that moment, it has every possibility of coming to fruition. So I draw a line, I write a word and I can't exactly mimic what it is that was in my head. It's as though I know what I want to create, but I don't know how to create it. This is probably due to my insufficient skill, and I assume (though I'm not sure I hope) that with time and practice my actual creations will be just as beautiful as I what I had envisioned, but for now I'm content to be happy revel in the possibilities afforded by a blank page. I can't decide whether this means beauty in this case is perfection or possibility for me, but maybe it's a mixture of both plus something else I overlooked.

Dali meets Alice in Wonderland

I am breaking one of the rules I set for myself as a beauty blogger in this post. I told myself that I would only post pictures of paintings, sculptures, buildings, etc. that I had witnessed in person but I couldn't help myself. I love Dali and I was moved to share this work. The piece itself is owned by the William Bennett Gallery in New York. It is an illustration (of a series of illustrations) created by Salvador Dali to accompany Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. This particular one is titled "Advice from a Caterpiller."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


I couldn’t think of an example during class, but I’ve remembered an instance when I made one of the errors that Scarry discusses—the recognition that something which deserved to be called beautiful had been previously withheld that attribution. I had always hated Louise Bourgeois’ sculpture “Maman,” which I had only ever seen in pictures, mostly because I abhor bugs and couldn’t find anything interesting or acceptable about a giant spider. It wasn’t until I actually saw one of the sculptures in Ottawa that I found them to be beautiful. It’s just one of those situations where you have to experience it in person. I found it somewhat humorous when, in a press release by the Tate, Bourgeois says that spiders are “helpful and protective” as they “eat mosquitoes.” I didn’t come to see the sculpture as beautiful as a result of background info I learned about the artist’s wish to make allusions to a mother’s protectiveness. This was all very poignant and, of course, central to the meaning behind the sculpture. What was more profound for me was the moment when being in the presence of this art work changed my impression of something I had always thought of as ugly.

"I had been hungry"--Emily Dickinson

I had been hungry all the years-
My noon had come, to dine-
I, trembling, drew the table near
And touched the curious wine.

'T was this on tables I had seen
When turning, hungry, lone,
I looked in windows, for the wealth
I could not hope to own.

I did not know the ample bread,
'T was so unlike the crumb
The birds and I had often shared
In Nature's dining-room.

The plenty hurt me, 't was so new,--
Myself felt ill and odd,
As berry of a mountain bush
Transplanted to the road.

Nor was I hungry; so I found
That hunger was a way
Of persons outside windows,
The entering takes away.

I find it beautiful how she is able to relate the idea of "hunger" with the image of "persons outside windows." She connects to a greater idea by the end of the poem in an effortless way that I have a hard time unraveling.

Take that, Library! Luddite Poem to the Face!

I am displeased with the library computers, and also with technology in general, so I will post this Luddite poem in protest of the universe's spiting me my video watching because of the laxness of the library administration. Just Update The Adobe Flash Player, Already!
The Tintwhistle Weaver's Daughter (From Kevin Binfield's collection of Luddite writings at Murray University).
There was a weaver's daughter born
When loaves were big and cheap
Work was forbid on a Monday
Tho work enough for keep
His daughter grew pretty and fine
On meat and bread he'd bring
And bloomed the human face divine
Her light sweet voice would sing
But your debts and taxes want pay'd
Coined of the poor and dead
Your Orders and council kill trade
And weavers cry for bread
So bent the daughter to her fate
From work she did not cower
She beam'd the yarn from Manchester
And dress'd the warp with flour
She beams the yarn from Manchester
And dresses the warp with flour
The shuttle flies from morn til night
And rests at a late hour
From morn til night she cannot cease
Her life is nowt but toil
She has not time for love or sport
Her blooming flowers spoil
Still your debts and taxes want pay'd
Coined of the poor and the dead
Your Orders and French wars kill trade
And weavers cry out for bread
She bends no more to her poor lot
A life of nowt but toil
Enriching the mighty and great
While her own flowers spoil
She cries aloud her heros name
Her Sherwood hero Ludd
Will set a stop to wars and steam
And wages as they stood

Monday, November 28, 2011

Diamonds in an Alley

I tried to find a photograph to depict the moment I will describe, and even though this one was taken during the day, it's the best I could find.

Early September I was walking home at night through an alley (no, I was not alone, in case you were worried) and actually had a moment where I stopped walking to witness how mesmerized I was by the ground beneath me. For about thirty feet or so in front of me lay a dust of miniscule diamonds embedded in the cracks of the asphalt and shimmering under the artificial light of a streetlamp. No, they were not real diamonds, but of course tiny shards of glass from broken liquor bottles that must have been there for quite some time. The shards seemed to be dug into the ground by tires from cars, deceptively serving as one of the materials used to pave the road. For someone who just wanted to get home as quickly as possible on an unusually cold fall night, I remember that alleyway quite vividly and how I deliberately stopped walking to take a better look. I still recall how amused I was at something as familiar as broken glass that seemed to serve an aesthetic purpose for an otherwise bland backdrop. I have realized that I enjoy being fascinated by objects that aren't by themselves supposed to be beautiful. If put in the right place, an ordinary object becomes anything but. Perspective is everything.

