Peter Handke: 75th Birthday

Peter Handke turned 75 today. I’m a different and better person than I would have been if I hadn’t read his books, written about them, and even translated a couple of them. Herzlichste Glückwünsche, Peter, zum Geburtstag!

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CLOUDS

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. . . he would not intervene with the weather on behalf of the clouds whose real purpose he sought to undermine for no other reason than his own vanity.    (Alex Caldiero, Clairefontaine)

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(from and answer, Alex Caldiero)

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(from Vomit questions on the answering mind, by Alex Caldiero)

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. . . that is how the tryst was accomplished and then the two of them sobbed to know they would never assume more of each other than what those same clouds had just before the moment the rain and nothing but rain was the grand summation of the meaning of their ever shifting forms. (Alex Caldiero, Clairefontaine)

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. . . It’s important / not to walk on air / not to sound ethereal / not to become involved in eternity // keep yr feet on the ground / my ancestors would say   (Alex Caldiero, An Orphic Explanation)

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. . . Too often I have to beg for a song or steal a rose for a line of poetry. And that is why I despise metaphors.  (Alex Caldiero, Vomit questions on the answering mind)

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DREAM

She changed the paintings that hung in our / bedroom cos I told her I didn’t like em—they were / too spacy—gave me vertigo—anxiety—they were / paintings of cross-purposes slightly floating in / space—   (Alex Caldiero, Of Body)

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. . . There it is frozen in space a piece of ice the only star big crystal this early morning so cold that the air breathes itself. This is how it is this time this morning this hour this seeing this star this breath this particular.   (Alex Caldiero, Take the Rap for God)

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World War II

Just graduated from high school in Windsor, Colorado, our father volunteered for service in WWII. He did flight training in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and eventually was stationed with a B-29 crew in the Pacific. When I think of him during that time, I have in mind images of him like this one that shows him, bottom center, with other pilots.

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Dad looks young in the next photo, leaning casually against an Army truck (it was the Army Air Force at that time). As he looks into the lens I wonder what he was thinking, thinking at this precise moment and thinking during the entire bombing campaign from Tinian and then Iwo Jima (or Io Jima as it says on Dad’s map).

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When we cleaned out Mom’s house before she sold it, we found some photos Dad had never shown us (he didn’t talk about the war). These four are especially interesting.

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These four radar images show the target area, bombs away, and leaving target.

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I found a short film made in 1946 to sell “peace bonds” that shows a radar operator at work. The moment in the film when a navigator draws a ruled line from somewhere in the Pacific to a target in Japan takes my breath away. Dad left a map just like the one in the film with lines exactly like that drawn by his own hand.

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I wish Dad were still here. I’d love to ask him about the war. His war service must have exerted enormous influences on who he became.

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Who is the Poet What is the Book

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Last night Alex read from his book written/drawn/sanded/soaked while floating down Utah’s Cataract Canyon. The event was sponsored by 15 Bytes, Utah’s Arts Magazine and featured the winner and two finalists for this year’s poetry prize. Katherine Coles (Utah’s former Poet Laureate) and Alex were the finalists and Paisly Rekdal (Utah’s current Poet Laureate) was the winner. The Printed Garden Bookshop hosted the event. The poets read profound and beautiful and unsettling and hilarious works.

There was time for questions, one of which was about what work was forthcoming. The two Laureates each mentioned books that would appear in the next two years. Alex answered that he was waiting for a midwife to help him deliver his next book. I knew what he meant. He has often spoken with me about the trouble he has submitting work.

Years ago I acted as Alex’s midwife, gathering and submitting 100 of his poems that eventually were published by Signature Books under the title Various Atmospheres. Since then, books published by Dream Garden Press (Poetry is Wanted Here), Elik Press (Sonosuono), Signature Books again (Some Love), and Saltfront (Who Is the Dancer What Is the Dance) have appeared. Those five books represent only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

In the last year or so Alex has given me more than 10 new chapbooks, some running to more than 100 pages. He designs the books himself and prints them in editions of 20 or 30. They are often scanned reproductions of his notebooks, although he inserts typed poems where the handwriting is difficult to decipher. Others are collections of poems and drawings from various notebooks. Drawings often include words (or is it words that include drawings?).

