Posts Tagged ‘Baudelaire’
June 6, 2016 | by Robyn Creswell
Can a poem be topical twice?
The speaker of “Elegy for the Times”—a long prose poem by the Syrio-Lebanese poet Adonis, a master of Arabic verse—is not an “I” but a “we,” an anonymous collective that travels through a nightmarish landscape of tombstones, locusts, and sand. The journey is what the ancient Greeks called a catabasis, a descent from the interior to the coast, “the sea’s abyss.” Adonis’s “we” is a community in flight, but the end of the poem suggests that the sea may offer no escape, or that it may be the final, most harrowing obstacle.
The poem, which I translated for our Summer issue, is visionary in scope, yet attentive to haunting details: the light glinting off a helmet, the stains of sweat on a dancer’s loincloth. Beyond the controlled hysteria of its images, I was drawn to the poem because it seems to have leaped from today’s headlines, conjuring the civil war in Syria and the vast migrations it has provoked. The scale of this ongoing tragedy defies the imagination, yet Adonis’s elegy is one of those rare works that aligns with Seamus Heaney’s definition of poetry: “a search for images and symbols adequate to our predicament.” (Heaney was thinking of Ireland’s own time of troubles.) Read More »
April 9, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
Baudelaire was born on this day in 1821. You may know that he’s credited with coining the term modernité, or that he helped to shape our theory of the flâneur; but you likely did not know that he was a seafaring man, with an unslakable thirst for the ocean. (An irresistibly bad pun presents itself: Boatelaire. But let’s pretend I didn’t write that.) Here’s “Already!”, a prose poem translated from the French by Aleister Crowley.
A hundred times already the sun had leaped, radiant or saddened, from the immense cup of the sea whose rim could scarcely be seen; a hundred times it had again sunk, glittering or morose, into its mighty bath of twilight. For many days we had contemplated the other side of the firmament, and deciphered the celestial alphabet of the antipodes. And each of the passengers sighed and complained. One had said that the approach of land only exasperated their sufferings. “When, then,” they said, “shall we cease to sleep a sleep broken by the surge, troubled by a wind that snores louder than we? When shall we be able to eat at an unmoving table?”
There were those who thought of their own firesides, who regretted their sullen, faithless wives, and their noisy progeny. All so doted upon the image of the absent land, that I believe they would have eaten grass with as much enthusiasm as the beasts.
At length a coast was signalled, and on approaching we saw a magnificent and dazzling land. It seemed as though the music of life flowed therefrom in a vague murmur; and the banks, rich with all kinds of growths, breathed, for leagues around, a delicious odour of flowers and fruits.
Each one therefore was joyful; his evil humour left him. Quarrels were forgotten, reciprocal wrongs forgiven, the thought of duels was blotted out of the memory, and rancour fled away like smoke.
I alone was sad, inconceivably sad. Like a priest from whom one has torn his divinity, I could not, without heartbreaking bitterness, leave this so monstrously seductive ocean, this sea so infinitely various in its terrifying simplicity, which seemed to contain in itself and represent by its joys, and attractions, and angers, and smiles, the moods and agonies and ecstasies of all souls that have lived, that live, and that shall yet live.
In saying good-bye to this incomparable beauty I felt as though I had been smitten to death; and that is why when each of my companions said: “At last!” I could only cry “Already!”
Here meanwhile was the land, the land with its noises, its passions, its commodities, its festivals: a land rich and magnificent, full of promises, that sent to us a mysterious perfume of rose and musk, and from whence the music of life flowed in an amorous murmuring.
March 10, 2014 | by Liz Arnold
Encaustic means “to burn.” The ethereal quality of Betsy Eby’s encaustic paintings belies the labor-intensive process of their making—an ancient method involving heated wax, damar resin (the sap of a Southeast Asian pine), and pigment applied in translucent veils with brushes and knives. Using a blowtorch, she liquefies the wax and fuses the layers with fire.
Eby’s solo show, “Painting with Fire,” is now at the Morris Museum in Augusta, Georgia. Eby is also a classical pianist, and many of her works are titled for musical pieces; her delicate compositions often seem to possess fluttering rhythms reminiscent of piano music. Eby is steeped in the Romantic era’s exploration of the interplay of senses. In a new book, Betsy Eby, art historian David Houston contributes an essay about synesthesia in her work, exploring the connections between sound and image. He mentions Baudelaire’s idea of correspondence, “anchored in the belief that sensory experiences can correspond to common emotions.” One of the surprising benefits to viewing Eby’s work in person is the engagement of another sense—smell—in the presence of natural beeswax. Drawing from poets and philosophers, composers and visual artists, her paintings resonate as much with history as they do modernity.
I recently spoke with Eby from her studio in Columbus, Georgia, where she lives with her husband, the Realist painter Bo Bartlett, in his childhood home. (The Morris Museum is also hosting a concurrent show of Bartlett’s work, “Paintings from Home.”) Read More »
November 7, 2012 | by Anka Muhlstein
Whether they follow an established tradition or rebel against it, whether they are authors of classics or are considered innovators, rare are the writers who were not also great readers. Proust was no exception to this rule; reading had always been his earliest and most important source of pleasure and stimulation, and it remained as such. He is distinguished from his colleagues, however, by the immense role that literature plays in his oeuvre.
Proust seemed incapable of creating a character without putting a book in his hands. Read More »