Tuesday, March 31, 2009

TC: Prophet

"I have been certified as mildly insane!":
photo by Gillian Wearing, 1992-3 (Tate Gallery)

So then he wandered out into the street and began to testify
Something about life being a long journey of the soul
An endless voyaging turning into a voyaging with an end
One knows how but one does not know when
No one yet knows when as the traffic bore down on him

As the traffic bore down on him my mind drifted in the wilderness
Or was it that my mind having been adrift all along
I’ve just grown to regard the wilderness as my resting or laughing place
He cried but those were not yet his last words
As the traffic parted around him as around one charmed

Friday, March 27, 2009

TC: Radio

The Radio Galaxy Cygnus A

At the end of the long day the Midnight Flower
Falls apart
Sundown russet supernova
Go slow
Don't hurt the radio for
Against all
Solid testimony machines
Have feelings
Brush past it lightly
With a fine regard
For allowing its molecules
To remain 100% intact
Machines can think like Wittgenstein
And the radio’s a machine
Thinking softly to itself
Of the Midnight Flower
As her tawny parts unfold
In slow motion the boat
Rocks on the ocean
In the song on the radio
As her tawny parts unfold
The radio does something mental
To itself singingly
As her tawny parts unfold
Inside its wires
And steal away its heart
Two minutes after eleven
The color dream communicates itself
The ink falls on the paper as if magically
Deep in the radio
The radio says
The markets go up The markets go down
The radio fears foul play
It turns impersonal
A piggy bank was smashed
A victim was found naked
Radio how can you tell me this
In such a chipper tone
Come in Kokomo Topeka Cucamonga
Radio when I am alone
I know what there is to know
Only because you have wished it so
Your structure of voices is a friend
The best kind
The kind one can turn on or off
Whenever one wants to
But turning you off is wrong I know
For you will intensely to continue
And in a deeper way that is the reverse
Of the idea of choice
You do
You exist in a way that is independent of me
You pick up
Remote signals from Radio Galaxy Cygnus A
Six million light years away
The brightest radio source in the sky
Hours go by
Heaven must be like this
For as her tawny parts unfold
Sundown gasps its old Ray Charles 45 of Georgia
Only through your voice

TC: Inferno V: Francesca's Anaphora (Certain Evil Souls)

Krefeld Project: Dining Room Scene 2: Eric Fischl, 2003

From the Fifth Book of the Inferno

"In Dante's Inferno, why does Francesca's heart still hurt and ache?"
enquires a tenth grade student at an online study site.

"Francesca's heart still aches because she is still experiencing the
sin, but now with full understanding of its meaning and importance.
Those emotions—and her clinging to them—are part of the punishment.

This shows how sinners cling to their sin, and how rarely they change,
even in hell," comes the reply, from a "freshman college teacher."

Francesca's sin is clinging to love. There is a sin of anaphora,

a carrying up or back, or phrasal repetition, in her clinging to Amor.

Few things are more tiresome than arguments through anaphora.

We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight

in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight
with growing, etc.

Yet war and poetry and sex are full of them.

Here is Francesca's:

Amor, ch'ai cor gentil ratto s'apprende

prese costui de la bella persona

che mi fu tolta; e 'l modo ancor m'offende.

Amor, ch'a nullo amato amar perdona,

mi prese del costui piacer sì forte,

che, come vedi, ancor non m'abbandona.

Amor conduisse noi ad una morte.

(trans. Henry F. Cary:)

“Love, that in gentle heart is quickly learnt,
Entangled him by that fair form, from me
Ta’en in such cruel sort, as grieves me still:
Love, that denial takes from none beloved,
Caught me with pleasing him so passing well,
That, as thou seest, he yet deserts me not.
Love brought us to one death."

Francesca's famous anaphora cleverly frames and sets off two fateful laws of love and their tragic, or shall we say unfortunate, consequences. Love catches fire quickly in the gentle heart; thus Paolo, naturally gentle-hearted, cannot help having the spark of love ignite in his heart a wild conflagration. Love absolves no one from loving in return; thus Francesca, for her part, has no choice but to love him who loves her. Francesca speaks the language of the all powerful god of Love. In suggesting Love refuses to take no for an answer, moreover, she is a sock-puppet of her own defense attorney, summing up the case: neither she nor Paolo should be blamed, because they were merely channeling the power of the god, acting-out, as it were, not themselves but Love. Of course the faultiness of these arguments is obvious to Dante, whose evident sympathy for them as tender lovers sways him not at all from placing Paolo and Francesca in the second circle. On the one hand, he seems to say, how poetic their love was! And on the other, more gravely: but here they are in Hell, are they not?