These are the most recent gifts from Alex:

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Vomit questions on the answering mind is a collection of poems like this one written the evening of September 7, 2004:

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Alex has often described himself as a mystic, but if this poem is any indication, he is that most rare of the breed: the self-doubting mystic. Poems like this one lead me to believe every word he writes.

Drawings in the volume include one of what I take to be another rare breed: an ironic devil (Goethe’s Mephistopheles belongs to this species as well).

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The volume titled Clairefontaine (that was the brand of notebook, the name stamped on the cover) includes these two pages:

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For a reader, images of the poet at work on a notebook page reveal the improvisational nature of the work, poetry and images growing out of a vast store of experience like a jazz improvisation out of the musician’s mastery of scales.

Sound Mind (this is, after all, the Sonosopher at work) is a retrospective especially interesting to readers who have seen/heard these works in performance. These two pages from the work “For the House,” for instance, include notes for the performance> Presto! Crescendo!

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So while Alex says he is waiting for the midwife, I would note she has been a frequent visitor over the last few decades.

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p.s.

Andy Hoffman, publisher of Elik Books, wrote that he and Alex are planning for a second volume of Sonosuono.

And this photo by the owner of The Printed Garden from the discussion afterward:

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The Perfect Fence

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We have constructed a new website for the book. You can find it here:

https://doublevisionbooks.wixsite.com/the-perfect-fence

Let us know if you have any suggestions as we expand and improve it.

Looks like the book will be available through Texas A&M University Press and from Amazon on November 15.

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20,000 Words

20,000

My son Tom recently gave me a book titled 20,000 Words, Sixth Edition,

“Spelled and Divided for Quick Reference.”

Just the words.

No definitions.

No history.

But they are in alphabetical order.

And stories lurk in each group of words.

 

man·sard

man·ser·vant

man·sion

man·slaugh·ter

man·slay·er

mansuetude

man·teau

Cloak and dagger in a gentle English setting.

 

sau·na

saun·ter

sau·sage

sau·té

sau·terne

sav·age

sav·age·ry

sa·van·na

sa·vant

sav·ior

sa·vory

A tasty story with a threat of violence and a happy end.

 

lar·ce·ny

large—scale

lar·ghet·to

lar·i·at

lark·spur

A huge and slow-moving botanical Western.

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A Photo of Clouds Is Almost a Crime

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Bertolt Brecht’s An die Nachgeborenen, first published in 1939

To Those Who Follow

It’s true, I live in dark times!

. . .

What times are these when

A photo of clouds is almost a crime

Because it entails silence in the face of so many misdeeds!

. . .

I joined others in the age of turmoil

And with them I was outraged.

. . .

I ate between battles

Lay down to sleep among murderers

Made love thoughtlessly

And viewed nature without patience.

. . .

There was little I could do. But the rulers

Were more secure when I was gone, that was my hope.

. . .

Wirklich, ich lebe in finsteren Zeiten!. . .

Was sind das für Zeiten, wo
Ein Gespräch über Bäume fast ein Verbrechen ist
Weil es ein Schweigen über so viele Untaten einschließt!. . .

In die Städte kam ich zu der Zeit der Unordnung
Als da Hunger herrschte.
Unter die Menschen kam ich zu der Zeit des Aufruhrs
Und ich empörte mich mit ihnen. . .

Mein Essen aß ich zwischen den Schlachten
Schlafen legt ich mich unter die Mörder
Der Liebe pflegte ich achtlos
Und die Natur sah ich ohne Geduld. . .

Ich vermochte nur wenig. Aber die Herrschenden
Saßen ohne mich sicherer, das hoffte ich. . .
. . . a conversation about trees (1939)

. . . a photo of clouds (2017)

. . . my translation

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The Foot of Don Juan de Oñate

The man who cut off the foot of the Don Juan de Oñate statue in Alcade, New Mexico 20 years ago has come forth with the booty ( pun intended).

