Tuesday, July 28, 2009
MUSIC FOR VIOLA DA GAMBA
One day, a day of terrible storm and darkness, a day when I was so young I was not yet born, my mother and father died. Together they lay, their hands clasped each into the other’s. Together they lay, their breathing gone, there on their little bed, a bed which fit inside a desk drawer which itself fit inside the mouth of an insect, a termite, a dove, or red ant, roaming seemingly without direction on the side of the road, but yet following the silent map of its own kind and its colony, a vast network of other ants, ants which carry the broken body of another back to its home where it is placed in an entranceway (‘This is one of the fallen, if we did not know we were alive, we might mistake it for ourselves,’ it seems to say). It is then surrounded by other ants, the whispering clicking of their forelegs, rain heard deep within the hill. Then hungry for what rich nutrition its body holds, the ant is eaten by the others, its friends, its co-workers, its larval children, the red midnight of the body progressing like a storm throughout the colony.
One day, when I was so young I was not yet born, my mother and father died. Together they lay, their hands clasped each into the other’s. Together they lay, their breathing gone, there on a bed which fit inside a desk drawer. Does a wave have a shadow, a shadow a shore? Waves arrive, wash them away.
Posted by gary barwin at 10:57 AM
Sunday, July 26, 2009
The world is large, and I am but a small thing, warm when compared to other things, ice, parked cars, blossoming trees. Yet dogs are warmer, as is lava. Newly made tea is warmer, as is fire. I am born small and soft, a blank slate in a state of astonishment, I am born susceptible and soon held against the astonishing warmth of my mother. My plum-sized mind, paper folding into some kind of origami, a bird, a boat, or one of those fortune-telling things you open and close as your friends choose numbers and colours. C’mere, it says. I’ve a few things to tell you about what happens next.
Posted by gary barwin at 12:25 PM
Friday, July 24, 2009
Under a vast and cloudless sky, I bent to pick up a nickel and there by its side was a long, dark road. As I approached, the road was shy at first, shrugging its shoulders bashfully, turning away uncertainly just past a grove of trees. It was a beautiful road, smooth and endless, patient, and quiet. I ran my hand over its undulating tar-black back, and it purred, slow and steady and satisfied from somewhere deep within, as if a subway rumbled deep below it. All my life I’d hoped to have something like this, a man’s best friend, a familiar, a kindred spirit, which would travel with me over the ever distant horizon, twisting through towns and cities, wilderness and fields, through storms and bright days, both metaphoric and actual. I could leave the road and it would wait for me. I could close my eyes and picture the distant shores of shadows, or sleep without dreaming, and the road would lie still and patient, stretched out under the comforting nickel of the moon.
“There’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you,” it said to me one day.
“What? I’m balding? I should phone my mother sometimes? My breath?”
“I’m not your road.”
“What?” I said, not believing.
“I’m a stray. I was half feral. I had a family once. I ran from the cemetery to the mall. Before I congealed, I was a dolphin’s path. The dolphin, a professor of External Medicine at the University of Deep Water.”
“And I,” I said, “was a dream, a wisp of smoke, a pink smudge, a road myself.”
And so, we went on.
Posted by gary barwin at 2:56 PM
Thursday, July 23, 2009
“Daddy, take us to see the invisible deer,” my children said.
“But I already have,” I said. “Can’t you see? They are all around us.”
“Stop joking,” they said. “Take us really.”
“But it was only yesterday that we saw the glass deer, and the day before that, the ice deer, and before that, the atomic deer, and last week, we went to see the memory deer and the deer that smolder in the grass.”
“We know, Daddy, but we are so bored and the invisible deer are special.”
“OK, my little pink deer with antlers that are pigtails. I’ll take you.”
We got in the car and drove behind the shopping mall. We parked at the very end of the parking lot, near a small thicket of trees. I waited a moment to turn the car off while we listened to the end of our favourite songs. Then we all climbed out. “Ready?” I said. “Ready,” they said. And we closed the four car doors together. We’d practiced this and we could do it with precision. There was a single sound as if we were closing one very large family-sized car door. “Now let’s look for deer,” I said.
Walking into the thicket was like walking into a building. It was cooler as if, like the mall, it was air conditioned, but it was a different, thicker air. It was darker, too. There was a kind of emptiness, a hush. Only the shadows and whispers of birds, the leaf-stirring sounds of squirrels and other small animals.
“Do you see them?” I whispered.
“Where, Daddy?” my children asked.
I pointed high into the branches of some trees beyond a small clearing.
“Daddy,” my youngest said. “You’re silly. Deer can’t fly. They can’t climb. They don’t own invisible ladders.”
“I have an invisible ladder,” I said. “Sometimes I climb into the clouds.”
“Why do you do that, Daddy?”
“So I can run my hands through the cloud material. So I can know what it will be like to be old,” I said.