All these "tragic" loves, Francesca, Dido, Cleopatra. Pleasant, surfeited, melancholy, indeed, but tragic? asks Dante.

Love, that on gentle heart quickly lays hold, seized him for the fair person that was taken from me, and the mode still hurts me. Love, which absolves no loved one from loving, seized me for the pleasing of him so strongly that, as thou seest, it does not even now abandon me. Love brought us to one death.

And it keeps on down through the centuries, this pleasant perversity of an argument.

Francesca—according to the Boccaccio account that provided Dante instigation for his invocation of the fatal romance—was a victim from the beginning. She was blatantly tricked into marrying Gianciotto, who was disfigured and uncouth, when the handsome and elegant Paolo was sent in his brother's place to settle the nuptial contract. Gianciotto was, as the saying goes, doing a number on Francesca . Finding herself roped into an unfortunate union, and, understandably feeling thus ill done by, the young woman did not attempt to make a secret of her affections for Paolo. Things went along then as such things do. Informed this was going on, Gianciotto snuck up and caught the lovers together in Francesca's bedchamber. Unaware that Paolo had got stuck in his attempt to escape down a ladder, Francesca admitted Gianciotto. Meanwhile, enter the unlucky Paolo. Gianciotto lunged at him with a sword. Francesca stepped between the two and was slain. Gionciotto, now having a truly bad day, ruing his poor aim and with a double score to settle, promptly finished off Paolo. Francesca and Paolo, Boccaccio concludes, were buried, amid a sea of by many tears, in a single tomb. Thus "Love brought us to one death" was, as far as the fable went, pretty much the truth of this pretty fiction which Dante chose to import into his his poem, securing it forever with that repetition of Amor, the circuiting anaphora Francesca tosses off in the unregarding way of a woman letting her hair fall down around the shoulders on which she has long borne the burden of a great unfairness.