Sheila Metzner

Over break, I visited the art museum in my hometown where there was an exhibition in which Sheila Metzner's photography was featured. I was immediately struck by her work. Some of them have an inhuman quality about them which make them look like they could almost be paintings. I find her appreciation for the human form and her playfulness with shapes and parallel lines particularly beautiful. Even the fashion portfolio seems to be not exclusively about clothes, but about emotions created by images.

How to Build a Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later

How to Build a Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later is an essay written by Phillip K. Dick detailing his reasons and motivations for writing, among other slightly more erratic topics.

I find it beautiful because it, if nothing else, it is incredibly engaging.

CTA Bus Driver

I don't have a picture of this man. I do not even know his name. All I know is that at approximately 7:50pm he was driving a 151 south bound from Devon and Clark.
Let's back up a little bit.
My roommates and I were on my way from our apartment to campus. We were waiting for the bus at the stop with other CTA customers. One elderly woman had five or six huge bags of groceries and when the bus came, my roommate and I asked if she was getting on this bus or a different one. She replied in Spanish, saying that she had lost her CTA pass and did not have enough money to pay for the trip. I told her I would pay for her trip and we helped her carry her groceries onto the bus. The bus driver smiled when he saw her and asked her if she was going to the retirement home. Apparently she is one of his regular customers.
Anyway, when we came to her stop, without being asked or missing a beat, the bus driver hopped out of his seat. It seemed like before I could even blink, he had grabbed all her groceries and was helping the women across the street to her apartment building.
Then, he ran back across, jumped back in his seat and we continued our trip.
What a beautiful example of human interaction and individual kindness.

Beautiful Bondage, A Response

...from the collection of the Louvre. Michelangelo's slaves are all about muscular torsion, the body restricted and bound. They are violently homoerotic and look forward to something like Mapplethorpe's sadomasochistic photography. In more extreme examples, the figures struggle to break free of the blocks of stone they're carved from.

Beautiful Bondage

Yes, I want there to one day be beautiful rope tied around beautiful bodies. Who wouldn't? I'm personally sick of ordinary nude sculptures. Where are the shibari sculptures? For now, photographs will do.

Faerie Houses

I know that faerie houses probably seem like a silly idea to many people, but I find everything about them to be beautiful. (Here is a picture of a particularly intricate one) The design of the homes themselves are charming or pretty at best, but it's the whole concept put together that I find beautiful. Designing a home for imaginary creatures is a true exercise of the imagination, and actually building the entire structure requires a lot of dedication and time. Every single faerie house is a labor of pure creativity, and every single one is unique. I suppose the same can be said of most non-imitative art, though I don't find most non-imitative art to be beautiful. I feel that in this case, at least personally, there must be more to the equation than simply imagination and dedication, though I still can't quite put my finger on what.

CA Conrad

Frank ate clear around
the sleeping worm
of the apple

"any life saved in this place
is magic" Frank said
"it's life coming back to you"

This short, untitled poem is from a collection called The Book of Frank, comprised of many untitled, less-than-a-page-long poems revolving around a sexless, gender-less persona, Frank.

This poem has a haiku-like, imagistic clarity at the start. The reader is offered a glimpse of a specific situation; the lines are precise, almost uncomfortable in their handling of the situation as inherent or normal. (The worm is of the apple.) Then the speaker provides an aphoristic quotation, at first seemingly unrelated to the image which preceded it. The delay in connection amplifies the impact. Plus the ambiguity of the aphorism (Is the saving of life the preservation of the worm by the apple and its hibernation inside it or the sparing of its life by the human's careful eating?) allows the short poem to move beyond its limitations. The content and organization of the poem as well as its almost inextricable place within a larger work violates expectation. What sort of poem is this, one may ask. Certainly steeped in traditions of Japanese poetry, American imagism, and English epigrammatic verse, it is simultaneously outside these genres. Is this reverent emulation or something else? How sincere is the poem, given its positioning as part of The Book of Frank within literary history?


I really liked the passage in Scarry's book about recognition of beauty that is preceded by ignorance. This picture just reminded me of that passage. Sometimes I find myself realizing that something that I see everyday is beautiful: and its not that I didn't know it to be so, but that I forgot to recognize it as such. I think the recognition of beauty in things the beauty of which has been dulled to us because we encounter it too often is beautiful: just that moment of recognition in itself.

