Archive for April, 2019

After looking through a telescope Louise Glück identified with the silent enormity of the stars

April 28, 2019

I recently discovered poets writing about telescopes, like Ted Kooser and Kenneth Rexroth, what they saw through them, and how they were transformed by the experience. Here is a poem called Telescope (Averno: Poems) by Pulitzer Prize winner (1993) Louise Glück. It was among the poems she read during a Lannan Literary Event (May 11, 2016).

The Great Cluster in the constellation Hercules

Telescope

There is a moment after you move your eye away
when you forget where you are
because you’ve been living, it seems,
somewhere else, in the silence of the night sky.

You’ve been stopped being here in the world.
You’re in a different place,
a place where human life has no meaning.

You’re not a creature in a body.
You exist as the stars exist,
participating in their stillness, their immensity.

Then you’re in the world again.
At night, on a cold hill,
taking the telescope apart.

You realize afterward
not that the image is false
but the relation is false.

You see again how far away
each thing is from every other thing.

Louise Glück

Louise Glück reads Telescope at a Lannan Literary Event

Kenneth Rexroth also describes a loss of body awareness and identifies with the enormity of the star-filled summer night sky while looking through a telescope. Here’s an excerpt from The Heart of Herakles.

My body is asleep. Only
My eyes and brain are awake.
The stars stand around me
Like gold eyes, I can no longer
Tell where I begin and leave off.


Poets Kooser, Rexroth, and Glück describe their experiences with telescopes looking at the stars

April 28, 2019

Poets have written about the night sky and how it’s transformed them. Pulitzer Prize winner (2005) and U.S. Poet Laureate (2004-2006) Ted Kooser read from his poetry before a standing-room only audience in Campbell Hall at UC Santa Barbara (August/2005). In his introduction to this poem, Telescope, Kooser describes how he wakes up early every morning to write. William Stafford used to do the same thing.

Telescope

This is the pipe that pierces the dam
that holds back the universe,

that takes off some of the pressure,
keeping the weight of the unknown

from breaking through
and washing us all down the valley.

Because of this small tube,
through which a cold light rushes

from the bottom of time,
the depth of the stars stays always constant

and we are able to sleep, at least for now,
beneath the straining wall of darkness.

Ted Kooser, Delights and Shadows, p. 6

As part of the Pulitzer Centennial Campfires Initiative, the South Dakota Humanities Council commissioned a series of essays about prize winners. Christine Stewart-Nuñez wrote about her poetry teacher: Ted Kooser: A poet of connection.

Kenneth Rexroth also wrote about the cosmos looking through a telescope and how it changed him in this poem, The Heart of Herakles.

My body is asleep. Only
My eyes and brain are awake.
The stars stand around me
Like gold eyes, I can no longer
Tell where I begin and leave off.

Louise Glück in her poem, Telescope, describes a similar loss of body awareness as she identifies with the enormity of the star-filled night sky.

You’ve been stopped being here in the world.
You’re in a different place,
a place where human life has no meaning.

You’re not a creature in a body.
You exist as the stars exist,
participating in their stillness, their immensity.

Poets Rumi and Octavio Paz also open our minds to a cosmic perspective. In The Essential Rumi, Coleman Barks translates his poem:

I am so small I can barely be seen.
How can this great love be inside me?

Look at your eyes. They are small,
but they see enormous things.

Paz’s poem, Brotherhood, translated with Eliot Weinberger, is an homage to the ancient astronomer, Claudius Ptolemy.

I am a man: little do I last
and the night is enormous.
But I look up:
the stars write.
Unknowing I understand:
I too am written,
and at this very moment
someone spells me out.

In that blog post I conclude with my haiku, Forest Flowers, and mention my poem As Above So Below. Both describe relationships between the individual and the universal. 

I love the passion and precision of the tango in these pieces by Alacrán and Gotan Project

April 25, 2019
One of many videos on YouTube with this music

Reflejo de Luna’‘ by Alacrán, a Latin group (Ignacio Egaña, Fernando Arbex, Oscar Lasprilla). The words to this tango are: Eres color / Eres calor / Eres sonido en mi corazon / Manos de luz / Reflejo de Luna; which, translated into English are: You are colour / You are warmth / You are sound in my heart / Hands of light / Reflection of the moon.