Now ’gin the rueful wailings to be heard.
Now am I come where many a plaining voice
Smites on mine ear. Into a place I came
Where light was silent all. Bellowing there groan’d
A noise, as of a sea in tempest torn
By warring winds. The stormy blast of Hell
With restless fury drives the spirits on,
Whirl’d round and dash’d amain with sore annoy.
When they arrive before the ruinous sweep,
There shrieks are heard, there lamentations, moans,
And blasphemies ’gainst the good Power in Heaven.
I understood, that to this torment sad
The carnal sinners are condemn’d, in whom
Reason by lust is sway’d. As, in large troops
And multitudinous, when winter reigns,
The starlings on their wings are borne abroad;
So bears the tyrannous gust those evil souls.
On this side and on that, above, below,
It drives them: hope of rest to solace them
Is none, nor e’en of milder pang. As cranes,
Chanting their dolorous notes, traverse the sky,
Stretch’d out in long array; so I beheld
Spirits, who came loud wailing, hurried on
By their dire doom. Then I: “Instructor! who
Are these, by the black air so scourged?” “The first
’Mong those, of whom thou question’st,” he replied,
“O’er many tongues was empress. She in vice
Of luxury was so shameless, that she made
Liking be lawful by promulged decree,
To clear the blame she had herself incurr’d.
This is Semiramis, of whom ’tis writ,
That she succeeded Ninus her espoused;
And held the land, which now the Soldan rules.
The next in amorous fury slew herself,
And to Sichæus’ ashes broke her faith:
Then follows Cleopatra, lustful queen.”
There mark’d I Helen, for whose sake so long
The time was fraught with evil; there the great
Achilles, who with love fought to the end.
Paris I saw, and Tristan; and beside,
A thousand more he show’d me, and by name
Pointed them out, whom love bereaved of life.
When I had heard my sage instructor name
Those dames and knights of antique days, o’erpower’d
By pity, well-nigh in amaze my mind
Was lost; and I began: “Bard! willingly
I would address those two together coming,
Which seem so light before the wind.” He thus:
“Note thou, when nearer they to us approach.
Then by that love which carries them along,
Entreat; and they will come.” Soon as the wind
Sway’d them towards us, I thus framed my speech:
“O wearied spirits! come, and hold discourse
With us, if by none else restrain’d. As doves
By fond desire invited, on wide wings
And firm, to their sweet nest returning home,
Cleave the air, wafted by their will along;
Thus issued, from that troop where Dido ranks,
They, through the ill air speeding: with such force
My cry prevail’d, by strong affection urged.
“O gracious creature and benign! who go’st
Visiting, through this element obscure,
Us, who the world with bloody stain imbrued;
If, for a friend, the King of all, we own’d,
Our prayer to him should for thy peace arise,
Since thou hast pity on our evil plight.
Of whatsoe’er to hear or to discourse
It pleases thee, that will we hear, of that
Freely with thee discourse, while e’er the wind,
As now, is mute. The land, that gave me birth,
Is situate on the coast, where Po descends
To rest in ocean with his sequent streams.
“Love, that in gentle heart is quickly learnt,
Entangled him by that fair form, from me
Ta’en in such cruel sort, as grieves me still:
Love, that denial takes from none beloved,
Caught me with pleasing him so passing well,
That, as thou seest, he yet deserts me not.
Love brought us to one death: Caïna waits
The soul, who spilt our life.” Such were their words;
At hearing which, downward I bent my looks,
And held them there so long, that the bard cried:
“What art thou pondering?” I in answer thus:
“Alas! by what sweet thoughts, what fond desire
Must they at length to that ill pass have reach’d!”
Then turning, I to them my speech address’d,
And thus began: “Francesca! your sad fate
Even to tears my grief and pity moves.
But tell me; in the time of your sweet sighs,
By what, and how Love granted, that ye knew
Your yet uncertain wishes?” She replied:
“No greater grief than to remember days
Of joy, when misery is at hand. That kens
Thy learn’d instructor. Yet so eagerly
If thou art bent to know the primal root,
From whence our love gat being, I will do
As one, who weeps and tells his tale. One day,
For our delight we read of Lancelot,
How him love thrall’d. Alone we were, and no
Suspicion near us. Oft-times by that reading
Our eyes were drawn together, and the hue
Fled from our alter’d cheek. But at one point
Alone we fell. When of that smile we read,
The wished smile so raptorously kiss’d
By one so deep in love, then he, who ne’er
From me shall separate, at once my lips
All trembling kiss’d. The book and writer both
Were love’s purveyors. In its leaves that day
We read no more.” While thus one spirit spake,
The other wail’d so sorely, that heart-struck
I, through compassion fainting, seem’d not far
From death, and like a corse fell to the ground.

(lines 27-138)

The Bed, the Chair, Head to Foot: Eric Fischl, 2000.

Monday, March 16, 2009

TC: Vistas of Limbo

Franz Albert Bischoff: Laguna Seascape

Physical science has helpfully informed us that not only are bodies scattered so few and far between through the universe—the most meagre bits being lost in a thin indiscriminate gruel-like stuff one might liken to a nineteenth-century workhouse child's dinner—as to amount to mere brief accidents of matter struggling unsuccessfully to exist more than a moment or two within the dense, necessary, prevailing and ever-increasing immaterium; but even the most apparently gross, tangible or corporeal of these same accidental bodies, should all its matter be crowded by force down into a perfect solidity, might be contained in a small, hard chunk no larger than an ice cube. In much the same sense, when one ponders the subject but a little, it might well appear that if all the truly productive employment of a lifetime were suddenly compressed, for the sake of experiment, into the time the mind actually took to devise it, then the maximum period required to contain it all would perhaps be days, more likely hours, even seconds or fractions of seconds.

The mind has been largely idle then; yet no one has ever been able to stop it from thinking, even for a little while. And of course this is dangerous. If one doesn't regulate one's thoughts they can easily be yanked by the ear and tugged off in practically any direction; particularly if there's any wishing involved. Maybe it's with this in mind that some thoughtless judges have thought it a crime to think, and declared it so. The nature of the thinking animal however being as it is, it will think anyway, and no matter what punishment be contrived for it in consequence. Vide the French Revolution, and the head of Charlotte Corday, which as those present remarked, retained a thoughtful expression even as it lay before the public, disconnected from its body.

