Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Nice photo/image of George Best on Tom Raworth's site, 25 November. http://tomraworth.com/notes/index.php

(& great photo of Creeley by Gloria Graham, April, 2005, New Mexico

Best was something else. In his prime, there were always three on him. The third was the hatchet-man. The so-called "beautiful game" began to get real ugly then. He was spiked running off the ball or with it.

Saw him once in a pub on Belsize Lane, Belsize Village. It was long ago.

As good as any introduction in paperback to those vanished days of First Division football is CLOUGH THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY (Corgi, first edition, 1995). And a piece in the Evening Standard for Tuesday, 21 September 2004 , p. 87, by Stan Bowles, on "Cloughie" titled "Genius or Madman" published the day after Brian Clough died.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

SAUDADE is what I feel writing of Fernando Pessoa, and the second book on his work (that I know of - the first: FERNANDO PESSOA: VOICES OF A NOMADIC SOUL, by Zbigniew Kotowicz, London: The Menard Press, 1996) to be published in English. Appropriately, it was written by a Portuguese critic, and although much thought and intelligence went into its composition, the result is nevertheless academic in a negative sense, filled with a plethora of postmodernist jargon, places Pessoa in a tradition which distorts his vision, and is disturbingly wrong-hearted, manifesting a tone of sexual jealousy when touching briefly on Pessoa's long-term ladyfriend, Ophelia Queiroz.

Irene Ramalho Santos, the author of FERNANDO PESSOA'S TURN IN ANGLO-AMERICAN MODERNISM (University Press of New England, 2003), was a student of Harold Bloom's, who calls Pessoa an heir of Walt Whitman in his Introduction to the book, and though one of Pessoa's heteronyms was, Bloom often is prone to quick simplications. He denigrates by omission from his F.R. Leavis-like canon British poets like Bunting and MacDiarmid, preferring instead the rigor of Geoffrey Hill.

Pessoa's sexuality has become a topic of interest in academia. Curiously enough, Allen Ginsberg wrote a strangely jingoistic (even if ironic) poem concerning Pessoa, commenting that he, Pessoa, was probably gay. This doubtless stirred things up some. There is no evidence I know of for this surmise, and it seems primarily due to (1) the fact that his closest friend, and co-editor of ORPHEU2, Mario de Sa-Carneiro, who killed himself in Paris at age 26, struggled with his homosexual impulses, and it was perhaps in part this particular inner torment which resulted in the death of this very strong poet and writer; and (2) Pessoa's public support of overtly homosexual poet Antonio Botto.

His love letters to Ophelia, sad ("like the gentle rain") (some translated by Richard Zenith and published in THE SELECTED PROSE OF FERNANDO PESSOA (New York: Grove Press, 2000), are, in their own way, as fine as Keats's to Fanny Brawne. Nevertheless, Irene Santos goes out of her Way to say his relationship with her was "ludicrous" and she also says it was Platonic. The Letters would indicate that despite the Portuguese Catholic conventions of the day (and Pessoa was no rebel Bohemian, living much of his life with and helping to support his mother or his blood relatives) excerpts from the love letters demonstrate other than Platonism: "What happened to you, darling, besides us being separated? Something worse? Why do you speak in such a desperate tone about my love, as if you doubted it, when you have no reason to?....When can we be somewhere together, darling - just the two of us? My mouth feels odd from having gone so long without any kisses...Little Baby who gives me love bites!....Come here, Baby. Come over to Nininho Come into Niniho's arms...I'm so lonely, so lonely for kisses".

This was early on. She was only nineteen, an office worker, quite cultured. He writes of not having enough to buy her the bits-and-bobs she needed, and of his hopes to find someplace in Cascais for them, but it never happened, and there was almost a decade's hiatus. They both remained unmarried, and although he was to write to her "If I marry it will only be to you" but "it remains to be seen whether marriage and home...are compatible with my life of thought", six years later, age 47, he would die. Liver (or pancreas), everyone says too many brandies in the Chiado.

Photographs of him in the final year show him as ravaged as Chet Baker.

