Saturday, January 20, 2018

THE HUM of HOSPITALITY



"Tilla Durieux as Circe," tempera on canvas, circa 1913, by Franz von Stuck.

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As I've been reading Emily Wilson's translation of The Odyssey, I've posted a brief synopsis of each book I complete on Twitter. Here are my collected Twitter synopses of books thirteen through eighteen.

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BOOK 13

Gifts and libations. Sailing home. Safe harbor in Ithaca. "Phaeacia prayed to Poseidon." Weaving a plan.

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BOOK 14

The swineherd Eumaeus. A meal of suckling pig. Cover story of Odysseus. Skeptical Eumaeus. Sleep with pigs.

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BOOK 15

Gifts from Menelaus. Telemachus heads home. Theoclymenus the prophet. The story of Eumaeus. Raptor signs.

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BOOK 16

Telemachus returns. Odysseus reveals himself to his son. A plot to kill the suitors is hatched.

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BOOK 17

To the palace. Foul-mouthed suitors. Argos recognizes Odysseus and dies. Antinous at odds with all.

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BOOK 18

Irus vs. Odysseus. Fight! Penelope: "suitors weakened at the knees." Taunts from slaves and suitors.

Friday, January 19, 2018

THE FEED



"Les Cyclopes," oil on cardboard mounted on panel, circa 1914, by Odilon Redon.

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As I've been reading Emily Wilson's translation of The Odyssey, I've posted a brief synopsis of each book I complete on Twitter. Here are my collected Twitter synopses of books seven through twelve.

(Most of these books include meals. Many of those meals include human flesh.)

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BOOK 7

Magic mist. Skipping Goddess. Orchard of Alcinous. (Second) supplication. "Your bed is ready."

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BOOK 8

Ship readied. Games of sport. The poet sings of adulterous gods. Dances. Apology. Gifts. Wooden Horse.

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BOOK 9

Tales of woe. Lotus Eaters. Cyclops. Cave. Human meat. Cups of wine. Noman. Blinding. Rams. Escape. Taunts.

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BOOK 10

Gift of Aeolus. Peek. Aeolus again. Giants. "A gruesome meal!" Circe. Pigs and wolves. Holy Moly. Feast(s).

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BOOK 11

Visit to Hades. Prophecy of Tiresias. News from the dead: Mom, famous wives & daughters, heroes, Heracles.

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BOOK 12

Burying Elpenor. Circe warns. Sirens. Scylla. Sun God. Eating forbidden meat. Storm at sea. 9 days adrift.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

TASTING NOTES: ODYSSEY



I don’t read ancient Greek, so I can’t go to the source material of The Odyssey and figure out for myself what particular terms meant at the time of their writing. Or what they mean now. Or what the best translation of a word or phrase might be. Instead, I have to rely on a translator.

Much like tasting a beer, different reader-translators discover different notes that linger within the text. One translator’s “cedar” may be another’s “pine.” Some of that may be due to methodology and some of it may be due to one’s own tastes and biases. But, just as though I like reading beer tasting notes of other drinkers, I likewise seeing what “notes” a reader-translator finds in a text.

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From Book 5. Calypso’s cave.

“Beside the hearth a mighty fire was burning. / The scent of citrus and of brittle pine / suffused the island.” (Wilson, V, 59-61)

“A great fire / blazed on the hearth and the smell of cedar / cleanly split and sweetwood burning bright / wafted a cloud of fragrance down the island.” (Fagles, V, 64-67)

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From Book 5. More Calypso’s cave.

“The meadow softly bloomed with celery / and violets.” (Wilson, V, 72-73)

“Soft meadows spreading round were starred with violets, / lush with beds of parsley.” (Fagles, V, 80-81)

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From Book 7. The orchard of Alcinous.

