Saturday, March 31, 2012

Grammatical Gender in the Bhagavad Gītā

A large chunk of the Bhagavad Gītā consist of Krishna listing things he embodies. During this litany, he briefly mentions grammatical gender. Interestingly, he touches on feminine gender but does not mention masculine or neuter. 

I am death that carries off all things, and I am the source of things to come. Of feminine nouns I am Fame and Prosperity: Speech, Memory and Intelligence; Constancy and patient Forgiveness.

I have a great fondness for grammatical gender, insofar as I have experienced it in Latin and Faroese. A friend of mine tells me there is a movement in Germanic languages to make language more inclusive by purging certain grammatical gender habits. It will be interesting to see what comes of this - language                                                                  naturally defies legislation and prescription.

Monday, March 26, 2012

How to Cure a Feminist

I came across this 2003 Maxim page today - there is so little to say that I don't know what to write... The girl going from unshaven to uptight to pigtailed to pornographic speaks for itself. She strips and dumbs down to become an "actual girl!" Now she knows a man completes her and thinks Camaros are sexy. The speech bubbles indicate that her feminism wasn't intellectual after all but only a cover for psychological pain (see the absent father bubble). She also becomes progressively tanner. The problem with blogging about this curious travesty is that anything I have to say is over-obvious or snarky. So I leave it to you dear reader. Enjoy.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A translation for false summer

Otra poema de "Album Blanca" escrita por Federico Garcia Lorca - for a Saturday's reading in false summer.


Neither Pan
nor Leda –

on your wings
sleeps the full moon.

Neither the forest
nor the reed –

the cold night
ruffles your feathers.

 Neither tan skin
nor kisses –

riverfrost, dreamboat
for the dead.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Peruvian Street Musician Marketing and the NPR Pledge Drive

Spring is in the air - robins are hopping about the driveway, the grass is greening with the March rains, and NPR is making its listeners suffer through another pledge drive. For those of you who listen to NPR, the irksome nature of the pledge drive needs no introduction. For the rest of you, a quick overview - NPR reporters regularly interrupt programming to give a repetitive reminder the current program is only possible because of donations. 

Okay - I understand the need for donations and believe in the mission of NPR. No problem. But I find one of their marketing strategies odd. They remind their listeners frequently and explicitly that they will stop asking for money and get back to regularly scheduled programming as soon as they reach their funding goals. This hostage marketing strategy reminds me of the time I was drinking cremoladas at a sidewalk cafe in downtown Pucallpa and our table was serenaded by two untalented musicians. They sang until my friend tipped them then they promptly left. "It's Pucallpa marketing," she explained, "You pay them not to sing." 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Today's Reading: Survivor - Jacquelyn Pope

Whatever possessed you
pursues me. Whatever
unnerved you sings me
to sleep, repeats and repeats,
insists. Whatever composed
you constricts me. Where
you were bright I was blind.
Whatever you saved
I’ve squandered. Where you
were soft I was scabbed.
Whatever consoled you
confuses me, retreats
and retreats, insists.
Whatever the heart wills,
hands divide. Wherever
the bough breaks, the baby
follows, cradled for a fall.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Cradle Hymns - IV: The End of the World

Doomsday is in this year, so it seems appropriate to post a cradle hymn on the subject. The Wailin' Jennys' excellent "Apocalypse Lullaby" gives voice to human love, strong and calm in the midst of bombs, wars, and the destruction of societal systems. It is at once immediate and prophetic, of our time and of a time just beyond the horizon - not an expected subject, but more striking and beautiful for it.

My Last 100 Submissions

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Friday, March 9, 2012

Cradle Hymns - III: Perdition and Seduction

Seduction, divorce, death, and loose living are realities for many mothers but rarely make it into cradle songs. Emmylou Harris' song, Didn't Leave Nobody but the Baby," is quite disturbing lyrically - "you and me and the devil makes three..." - and sweet and sultry musically. "Everybody's gone in the cotton and the corn..." - the baby seems an afterthought, someone to sing to while getting gussied up for a night on the town or for skipping town.

