"What I like about writing is its incision, the fact that language is operating at its fullest. Words and poems exist on multiple levels. Poetry is a way of feeling deeply without being threatened."

— Mark Strand

The former poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner has given up poetry and turned to making art... (read more)


"With our scurrying minds
and our lidless will
and our lank, floppy bodies
and our galloping yens
and our deep, cosmic loneliness
and our starboard hearts
where love careens,
we are listening,
the small bipeds
with the giant dreams."

— Diane Ackerman, from "We Are Listening" in Jaguar of Sweet Laughter (via whiskey river)

Ilya Repin, Duel Between Onegin and Lenski, from Alexander Pushkin's Eugene Onegin, 1899 (source)


"Few foreign masterpieces can have suffered more than Eugene Onegin from the English  translator's failure to convey anything more than—at best—the literal meaning. It is as if a sound-proof wall separated Pushkin's poetic novel from the English-reading world. ...

Vladimir Nabokov's rendering into unrhymed iambics reproduces the exact meaning, but explicitly disclaims any further ambition. While Nabokov admits that in losing its  rhyme the work loses its 'bloom'  he  argues, irrefutably, that no rhyming version can be literally accurate. It can however certainly strive  for something else. It can attempt to produce some substitute for  the 'bloom' of the original, without  which the work is completely dead.  It can try to convey the poet's tone of voice, whether world-weary  or romantic, the sparkle of his jokes, the flavour of his epigrams, the snap of his final couplets. None of these effects can emerge from a purely literal unrhymed translation.  In fact, to offset the inevitable loss in verbal exactness, a rhyming version can aim at a different sort of accuracy, an equivalence or parallelism conveying, however faintly, the impact of the original."

— Charles H. Johnston, "Translator's Forward to Eugene Onegin"

"And they grow. For eighteen years, placid in their hollows, in their niches, lethargic in the slime, brushing past in a slow ceremony for nobody, splashing the air with a flick of the tail and a shimmering, incessantly devouring the juices of the depths, repeating for eighteen years the surreptitious sliding that takes them in a fraction of a second, for eighteen years, to the edible fragment, to the organic matter in suspension, solitary and somnolent or violently arranged to tear their prey to pieces and disband in a frenetic scattering, eels grow and change color, puberty assaults them like a whip and transforms them chromatically, the muddy mimetic yellow gives way bit by bit to mercury, at some moment the silver eel will reflect the first rays of morning sun with a quick flick of its back, the murky water of the depths allows a glimpse of the spindle-shaped mirrors that replicate and divide in a slow dance: the time has come to stop eating, ready for the final cycle, the silver eel waits immobile for the call of something that Mademoiselle Callamand considers, as does Professor Fontaine, a phenomenon of neuroendocrine interaction: suddenly, by night, at the same time, all rivers are downriver, all sources are to be fled, tense fins tear furiously at water's edge: Nietzsche, Nietzsche."

— Julio Cortázar, from From the Observatory, trans. Anne McLean (thanks wood s lot)

"In some ways painters have been more important in my life than writers. Painters teach you how to see—a faculty that usually isn't highly developed in poets. Whether you take a walk in the woods with a painter, or go to a museum with one, through them you notice shapes, colors, harmonies, relationships that enhance your own seeing."

— Carolyn Kizer, from a Spring 2000 interview in The Paris Review

For Octavio Paz

The poem spins over the head of a man
in circles close now now far

The man discovers it tries to possess it
but the poem disappears

The man makes his poem
from whatever he can grasp

That which escapes
will belong to future men

— Homero Aridjis, "The Poem," trans. Eliot Weinberger

"I am a man: little do I last
and the night is enormous.
But I look up:
the stars write.
Unknowing I understand:
I too am written,
and at this very moment
someone spells me out."

— Octavio Paz, "Brotherhood" (thanks whiskey river)


Buster Keaton in Samuel Beckett’s Film (source)


"From under what deaf ruins I speak rhyme,
From under what an avalanche cry out:
Like I am burning in the white quicklime
Under the volts of chambers underground.

I’ll simulate a winter, mute and lost,
And close, fast, the ever opened entrance,
But they will hear my alone voice,
And trust in it will be their final sentence."

— Anna Akhmatova, "The Script on a Book," trans. Yevgeny Bonver


Béla Tarr, Werckmeister Harmonies, 2000 (source)


"... et les silences, tous les silences: le silence quand le bras du bourreau se lève à la fin, le silence au commencement quand les deux amants sont nus l'un en face de l'autre pour la première fois, sans oser bouger tout de suite, dans la chambre sombre, le silence quand les cris de la foule éclatent autour du vainqueur—et on dirait un film dont le son s'est enrayé, toutes ces bouches ouvertes dont il ne sort rien, toute cette clameur qui n'est qu'une image, et le vainqueur, déjà vaincu, seul au milieu de son silence..."

— Jean Anouilh, Antigone


"I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul."

— Pablo Neruda, from "Love Sonnet XVII"


Alix Cléo Roubaud, from If Something Black (thanks wood s lot)


"Rising from the past, my shadow
is running in silence to meet me."