Tango Santa Maria – Gotan Project

There are many videos of this song Tango Santa Maria by Gotan Project as well with visuals. You can see the musicians playing it in this extended version: Gotan Project – Santa Maria (HD,1080) “Live” from La Revancha Del Tango (2005). The words: Hay milonga de amor / hay temblor de gotán / este tango es para vos. / Argentina Buenos Aires. Hay milonga de amor hay temblor de gotán. Argentina Buenos Aires El Puerto de Santa Maria del Buen Ayre. (Repeats) In English: There is a milonga of love / there is trembling of gotán / this tango is for you. / Argentina Buenos Aires. / There is milonga of love / there is trembling of gotan. Argentina Buenos Aires The Port of Santa Maria del Buen Ayre. (Repeats) Also found on Gotan Project – Best Of Gotan Project (Full Album).

This stunningly beautiful scene of “A Fjord” was painted by Norwegian artist Adelsteen Normann

April 15, 2019
A Fjord painted by Norwegian artist Adelsteen Normann

I discovered this beautiful painting on Twitter. Don’t know whether this scene represents a sunrise or a sunset between the mountains. Either way, the vivid colors on the horizon and in the sky, and their reflection on the water are spectacular! I did some research to learn more about this impressive artist and found some of his paintings at artnet and in videos 1 & 2. Click on the video description to read more about this master painter. Here’s an excerpt from this Wikipedia biograhy.

Eilert Adelsteen Normann (May 1, 1848 – December 26, 1918) was a Norwegian painter who worked in Berlin. He was a noted painter of landscapes of Norway. Normann was the artist who invited Edvard Munch to Berlin, where he painted The Scream. Normann’s fjord paintings are credited with making the Norwegian fjords a more popular tourist destination.

The perils of praise or blame for young writers. New ways to help students find their own voice.

April 13, 2019

The teaching of writing has evolved over the decades. Teachers used to praise students for duplicating what they were instructed to write, or criticized and graded poorly for not meeting established norms. This practice of praise or blame created consequences that were detrimental to the writer. They doubted their own natural ability to express themselves in writing, wondering whether it was good or not.

W.S. Merwin, in his poem, Berryman,* about his college professor John Berryman, asks him “how can you ever be sure that what you write is really any good at all?” He gives him an unexpected honest answer.

I had hardly begun to read
I asked how can you ever be sure
that what you write is really
any good at all and he said you can’t

you can’t you can never be sure
you die without knowing
whether anything you wrote was any good
if you have to be sure don’t write

Nearly three decades after he mentored Merwin, Berryman would encapsulate his advice to young writers in this Paris Review interview, on the perils of praise and blame.

I would recommend the cultivation of extreme indifference to both praise and blame because praise will lead you to vanity, and blame will lead you to self-pity, and both are bad for writers.

It’s interesting to see this explanation—how praise (fame) or blame (criticism) might influence a young writer’s psychology, and therefore his or her creative output and development as a writer. Advising them to stay true to themselves, remain unswayed by public opinion, would allow them to maintain their own integrity as artists.

David Lynch is another artist who always follows his own muse and tells young filmmakers to do the same. Answering a student’s question about his creative process, he says we’re nothing without an idea. Using a fishing analogy, he explains that a desire for an idea is like a bait on a hook. He gives a detailed account of how he falls in love with ideas, turns them into a script, and transforms them into a film, or other works of art. To catch bigger fish, you have to dive deeper. David describes daydreaming and TM as ways to get there. He tells students to stay true to their vision, to meditate, and most importantly, to always have the final cut.

In this interview, he answers the same question, but from a different perspective: In the other room, the puzzle is all together, but they keep flipping in just one piece at a time.

Learning by doing: writing and teaching

When writers and poets were asked to teach creative writing, some conveyed the enterprise as a process to be explored and unfolded, not as a specific product to be reproduced. What they said made sense. I practiced their suggestions and discovered my own process of becoming a writer and a poet.

I also shared their strategies with my students facilitating them as writers. The most important takeaway was this: If you took care of the writer, the writing would take care of itself.

I enjoyed asking younger students questions to find out what they were passionate about, to help them uncover their own voice. If they said something interesting, I had them write it down, then asked them to combine their thoughts into a rough draft. I had them listen to what they had written by reading it aloud to me, to use their skills as a reader. Once involved in the process they naturally wanted to clarify their writing, to include relevant details, to edit their work. They had become intrinsically motivated writers!

Here are a few favorite writers who inspired me along the way.

What some favorite poets, writers and teachers say about writing

(more…)


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