Posted by gary barwin at 7:02 PM
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
When they give my brain back, I’m going to invent a new accordion because the accordion is the world and it should do more than push and pull. The hiss and sigh, the 1 and 0, the squeeze and press are three dimensions only, considering time. But what of Newton’s up and down, sink and rise, backward and forward, away and toward, what of the new tessitura of spacetime, the infolding diapason within the electron, the asymptotic passacaglias of hadrons, the tiny cassotto of exotic mesons and tetraquarks. There’s a cave filled with the shadows of accordions or of accordion music. There’s a pyre of accordions alight. We cannot know if the accordion plays or not, or is inflamed, or both. No longer is the accordion observed the accordion true. An accordion may play a wireless polka or a chatroom hora, but we cannot know if it is Mozart, if its shadows play the numinous ompah of root and fifth, if our true love, wrapped in an accordion is but an emergent system of grace notes and obligatos drawn from our connected minds, or stripped naked to the waist, what risk is ours to play. Inside the accordion, the vast multidimensional darkness of the possible; above us, the constellation of buttons and keys, the dance pattern of what we know already, and are ready to forget.
Posted by gary barwin at 11:54 AM
Monday, July 20, 2009
Climb in, they say. The cage is exactly the size of your body. The sun sets. The moon says grace. In the twin caves of the nostrils, drawings of buffalo running, ancient people gathered in circles telling circular stories, a record of time scratched into the walls. Yet time passes differently in each nostril. Night lasts longer in the left. In the right, perpetual dawn like a ghost, the fine wheat, the blond armhairs of children, the distant vowels of timber wolves, someone burning a harp. In the cage, all days are the same. I make myself small and run in circles. I invent a printer that prints on water instead of paper. Clouds gather then begin to darken, each raindrop a single letter of my escape plan and necessary for agriculture.
Image from the brilliant work and website of Dominic Wilcox.
Posted by gary barwin at 3:00 PM
Saturday, July 18, 2009
I throw night
for a dog to fetch
the dog runs away
the horizon is a bone
the earth turns around
twice before sleep
the dog, a lightning-coloured moon
does not return
What Comes After: the Colon in Academic Papers.
Basho Frog haiku video. Astounding yet informative.
Posted by gary barwin at 8:31 PM
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Yesterday, in an email to Craig Conley, when we were discussing my last post on ellipsis juggling, and our mutual interest in punctuation, I mentioned that I was recently put in mind of when I was given a microscope by my father(who is a doctor and researcher.) I did look at blood and skin and onions and all the standard microscopic worlds that young microscope devotees explore, but the thing that most captured my imagination was looking at little bits of text on paper hugely magnified. I remember those long winter Bruno Schulz-like evenings before supper when I seemed to have endless time to follow my curiousities and inspirations. I remember discovering, through the yellow light of the view hole, the lovely bumpy, grainy, physical presence of an e very close up, of periods and commas, the ink making dark ridges on the bleached dunes of the paper, and I like a God or a space visitor examining huge symbols created far below, created to communicate especially to me, in my other world. I discovered the textured, tactile, sensory world of letters, a secret world accessible only through patience and close examination, like looking closely at a chair or a cup and seeing the molecules bustling, a traffic of electric and chemical whispers brushed past by the larger, louder world.
Posted by gary barwin at 1:26 PM
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Ellipsis juggling, the most difficult trick in the repertoire. A juggling of what’s not there, what’s lost, left out, erased, or forgotten. And the juggler must keep each of the three elements perfectly in line with a ground that he cannot see, like black holes precisely aligned in empty space and yet parallel with the curved horizon of a distant earth.
Inspired by Craig Conley's Annotated Ellipses
Posted by gary barwin at 11:21 AM
Sunday, July 12, 2009
A chair is a deer, a doe, four-legged quiet molded into plastic. The chair in the woods, it nuzzles against trees. A child of trees, an eater of bark. wood: plastic; antlers: the limitless skies above chairs. The chair remains still as a form of camouflage. It is invisible to its predators. The looking: the contract between hunter and hunted. Also, the hiding. look at a chair. It looks back, waiting for what’s next.
A forest of chairs, a silent choir, the inverse of trees yet becoming trees. The sense organs of chairs: moist. pools of thought or sense. Inside the chair, a red city, a briefcase of blood.
There was a house where chairs were on the wall. The carpets were chairs. We ate chair. the clouds hunted the moon as the moon hid behind them and disappeared. Under what circumstances do we bring a chair into our home. The forest is the size of humans, not chairs. It is the inverse of our range.
Once, in early spring, we found a family of chairs in our yard. We spoke in whispers as if before a house of cards. The chairs were telepathic, each thought shared between the family of chairs. They waited as one, then leapt the fence with a single thought, a flock of birds with silent wings.
Outside, the cabin of our brain, leaves unfurling, branches completing their plans. We know the chairs are moving, dust motes in a slanting beam of forest light.
