"When you have lived as long as I, you will see that every human being has his shell, and that you must take the shell into account. By the shell I mean the whole envelope of circumstances. There is no such thing as an isolated man or woman; we are each of us made up of a cluster of appurtenances. What do you call one's self? Where does it begin? Where does it end? It overflows into everything that belongs to us—and then flows back again. One's self—for other people—is one's expression of one's self; and one's house, one's clothes, the books one reads, the company one keeps - these things are all expressive."

— Henry James (via whiskey river)


Leonard Freed, Wedding Dance, Williamsburg, New York, 1954 (via MoMA)


"So it follows that all that is here is not to be despised and put down, but, precisely because it did precede us, to be taken by us with the innermost understanding that these appearances and things must be seen and transformed."

— Rainer Maria Rilke, from a letter to Witold Hulewicz, 13 November 1925 (via)

"So the photographs are the punctuation points in my work process. But I do see them as dysfunctional narratives. They look like they’re beginning to tell a story; you try to make associations between the people and what they’re doing but you can’t necessarily find a narrative... I want you, the viewer, to be following a natural progression, a natural course of events. By having the camera as a witness—I’m not tampering."

— from an interview with Sam Taylor-Wood in BOMB


Next month, New Directions will publish a collection of William Carlos Williams’s translations of Spanish and Latin American Poets.  By Word of Mouth: Poems from the Spanish 1916–1959 has been compiled and edited by translator and Williams’ scholar Jonathan Cohen. Included in this bilingual edition are the giants—Neruda, Paz, and Parra—as well as many lesser-known poets such as Alfonso Guillén Zelaya and Alí Chumacero. (via)


"In space
                I am
inside of me
                    the space
outside of me
                       the space
               I am
outside of me
                      in space
           is space
outside of it
I am
         in space

— Octavio Paz, "Reversible" in The Collected Poems

Harry Callahan, At the Water's Edge, 1972, Cape Cod (via)


"I'm beginning to know myself. I don't exist.
I'm the space between what I'd like to be and what others made of me.
Or half that space, because there's life there too...
So that's what I finally am...
Turn off the light, close the door, stop shuffling your slippers out there in the hall.
Just let me be at ease and all by myself in my room.
It's a cheap world."

— Fernando Pessoa, "[I'm beginning to know myself]" in Poems, trans. Edwin Honig and Susan M. Brown

"You have to remember this isn't your land.
It belongs to no one, like the sea you once lived beside
and thought was yours. Remember the small boats
that bobbed out as the waves rode in, and the men
who carved a living from it only to find themselves
carved down to nothing. Now you say this is home,
so go ahead, worship the mountains as they dissolve in dust,
wait on the wind, catch a scent of salt, call it our life."

— Philip Levine, from "Our Valley"


"As for Keats, I think he inherited an aesthetic that only allowed him to write about lovely things. Whereas Lorca inherited an aesthetic that allowed him to write about anything—even what he didn't understand. And that was one of the wonderful things that I got from him, and later got from Pablo Neruda—the idea that you could go after these very powerful centers of feeling in you, even if you couldn't parse them."

— Philip Levine, from a 1999 interview in The Atlantic

"I want to know the root goes deep
on all that came before,
you could lay a soaker hose across
your whole life and know
there was something
under layers of packed summer earth
and dry blown grass
to moisten."

— Naomi Shihab Nye, from "Last August Hours Before the Year 2000"


Egon Schiele, Street in Krumau, 1917


"Women and couples in Klimt's erotic drawings swim in their own sexuality and at the same time swim away from themselves in line and contour. They unveil their sensuousness. Schiele's erotic figures don't unveil, they expose themselves, angular and strung-out, like guilty things caught. Certain poems unveil themselves with an almost ceremonial patterning, while others are spiky and nervous, as if words were rudely taken hostage to feeling. Plath's are like that, and many of Williams's early poems. Then there are poems, the precious few, that seem long-prepared, arranged just so, with a deliberate rhetoric, but nothing in them feels inauthentic or worked up for the sake of writing a poem. Then there are others, the proliferating many, prepped and constructed for quick and easy consumption. Of these we remember none of the words, nothing of the noise or music, only the scene, or anecdote, or 'voice.'"

