Monday, February 21, 2011

born in his cage

I was violent and I was phlegmatic at the same time. I was like the lighthouse itself-secure in the midst of the most turbulent sea. Beneath me the solid rock, the same shelf of rock on which the towering skyscrapers were reared. My foundations went deep into the earth and the armature of my body was made of steel riveted with hot bolts. Above all I was an eye, a huge searchlight which scoured far and wide, which revolved ceaselessly, pitilessly. This eye so wide-awake seemed to have made all the other faculties dormant; all my powers were used up in the effort to see, to take in the drama of the world. If I longed for destruction it was merely that this eye might be extinguished. I longed for an earthquake, for some cataclysm of nature which would plunge the lighthouse into the sea. I wanted a metamorphosis, a change to fish, to leviathan, to destroyer. I wanted the earth to open up, to swallow everything in one engulfing yawn. I wanted to see the city buried fathoms deep in the bosom of the sea. I wanted to sit in a cave and read by candlelight. I wanted that eye extinguished so that I might have a chance to know my own body, my own desires. I wanted to be alone for a thousand years in order to reflect on what I had seen and heard - and in order to forget. I wanted something of the earth which was not of man's doing, something absolutely divorced from the human of which I was surfeited. I wanted something purely terrestrial and absolutely divested of idea. I wanted to feel the blood running back into my veins, even at the cost of annihilation. I wanted the dark fecundity of nature, the deep well of the womb, silence, or else the lapping of the black waters of death. I wanted to be that night which the remorseless eye illuminated, a night diapered with stars and trailing comets. To be of night so frighteningly silent, so utterly incomprehensible and eloquent at the same time. Never more to speak or to listen or to think. To be englobed and encompassed and to encompass and to englobe at the same time. No more pity, no more tenderness. To be human only terrestrially, like a plant or a worm or a brook. To be decomposed, divested of light and stone, variable as the molecule, durable as the atom, heartless as the earth itself.