Posted by gary barwin at 5:39 PM
Friday, July 10, 2009
This sentence is the inverse of all of the other sentences that I did not write. It begins this story which itself is the inverse of all of the stories that I also did not write. What about them was so compelling to me that I chose them over all the others? On the day that I was married, just as the photographer was about to take a picture of me, my wife-to-be, and all of our family including the dogs, a bird shat on my shoulder, a large white globule which dripped down the shoulder of my black tuxedo. “Its good luck,” everyone said, but I wondered why I was chosen and how many other grooms at that moment, from Africa to Siberia had either no birds flying over them, or birds with clenched cloacae arcing across the sky without thought to matrimony, wedlock, or the ritual and legal realization of relationships. And I’ve chosen to fly over this story, chosen to drop some words, attention, indeed intention onto its shoulder, to solemnize my relationship with it. I’m writing this story and not any other. I’m asking you to read this sentence, this story, and not any other, though in truth what exactly constitutes this story may not be clear. There may be more than one story depending on the reader, depending on the time of reading, depending on how many birds or the inverse of birds are flying over or through the reader’s mind. What is the inverse of a story? This sentence is the inverse of all of the other sentences that I did not write. It ends this story which itself is the inverse of all of the stories that I also did not write. It is also not true.
Posted by gary barwin at 5:26 PM
Thursday, July 09, 2009
I've been working again on some 'translations' of Rilke. I begin by working through the text using a homophonic translation technique, with some digressions into actual word translation when I happened to know the German word. Also, in this case, I had an initial inspiration from reading an actual translation of a Rilke poem posted on Gabe Gudding's blog. That's where the stars/pillows stanza has its origin. And the title "that's what Rilke sd to do with sorrow" also was in my mind. (Actually, I originally had "I mailed out boxes of sorrow" in the second stanza, but deleted 'sorrow' as I wanted to keep the text more referentially open and to save the sorrow/crying image for the pillow stanza.)
So, after the initial homophonic translation in which I never actually accounted for every word or stanza, I was fairly free in adding lines, rearranging, revising, and taking the text as if it were just a poem to be edited (which, of course, it is) as opposed to a 'translation.' The idea, in this case, being that the 'translation' was a technique to get me to a text, and not a specific formal constraint. I do know that this poem needs to sit a while, ripen, or fester, for me to know exactly what else it needs.
I think techniques like homophonic translation can be good starters for poems, one of many investigative or opening gambits that a writer may use. And always, the writer may feel free to apply techniques without rigour, lazily, sloppily, with one partial commitment. Whatever seems right at the time in order to generate something of interest to them, something that jibes with their creative process at the time.
My right eye is a blur
as it passes my left
in the fast lane
I mailed out boxes
to some poet friends
perhaps they’ll know what to do
o warm guitars,
o bending light
o the hang of things
an animal brings you to the edge of darkness
leaves you there unharmed
though of course some write
we imagine that stars are pillows to cry on
but by the time we plunk our heads down
the pillows may not exist
o the ganglia of years
those distant and angry angels
undaring and arrogant
making a church for our dreams
their fingers squirming around
our insides and spires
one day, you will realize
my father said
is better than two
Posted by gary barwin at 12:57 PM
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
My daughter, Rudi, created this animated video, entirely with Powerpoint -- about 5000 pages worth!) As she says, "In this film the Speech Balloons decide to stand up to the humans and start a revolution for freedom of speech and equal rights," so that they no longer must speak what the humans tell them to. I'm quite stunned, and of course, proud, that she was able to conceive and create such an accomplished video and sophisticated fable. Already, she is a power advocate for human rights and a keen observer of all kinds of prejudice and injustice. I couldn't imagine being capable of creating such a piece when I was eleven years old. It's Rudi's voice as the reporter, and other miscellaneous friends and family did the other voices (I'm the prime minister.)
Posted by gary barwin at 10:19 AM
Monday, July 06, 2009
We've just returned from New York City. A week of fantastic music, theatre, art, food, books, and walking, not to mention the Gay Pride Parade. (I was expecting that to be wilder, but instead I was more struck by how moving it was. Eg.: Two old men walking in the parade, looking quite infirm. One holding a sign advocating same-sex marriage, "Together 53 years." Or, all the parents and family walking in support in the PFLAG "Parents and Family of Lesbians and Gays" groups.)
Many things to report about everything we saw and did while there, but just a quick note about naming things.
It seems everything in New York has an association-- through fiction, poetry, movies, or just by cultural osmosis. And in fact, there's a meta-level, because of course I think, oh yes, here's that famous feeling of having associations with everything. I walk in Central Park and I think "Ah, Central Park." (Though, of course, it was really lovely.) I think, "Oh yeah, there's the A Train, there's Avenue B, there's 5th Avenue..."
I was struck how these basic numeric or prosaic namings take on such rich associations. The A train? Avenue B? 5th Ave.? You can't get more basic than those names. Letters and numbers. And Central Park. It's, well, central. It's not like it was given a name like 'Washington Square.' But the functional nature of the name is lost under the associations.
It did cause me to notice those names that had more to them. Soho. Tribeca. Greenwich. Even Broadway (it is a quite a broad way.) Names from the language history (lots of Dutch names, or English names) and names derived from important figures. La Guardia, Washington, JFK.
Today is the first day of my summer-at-home where I can spend my days writing. I'm looking forward to sitting in my backyard beside my never-clear swimming pool with my lap top and finally having some time for some extended writing sessions and longer projects. We'll see how that goes!
Posted by gary barwin at 11:58 AM