— W. S. Di Piero, from "Semba!: A Notebook"


Elizabeth Bowen with students at Bryn Mawr, 1956. Photographed by Alfred Eisenstaedt

"If Bowen is not read now as widely as Henry James and Virginia Woolf, to whom she is often compared, it may be not because of her hyphen (since the specific concerns of the Anglo-Irish are not so widely understood these days), or the intricacy of her style. It may be, instead, that it is difficult to read a writer who bears down so hard on intimacy—among not only men and women, but men and women and their country, their houses, their pasts and themselves—and with an overwhelming, Irish sense of a bottomless, ancient pool of loss. She is as ruthless as James, as stylistically uncanny as Woolf, but with an ineradicable sense that history is made of other people's dirt. In photos, Bowen is impeccably ladylike, with a long upper-class face. But in her work, she's not reserved and her concerns do not seem quaint; she ventures unbearably close to ruins and wreckage, offering as consolation only an aesthetics of the haunted."

— Stacey D'Erasmo, from "Elizabeth Bowen: A Fan's Notes"

"'There’s a strange thing about love,' said Sophia. 'The more you love someone the less that person likes you.' 'That’s very true,' commented the grandmother. "And then what do you do?' 'You keep loving,' answered Sophia threateningly. ‘You love more and more terribly.'"

— Tove Jansson, The Summer Book (via NYRB)


Pablo Valbuena, part of his Augmented Space project (see more here)


"I don't love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz,
or an arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as one loves certain dark things,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that doesn't bloom and carries
the light of those flowers, hidden, within itself,
and thanks to your love the tight aroma that rose
from the earth lives in my body in darkness.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where
I love you directly without problems or pride:
I love you like this because I don't know any other way to love

except in this form in which I am not nor are you,
so close that your hand upon my chest is mine,
so close that your eyes close with my dreams."

— Pablo Neruda, "Sonnett XVII" in The Poetry of Pablo Neruda, trans. Mark Eisner


"Tichý the man was equally disheveled. A ragged town eccentric, he had been trained as a classical painter but quit the academy after the Communist takeover forced artists to focus on socialist subjects. He remained, however, a diligent practitioner of the arts. He took three rolls of film a day, printed each negative only once, and embellished the prints with homemade frames. The results amount to a clever commentary on the state; his disguised cameras and the atmosphere of surveillance in his work subtly allude to the surveillance of the society at large. But the furtive pictures are also beautiful. They recall the scratched bodies of Degas’s bathers; they presage the soft focus of Richter. Their imperfection imprints them with the personal. As Tichý himself said, 'A mistake. That’s what makes the poetry.'"

-- from The Paris Review's portfolio and profile of Miroslav Tichý's work


Miroslav Tichý


"That's the way it goes. For many weeks you have been exploring what seemed to be a profitable way of doing. You discovered that there was a fork in the road, so first you followed what seemed to be the less promising, or at any rate the more obvious, of the two branches until you felt that you had a good idea of where it led. Then you returned to investigate the more tangled way, and for a time its intricacies seemed to promise a more complex and therefore a more practical goal for you, one that could be picked up in any number of ways so that all its faces or applications could be thoroughly scrutinized. And in so doing you began to realize that the two branches were joined together again, farther ahead; that this place of joining was indeed the end, and that it was the very place you set out from, whose intolerable mixture of reality and fantasy had started you on the road which has now come full circle. It has been an absorbing puzzle."

— John Ashbery, from Three Poems (via The Muse Daily)


"I have the feeling that his hands ache, that he is tender
and absorbed in thoughts, he licks everything before killing it,
he bursts into tears, scraping meat, he is blessed
he has no friends, he is walking alone in the world

I have the feeling he is saying something to me
that he is watching me with regret
he knows I could never sleep with him
we are both humiliated"

— Tomas Salamun, from "To Have a Friend," trans. Anselm Hollo


Frank O'Hara and John Ashbery (via)

"On some shelf in some hexagon, it was argued, there must exist a book that is the cipher and perfect compendium of all other books, and some librarian must have examined that book; this librarian is analogous to a god. In the language of this zone there are still vestiges of the sect that worshipped that distant librarian. Many have gone in search of Him. For a hundred years, men beat every possible path—and every path in vain. How was one to locate the idolized secret hexagon that sheltered Him? Someone proposed searching by regression: To locate book A, first consult book B, which tells where book A can be found; to locate book B, first consult book C, and so on, to infinity..."

— Jorge Luis Borges, from "The Library of Babel," in Collected Fictions, trans. Andrew Hurley


Colorado National Bank Blueprints, Dome and Skylight, 15 January 1914 (via)


"You will follow the book, whose every page is an abyss where the wing shines with the name."

— Edmond Jabès, from From the Book to the Book, trans. Rosmarie Waldrop


"There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry—
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll—
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears the Human Soul—"

— Emily Dickinson, "[There is no Frigate like a Book]"


Yue Minjun, Maze Painting Series (via)