“The trees are tall, luxuriant with fruit: / bright-colored apples, pears and pomegranate, sweet figs and fertile olives…” (Wilson, VII, 115-117)

“Here luxuriant trees are always in their prime, / pomegranates and pears, and apples glowing red, / succulent figs and olives swelling sleek and dark.” (Fagles, VII, 132-134)

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Different approaches to the poetry and to the poetry of the translation lead to different notes, different terms. Citrus and pine versus sweetwood and cedar. Celery versus parsley. The same olives, but fertile in one instance and swelling sleek and dark in another.

If I too could taste these words without help, without them being fed to me on a baby's spoon, what flavors would I find there?

Monday, January 15, 2018

JANUARY CREATIVE COLLOQUY



Tonight, I read during the open mic of the January Creative Colloquy.

Usually, prior to a reading, I listen to heavy metal music to set the mood in my head for the pieces I'm going to read. But tonight, I listened to Vs. by Pearl Jam. It was a welcomed change in "warming up" for the reading.

The beer of the evening, for me, was 21st Amendment Brewery Blood Orange Brew Free or Die! IPA.

I had five new poems with me and ended up reading four of them. (I decided not to read the octopus-themed "Lullaby." The crowd didn't seem ready for it.) Lines from the four I did read follow.

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from "Graveyard Shift"

"A coffin can be life boat. / Ask Ishmael. Ask myself. / Queequeg isn't in the coffin. / My mother is in an urn."

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from "Moments on the River Walk"

"mere moments as they pass by on the river walk / time bent • folded • Möbiused / into orgami orchids and paper peonies // scent sealed into the pulp during manufacture"

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from "Laniakea (Immeasurable Heaven)"

"sewn into their canoes / pushed by the currents / pulled by the star that tether their eyes"

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from "Eighth"

"all is Holy Holy Holy / in the mouths of the blessed angels // do not steal this from them / do not clamber up and seat yourself / upon the throne"

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The standing-room-only crowd was attentive, gracious, and responsive. It was an awesome night of poetry and a few scattered short stories.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

TWITTER CALYPSO



"Pallas Athena," oil on canvas, circa 1920, by Frantisek Xaver Naske.

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As I've been reading Emily Wilson's translation of The Odyssey, I've posted a brief synopsis of each book I complete on Twitter. Here are my collected Twitter synopses of the first six books.

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BOOK 1

Athena advocates for Odysseus. Athena appears as Mentes to Telemachus. The stage is set.

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BOOK 2

The taunting of Telemachus. Athena as Mentor. Secret sail on wine-dark sea.

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BOOK 3

Audience with Nestor. Athena's guidance of Telemachus revealed. Proper sacrifice.

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BOOK 4

Audience with Menelaus. Tears (of Telemachus). News from the Sea God. Suitors plot. Penelope dreams.

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BOOK 5

Divine Council decides. Citrus, pine. Message. Release. Preparations. Poseidon strikes. Ino soothes.

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BOOK 6

Laundry. Nausicaa. "Athena's eyes flashed bright." Naked Odysseus. Plan for supplication. Athena's grove.

DUSK PAINTINGS

A triptych of "dusk paintings" along the Puyallup Riverwalk Trail.


Willow.


Cottonwood.


Wild cherry.

Friday, January 12, 2018

AN ODYSSEY


"Athena as Mentor," pencil, watercolor ink, and India ink on 8½" x 11" cardstock.

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"Like through the jointed grass / The long-stemmed deer / Almost vanishes / But a hound has already found her flattened tracks / And he's running through the fields toward her"

—from Memorial: A Version of Homer's Iliad by Alice Oswald

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Where there is hound, there is likely hunter. I imagine Artemis not too far off, the string of her bow drawn taut, the head of the arrow waiting to strike at the heart, tried and true.

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I was readying myself for another "Cutting In" project. I thought I was going to explore the artwork and poetry of William Blake. But the Cosmic Octopus had other plans for me and pushed me in the direction of The Odyssey by Homer, as translated by Emily Wilson.

I had been a longtime fan of the translation by Robert Fagles, but I think Emily Wilson renders the poetry of the lines better. I'm no reader of Greek, so I have to have some faith that the translator knows what he or she is doing and accept that their interpretation works for me. Until the Wilson translation, for me, that was Fagles.