The below scene is from Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? The song and scene caused a bit of a controversy for being unsuitable as a lullaby, especially framed with this staging. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Cradle Hymns - II: Lorca

The last poem in Federico Garcia Lorca's Collected Poems is "Cradle Song for Mercedes, in Death." Speaking to one who cannot hear, imagining a continuing, moses-like voyage through mists and days, Lorca gives dignity and humanity to the tragedy of stillbirth. I read this often and think of my own departed beloved Gertrude.

Cradle Song for Mercedes, in Death

We can see you even now, asleep,
your wooden boat along the shore.

White princess of never,
sleep in the dark night.
Body of earth and snow,
sleep in the dawn, sleep!

You wander off, asleep,
your misty boat of dream along the shore.

Cradle Hymns - I: On Content

During my final Bennington workshop, an argument started over my poem "Arkansas Cradle Hymn." The issue was what one should or should not (or would or would not) say to an infant. "Arkansas Cradle Hymn" takes a dour tone, something like you were born under a bad sign. One of the teachers and a student disagreed (rather personally) about whether or not my poem was viable. The other teacher chimed in, relating a cradle song from his youth in the German-speaking farmlands of Wisconsin that translates something like:

            Fly june-bug, fly!
            Daddy's gone to Pomerania;
            Pomerania is burning to the ground.
            Fly june-bug, fly!

So not all cradle hymns are hush my babe, lie still and slumber. I like this very much. It bucks against the trends of niceties for children that pervade American culture. The Barney refrain of I love you, you love me fails to compass of the world. Protecting the young from the harsh realities of life makes them all the less ready to face the inevitable hardship of life. And art should never be subservient to pleasance. If you have any disturbing cradle hymns, dear reader, do send them along. I'll be posting more on this subject soon.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Today's Reading: Asters - Gottfried Benn

Asters—sweltering days
old adjuration/curse,
the gods hold the balance
for an uncertain hour.

Once more the golden flocks
of heaven, the light, the trim—
what is the ancient process
hatching under its dying wings?

Once more the yearned-for,
the intoxication, the rose of you—
summer leaned in the doorway
watching the swallows—

one more presentiment
where certainty is not hard to come by:
wing tips brush the face of the waters,
swallows sip speed and night.

on Geoffrey Brock's "Alteration Finds"

In the latest translation issue of Poetry, Geoffrey Brock translates three poems from three languages into a single unit that is at once translation and original poetry. It is interesting to me that Brock reads only one of three of these languages (French). The German and Greek are gleaned from other translations and dictionaries (an activity sneered at by academic translators but common in the recent issues of Poetry). The poems are transmuted into an amalgam whole, the Rimbaud and Rilke whittled down to fit in the formal constraints of the Seferis. To the critics of imitation or loose translation, borrowing or stealing, I ask what it matters if accuracy is achieved if the result is poetry.



How many hours I kept
that vigil by your side—
entire nights, eyes wide,
as you so sweetly slept.

What I was wondering:
why you yearned to evade
the real. No one has prayed
harder for anything.

It wasn’t for your life
I feared, but for mankind.
Did you, in the end, find
secrets for changing life?


The head we cannot know,
nor its bright fruit, the eyes.
And yet the body has
its gaze: a lamp turned low.

Or else the breast would cease
to dazzle, the hips fail
to curve into that smile
that begets more than a kiss.

And flesh would lose all life,
not flare till there’s no blind
it can’t see you behind.
You must change your life.


The afternoon grew hotter
along our secret shore.
We thirsted in the glare
but couldn’t drink the water.

On golden sand we traced
your name beside the sea.
The wind came like a sigh;
our writing was erased.

How passionate our life,
how full of sex and song,
spirit and heart—how wrong!
And so we changed our life.

Sigh No More