A poem by Hafiz, translated by Matthew Rohrer

It's pouring rain out
Let's get a drink

It's too muddy
to take a walk
Let's get a drink

Or you could bring some wine over
and some flowers

Because the bars are closed
even if you bang on the doors

The rain is beautiful
for about 5 minutes
and then it is annoying

your red lips
making a circle
replace the sun

If I'm lucky

In the mail yesterday, I found an envelope from Wave books. In it were about 15 printer pages stapled together. The cover page says TRANSLATIONS FROM HAFIZ. On each page is a short ghazal translated by Matthew Rohrer. There are 10 poems total. It doesn't come across here, but when you read several of the poems in succession, a distinct pattern emerges. This kind of lean musicality underpins what appear to be completely casual speech-acts. It's as though everyday-ness assumes a decalmatory posture in the poem. The effect is at once urgent and deliberate.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Keira Knightley

I’ve already posted on one of her films recently, but I will single out Keira Knightley specifically here by saying that I think she has one of the most beautiful faces. I’m not sure if this is over-generalizing, but it seems somewhat similar to what Elaine Scarry calls a “clear discernibility” or “wordless certainty” about beauty. It’s not something I have to even think about—Keira is beautiful, and it doesn’t seem like a situation where I’ll one day say, “No, I was wrong.” I understand that human beauty especially allows for a great variability of responses and judgments. But, to me, it just feels like her beauty is self-evident, as if no one could deny it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sky Water

This is a picture of a little pond in my favorite forest preserve. When my friends and I walk through the prairie part of the preserve to get to the forest there is one pond on each side of the trail, and they mark the half-way point (also that we took the right trail), so we're always happy to see them. On this particular day when we finally stumbled upon the twin ponds the way the light hit the water and the water reflected the sky was just breath-taking. It's almost as though I was looking at two skies, or an arch of heavily forested land that cuts through the sky... there's just so many ways to look at this picture. There's a different thing to see in the differently angled pictures, but I just felt that this one inspired my imagination the most, so I chose it to represent that moment. I guess this means that for me illusions like this in ordinary scenery that cause you to take a second glance and set your imagination soaring definitely fit the bill for beautiful.

Applications of Calculus

Someone mentioned at the end of class today that they found calculus beautiful and time ran out before I could agree with them.

I try to not talk about economics because most people find the topic boring, and sometimes it is, but what makes it interesting and beautiful to me is that certain economic theories can, ceteris paribus, be proven to always be true because of calculus.

Above is a graphic representation of profit maximization in a perfectly competitive market. What makes it useful is that it expresses the optimum amount of goods to be produced--but what makes it beautiful is that this model can be used for any commodity in a similarly structured market. The model is beautiful because it is universal, and its universality is because of the underlying calculus governing each line on the graph.


I love this series of men in classic pin-up poses. This is supposedly one of the most popular, probably because of the straight-seeming masculinity as a starker contrast to the pose than some of the other men who look a little more queer or ambiguous about their orientation or gender performance.


I don't want to think this overused painting (once as common on teenaged walls as "The Kiss") is beautiful, but I always, always have. I think I like how sinister it is, but I can't escape that it is classically beautiful.

Yusef Komunyakaa Broadside

Unfortunately the image is really small so here's the text of the poem:

from Love in the Time of War

Hand-to-hand: the two hugged each other
into a naked tussle, one riding the other's back,
locked into a double embrace. One
forced the other to kiss the ground,

as he cursed & bit into an earlobe.
They shook beads of dew off the grass.
One worked his fingers into the black soil,
& could feel a wing easing out of his scapula.

That night, the lucky one who gripped
a stone like Mercury weighing the planet
in his palm, who knew windfall

& downfall, he fell against his darling
again & again, as if holding that warrior in his arms,
& couldn't stop himself from lifting off the earth.

I think broadsides are a type of replication, celebration, or renewal of the poem. You stamp each letter onto thick paper and an artist draws or paints an image alongside the poem. The poem, which is often already published elsewhere, is renewed and changed at the same time. It turns the piece of paper into an entirely different kind of art work. The poem, which previously existed simply as language and letters on a page, is now part of a much more visual work, or at least more self-consciously visual.


I have always loved the song "Chicago" by Sufjan Stevens. No matter what kind of mood I'm in, I can always come back to it and enjoy it. Hearing it performed by an a capella group a couple weekends ago reminded me of how much I love it, and how beautiful a stripped down version of a song can be.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Bows by James Jean

This painting by James Jean is titled "Bows." I'm not sure what the first thing that drew me to it was, but after reading the title I started to notice specific parts of the painting. It made me question why the red was used at certain points, and the blue. Every line and color appears to have a purpose in the painting, and it asks you to contemplate that connection. The image drew me in, and as I looked through his other work I kept coming back to this one because it seemed to be saying something I could not completely grasp. 