— Akhmatova, from "[The souls of those I love are on high stars]," trans. A. S. Kline

Nicholas Hughes, from Field Verse I (Apart)


"The disbeliever walked the moonlit place,
Outside of gates of hammered serafin,
Observing the moon-blotches on the walls.

The yellow rocked across the still façades,
Or else sat spinning on the pinnacles,
While he imagined humming sounds and sleep.

The walker in the moonlight walked alone,
And each blank window of the building balked
His loneliness and what was in his mind:

If in a shimmering room the babies came,
Drawn close by dreams of fledgling wing,
It was because night nursed them in its fold.

Night nursed not him in whose dark mind
The clambering wings of birds of black revolved,
Making harsh torment of the solitude.

The walker in the moonlight walked alone,
And in his heart his disbelief lay cold.
His broad-brimmed hat came close upon his eyes."

— Wallace Stevens, "Palace of the Babies," from Collected Poems

"1.2  Autopsy is a term historians use of the 'eyewitnessing' of data or events by the historian himself, a mode of authorial power. To withhold this authorization is also powerful. Herodotos carefully does not allege to have seen a phoenix, which comes only once every five hundred years, although he mentions the same legends as Hekataios. Herodotos likes to introduce such information with a word like '…': 'it is said,' as one might use on dit or dicitur. When my brother died his dog got angry, stayed angry, barking, growling, lashing, glaring, by day and night. He went to the door, he went to the window, he would not lie down. My brother’s widow, it is said, took the dog to the church on the day of the funeral. Buster goes right up to the front of Sankt Johannes and raises himself on his paws on the edge of the coffin and as soon as he smells the fact, his anger stops. 'To be nothing—is that not, after all, the most satisfactory fact in the whole world?' asks a dog in a novel I read once (Virginia Woolf, Flush 87). I wonder what the smell of nothing is. Smell of autopsy." 

— Anne Carson, from Nox (via)

First edition of Virginia Woolf's On Being Ill, with cover art by Vanessa Bell, 1930 (source)


"I should be reading Ulysses, and fabricating my case for and against. I have read 200 pages so far—not a third; and have been amused, stimulated, charmed, interested, by the first 2 or 3 chapters—to the end of the cemetery scene; and then puzzled, bored, irritated and disillusioned by a queasy undergraduate scratching his pimples. And Tom, great Tom [T. S. Eliot], think this on a par with War and Peace! An illiterate, underbred book it seems to me; the book of a self taught working man, and we all know how distressing they are, how egotistic, insistent, raw, striking, and ultimately nauseating. When one can have the cooked flesh, why have the raw. But I think if you are anaemic, as Tom is, there is a glory in blood. Being fairly normal myself I am soon ready for the classics again. I may revise this later. I do not compromise my critical sagacity. I plant a stick in the ground to mark page 200."

— Virginia Woolf, from a diary entry dated 16 August 1922

Woolf's passport leaf, 1923 (source)


"We have got up at dawn every morning and gone to bed (on the floor) at 8:30. We have slept in ruined huts; made fires of pomegranate-wood and dried camel-dung; boiled eggs; lost all sense of civilisation; returned to the primitive state in which one thinks only of food, water, and sleep."

— Vita Sackville-West, from a letter to Virginia Woolf dated 30 March 1927 from Persepolis


"What do I ask of a painting? I ask it to astonish, disturb, seduce, convince."

— Lucian Freud


Paul Roche in Greece on the set of the film Oedipus the King. Photographed by Patrick Ward. (source)

"O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap
May who ne'er hung there. Nor does long our small
Durance deal with that steep or deep. Here! creep,
Wretch, under a comfort serves in a whirlwind: all
Life death does end and each day dies with sleep."

— Gerard Manley Hopkins, from "[No worst, there is none. Pitched past pitch of grief]"


John Constable, View of Cathanger at Petworth, 1834 (source)


"I set all Rome between us: with what joy I set
The wonder of the world against my world’s delight!"

— Arthur Symons, from "Dreams"


"Once again I saw through the windows those sickly trees of the deserted square—I saw the open sea, crossed so often that winter, shivering on the deck of the steamer wet with drizzle and blackened from the fumes—with my poor wandering beloved, decked out in traveller's clothes, a long dress, dull as the dust of the roads, a coat clinging damply to her cold shoulders, one of those straw hats with no feather and hardly any ribbons that wealthy ladies throw away upon arrival, mangled as they are by the sea, and that poor loved ones refurbish for many another season. Around her neck was wound the terrible handkerchief that one waves when saying goodbye forever."

— Stéphane Mallarmé, from "The Pipe," trans. Henry Weinfield


"Variations of Human Stature," from The Picture Magazine, 1893 (via anticipatedstranger)


"The madman, understood not as one who is sick but as an established and maintained deviant, as an indispensable cultural function, has become, in Western experience, the man of primitive resemblances. This character, as he is depicted in the novels of plays of the Baroque age, and as he was gradually institutionalized right up to the advent of nineteenth-century psychiatry, is the man who is alienated in analogy. He is the disordered player of the Same and the Other. He takes things for what they are not, and people one for another; he cuts his friends and recognizes complete strangers; he thinks he is unmasking when, in fact, he is putting on a mask."