Pessoa was one of the most linguistically explorative of the great poets of the twentieth century; yet his work is known and loved by all segments of the Portuguese people. Mrs. Santos would reduce him to fit into a particular tradition of Whitman and Crane, and at times throws in references to Robert Duncan and John Ashbery. She devotes much space to the poetry of a colleage of hers at the U. of Wisconsin, Prospero Sais, a professor of comparative literature, whose poetry is not at all "transgressive" as she claims, and does not rise beyond the rhetorical and mundane and even sententious. One can only find the pushing of the bling of her colleague suspect. The entire book is marred by her acceptance of academic preconceptions. "I learned with Harold Bloom"she writes (p. 267), that "modern lyric poetry...was invented with Wordsworth." (!!)

Although the usual Freudian take on the manifestation of the heteronyms seems to go unchallenged, it is well worth remembering what Gary Snyder said in an interview: "...True poetry is ultimately inspired in origin. It comes to us as a voice from outside. To even say that it comes from within is to mislead yourself. So we are the vehicle of that voice."

Or, if we accept the arguments of Stategy (cf. MY EMILY DICKINSON), it is also worth remembering that Pessoa's poetic ambitions were huge, larger than Pound's. If it is true that he wanted to top Camoes, and that he realized that just one voice could not/would not do it, the heteronyms may have also been, whatever else, a methodology.

Pessoa's drive was to consciousness, and his take on Freud is like a broadsword: that psychoanalytic theory was an excuse to write pornographic novels.

Aleister Crowley came to Lisbon to meet Pessoa and to have him cast his horoscope. The correspondence remains unpublished. But we know that Pessoa helped Crowley to fake his suicide at the Boca do Inferno (Mouth of Hell) in Cascais. Crowley, who wrote "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law" and was the foremost Black Magician of the 20th century, the man who signed himself "The Beast" and "666", designer of a Tarot deck, the only translator of the I-CHING prior to Sam Reifler to give it a non-patriarchal take (Hexagram 44 is for Crowley, The Bold Maiden, and he attaches no negative sexual stigma to her), illuminates another side to Pessoa, who translated and published one of Crowley's poems. We are far from "Atlantic" poets here, in which tradition Santos, following Bloom places him. We are more in the realm of Dr. Dee or Hermes Trismegistus. Pessoa's affinities are more with Rimbaud, with the French symbolists, with Kafka, and, in our own day, to, say Asa Benveniste, THE ATOZ FORMULA, in particular, and to Iain Sinclair's LUD HEAT.

Charles Olson is mentioned only once, in passing, and in a negative context, which demonstrates that she doesn't know or understand Olson's work. Doubtless, Bloom would bear some responsibility for this failure. Pessoa would have been aware of the fact that the first settlers of Gloucester, Massachusetts, were Portuguese fishermen, and their settlement was communal. It was after that the "founding fathers" the Puritans, the "West country adventurers" well-financed by the British monarchy, arrived to displace them. One could argue for just as much an affinity with Olson ("This is Yeats speaking") as with Whitman or Crane. But even after fifty years, perhaps THE MAXIMUS POEMS still offers too great a challenge intellectually and politically to many English Departments.

If Pessoa is an "Atlantic" poet at all it is in his sense of "O Portugal, hoje es nevoeiro" (O PORTUGAL, FOG YOU ARE) (from "Os tempos" in MENSAGEM, translated by Jonathan Griffin), even though it is the Tagus he looks out upon. And the sky in Brazil was as different for Ricardo Reis as it was, and even moreso, for the young Pessoa growing up and being schooled in Durban, South Africa. "Comes the hour!" is the final line in NEVOEIRO (FOG) "E a Hora!"

And his prose masterpiece, as Soares, is as much a man writing for his life as Sylvia Plath was in ARIEL. THE BOOK OF DISQUIETUDE is the apex of quintessential prose postmodern journal.

I think Dr. Santos could do poetry a great service by getting permission from the Queiroz family to publish the letters from Ophelia, as part of their complete correspondence, which exists in manuscript. Although the folk at Casa Pessoa in Lisbon said that his family knew there were other "girlfriends" she was undoubtedly the most important non-familial relationship in his life, "painful" as Santos says, or not. As Pessoa wrote in MENSAGEM (MESSAGE), the only book of poetry published in Portuguese under his own name in his lifetime:

The storm, once, was so great, the will so strong!
Now there is left us, in the hostile silence,
The universal sea, the longing.


