Winter by Jasper Johns
If you have been thinking there must be something more to life than culture wars, the chances are good you have a point to carry at your next fondue party. Moreover, you might find yourself receptive to the cheese in a recent Chris Hedges screed at Truthdig. It has neo-liberalism in its sights and the liberals who sold out the franchise. For all that, Mr Hedges is a dour and humourless man of words, given to finger-wagging at mild-mannered academics and artists and the like who are, perhaps, more interested in tenure and grants and PC protocols than in matters of economic justice. I wonder if I might not find his revolution-to-come as stifling and trifling to the spirit as a catechism class on anti-depressants. As for Trump and all things Trumpery, this man is not necessarily the fascist who seems to be giving a fair number of talking-heads the heebie-jeebies of late, but he, with a little help from his cohorts out there on La-La Drive, just might have the dirty 30’s stashed in his vest pocket like so many loaded dice, a game of craps in the offing. Could be. Just that we here are a little leery of calling out that the sky is falling, though it does seem a little askew—
Morning. Nikas. Rain and gloom enough. And it is as if the middle parts of the fair nation-state collapsed, the west coast rubbing shoulders with Salaberry-de-Valleyfield. Eddie the cook’s foray into the construction world seems to have been rather a short foray, as he is re-established in the kitchen, cracking jokes aplenty, Irish Harpy all smiles, her morning coffee no hollow ritual now. I still have not succeeded in explaining to myself how it is that poets like Yeats and Pound managed to get themselves transfixed by fascism’s hypnotic glare, but now and then a glimmer of an answer teases me, usually when I am in the presence of TV fodder and the more gamey offerings of pop culture in conjunction with ‘shaming’ politics; and then one might throw up one’s arms and surrender wholesale to the Life of the Mind; and still, nothing is explained. Himself an entertainer, Trump aids and abets mass delinquency when it comes to any Thinking Man’s Guide-To-Any-Endeavour. He is not likely to go all Leonardo da Vinci on you, and the ten million dollar Renoir that he owns is simply that: ten million sassy dollars, not upstart art. Yeats was attracted to ‘men of action’ over and above those who sat around and stewed in their intellectual funks and so, for a short while, Mussolini won him over, that is, until fascism’s darker side became more evident and the Nazis started showing their truest colours. Would Pound have viewed Trump as a grotesque clown or as someone with virtues to extol, seeing as the latter man, this most American of Americans (save for the hickory Americans of which Pound was probably a late instance), is apparently free of all equivocation? I have no idea. But is it not the great temptation, even in men and women who could care less about scoring points, to speak one’s mind, and delusion and hypocrisy shrivel away into so much nothingness?
—Otherwise, from an unexpected source, received: the pope’s encyclical on the environment and climate change, as per the following:
Of the Holy Father
on care for our common home—
Unexpected, because the source is such a strict materialist, even, how shall we say, inimical to the church. Yet, he believes this example of papal thinking to be unparalleled, even in the secular world. Due to an ill-considered exploitation of nature &c. Well, shiver me timbers. Moreover, Patrick Kurp at Anecdotal Evidence has been singing the praises of my source’s poetry which you may find in Mr Kurp’s ‘older posts’ with respect to Robert Melançon, one of Quebec’s best kept secrets—
I have been investigating Marius Kociejowski’s Zoroaster’s Children, Biblioasis, 2015 for suspicious cargo, as it is a book of travel writings and other musings. If I find anything untoward I will let you know—
Bugatti Don dropped by the other evening, full of his inner Mcgravitas vis-à-vis mass shootings, Polish novels and bad poetry. He behaved himself and vacated the premises early—
The ruminations of Bartolomé de las Casas in his A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies is dreadful reading on account of the fact that it is so relentlessly grim. It seems a wonder that there was anything alive left moving after the Spanish had completed their initial innings on the New World continent. Not even a mouse—
The passing years will, no doubt, pacify this ghost in time. And, when the years have passed, there will gape the uncomfortable and unpredictable dark void of death, and into this I shall at last fall headlong, down and down and down, and the prospect of that fall, that taking off into so blank an unknown, drowns me in mortal fear and mortal grief. After all, life, for all its agonies and despair and loss and guilt, is exciting and beautiful, amusing and artful and endearing, full of liking and love, at times a poem and a high adventure, at times noble and at times very gay; and whatever (if anything) is to come after it, we shall not have this life again—
from The Towers of Trebizond, Rose Macauley, 1956, and it has nothing to do with Spaniards of the 16th Century and a bit to do with the ‘Happiest Decade’, comprised as it was of TV’s golden era, Beatniks and baseball, Presley, and Joe McCarthy, among other things; you know, those 50s; Soviet tanks, B-52s, Pepsi’s Cold War; the 50s when the liberal mind, even so, was not the equivalence of a toady living in abject terror of offending the wrong parties, persons who could be of any persuasion, depending on the time of day and the seating arrangements; when the conservative mentality understood the limits of American power. I myself suffer from a mild disposition—
Gone: Christopher Middleton, poet and translator, 1926 – 2015. My patience for poetics has long been minimal, but when someone put in my hands Mr Middleton’s musings on what poetry is or is not, I believed then and still believe that they are the finest I have ever come across. I have in mind his Jackdaw Diving, Carcanet Press (my copy of which seems to have been pinched from my shelf by an unknown book thief), and Palavers & A Nocturnal Journal, Shearsman Books. The link below will whisk you on its magic carpet to an obituary, courtesy of Marius Kociejowski, a true believer, who fought tooth and nail with one of the editors of said gazette just to get a minimal survey of the man’s accomplishments across to the reading public—
Left to right: Marius Kociejowski and Christopher Middleton. Photo by Tony Fraser, 2005.
Norm Sibum has washed his baseball cap recently. His novel is The Traymore Rooms.