— Michel Foucault, from The Order of Things, 1966

 Edvard Munch, Self-Portrait, 1915


"I dig my hands into the absolute. The surface breaks..."

— Jorie Graham, from "The Visible World"


George Prochnik, "Schopenhauer: The Sound of Unsparing Rage Against Noise":
"His argument is that a great intellect has precisely one distinguishing feature: the ability to concentrate on a single subject for a long period of time. Noise more than any other phenomenon means distraction from this process of burrowing deeper down into the marrow of a thought..."


Eugene Richards (via onlinebrowsing)


"It is in the gap, in separation, in the silence that challenges our existence, that we are human.
It is in music that we dream of an original unity."

— Edmond Jabès, quoted in Rosmarie Waldrop’s Lavish Absence, 2002


"It is easy to lose, through meddling or neglect, an entire aspect of existence. And sometimes, to cultivate a single new thought, you need not only silence but an entirely new life."

— Jennifer Moxley, from "The Atrophy of Private Life"


Study for Terretektorh (distribution of musicians) by Iannis Xenakis, 1965. Diagram for an 88-member orchestra scattered among its audience. (via i12bent; notationnotes)


"The tree of silence bears the fruit of peace."

— Arabian proverb

"Whence could it have come to me, this all-powerful joy? I was conscious that it was connected with the taste of tea and cake, but that it infinitely transcended those savours, could not, indeed, be of the same nature as theirs. Whence did it come? What did it signify? How could I seize upon it and define it?

I drink a second mouthful, in which I find nothing more than in the first, a third, which gives me rather less than the second. It is time to stop; the potion is losing its magic. It is plain that the object of my quest, the truth, lies not in the cup but in myself. The tea has called up in me, but does not itself understand, and can only repeat indefinitely, with a gradual loss of strength, the same testimony; which I, too, cannot interpret, though I hope at least to be able to call upon the tea for it again and to find it there presently, intact and at my disposal, for my final enlightenment. I put down the cup and examine my own mind. It is for it to discover the truth. But how?"

— Marcel Proust, from Du coté de chez Swann, 1913, trans. C. K. Scott Moncrieff


Mary Cassatt, Five O'Clock Tea, 1880 (source)


"Under certain circumstances there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea. There are circumstances in which, whether you partake of the tea or not—some people of course never do—the situation is in itself delightful. Those that I have in mind in beginning to unfold this simple history offered an admirable setting to an innocent pastime. The implements of the little feast had been disposed upon the lawn of an old English country-house, in what I should call the perfect middle of a splendid summer afternoon."

— Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady, 1880-81


Andrei Tarkovsky, Stalker, 1979


"Now that lilacs are in bloom
She has a bowl of lilacs in her room
And twists one in her fingers while she talks.
'Ah, my friend, you do not know, you do not know
What life is, you who hold it in your hands';
(Slowly twisting the lilac stalks)
'You let it flow from you, you let it flow,
And youth is cruel, and has no remorse
And smiles at situations which it cannot see.'
I smile, of course,
And go on drinking tea."

— T. S. Eliot, from "Portrait of a Lady"


Ai Weiwei, Ton of Tea (one ton of compressed tea), at Mori Art Museum (source)

Nan Goldin, In My Life, directed by Paul Tschinkel, 1996

"This program features Nan Goldin's celebrated 1996 mid-career photography retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Goldin's exhibition filled an entire floor at the Whitney Museum with pictures that chronicle her involvement and fascination with the alternative, 'downtown' culture of New York City, Boston, Berlin, Tokyo, etc. Culled from a period that spans more than 25 years of taking pictures, Goldin's desire to make a visual diary of her friends and lovers, as well as her own life, makes for a moving, highly charged, visual experience."

Watch it on UbuWeb.


"You road I enter upon and look around, I believe you are not all that is here,
I believe that much unseen is also here."

— Walt Whitman, from "Song of the Open Road"


Todd Hido (source)


"One of the latest applications of the electric telegraph is at once useful and beautiful. It is a plan for distributing and correcting mean Greenwich time in London and over the country every day at noon.  ... At the same instant the exact period of noon will be known at the most distant as well as the less remote places in the country; and it is said that all the Railway Companies have agreed to avail themselves of these means of obtaining an exact uniformity of time."

— Frederick Smeeton Williams, from Our Iron Roads: Their History, Construction, and Social Influences, 1852


Robert Adams, Looking Past Citrus Groves into the San Bernardino Valley; Northeast of Riverside, California, 1983 (source)


"How happy is the little stone
That rambles in the road alone,
And does n't care about careers,
And exigencies never fears;
Whose coat of elemental brown        
A passing universe put on;
And independent as the sun,
Associates or glows alone,
Fulfilling absolute decree
In casual simplicity."

— Emily Dickinson, "XXXIII"