Everybody understands that the business of everyday life calls for very little actual brainwork. So poorly matched are our physical to our mental capacities that one may quite easily come up in mere seconds with full-blown conceptions that may then take years or even longer to carry into action. Fresh thinking is very seldom needed. We're limited in prospect by the narrow routines of our bodies, our surroundings, our lives. We go along in a kind of continuous holding pattern. Changes are rare. Nothing's ever truly new. Yet though all this time one never actually needed to think, in fact one was never not thinking. The truth is that for a good part of our lives the only thing we can do is think. Our hands and feet may venture on as they will without our conscious consent, with the mind standing by a mere spectator unable to affect the execution it knows to be coming, if not already underway.

TC: Like Real People

The cry of a lost soul clowning yet meaning it
Shatters the silence of the planetarium
But the sky isn't falling. No wolf's at the door.
Still there's that echoing voice. Watchman, what of the night?
It's spherical, inky and as big as Kansas.
The moon is not quite round. Several stars come out
Of the backdrop and simulate topology,
Boring as old photos are yet absorbing as
They also are—potentially embarrassing
Like real people, who, when they confront themselves
With the dolorous anthems of that humdrum
Self awareness tolling in the middle distance,
Dismiss its alarums as mere background noise,
The cry of a lost soul clowning yet meaning it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

TC: Caspar David Friedrich and the Interior Dictation of Landscape

The Riesengebirge (Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin)

He avoided Goethe's invitations to come to Weimar and work together on a collaboration
He was too busy collaborating with certain beings
inside him
whose commands he found so much more compelling
they came alive
during his solitary strolls into the countryside at dawn or just after moonrise
his favorite time
during which he often paused to sketch
a group of trees a cloud a boulder a row of dunes or a tuft of grass
at their urging
Every true work of art (he wrote) is conceived in a sacred hour
and born
from an inner impulse of the heart

As he grew older depression distanced him more
and more
from the world of men
I have to be
on my own
and I have to know I am on my own
so that I can give myself up to what is around me
he wrote
in declining an invitation to tour the Alps
with a Russian poet
who admired his paintings
I have to unite with my clouds and rocks
I have to unite with everything around me
in order to be what I am

When the mineral world dissolves into the cosmic flux
the animal and vegetable worlds will have been long gone
but the beings who existed inside Friedrich and dictated his landscapes
will still be carving vast silences out of elemental gulfs

He had a special interest in the moon
He used to say
that if after death men were transported to another place
then he would prefer one less terrestrial than lunar
in order to allow the beings inside him to feel at home

Moonrise On An Empty Shore (National Gallery, Washington D.C.)

TC: After Wang Wei

Chilling down by the water
stopped to watch clouds drift
clouds drift clouds drift
bumped into mr. green
talked laughed forgot
it was time to go

TC: Bach's Booty

Three barrels of beer was Bach's pay. Still now
A dim shadow falls across the bright festal tone
As we follow the figured bass part down
Memory lane, where the art form's short term losses,
Simulating his disputes with authority,
Preclude the purple laurels victory brings.
Don't blow your wig, scholar. Let the beer fiddlers play
"The Warrior Minstrel of the Forlorn Hope."
Life remains long, but now and then as the silver
Chords gather and are sprinkled above the planet
Like sparks pinned to a blue velvet canopy
We get these inklings, self regard drifts away
From boreal night's cold lucid frame
Into postromantic darkness, and real stars come out.

TC: Lewis Carroll/Problems of Thought

Often has it been remarked that no one ever did something and regretted it later without also having to admit there had been a point of return, perceptible had only one been paying attention. Responsive as a small dog loyal to any passing whimsical attraction, however, one was too busy to take any notice. One could have stopped. Thought could have been summoned. Rescue could have been effected. But such are the powers of distraction in this world that though one might easily have turned back in time to save oneself from disaster, this never happened. Thus things came to be as as they stand at present.

The last of the crew needs especial remark,
Though he looked an incredible dunce:
He had just one idea — but, that one being "Snark,"
The good Bellman engaged him at once.

He came as a BUTCHER: but gravely declared,
When the ship had been sailing a week,
He could only kill beavers. The Bellman looked scared,
And was almost too frightened to speak:

But at length he explained, in a tremulous tone,
There was only one beaver on board;
And that was a tame one he had of his own,
Whose death would be deeply deplored.

The beaver, who happened to hear the remark,
Protested, with tears in its eyes,
That not even the rapture of hunting the Snark
Could atone for that dismal surprise!