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As Wilson writes in her "Tranlator's Note:"

"The original is in six-footed lines (dactylic hexameter), the conventional meter for archaic Greek narrative verse. I used iambic pentameter, because it is the conventional meter for regular English narrative verse—the rhythm of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron, Keats, and plenty of more recent anglophone poets. I have spent many hours reading aloud, both the Greek original and my own work in progress. Homer's music is quite different than mine, but my translation sings to its own regular and distinctive beat."

It is that "regular and distinctive beat" of Wilson's translation to which I am attracted.

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It is not just The Odyssey to which the Cosmic Octopus leads me, but to the first translation of the poem into English by a woman.

I already have a copy of Memorial: A Version of Homer's Iliad by Alice Oswald, which is a very intensely focused mixture of paraphrase and translation of only the death scenes and similes of Homer's original.

I have Caroline Alexander's translation of The Iliad on order.

I am probably going to have to order Sarah Ruden's translation of the Homeric Hymns.

It seems that I will be journeying through Homer's work and words (and those classically attributed to him but not necessarily by him) alongside female guides, much like Telemachus or Odysseus under the protection and guidance of the goddess Athena.

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"Of Pallas Athene, guardian of the city, I begin to sing. Dread is she, and with Ares she loves deeds of war, the sack of cities and the shouting and the battle. It is she who saves the people as they go out to war and come back. Hail, goddess, and give us good fortune with happiness!"

—from "To Athena," XI, Homeric Hymns, translated by Hugh G. Evelyn-White

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As I start this new version of "Cutting In," may Athena and the Cosmic Octopus grant me good fortune with happiness!

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

(SILENT) CONVERGENCES


Detail of a handful of the 22 chapbooks that comprise Float by Anne Carson.

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"I myself have increasingly found myself being visited by similarly uncanny moments of convergence, bizarre associations, eerie rhymes, whispered recollections—sometimes in the weirdest places."
—from the introduction of Everything That Rises: A Book of Convergences by Lawrence Weschler

I have placed this quote on the worktable prior, and have referred to Weschler and his book many times. There is something that deeply resonates not only in the book, but in the kernel idea of this very quote and how it informs everything in the book!

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And the quote resonates more and more for me these days. I'm seeing things that have been there all along and I simply didn't notice before. Or, I am being drawn to things that create patterns, but I don't quite understand why the attraction was there in the first place.

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For example: Rilke.

I've been reading Rainer Maria Rilke's "Eighth Elegy" (from the Duino Elegies) for a year and am just now starting to see more and more "eerie rhymes, whispered recollections" of Rilke around. In fact, there is a Rilke quote used as an epigraph to Everything That Rises.

And in the recent death of William H. Gass, I learned that Gass had written multiple essays on Rilke and translated Rilke's Duino Elegies, something I had somehow overlooked. And in Gass's translations, I was reminded of those of Edward Snow, which I believe speak strongest to me.

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For example: Hölderlin.

In Gass, I "discovered" Hölderlin as an influence on Rilke. Yet Hölderlin was always there. He was a large part of Heidegger's essay on Rilke's poetry and, specifically, Rilke's "Eighth Elegy."

And then I realized I had read a translation of a fragment from one of Hölderlin's fragments—from "In Lovely Blue (In Lieblicher Bläue)," translated by George Kalogeris. In fact, I own the issue of Poetry magazine in which it resides.

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For example: Float.

I fell in love with Anne Carson many times—Eros the Bittersweet; The Autobiography of Red; Men in the Off Hours; If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho; Decreation. And then I was confused by her—NOX. And then I was not only confused, but also angered by her—Red Doc>. Which meant that I avoided Float when it was initially released.

But I was intrigued by the format—twenty-two chapbooks that can be read in any order.

So I eventually gave in and fell in love with Carson again.

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Tonight, reading through "Variations on the Right to Remain Silent," amongst Carson's ruminations on the untranslatable in the poetry of Homer, the "heretical" statements of Joan of Arc, the paintings of Francis Bacon, was the work of Hölderlin and his untranslatable term Pallaksch.