Francis Lai's A Man and a Woman

This song from Un homme et une femme (1966) encompasses all that I love about French film. It reminds of me of other things I find beautiful such as Godard's Breathless and Resnais' Hiroshima Mon Amour which are two of my favorite films of all time. I just really love the French New Wave. (Also, you can't deny how catchy the song is... toi et moi ba da ba da da...)

de la nada vida a la nada muerte

This is a great painting by Frank Stella (nominally a Minimalist, but we could get into why I don't think it makes sense to call him one). The title comes from a colloquial Spanish expression meaning something like "from life nothing to death nothing." The shaped canvas sets up an interesting tension between extreme, literal flatness and the optical impression of dimensionality, which I think is key to the way this painting works. If my experience is any judge, you can't seriously look at it without being made profoundly aware of its visual, autonomous presence - you can see for yourself at the Art Institute of Chicago - but what I mean is this: it manages to collapse its shape (its thingly character?) into a total, optical experience.

Hollie Chastain

I really admire Hollie Chastain for her ability to create extraordinary paper collages using old book covers, photographs, and construction paper. The bright colors accent the yellowed and worn book cover pages so well, giving more life and movement to the images as a whole. Creating something fresh and bold out of discarded and otherwise bland material is truly inspirational. Here is a link for more of her work:


This is a picture of my pup, Grace. I'm posting this picture on our Beauty Blog because during this last week before Thanksgiving break, all I can think about is how grateful I am for the chance to go home and see my family (including Grace). Personally, this semester has been full of unexpected twists and turns, some good and some bad, but I've realized that the bad came when I became disconnected from my family and too consumed in school work or professional life. Therefore, I am calling this break my saving grace because it is allowing me to ground myself in family values and familiarity once again.
Obviously, the play on my dog's name is why her picture is posted here, but I also chose this photo because it represents the familiarity to which I cannot wait to return this weekend. Out of all of the people who look at this blog post, only I will feel a sense of comfort founded in knowing this dog and exactly where the couch she is laying on is positioned in my home that belongs only to my family and me. Therefore, I find beauty in the comforting familiarity of this photo.

Banksy's art

Banksy, a British political activist and painter, has an incredibly interesting way to manifest his thoughts through mockery of controversial situations. For example, he painted the above picture on walls in Bethlehem, which was made to separate the Palestinians from Israelis. This wall is about 4x larger than the Berlin wall and is spurring even more hatred between the two heated groups. Banksy's paintings are interesting because he painted such a light-hearted carefree picture of a girl with balloons on a wall that represents hatred and separation. I personally think his bold statements are beautiful because it allows the people who live there to look at the wall in a different way, and it forces them to open their eyes. It also reminds the citizens daily about how ridiculous the wall actually is.

A citizen's opinion that explained this idea further:
"Banksy also recounts that an old man came up to him and told him that he was making the wall look beautiful. Banksy thanked him. The old man replied, “We don’t want it to be beautiful. We hate that wall. Go away.”

For some more of Banksy's pictures, check out:

In a Station of the Metro

THE apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.
-Ezra Pound

I find this poem beautiful because it is so minimal. There are no extra words, but the images overlap to create this beautiful picture in your mind. Every words is perfect and is just where it needs to be. It is a tiny poem, but it is so meticulously thought through.

Glassworks Opening

This is the opening to Philip Glass’s Glassworks. I know you could probably find another almost identical video on YouTube, but the reason I decided to post a video of myself playing it has to do with something Elaine Scarry says in On Beauty and Being Just. Beauty necessitates replication, an “unceasing begetting…the perpetual duplicating of a moment that never stops.” The reason why we stare at something beautiful is so fundamentally obvious—a face, palm trees, a statue. We don’t want the beautiful thing to go away. We’re satisfied if we can continue to stare. I guess the same can apply to sound. With this song, I could practice it for hours and never tire of it. To say the least, the song is repetitive, which some people might hate, and if you’ve listened to the first two minutes or so, it would almost be as if you’ve heard the whole thing. But I think Glass understood Scarry's notion when he wrote the piece—I might speak only for myself, but it’s like I don’t want the sound to go away. I want it to be repeated over again and am glad it was written that way.

(It’s a poor substitute, but this is for someone to whom I had said I’d play this “next time there’s a piano…” Sorry we haven't found one.)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Ezra Pound


Zeus lies in Ceres’ bosom
Taishan is attended of loves
under Cythera, before sunrise
And he said: “Hay aquí mucho catolicismo—(sounded
y muy poco reliHion.”
and he said: “Yo creo que los reyes desparecen”
(Kings will, I think, disappear)
This was Padre José Elizondo
in 1906 and in 1917
or about 1917
and Dolores said: “Come pan, niño,” eat bread, me lad
Sargent had painted her
before he descended
(i.e. if he descended
but in those days he did thumb sketches,
impressions of the Velázquez in the Museo del Prado
and books cost a peseta,
brass candlesticks in proportion,
hot wind came from the marshes
and death-chill from the mountains.
And later Bowers wrote: “but such hatred,
I have never conceived such”
and the London reds wouldn’t show up his friends
(i.e. friends of Franco
working in London) and in Alcázar
forty years gone, they said: go back to the station to eat
you can sleep here for a peseta”
goat bells tinkled all night
and the hostess grinned: Eso es luto, haw!
mi marido es muerto
(it is mourning, my husband is dead)[...]