Today the New York Times is reporting that the man it calls the “foot abductor” approached filmmaker Cris Eyre in Santa Fe with a note. Eyre arranged for the Times reporter to meet the man the Times call “the thief.”

Here is a photo of the separated foot and its spur (itself cut away from the boot).

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I’m obsessed with the idea of standing that the severed foot represents. A couple of years ago I was in Berlin standing in front of this painting by Botticelli.

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When I found myself bent over the bottom of the painting, ignoring the beautiful woman to look at the feet,

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trying to see where the weight was placed, how the foot related to the stone base, how the knees were bent or not bent, how the second toes were longer than the first ones, how the arch revealed a shadow below a slight hump reaching from the ankle, how the big toe of the right foot was bent from the pressure of standing – I knew I was obsessed.

Standing, what does it mean to stand? Most simply, as Hans Blumenberg writes,

“Standing is not falling down.”

Schopenhauer doubles down on this when he compares standing to living and sees both as an ongoing battle against entropy or against inevitably increasing disorder:

“. . . just as we know our walking to be only a constantly prevented falling, so is the life of our body only a constantly prevented dying, an ever-deferred death.”

Preventing falling, deferring death is more difficult if you are living in the Acoma Pueblo in 1680 and Don Juan de Oñate kills 800 of you, sends dozens of Acoma girls to convents in Mexico City, sentences adolescents to decades of servitude, and cuts one foot of of each of 24 Acoma men.

Cutting off the foot of the Don Juan de Oñate statue 4 centuries later feels like a good act to me, a symbolic pedestrian political statement. And these days it has the context of the NFL and other players who kneel rather than stand for the National Anthem that represents, for them and for me, a country in which black men are routinely killed by police. I’ll add that were I in a place where I could kneel for the National Anthem, I would also kneel in protest of the present income inequality that faces a substantial new boost with the Trumpista Republicans’ proposed tax relief for the rich.

You stand in protest unless standing is the required norm and then you kneel in protest.

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Hommage à John Ashbery

I’ve been working on the standing metaphor in John Ashbery’s “The New Spirit” (from his Three Poems).

Now we get word that Ashbery has passed on. His poetry remains like an old photograph to “. . . show the event. It makes sense to stand there, passing.”

“This is my happiness. To stand, to go forward into it. The cost is enormous. Too much for one life.”

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“Bucket of Tits”: A Labor Day Story from IMMORTAL FOR QUITE SOME TIME

Combing my hair after a shower, I finger a thick scar on my forehead and remember a summer’s night on a drilling site between cotton fields outside Eloy, Arizona.

A pump had lost pressure because of worn gaskets, and we were replacing them. Sweat burned my eyes and dripped off my nose and chin as I wielded a thirty-six-inch pipe wrench to back out a heavy steel shaft. The third time my hard hat slid off, I threw it aside, grateful for the slight breeze in my hair. An hour later, the gaskets replaced, the shafts screwed back into place, Rudy signaled for Howard to switch the pump back on line.

Scott! I heard someone say. Are you all right? I was lying on the ground with three faces hanging over me in the floodlit night. When I tried to sit up, my brain threatened another shutdown. Where’s your goddamned hard hat? Howard muttered. I put my hand to my head. It came away slick with blood.

On the way to the Casa Grande hospital, holding a wet rag to my head, I asked what happened. A brass fitting broke when I kicked in the compressed air, Howard said. It swung around on its hose and knocked you on your ass. The only time you’ve had your hat off in two months. With that kind of luck, if you fell into a bucket of tits you’d come up sucking your thumb.

A doctor cleaned me up, stitched the wound, and said he wanted to keep me there for observation. Howard asked to talk with me for a minute, and the doctor left. In two and a half more weeks, Howard explained, I’ll have enough accident-free hours with my crew to get a paid Caribbean vacation. If you check into the hospital or if you don’t show up to work tomorrow night, I’ll lose that.

The doctor returned, and I said I just wanted to go home. I can’t allow that, he said. You have a concussion. I asked if I could stay without checking in. The doctor spoke with a nurse, and she made a bed for me on a lobby couch. At the rig the next day, my hard hat teetered precariously on a fat bandage.

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