Archives for posts with tag: Claude Monet

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THE ART OF POETRY
by Jorge Luis Borges

To gaze at a river made of time and water
and remember Time is another river.
To know we stray like a river
and our faces vanish like water.
 
To feel that waking is another dream
that dreams of not dreaming and that the death
we fear in our bones is the death
that every night we call a dream.
 
To see in every day and year a symbol
of all the days of man and his years,
and convert the outrage of the years
into a music, a sound, and a symbol.
 
To see in death a dream, in the sunset
a golden sadness–such is poetry,
humble and immortal, poetry,
returning, like dawn and the sunset.
 
Sometimes at evening there’s a face
that sees us from the deeps of a mirror.
Art must be that sort of mirror,
disclosing to each of us his face.
 
They say Ulysses, wearied of wonders,
wept with love on seeing Ithaca,
humble and green. Art is that Ithaca,
a green eternity, not wonders.
 
Art is endless like a river flowing,
passing, yet remaining, a mirror to the same
inconstant Heraclitus, who is the same
and yet another, like the river flowing.

—translated by Anthony Kerrigan

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jorge Luis Borges (1899–1986) was an Argentine short story writer, essayist, poet, and translator. His most famous books, Ficciones (1944) and The Aleph (1949), are compilations of short stories interconnected by common themes such as dreams, labyrinths, libraries, mirrors, animals, fictional writers, philosophy, religion, and God. Borges’s works have contributed to philosophical literature and also to both the fantasy and magical realism genres. (Read more at wikipedia.org.)

PAINTING: “Branch of the Seine Near Giverny [II]” by Claude Monet (1897)

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GIFT
by Czeslaw Milosz

A day so happy.

Fog lifted early. I worked in the garden.

Hummingbirds were stopping over honeysuckle flowers.

There was no thing on earth I wanted to possess.

I knew no one worth my envying him.

Whatever evil I had suffered, I forgot.

To think that once I was the same man did not embarrass me.

In my body I felt no pain.

When straightening up, I saw the blue sea and sails.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Czeslaw Milosz (1911-2004) was born in Lithuania and lived for many years in Poland. He moved to the U.S. in 1960 and subsequently became and American citizen. From 1961-1998, he was a professor of Slavic Languages and Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1980, he received the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Painting: “Cliffs and Sailboats at Pourville” by Claude Monet (1882)

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THAT THING
by Alberto Rios

No word rhymes with silence, or tries to. 
No word wants to visit that furtive backyard garden. 

Silence is the word that will not be spoken–
After all, who can pronounce it? Once spoken,

We will not hear it. It is the story not told, 
The memory carefully unspoken in this house, 

Your house. Silence is the place underneath language 
An unto-itself, an army 

Stronger than words, more patient, 
Bigger than the dictionary. 

Its weapons are familiar, 
Painful, without antidote and giving of no respite. 

Quiet tells us it is coming, and so, too, 
Quiet is tolerated, left to be, undisturbed at its work, 

Silence’s grim reaper, allowed only to make deliveries,
To fill the bins, to cut the grass, eat if it needs to, 

Then expected to leave, quickly, cleanly, 
No trace afterward, no errant grass cuttings, 

No black from the bottom of its shoes on the floor. 
Good bye, we say, and in saying 

Mispronounce its name, but happy not to know,
Ready not to ask. Good-bye, we say, and mean it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alberto Rios‘s ten collections of poetry include The Smallest Muscle in the Human Body, a finalist for the National Book Award. His most recent book is The Dangerous Shirt, preceded by The Theater of Night, which received the 2007 PEN/Beyond Margins Award. Published in the New Yorker, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, and other journals, he has also written three short story collections and a memoir, Capirotada, about growing up on the Mexican border. Regents Professor and the Katharine C. Turner Chair in English, Rios has taught at Arizona State University for over 29 years.

PHOTO: Monet’s Garden, Giverny, France.