This is a canto from Pound's Pisan Cantos, written while detained in an outdoor cage on the plains outside of Pisa, Italy. In what way is this concealed and unconcealed? In what way is this declaration and image coupled with the indecipherable or impenetrable personal as well as historical? How much do we need to know, and how does that affect the judgment of the Canto as good art?

(As a note, the blog obliterated Pound's indentations, which add a lot to the poem. Sorry for that.)

Raphael Rooms

Today, in the second celebratory installment of awesome Rome things in honor of the resignation of Silvio Berlusconi and the (possible) salvation of Italy, I leave you with two images of paintings in the Rapahel Rooms. The single painting is one of the gathering of the philosophers. Appropriate, I thought, because of our focus. The corner-shot is to give a sense of how absolutely overwhelming the experience of seeing them is. One is surrounded completely, engulfed in masterworks that form four rooms of almost impossibly magnificent art. The scene on the left wall is the Victory of Constantine, the one on the right wall is the baptism of Charlemagne.


This is the Jeff Koons sculpture, "Puppy", in front of the Bilbao Guggenheim. I was lucky enough to study abroad in Bilbao last fall and get to walk past this sculpture every time I had class downtown.

This work is beautiful to me because I find it to be very cheerful in an indescribable way.

Nikoletta Bati

I find Nikoletta Bati's artwork hauntingly beautiful. Most of her paintings are characterized by a mistiness and otherworldly feel. These are two pieces that struck me the most.

American Born Chinese

American Born Chinese by GeneLuen Yang is a graphic novel for adolescents in high school. By combining stories of Chineses myth and modern Chinese-American culture, the novel sends the message of how important it is to be aware of all cultures as an American. The graphics in the novel are bright and fun, which match the quirky and humorous tone of the book. I think the book is beautiful because it works well as a transition book for high schoolers who do not like to read; anything that gets kids more into reading and education is beautiful, but I especially enjoy the humor of this book.

Ben Heine's Art

Ben Heine is a creative artist who mixes his drawing with photography. I find his work to be very different, but the concept behind it to be very beautiful because he takes the real world that we perceive and adds his own thoughts (in the form of drawings) to the photograph. His drawings are not randomly inserted into the picture, but the drawings are continuous and they look like they could actually be part of the photograph. His work allows for the audience to get a sneak peak on what is going on in his mind, as well as a different perspective on seeing things.

For more of his work, check out:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Henry VIII

This is a photograph by Hiroshi Sugimoto of a waxwork of King Henry VIII. My sense is that we instinctively want a photograph to represent a literal point of view (and that we assume it does). That is to say, it's a mechanical record of what the eye sees from a particular vantage point. But Sugimoto's photographs appear to be taken from a vantage point that no one could possibly occupy (I don't mean in space or even in time - I mean something like, they record a special mode of seeing to which we don't normally have access). This picture involves us in thinking through methods of reproduction, the way they interact with one another and our world, and how we experience these overlapping visualities (cf. Hans Holbein's portrait of Henry VIII).

Japanese Gardens

This photograph was taken in Kyoto, Japan, the city that happens to be the setting for the captivating, fictional story Memoirs of a Geisha. It must be such a breathtaking experience to walk through one of these gardens and I would love to visit one at some point in my life. It is these kinds of places that allow us to contemplate how humanity desires to encapsulate nature into a controlled space for the sake of creating an environment to appreciate the beautiful. I suppose a garden is like an outdoor museum, constructed to showcase nature. As a society, do we sometimes find these constructed displays of nature more beautiful than mother earth's untouched and original displays?

Pride and Prejudice

There are several reasons why I like Pride and Prejudice, but I’m going to pinpoint this scene in the film as beautiful. Yes, I admit that it’s a little cliché and Fabio-esque, but I feel like that’s exactly why people love it so much. Who wouldn’t want the love of their life to come walking over to their house in the misty dawn? I feel like there’s something worthwhile, oddly, in an art form that can allow people to experience a moment through a movie or character, if only briefly. It’s pure fantasy, while still hanging onto something that seems to resemble the hope of second chances in real life.

The Birds in the Trees

One morning I was walking across my lawn when I noticed the neighborhood cat sitting below a tree and intently gazing up. I wondered what poor squirrel she was in the process of stalking, but when I looked up I didn't see anything at first glace. Then I heard a small chirping so I looked again and sure enough, there was a large baby robin hiding up in the branches. It looked so beautiful sitting up there, and it was such a pleasant surprise I couldn't help but smile.