Sunday, November 20, 2005

re: Phila. Art Museum...For almost 20 years now, in letters and in-person conversations and pleas, I have been trying to get the uncommunicative honchos, snooty and smug in the best Philadelphia tradition, to admit an irksome and insulting error in the naming of one of their Gauguin paintings. Gauguin wrote, in Tahitian, the title of his painting on the canvas itself: PARAHI TE MARAE, or, translated, simply: (He) Dwells On The Marae. (N.B. Celestine Hitiura Vaite, the first Tahitian woman novelist to write in English, notes that "parahi" has a connotation much like saying to a visitor/guest: don't go yet; sit down; stay awhile longer. It is said when the guest is readying/rising to leave and indicates a politeness, not a desire for the guest to remain indefinitely.) A Marae is a rectangular open-air temple upon which the ancient ceremonies of all kinds were held. The largest Marae in Polynesia is on the island of Raitaia, and is called Taputapuatea. It was from there that the prayers prior to many of the long voyages of discovery across the Pacific were performed. Smaller Marae dot almost all of the Polyneisan islands. In this painting, an oversize, almost surreal human or part-human figure resembling a Tiki is placed. A Tiki is a lower god, albeit a protective one, than the one over-riding God, Ta'aroa in Tahiti and her islands, Maki-Maki on Rapa Nui. The figure is seen inside of the Marae, sitting, clearly visible from a distance, so that anyone approaching can say: There Is The Marae even before the actual stone structure can be seen. For some inexplicable reason known only to the people in-charge of the Philadelphia Museum, the decision was made to rename the painting The Sacred Mountain, which nomenclature appears on a little gold plaque next to Gauguin's work. The point is that this is a clear insult not only to Paul Gauguin, but worse, to the Tahitian people, since it disregards their language which they have fought for over 150 years to preserve in the face of French occupation and administration and over 125 nuclear tests in the air and under the sea, now, fortunately, stopped, but not before incalculable damage. For the people of Polynesia, ALL mountains, indeed all land (Te Fenua) is sacred, so the retitling makes no sense at all. To rename the painting, and then, in the face of clear evidence that an error has been made, to continue to refuse to do anything at all about it, smacks of the worst kind of cultural imperialism. Although the Philadelphia Art Museum is certainly one of the most outstanding in the U.S., the condescending nose-in-air attitude of the bigwigs and fatcats who run the place, compounds their egregious error. Sad to say, it is typical of nasty, tweaking, phillistine Philadelphia at its worst, a sensibility which continues to dominate the power-structure of the arts of the city. The fact that no one seems to care, and I have spoken about this with many many people in Philadelphia, including a number of poets and writers and painters and professors over the years, makes mockery of any claim the city has to being a center of excellence. Given the fragile and unhappy situation of the world today, this grievance may seem of little consequence; however, despite the priceless holdings of the Art Museum, it is my firm belief the place should be under boycott due to the continuing insult to the people of Polynesia, and to their language and to the work of Gauguin, who was always on the side of the Tahitan and Marquesan people amongst whom he lived.

(February, 2008. The racist situation of cultural imperialist disdain remains in the Philadelphia Art Museum re: the Gauguin, although no one except myself really seems to care about this microcosm of disinformation. Ah well, never mind.....Of course, even I could not boycottt the place when Frida Kahlo, my favorite artist, is about to make an apperance there in the form of her works, beginning this month.)

N.B. MARCH 27, 2008

On my own still, travelling the 60 miles from Margate, New Jersey, to Philadelphia to see the Frida Kahlo exhibit (not as comprehensive as the London one a few years ago, but, obviously still worth the hassle of standing in lines to see), I notice that someone with more clout and influence than I has prevailed on the Museum to acknowledge, finally, the Tahitian language title of their Gauguin! They have removed the old plaque and replaced it with one noting PARAHI TE MARAE is the name of the painting - though they have, for some reason, on the same plaque continued to give it an English language title of "The Sacred Mountain". But at least they have acknowledged the existence of the true Tahitian title chosen by the artist, so the Phila. Art Museum is now off my personal hook.

N.B. #2, June 4th, 2008. Probably someone got through on this matter to Anne d'Harnoncourt, Museum Director, who died, unexpectedly, a few days ago, and whose loss is felt throughout the Philadelphia cultural community and further afield.