And not only was I given the gift of more Hölderlin, but there were echoes here on translation that I've been encountering in various translators of Rilke into English (Gary Miranda, Stephen Mitchell, Edward Snow), in Gass on Rilke, and in Sarah Ruden on the Hebrew and Christian scriptures (Old and New Testaments).

And then Anne Carson went "full on" crazy and pressed the issue of the untranslatable and the act of translation by translating a fragmentary poem by 6th century BC poet Ibykos through the words and work of John Donne, Bertolt Brecht's FBI file, Samuel Beckett, Gustav Janouch, the London Underground signs and stops, and a microwave's owner's manual.

And, as I said, I fell in love with Anne Carson again.

And I dug back into some of the essays of Weschler.

And I heard some echoes.

And I heard some echoes.

And I heard some echoes.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

THE LAST MEAL



Just as The Longest Night is a personal holy day, so is The Last Meal.

The Last Meal is a way for my family to avoid the crowds and craziness of New Year's Eve and instead celebrate our "last meal" together—what we would want to eat if it was the last day of our life. Which it is for 2017. Everyone's meal is different, but the dinner is filled with good food, good drink, conversation, and games.

This year, I decided that a proper holy day should have proper rituals and that one of them should include fire. So I fired up the barbecue and grilled my steak outside in the freezing cold (31º F) and dark. Wet black walnut wood was smoked alongside the charcoal briquets to add a peppery smokiness to the meat, along with the smokiness that was added via smoked Salish Sea salt. Some Malbec to accompany the steak made it a perfect last meal.

MY FAVORITES of 2017



BOOKS

The Woman Who Lived Amongst the Cannibals by Robert Kloss
By far, my favorite read of the year. It is warped Laura Ingalls Wilder meets Herman Melville meets Emily Dickinson on "overdrive." It is prose meets poetry. It is fragmented. It likely sets the record for the number of em dashes used in a novel. It is a unique work of fiction focused on the United States in mid-nineteeth century (as is most of Kloss's work). It is strange and keeps me off-kilter as a reader. I am absolutely in love with it.

The Face of Water: A Translator on Beauty and Meaning in the Bible by Sarah Ruden
Sarah Ruden has changed the way that I read the Bible. That is a bold and simple statement that is absolutely true. She challenged some of my assumptions and made me read with a more critical eye. I love her confidence and wit. I look forward to reading more from her.

Shadowbahn by Steve Erickson
Another surrealistic exploration of America by one of my favorite authors. This time, the Twin Towers, absent since 9/11 suddenly appear in the Badlands of South Dakota. And in one of the towers the stillborn twin of Elvis Presley appears as an adult. Two of the characters from Erickson's previous novel, These Dreams of You, are driving toward the music emanating from the Towers. It's a weird and wonderful read.

Borne by Jeff VanderMeer
This is VanderMeer's first novel after the stunning Southern Reach trilogy (Annihilation, Authority, Acceptance). Although I don't find it as compelling as those books, that is likely because they were so powerful. This feels a bit like a revisitation of some of the themes from VanderMeer's earlier novel Veniss Underground, but with a more mature handle of the material. The landscape and characters are threatened by a giant flying bio-engineered bear, Mord, who was once human. The title character, Borne, another bio-engineered creature is shapeshifting his way into the heart of his "owner" Rachel as everyone confronts the Magician for "control" of the city.

The Night Ocean by Paul La Farge
Weird fiction author H. P. Lovecraft and a teenage boy who is a fan of his work have an erotic relationship. Or do they? There are a multitude of stories that take place in this book that is difficult to classify. At its heart, I believe it is a mystery about science fiction and fantasy authors. It is a challenge to figure out what is real and what is false, but ultimately satisfying as it presents many heavyweights of weird fiction in cameos throughout its storyline.