It strongly advised that the BUTCHER should be
Conveyed in a separate ship:
But the Bellman declared that would never agree
With the plans he had made for the trip:

Navigation was always a difficult art,
Though with only one ship and one bell:
And he feared he must really decline, for his part,
Undertaking another as well.

The beaver's best course was, no doubt, to procure
A second-hand dagger-proof coat —
So the Baker advised it — and next, to insure
Its life in some Office of note:

This the Banker suggested, and offered for hire
(On moderate terms), or for sale,
Two excellent Policies, one Against Fire,
And one Against Damage From Hail.

Yet still, ever after that sorrowful day,
Whenever the BUTCHER was by,
The beaver kept looking the opposite way,
And appeared unaccountably shy.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

This Quote Is Helping

"But if you want my blessing for your home, it should have one further characteristic: you must give yourself away in some little detail. Your home should purposely show up some weakness of yours. This may seem to be a field in which the architect's authority ceases, but no architectural creation is complete without some such trait: it will not be alive. This trait can be compared to the need for a particularly subtle kind of humor to expose one's own weaknesses."

— Alvar Aalto

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

TC: The Apparitional Canoe

Captain James Cook and Chief Maquina, Nootka Sound, 1778

The Apparitional Canoe

Before contact
peace in every upstream inlet

in early summer
the sea is glassy calm

fog banks form the margin of
the japan current

and roll in morning
after morning

sea otters swim
in pods among kelp

the sea is glassy calm

until one morning
the evil star dawns

with the white
sail on the horizon


The first incoming
apparitional canoe

a singing
wind rushed

through cedars—a
silver moonlit

beached whale gleamed
out on the Sound

wave washed
otters slept

on kelp beds


They're easy together
inside the pod
when there's no hunting
the yelp of the little
ones is not heard
on good days
when the weather is mild they move
like the vowels in the word
off shore to browse
among sea
urchin and mussel
encrusted submerged reefs
or in drifting patches of
floating kelp


Capt. James Cook—His Report: on the Sea Otter

The fur of these animals, as mentioned in the Russian accounts, is certainly softer and finer than any others we know of and, therefore, the discovery of this part of the continent of North America where so valuable an article of commerce may be met with, cannot be a matter of indifference. There is not the least doubt, that a very beneficial fur trade may be carried on with the inhabitants of this vast coast. But unless a northern passage be found practicable, it seems rather too remote from Great Britain to receive any emolument from it.

Infestation of the Merchandise

"one could say that in taking on a cargo of furs
one takes on also a cargo of lice"—
Marchand, 1790

Particularly in the early years when
to get their hands on a few novel articles
of trade the chiefs were willing
to strip the sea otter cloaks
from their own backs and as Cook
says thereby reduce themselves
to a state of nudity

many if not most of the skins exchanged
were—Cook again—"very lousy"

Brass (Cook at Nootka)

metal was especially demanded
particularly brass with such eagerness
before we left hardly a bit
of brass was to be found in the ships
even officers' jackets without buttons


Cook and Maquina at Nootka

Maquina Greeting Cook at Friendly Cove
(Nootka Sound, 1778)

A canoe remarkable for a
singular head which

had a bird's eye and a bill
of an enormous size

painted on it
a person who was in the bow

seemed to be a chief
many feathers hanging from his head

his face painted in extraordinary manner

The Bird Ceremonial Greeting for Cook

From the biggest and last in line
of the Nootkan dugouts

the chief
stood up strewing handfuls of

feathers over the water
towards us on the ship

as some of his fellow
Indians threw red dust

or powder likewise—
and made a long harangue

holding in his hand a carved bird
of wood

as large as a pigeon
which he rattled and was

no less vociferous in his harangue
two or three natives likewise

had their hair quite skewed over
with small feathers

others with large ones stuck
into different parts of their heads

The Canoe Song

While this ceremony continued
the others sat in their canoes

a little distance from the ship
and one sang

a very agreeable air
with a degree of softness and melody

which we could not have expected
the word haela friend

being often repeated
as the burden of the song

The Ship Boston

The Indians rifled
the ship Boston

dressed up in women's clothing
and sacks

pulled high stocking caps
over their heads

with powder horns
and bags of shot

came from all around
to party four days

till two Boston ships
the Juno and the Mary

came into the Sound to trade
the Indians

scared them off with great
whooping and shooting

of guns
signalling no trade

TC: Apparitional Canoe 2: The Commercial Phase

(The "Discovery" of the Mouth of the Columbia)