More @ www.omoopart4.blogspot.com. ("Friends Of Fayaway")

Friday, November 18, 2005

INDIA WITH PEN AND SWORD, the "selected journalism" of F.G. Woolnough, edited by his grandson, Keith Woolnough, (inquiries to kwoolnough@me.com) is an exceptionally idiosyncratic and interesting privately published book deserving of a wider audience. The text covers the years 1928-1931, when F.G. Woolnaugh was stationed in India with the British military forces of occupation, and reprints some of the articles previously published in English language newspapers in India dealing with "historical, military and humorous themes" as the editor puts it. From a literary standpoint, the author's fictional vignettes, inspired from an earlier tour of duty, 1919 to 1923 "to Quetta on the Afghan-Baluchi border" are quite original, presenting the character, undoubtedly drawn from life, of one Saman Khan, an "egg and poultry merchant" of Quetta. The editor, Keith Woolnough, born in Libya, became an English student of Islam, teaching himself to read and write Arabic. Somewhat disabled now, he still occasionally shows up, sometimes uninvited, at academic conferences dealing with pre-Islamic poetry, often scaring the pants off staid professors with his deeper knowledge of the field.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

TOGETHER ALONE is an extraordinary true Romance, an autobiography of a portion of the life of Scotsman Ron Falconer, now living quietly and working as a musician/singer on the island of Moorea, near Tahiti. After building his own "wishbone ketch rig" - 28 feet long - which he named Fleur d'Ecosse, he sailed her around the world, taking four years to complete his circumnavigation. Later, with his second wife, Anne, a French mathematics teacher, and their two young children, they lived on uninhabited Caroline atoll in the Kiribati group for two years until "bad politics" forced them to leave. Published by Bantam in paperback, it is not simply a story of love and adventure and the fulfilling of one's dream, but also a book of practical philosophy and metaphysical speculations. It is a worthy addition to the great traditions of English language expatriate literature of the south seas, which began with Melville's TYPEE.
francophones/francophiles beware: gilbert michlin's memoir OF NO INTEREST TO THE NATION (wayne state university press) (translated into idiomatic american prose by leon lewis, professor of film and literature, appalachian state university) is a remarkable and important and candid text, a sad yet furious indictment of french anti-semitism. it is the tale of one young man's struggle, and the struggle of his family, to survive in france during the time of fascism and the extermination camps.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Allen Fisher's PLACE, recently printed in its entirety (five separate books now under one cover, published by Ken Edwards's Reality Street Editions) is the most important book of English poetry published in the UK since Stuart Montgomery's Fulcrum Press issued Basil Bunting's Selected Poems, wrote the distinguished poet and editor, Jeremy Hilton in issue #26 of his poetry journal, FIRE (Oxfordshire, England). I heartily concur. Fisher's lyric gift, almost as poignant as the work of the late Paul Evans, was always tempered with a gentle yet penetrating irony, and was most evident in his fine early work, LONG SHOUT TO KERNEWEK (New London Pride). New London Pride is a flower long thought to be extinct and then found growing through the cracks in the hard pavements of London, and New London Pride Editions was the brainchild of Fisher's lovely and dynamic first wife, Elaine, from East London, who died at an early age while on the NHS waiting list for a kidney transplant. She always believed that she contracted the disease while working as a young woman in Newark, New Jersey, near to electricity grids later investigated as places of cancer clusters. PLACE was a ten year project, roughly 1970 - 1980, influenced by American modernist models, Pound and Olson most specifically, but filtered through a South London working-class sensibility in which the hidden historical energies of the city, south of the river, Brixton, most especially, (down south, london town as mark knopfler sang) flowed as a leitmotif. Eric Mottram was an early champion of Fisher's work, publishing many excerpts in Poetry Review, during Mottram's editorship (20 issues during the 1970's) of that journal which now seems so central to what has come to be called The British Poetry Renaissance, circa 1965 - 1980 and beyond. Much of Fisher's continuing work after PLACE, is a multi-layered multi-textured multi-voiced discourse titled GRAVITY AS A CONSEQUENCE OF SHAPE, more unremitting than PLACE, and still-in-progress.