Reflection on the Square

I was going to post a translation of Tatiana Tolstoy's essay on Malevich's "Black Square." However, after reviewing it I realized that the translation is atrocious and gets little of the original ideas across. The original focuses on the "Black Square" as a pivotal moment in art, and ties it to a sort of psychotic episode in Leo Tolstoy's life. Tolstoy wrote about an event which consisted of him waking up in the middle of the night and feeling unjustified, agonizing, uncontrollable fear. It is this fear of the unknown (quite literally) and paralyzing desperation, that Tatiana claims the black square encompasses. She is not fond of the piece and claims that until it was produced art was about inspiration (it was about channeling the divine good); whereas after the "Square" all that was good about art disappeared into the darkness, and artistic creation became focused on destruction. I felt that this piece was very in tune with the short story we read for today. It addresses the motivation of art and the evolution of art. I find it beautiful, for while it reads like an essay it has a strange sort of narrative built into it.

Inga Muscio

In light of my boyfriend purchasing Muscio's book, Cunt, last week, I have stolen it from him and am reading it myself. Even though I don't fall completely in line with all of Muscio's opinions, I still have to force myself to put the book down and not keep reading which is part of the reason I'm going to share the following quote with you. The other part is that one of my speech team students "Q" competes in Poetry Reading with a program revealing some of the truths and horrors about domestic abuse and rape. Unfortunately, a judge from another school kept Q from winning the tournament by ranking her in last place for performing something that was "too political" and "inappropriate." Although, I wish Q had won this weekend, it's just one tournament. What I am more impressed with is Q's ability to make someone so angry with the truth that she undeservingly put Q in last place. So, for Q:
"Words outlive people, institutions, civilizations. Words spur images, associates, memories, inspirations and synapse pulsations. Words send off physical resonations of thought into the nethersphere. Words hurt, soothe, inspire, demean, demands, incite, pacify, teach, romance, pervert, unite, divide.
Words be powerful."

Christine Sun Kim

Todd Selby x Christine Sun Kim on

This short video documents deaf artist Christine Sun Kim and her quest to change how sound is used in art. She gives sound a physical quality in her art and creates a different view of sound. I found it interesting how she described feedback as one of her favorite sounds because of its ability to physically impact her body. Also, I enjoyed how the film itself focused on everyday sounds in the beginning of the video, because those are usually sounds we don't really think about in everyday life.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fountains of Rome

In honor of the resignation of Silvio Berlusconi and the recursion of some sanity in Italian politics (if only for a moment), I have elected to present some of the other things that make Rome fairly awesome. Today, it's the fountains. Now, most of you will have seen or heard of the Trevi fountain (it's the original 'toss in a coin, make a wish' sort), but it is impossible to arrange a detailed shot of that enormous structure without standing in the pool with all of the city's money, and the carabinieri don't appreciate that very much.
So instead, we have these two. The one on the left is The Fountain of the Tortoises in the Piazza Mattei, so called because there are several wee tortoises being tipped into the pool. The fountain (sans tortoises) was constructed from marble by Giacomo della Porta (architect) and Taddeo Landini (sculptor) in the late 16th century. The bronze tortoises were added, it is believed, by Bernini in the mid-17th century, because the original bronze dolphins were not achieving the proper water pressure, I suppose from size issues.
The one on the right is the Fountain of the Triton, executed by Bernini in the Piazza Barbarini from marble in the mid-17th century (because that, as we have established, is when he was alive). The pinecone-looking thing at the apex of the shell is the triple-crown of the popes, seeing as in both cases these fountains were executed to provide access to pure water from the reconstructed Acqua Virgine roman aqueduct (which terminates at the Trevi). These fountains marry exquisite (if noticeably Baroque in the Triton's case) detail with functionality.
On Thursday, we'll explore some other Roman awesemnity. Probably something churchified, but maybe not. Stay tuned.

Over the Rainbow

I love Celtic Woman and this is probably one of their most beautiful songs. They took an ordinary song, and the way they sing it makes it anything but ordinary, but rather phenomenal. I didn't even notice that there was no instrument accompaniment until someone else pointed it out to me. I actually find that I prefer the songs where they don't have instruments accompanying them (except for maybe one spirited violin), because then they use their voices in such an overwhelmingly wonderful way.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Andrew Wyeth doesn't usually do it for me, but I like this painting from the Helga series. The tempera is so important to the way this picture works - that surface precision and the pigment's muted, inward glow. If we're talking about Heidegger, it's also worth considering Wyeth's regionalism and the way it might relate to the historical being and endowment of a people.

Chagall in Chicago

These are images of The Four Seasons by Chagall. It is a piece of art in downtown Chicago made completely out of tiny pieces of different-colored tile. The patience that had to go into creating this art astonishes me because it is a large artwork made of such small pieces.
The art depicts the four seasons in an euphoric way. At the bottom of the art is a whimsical depiction of the Chicago skyline under images of the four seasons in Chicago. I think this art is beautiful because it pays homage to all the wonderful things the city has to offer during all seasons. I think when we all start complaining about the upcoming Chicago winter next season, I will make a trip to look at this artwork to remind myself of the beauty this city exudes at all times.