John Boit of Boston (aetat.17), "Log of the Second Voyage of the Columbia" (1792)

Captain Robert Gray at the mouth of the Columbia River in 1792.
Oregon State Capitol mural

12 [May 1792] We saw an appearance of a spacious harbour abrest of the Ship, haul'd our wind for it, observ'd two sand bars making off, with a passage between them to a fine river. Out pinnace and sent her ahead and follow'd the ship under short sail, carried in from 1/2 three to 7 fm.and when over the bar had 10 fm. water, quite fresh. The River extended to the NE as far as eye cou'd reach, and water fit to drink as far down as the bars, at the entrance. We directed our course up this noble River in search of a Village. The beach was lin'd with Natives, who ran along shore following the Ship. Soon after, above 20 Canoes came off, and brought a good lot of Furs, and Salmon, which last they sold two for a board Nail. The furs we likewise bought cheap, for Copper and Cloth.

Cargo in Trading Goods: The Columbia

Columbia Hoes 36
Shingling Hatchets 91
Large Axes 73
Small Axes 34
Adzes 49
Pole Axes 2
Bill Hooks 52
Drawing Knives 78
Rat Traps 18
Snuff Bottles 78
Butchers Knives 117
Cod Hooks 52 Gross

Jews Harps 22 3/4 Dozn.
Tin Soldiers 6 Boxes
Trinkett 5 Boxes
Beads 116 lb
Necklaces 15 Dozn.
Tobacco Boxes 72
Tin quart potts 72
Tin pint potts 191
Tin half pint potts 125
Dippers 23
Tile potts 38
Tin Kettles 12

They appear'd to view the Ship with the greatest astonishment and no doubt we was the first civilized people they ever saw. At length we arriv'd opposite to a large village, situate on the North side of the River, about 5 leagues from the entrance. Capt. Gray named this River Columbia's and the north entrance Cape Hancock, and the South Point, Adams. This River in my opinion wou'd be a fine place to set up a Factory for skins.

Pepper Boxes 16
Pudding pans 2
Polish'd Iron pint potts 8
Sail Needles 600
Looking glasses 461
Pint Basons 12
Combs 50 Dozn.
Awl Blades 6 Gross
Awl Hafts 6 Dozn.
Cuttoes 1476
Shering Knives 55
Reaping Hooks 3
Pump Hamers 8

Hand Saws 72
Pewter Porringers 72
Basons 72 [Quart]
Elegant earings 14 Dozn. pr.
Large Saws 7
Lott Wire 1 (Bale)
Cloathing 12 Suits
Brass Tobacco Boxes 9
Tinder Boxes 34
Skillitts 90
Spiders 95
Iron Potts and Kettles 84
Kane Knives 37
Chizells 1600

15 [May 1792]. N. Latt. 46º 7’ W. Long. 122º 47’. On the 15th took up the Anchor, and stood up River but soon found the water to be shoal so that the Ship took the Ground, after proceeding 7 or 8 miles from our 1st station, however soon got off again. Sent the Cutter and found the main Channel was on the South side,[1] and that there was a sand bank in the middle, as we did not expect to procure Otter furs at any distance from the Sea, we contented ourselves in our present situation[2] which was a very pleasant one. I landed abrest the Ship with Capt. Gray to view the Country and take possession,[3] leaving charge with the 2d Officer.[4] Found much clear ground, fit for Cultivation, and the woods mostly clear from Underbrush. None of the Natives come near us.

In the Northwest, Native American cultures lived in a shelter known as the plank house.

First map of the mouth of the Columbia River, discovered and drawn by Bruno de Hezeta and named Bahia de la Asuncion, August 17, 1775
Courtesy Archivo General de Indias, Sevilla

18 [May 1792]. Shifted the Ship’s birth to her Old Station abrest the Village Chinoak, command’d by a cheif name Polack.[5] Vast many Canoes full of Indians from different parts of the river where constantly along side. Capt. Gray named this river Columbia’s, and the North entrance Cape Hancock, and the South Point Adams.[6] This River in my opinion, wou’d be a fine place for to sett up a Factory. The Indians are very numerous, and appear’d very civill (not even offering to steal). During our short stay we collected 150 Otter, 300 Beaver, and twice the Number of other land furs. The river abounds with excellent Salmon, and most other River fish, and the Woods with plenty of Moose and Deer, the skins of which was brought us in great plenty, and the Banks produces a ground Nut, which is an excellent substitute for either bread or Potatoes, We found plenty of Oak, Ash, and Walnut trees, and clear ground in plenty, which with little labour might be made fit to raise such seeds as is nessescary for the sustenance of inhabitants, and in short a factory set up here and another at Hancock’s River in the [34] Queen Charlotte Isles, wou’d engross the whole trade of the NW Coast (with the help [of] a few small coasting vessels).