H. Miller - Tropic of Capricorn

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

divination, delusion, and death

The Drunken Boat

It was in 1927, in the sunken basement of a dingy house in Brooklyn that I first heard Rimbaud's name mentioned. I was then 36 years old and in the depths of my own protracted Season in Hell. An absorbing book about Rimbaud was lying about the house but I never glanced at it. The reason was that I loathed the woman who owned it and who was then living with us. In looks, temperament and behavior she was, as I later discovered, as near to resembling Rimbaud as it is possible to imagine.
As I say, though Rimbaud was all the engrossing topic of conversation between Thelma and my wife, I made no effort to know him. In fact, I fought like the very devil to put him out of my mind; it seemed to me then that he was the evil genius who had unwittingly inspired all my trouble and misery. I saw that Thelma, whom I despised, had identified herself with him, was imitating him as best she could, not only in her behavior but in the kind of verse she wrote. Everything conspired to make me repudiate his name, his influence, his very existence.  I was then at the very lowest point of my whole career, my morale was completely shattered. I remember sitting in the cold dank basement trying to write by the light of a flickering candle with a pencil. I was trying to write a play depicting my own tragedy. I never succeeded in getting beyond the first act.
In that state of despair and sterility I was naturally highly sceptical [sic] of the genius of a seventeen-year-old poet. All that heard about him sounded like an invention of crazy Thelma's. I was then capable of believing that she could conjure up subtle torments with which to plague me, since she hated me as much as I did her. The life which the three of us were leading, and which I tell about at great length in The Rosy Crucifixion, was like an episode in one of Dostoievsky's tales.  It seems unreal and incredible to me now.
The point is, however, that Rimbaud's name stuck. Thought I was not even to glance at his work until six or seven years later, at the home of Anais Nin in Louveciennes, his presence was always with me. It was a disturbing presence, too. "Some day you will have to come to grips with me." That's what his voice kept repeating in my ears. The day I read the first line of Rimbaud I suddenly remembered that is was of Le Bateau Ivre that Thelma had raved so much. The Drunken Boat! How expressive that title now seems in light of all the subsequently experienced! Thelma meanwhile died in an insane asylum. And if I had not gone to Paris, begun to work there in earnest, I think my fate would have been the same. In that basement on Brooklyn Heights my own ship had foundered. When finally the keel burst asunder and drifted out to the open sea, I realized that I was free, that the death I had gone through liberated me.
If that period in Brooklyn represented my Season in Hell, then the Paris period, especially from 1932 to 1934, was the period of my Illuminations.
Coming upon Rimbaud's work at this time, when I had never been so fecund, so jubilant, so exalted, I had to push him aside, my own creations were more important to me. A mere glance at his writings and I knew what lay in store for me. He was pure dynamite, but I had first to fling my own stick. At this time I did not know anything about his life, except from the snatches Thelma had let drop years ago. I had yet to read a line of biography. It was in 1943, while living at Beverly Glen with John Dudley, the painter, that I first read about Rimbaud. I read Jean-Marie Carre's A Season in Hell and then Enid Starkie's work. I was overwhelmed, tongue-tied. It seemed to me that I had never read of a more accursed existence than Rimbaud's. I forgot completely about my own sufferings, which far outweighed his. I forgot about the frustrations and humiliations I had endured, the depths of despair and impotence to which I had sunk time and time again. Like Thelma in the old days, I too could talk of nothing but Rimbaud. Everybody who came to the house had to listen to the song of Rimbaud.
It is only now, eight years after I first heard the name, that I am able to see him clearly, to read him like a clairvoyant. Now I know how great his contribution, how terrible his tribulations. Now I understand the significance of his life and work - as much, that is, as once can say he understands the life and work of another. But what I see most clearly is how I miraculously escaped suffering the same vile fate.
Rimbaud experienced his great crisis when he was eighteen, at which moment in his life he had reached the edge of madness; from this point on his life is an unending desert. I reached mine at the age of thirty-six to thirty-seven, which is the age at which Rimbaud dies. From this point on, my life begins to blossom. Rimbaud turned from literature to life; I did the reverse. Rimbaud fled from the chimeras he had created; I embraced them. Sobered by the folly and waste of mere experience of life, I halted and converted my energies to creation. I plunged into writing with the same fervor and zest that I had plunged into life. Instead of losing life, I gained life; miracle after miracle occurred, every misfortune being transformed into a good account. Rimbaud, though plunging into a realm of incredible climates and landscapes, into a world of phantasy [sic] as strange and marvelous as his poems, became more and more bitter, taciturn, empty and sorrowful.
Rimbaud restored literature to life; I have endeavored to restore life to literature. In both of us the confessional quality is strong, the moral and spiritual preoccupation uppermost. The flair for language, for music rather than literature, is another trait in common. With him I have felt an underlying primitive nature which manifests itself in strange ways. Claudel styled Rimbaud "a mystic in the wild state." Nothing could describe him better. He did not "belong" - not anywhere. I have always had the same feeling about myself. The parallels are endless. I shall go into them in some detail, because in reading the biographies and the letters I saw these correspondences so clearly that I could not resist making note of them. I do not think I am unique in this respect; I think there are many Rimbauds in this world and that their number will increase in time. I think the Rimbaud type will displace, in the world to come, the Hamlet type and the Faustian type. The trend toward a deeper split. Until the old world dies out utterly, the "abnormal" individual will tend more and more to become the norm. The new man will find himself only when the warfare between the collectivity and the individual ceases. Then we shall see the human type in its fullness and splendor.

H. Miller on A. Rimbaud

I lit a thin green candle

cadmium orange

give me a glasgow smile
or the tie they wear in deep south america
its flirtation I like
with doom or with a human
in violence we trust like 
as we trust in the warble of the dove
my sexuality takes forms unseen
unheard of and beyond the imagination
what you see are the pin-pricks of lust
the impersonal light of smut

I don't give a shit

because in moonlight
in bed with the corruption of my organs
the room will smell like fauna
like the rich leather couches of Morocco
someone will grow some bruise
and in that mass of blood
the honesty of expression will show
not but a god could gander at it
or behold so much enthusiasm
these things make me feel

oh constellations of fertility
the sons of embryonic dreams
in one mythology you are murderers
in another you mend the weave of love
like some old mother's fingers that
pull and give and care for one another

god damn you, jesus
and god damn you ministers of hell
we will never do anything wrong
our skin is perfect
our faces are perfect
the way we make love
and kill
are perfect

the way we live is perfect

s. sparling

grandfather's symphony of tales

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


some call it a waste of paint

I call it a very creative and pretty waste of paint.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

mounds of olympus

La Villa Santo Sospir