Krakow and the Royal Sigismund Bell

I know we have already seen a lot of Poland in this blog but the Wawel Castle in Krakow is hands down one of my favorite and most beautiful parts of Poland. One of my personal favorite parts, however, is the Royal Sigismund (Zygmunt) Bell. It embodies everything I believe to be part of my cultural heritage. Aside from the social, political and historical context, the bell itself is impressive in structure and the sound it makes is also beautiful.


Simon Schubert creates his artworks by folding and unfolding paper. The method is very original and the artwork comes out almost invisible unless you take a closer look.

Salvador Dali

Given the cartoon-like quality of many of Dali's paintings, I find this portrait of the Spanish artist incredibly fitting. It is beautiful in its ridiculousness. The photo corresponds to the works that its subject produced.


I wonder what Heidegger would make of Robert Rauschenberg’s work, a prime example of combine painting. What I like about them is the dissolution of the boundary between painting and sculpture, but also his use of trash and found objects. I feel like by incorporating pre-constructed and exceedingly mundane objects, Rauschenberg’s pieces dictate what “art” will consist of, according to its own terms.

The sculpture component brings attention to what Heidegger would call the “thingly” or material quality of the work. But I still sense that his treatment of these Combines would differ from that of, say, van Gogh’s painting. Here, the relationship between reality/content and the representation/form is problematized by the use of objects that are un-manipulated representations of nothing but themselves. Nonetheless, I think Heidegger would be interested in parsing the “Earth/World” struggle present in these works—They seems to both expose their “meaning” (take for example, the accessibility of a chair and its associations) and internalize it or resist interpretation through the use of no apparent order.


Foxfire is the name given to a kind of bioluminescence produced by certain types of fungi that grow on moist, rotting bark. You can see these fungi faintly glowing at night, especially during the summer in tropical forests that foster the moist environment needed for mushrooms and other fungi to grow. Finding pleasure in objects that normally produce disgust or distaste is both ironic and phenomenal. It is also fascinating to think that something so artificial looking is in fact a product of nature.



I sit at my table and sometimes the question of poetry crosses my mind
For example
The man who one night ate a big plate of beans
Then got tired
Of everything and killed himself
Next day at the burial
Everyone said, What's that noise?

Was it poetry?

--Bill Knott


I like this poem because it keeps alive a tradition in English literature tracing all the way back to Chaucer: elevating the fart-joke to an art form.

Dream Song 4 by John Berryman

Dream Song 4

Filling her compact & delicious body
with chicken páprika, she glanced at me
Fainting with interest, I hungered back
and only the fact of her husband & four other people
kept me from springing on her

or falling at her little feet and crying
‘You are the hottest one for years of night
Henry’s dazed eyes
have enjoyed, Brilliance.’ I advanced upon
(despairing) my spumoni.—Sir Bones: is stuffed,
de world, wif feeding girls.

—Black hair, complexion Latin, jewelled eyes
downcast … The slob beside her feasts … What wonders is
she sitting on, over there?
The restaurant buzzes. She might as well be on Mars.
Where did it all go wrong? There ought to be a law against Henry.
—Mr. Bones: there is.
This is a poem from Berryman's collection The Dream Songs. The visual created in the poem is clear and dynamic, even though parts of the poem (Henry and Mr. Bones) are not as easily understood. Those elements are carried through the rest of the poems in the collection, but "Dream Song 4" creates a scene that is at first humorous and then slowly transforms into a symbol of something more powerful. The last two lines give pause to the reader and forces him to contemplate deeper on the constructed scene.

Frederick Seidel


I think you do
But it frightens you
I have the guns
In the car.

I wanted to save
Someone and
The rest. It will happen.
I will take you hostage.

Also I wasn't
Going to fall in love
But when you're fleeing
You're flying.

Someone had to take
My blindfold off for me to
Just take off. I turn the key in your ignition.
Contact! The propeller flickers.

We are taking off to
Have another

For the road. Burn the birth certificates.
Run the roadblock.
All the whirling lights
On the roofs of their cars.

They're going to check
The trunk and find our bodies.
I won't.
We jump out firing.

I am already in you.
I am rafting down your bloodstream.
That is already over.
I have entered.

Frederick Seidel is offensive, savage, sinister, and yet in his poems, one can't exactly tell if this persona (elite, sleazy, macho) is being celebrated or satirized. That is the power of his poetry. The speaker seems delighted and afloat in his nightmarish, materialistic world--and yet he becomes cartoonish, absurd, as if partaking in self-ridicule. The offensive brutality of Seidel struggles with a delicacy and satirical sensibility. This conflict is not resolved by the poem or figured out by the reader. Heidegger might say there is concealment and an unveiling in Seidel's work. A rift and a striving that never finds an end.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Weary Blues reprise

I did a lousy job of reading "The Weary Blues" by Langston Hughes, in my opinion. Instead, I wanted to share with you the melody I wrote to accompany the song. It's a rough cut and I haven't been musically trained, but I love this poem and I think sharing this song with you will help you see why. When I read the poem, I hear this song in my head now, and I can't help but feel it all over.