"We have to remember that what we observe is not nature in itself but nature exposed to our method of questioning" (Heisenberg)

20 [May 1792]. This day[1] left Columbia’s River, and stood clear of the bars, and bore off to the Northward The Men at Columbia’s River are strait limb’d, fine looking fellows, and the women are very pretty. they are all in a state of Nature, except the females, who wear a leaf Apron (perhaps ‘twas a fig leaf). But some of our gentlemen, that examin’d them pretty close, and near, both within and without reported that it was not a leaf but a nice wove mat in resemblance!! and so we go—thus, thus—and no Near!—!

I landed abrest the Ship with Capt. Gray to view the Country and take possession, leaving charge with the 2d Officer. Found much clear ground, fit for Cultivation, and the woods mostly clear from Underbrush. None of the Natives come near us.

The American flag that
circumnavigated the
globe with Captain
Gray on the Columbia


Monday, March 2, 2009

Brooklyn in Winter

A recent trip to Williamsburgh and Dumbo to see some galleries ended up on Front Street, which can be a little too delightful in summer, now that it is being so developed. On this frigid winter day, just the right balance was struck among people in the street, things to see, and the scale of the Manhattan Bridge overhead, looming like a movie set.

The nicest part of the day was walking into Susan Bee's "Eye of the Storm" exhibition and finding Susan there! Her new paintings (see example above) have moved into a new area. Her familiar wavy seas and sexy femmes fatales are still there, but there are also starker areas, large unmodulated shapes that reminded me of Al Held's blunt, brightly colored, geometric paintings from the early 1960s. Susan pointed out that she is a sucker for clouds and paints them differently in almost every painting. It was true.

On Sunday there was a gathering for a new publication: A Tribute to Emma Bee Bernstein (1985-2008). This is a remarkable book by and about a remarkable young woman, who left us way too soon. The book has a striking cover by Susan, preface by Johanna Drucker, intro by Emma, interview w/ Susan by Emma & Nona Willis Aronowitz, a memoir about Emma by Susan, interview w/ Marjorie Perloff by Emma and Nona, postscript by Marjorie, text on Emma's poetry by Nona, an editor's note, several collages by Susan, and photos by and of Emma.

Johanna Drucker, in her introduction writes of Emma's writing, "Sometimes she shows a casual disregard for disciplining her large, raw talent. At moments she seems content to let it rip, to let the language and associations zigzag from marker to milepost while she asks, over and over agian, what does it mean to be a feminist in and for her generatioin? In other passages she feels inhibited by the tensions betwen academic language and its critical edge and the need to break through those conventions and speak in the vernacular. In other places, the text is tightly crafted, well-groomed and finished. The variation is as scenic as the terrain through which she moves..."

This is one of my favorite parts of Emma's text: "Gaze out the window. Notice the velvet black cows grazing on the ochre corn fields of Nebraska, snow capping the icy blue grand Tetons of Wyoming. Watch the fluorescent glow of fuchsia motel signs click off in the gray dawn, while sipping your complimentary coffee. Pull over to gawk at swirls of evergreen trees dipped in the brightest autumn fues, frosted with Montana mist."

But of course that is only the setting for richer quests, of a woman as woman and woman as part of a generation. Her perceptions on her era are acute. When she writes that "college graduates on the corporate career track replace spiritual pilgrimages to India with squeezing a Yoga class into a busy schedule, morning bong rips with after-work cocktails, moccasins with Manolos," you think have the picture. But she pulls you up short: "But we are not materialistic or apathetic. We are deeply self-aware and apocalyptic. Think Radiohead rather than Ravi Shankar..."

From Belladonna's Elders Series; available through Small Press Distribution (www.spdbooks.org) or from Belladonna (orders@belladonnaseries.org).