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THE WIND
by Robert Louis Stevenson

I saw you toss the kites on high

And blow the birds about the sky;
And all around I heard you pass,

Like ladies’ skirts across the grass


 
Oh wind, a blowing all day long,

Oh wind, that sings so loud a song!
 
I saw the different things you did,

But always you yourself you hid.

I felt you push, I heard you call,

I could not see yourself at all


 
Oh wind, a blowing all day long!

Oh wind, that sings so loud a song!


 
O you that are so strong and cold,

O blower, are you young or old?

Are you a beast of field and tree,

Or just a stronger child than me?


 
O wind, a blowing all day long,

O wind, that sings so loud a song!
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Painting by Claude Monet (1840-1926). Prints available at allposters.com.

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GRAVITY HAIKU
by Philip Hart

The sun does not set,
Leaving the world in darkness — 
The world turns away.

PAINTING: “Sunset on the Seine in Winter” by Claude Monet (1880)

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Little, Brown will release Tom Wolfe‘s new novel, Back to Blood, on Tuesday, October 23rd, but the book is already #28 on Amazon.com. Set in Miami, Back to Blood is Wolfe’s long-awaited “next book,” after what many consider a disappointing I Am Charlotte Simmons (2004).

The new novel has earned — for the most part, anyway — positive reviews for the 81-year-old Wolfe. I’ve read or scanned many of the top reviews and the bottom line is that Back to Blood is much better than I Am Charlotte Simmons, but nowhere near as great as The Bonfires of the Vanities (one of my all-time favorites).

Reading the reviews of Wolfe’s latest effort — with their many references to the similarities between The Bonfires of the Vanities and Back to Blood (racial/ethnic tensions, hedonistic characters, lots of CAPITAL LETTERS, and exclamation points!!!!, and other resemblances) — I recalled a writer’s warning I read somewhere. The cautionary words were: “You know you’ve lost your soul as a writer when you start imitating yourself.”

To me, this means you are trying to recapture some former glory or a time when writing came easily and you turned in virtuoso performances. Now, you’re rusty, so rather than find a new authentic voice, you just turn in a weak imitation of some past performance — but now the effort lacks soul.

I’m not saying this is true for Wolfe because I haven’t yet read Back to Blood (I am number 151 on the L.A. Public Library waiting list). But I think this is true for any writer. You can’t look over your shoulder at what you once were, but need to write from an authentic place — even if it’s a less impressive performance.

Several years ago, I read an art history study that examined whether famous artists produced their greatest work when young or when old. In the study, Pablo Picasso was an example of an artist who’d created his best work during his younger years (Picasso lived to be 91), and Claude Monet was cited as an artist who’d produced his greatest work when old (he lived to be 86).

While many will agree that the older Picasso sometimes tried to imitate the younger, wunderkind Picasso, no one could accuse Monet of such behavior. In fact, Monet’s later work is considered his greatest precisely because he didn’t try to imitate himself. When he was stricken with cataracts and was nearly blind, he changed his style and started to paint everything in large proportions on gigantic canvases. So, despite his physical limitations, his soul prevailed and he was able to create magnificent works of art.

But getting back to Tom Wolfe’s latest novel. It is my fervent wish that this feisty octogenarian has produced something truly great. I’m looking forward to reading the 720-page novel (Wolfe, at his best, makes the pages fly by) — maybe I’ll get to it sometime next year when my number at the library comes up.

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Painting: “Water Lilies” by Claude Monet (1916) — painted when the artist was in his 70s and suffering from cataracts. I was lucky enough to get a ticket for the comprehensive show of Monet’s work held in 1995 at the Art Institute of Chicago. The museum exhibited Monet’s paintings in chronological order, so that by the time I arrived at the later work (Monet painted until a few months before his death in 1926), I was dumbstruck, awestruck, and inspired that someone could create such masterworks well into “old” age.