William Carlos Williams


As the cat
climbed over
the top of

the jamcloset
first the right

then the hind
stepped down

into the pit of
the empty

"It's Raining" -Guillaume Apollinaire

This is the best "image" I could find of this poem in English. I will bring the text to class though. The innovation behind the form of many of Apollinaire's poems is what I find most striking about him.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Man-Moth by Elizabeth Bishop

Man-Moth: Newspaper misprint for “mammoth.”

Here, above,
cracks in the buildings are filled with battered moonlight.
The whole shadow of Man is only as big as his hat.
It lies at his feet like a circle for a doll to stand on,
and he makes an inverted pin, the point magnetized to the moon.
He does not see the moon; he observes only her vast properties,
feeling the queer light on his hands, neither warm nor cold,
of a temperature impossible to record in thermometers.

But when the Man-Moth
pays his rare, although occasional, visits to the surface,
the moon looks rather different to him. He emerges
from an opening under the edge of one of the sidewalks
and nervously begins to scale the faces of the buildings.
He thinks the moon is a small hole at the top of the sky,
proving the sky quite useless for protection.
He trembles, but must investigate as high as he can climb.

Up the façades,
his shadow dragging like a photographer’s cloth behind him
he climbs fearfully, thinking that this time he will manage
to push his small head through that round clean opening
and be forced through, as from a tube, in black scrolls on the light.
(Man, standing below him, has no such illusions.)
But what the Man-Moth fears most he must do, although
he fails, of course, and falls back scared but quite unhurt.

Then he returns
to the pale subways of cement he calls his home. He flits,
he flutters, and cannot get aboard the silent trains
fast enough to suit him. The doors close swiftly.
The Man-Moth always seats himself facing the wrong way
and the train starts at once at its full, terrible speed,
without a shift in gears or a gradation of any sort.
He cannot tell the rate at which he travels backwards.

Each night he must
be carried through artificial tunnels and dream recurrent dreams.
Just as the ties recur beneath his train, these underlie
his rushing brain. He does not dare look out the window,
for the third rail, the unbroken draught of poison,
runs there beside him. He regards it as a disease
he has inherited the susceptibility to. He has to keep
his hands in his pockets, as others must wear mufflers.

If you catch him,
hold up a flashlight to his eye. It’s all dark pupil,
an entire night itself, whose haired horizon tightens
as he stares back, and closes up the eye. Then from the lids
one tear, his only possession, like the bee’s sting, slips.
Slyly he palms it, and if you’re not paying attention
he’ll swallow it. However, if you watch, he’ll hand it over,
cool as from underground springs and pure enough to drink.

As I Grew Older by Langston Hughes

As I Grew Older

By: Langston Hughes

It was a long time ago.

I have almost forgotten my dream.

But it was there then,

In front of me,

Bright like a sun--

My dream.

And then the wall rose,

Rose slowly,


Between me and my dream.

Rose until it touched the sky--

The wall.


I am black.

I lie down in the shadow.

No longer the light of my dream before me,

Above me.

Only the thick wall.

Only the shadow.

My hands!

My dark hands!

Break through the wall!

Find my dream!

Help me to shatter this darkness,

To smash this night,

To break this shadow

Into a thousand lights of sun,

Into a thousand whirling dreams

Of sun!

As people grow older, they lose their imagination and that sense of innocence they had during their childhood. People become so engulfed with their careers, making money, etc. that they forget to be themselves and do something that they enjoy, and a part of them gets lost. Whenever I read this poem, I'm always brought back down to Earth and remember that life shouldn't always be so serious :)

A piece of Little Gidding

Little Gidding is the fourth of Eliot's Four Quartets. It is nine sizeable, meaty pages long, and thus I will not put up the whole poem. You really should read the whole thing, though, because the sections might be strong enough to stand on their own, but taken as a unit they become so much stronger, and the symbols and signifiers (not to mention the poetics) become more intuitive and accessible when the movements resound together.

Little Gidding


The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror.
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre-
To be redeemed from fire by fire.

Who then devised the torment? Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
We only live, only suspire
Consumed by either fire or fire.


What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from. And every phrase
And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,
Taking its place to support the others,
The word neither diffident nor ostentatous,
an easy commerce of the old and the new,
The common word exact without vulgarity,
the formal word precise but not pedantic,
The complete consort dancing together)
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph. And any action
Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea's throat
Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start.
We die with the dying:
See, they depart, and we go with them.
We are born with the dead:
See, they return, and bring us with them.
The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree
Are of equal duration. A people without history
Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern
Of timeless moments. So, while the light falls
On a winter's afternoon, in a secluded chapel
History is now and England.

With the drawing of this Love and the voice of the Calling

We shall not cease from exploration
and the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unkown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick, now, here, now, always-
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned not of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.