A yearlong reading of "The Eighth Elegy" of the Duino Elegies by Rainer Maria Rilke
I've been reading and reading and reading and trying to figure out what Rilke is saying in his "The Eighth Elegy." Over that year, I've collected various English translations of the Duino Elegies, in order to figure out what words convey Rilke's meaning best. One of my favorite versions is that of Gary Miranda, although I think Edward Snow captures best what I think Rilke put on the page in German.

ART

Visual Art

"Inktopodes"
Is it weird that some of my favorite art was my own. I didn't initially plan on making any of my Inktopodes. I had a vision where my recently deceased mother told me that I needed to paint a couple of small octopuses. Once I had explored a number of these small watercolor-ink creatures, my mother appeared in another vision and told me to paint one that was slightly larger. I can honestly say I've enjoyed the process of making these original pieces of art.

Matt Kish
Matt is a prolific artist who I follow every day. He primarily works in ink, but also incorporates collage, comics, and multimedia into his pieces that explore mythos (ancient and modern) as well as what it means to be human. He constantly surprises and challenges me.

Lupe Vasconcelos
I was introduced to the work of Lupe through images of her work posted by Matt Kish. I have since become a follower in my own right. Her work is visceral and detailed and refreshing. She explores mythical creatures and the occult in ink and paint.

Christpher Volpe
Christopher is an artist I discovered this year due to his Loomings series of paintings. These dark paintings are created primarily on canvas in oil paint and tar, with the occasional smattering of gold leaf. They explore passages from Moby-Dick in an expressionistic fashion. I find them very compelling. Someday I hope to experience them in person.

Tin Can Forest
Two Canadian artists—Pat Shewchuk and Marek Colek—work together under the Tin Can Forest moniker. Their work is a strange mixture of "cartoonish" illustration, Slavic linework, and mystical conspiracy. And it is ultimately "just right."

Film

Paterson
Jim Jarmusch directs. It's the story of a practicing poet named Paterson who drives a bus for his day job in the town of Paterson, New Jersey. It's a story of being in love with the word—written, spoken, heard—as well as life. And it's all informed by the long poem Paterson by William Carlos Williams. (Voiceovers (and "writeovers") of the various poems Paterson are working on showo the process of the character's work throughout the film.) It is a perfect meditation on existence.

A Quiet Passion
Terence Davies directs. There is definitely some playing with Emily Dickinson's biography, but I think the film catches the essence of the poet, her place in the world, and her family dynamics. A dozen or so of her poems read aloud in voiceover help to ground the narrative of the film. I especially loved the interplay of the sisters Dickinson, Emily and Vinnie.

Performance

Punk Rilke by Michael Haeflinger
As part of the third annual Creative Colloquy Crawl, Tacoma poet Michael Haeflinger performed readings of Rilke poems (mostly from The Book of Pictures) accompanied by a live "soundtrack" dominated by guitar (played by Michael), experimental video (by Stephen Mooney), and an ever-shifting light show. Some of the notes I took during the performance: "the canopic jar in striped sweater" + "Sonic Youth squall, "bleached" and distressed visuals, all of it saturated" + "chatter of the dead" + "echoes, echoes, echoes; layers of words, notes; feedback and loops" + "anchor" + "waning."

BEER

With the closure of my favorite beer store, 99 Bottles, at the end of 2016, I was left a bit adrift in 2017. It was less a year of exploration than it was a year of focusing on some of my favorite beers.

Deschutes Brewery Deschutes Brewery continues to be the cornerstone of craft beer for me. I'm in love with all four of their seasonals—Red Chair Northwest Pale Ale, Hop Slice Summer Ale, Hopzeit Autumn IPA, and Jubelale. Additionally, two of their Bond Street Reserve Series ales are easily new favorite IPAs for me—Pinedrops IPA and Sagefight Imperial IPA. At the end of 2017, I cracked open a bottle of Class of '88 Barley Wine Ale, a collaboration of Deschutes, North Coast, and Rogue, that is a spectacular example of what I look for in a barleywine.

Redifer Brewing Company
I received a growler of Redifer Red Ale for the holidays. It isn't the best red ale I've ever had, but it was a solid example and reminded me of why I like the style. I realized I need to drink more red ales!