Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Charles Vion De Dalibray - Drinking Sonnet

I'm not going to expose my paunch to danger; neither Armand [i.e. Cardinal Richelieu] nor the king know me; I want to find out just how long a coward like me can live without being a soldier or a captain.

I'd just die if in the middle of some battlefield, my drinking arm were mangled; so don't tell me that I'm as likely to die at the dinner table in my pots, as where courage would lead me.

Don't tell me that in the heat of battle I could become immortal by a noble death - I still won't rush out to a skirmish.

I want to die all in one piece, without glory or distinction, And - believe me, dear Clindor - if some orifice kills me, it won't be the mouth of a canon.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Scenes of Inferno

Photos taken in Forest Park, Queens. - George

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Roberto Bolano Documentary

So far, from what I've seen, the insight from his wife, Carolina Lopez; his son, Lautaro Bolano; his collegue and friend, Vila-Matas, are all indispensable resources for understanding the human that Bolano was and how he lived the burdening life of being an artist.

Unfortunately for non-Spanish speakers, this has yet to be subtitled (or I have yet found a version subtitled). If I had the time and a better grasp on the language (a tongue closer to my heart than English), perhaps I would be moved to translate and transcribe. In any case, enjoy. - George

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz - You Men

Silly, you men-so very adept
at wrongly faulting womankind,
not seeing you're alone to blame
for faults you plant in woman's mind.

After you've won by urgent plea
the right to tarnish her good name,
you still expect her to behave--
you, that coaxed her into shame.

You batter her resistance down
and then, all righteousness, proclaim
that feminine frivolity,
not your persistence, is to blame.

When it comes to bravely posturing,
your witlessness must take the prize:
you're the child that makes a bogeyman,
and then recoils in fear and cries.

Presumptuous beyond belief,
you'd have the woman you pursue
be Thais when you're courting her,
Lucretia once she falls to you.

For plain default of common sense,
could any action be so queer
as oneself to cloud the mirror,
then complain that it's not clear?

Whether you're favored or disdained,
nothing can leave you satisfied.
You whimper if you're turned away,
you sneer if you've been gratified.

With you, no woman can hope to score;
whichever way, she's bound to lose;
spurning you, she's ungrateful--
succumbing, you call her lewd.

Your folly is always the same:
you apply a single rule
to the one you accuse of looseness
and the one you brand as cruel.

What happy mean could there be
for the woman who catches your eye,
if, unresponsive, she offends,
yet whose complaisance you decry?

Still, whether it's torment or anger--
and both ways you've yourselves to blame--
God bless the woman who won't have you,
no matter how loud you complain.

It's your persistent entreaties
that change her from timid to bold.
Having made her thereby naughty,
you would have her good as gold.

So where does the greater guilt lie
for a passion that should not be:
with the man who pleads out of baseness
or the woman debased by his plea?

Or which is more to be blamed--
though both will have cause for chagrin:
the woman who sins for money
or the man who pays money to sin?

So why are you men all so stunned
at the thought you're all guilty alike?
Either like them for what you've made them
or make of them what you can like.

If you'd give up pursuing them,
you'd discover, without a doubt,
you've a stronger case to make
against those who seek you out.

I well know what powerful arms
you wield in pressing for evil:
your arrogance is allied
with the world, the flesh, and the devil!

- George


Saturday, December 5, 2009

CUNY Lost and Found

December 8th, Tuesday, 6:30pm, Martin E. Segal Theatre

The CUNY Poetics Document Initiative is a publication project emerging from archival and textual scholarship done by students at the Graduate Center, with the primary focus on writers falling under the rubric of the New American Poetry. Since accessibility to archival material proposes alternative, divergent and enriched versions of literary and cultural history, the Initiative takes the New American rubric writ large, including the affiliated and unaffiliated, precursors and followers. The archive is not simply textual but living and guests for 2009-2010 include David Henderson, Margaret Randall, and David Meltzer. Come celebrate the launch of our first series, including works by Amiri Baraka, Robert Creeley, Edward Dorn, Kenneth Koch, Muriel Rukeyser, and Philip Whalen.


Friday, December 4, 2009

John Berryman- The Moon and the Night and the Men

On the night of the Belgian surrender the moon rose
Late, a delayed moon, and a violent moon
For the English or the American beholder;
The French beholder. It was a cold night,
People put on their wraps, the troops were cold
No doubt, despite the calendar, no doubt
Numbers of refugees coughed, and the sight
Or sound of some killed others. A cold night.

On Outer Driver there was an accident:
A stupid well-intentioned man turned sharp
right and abruptly he became an angel
Fingering an unfamiliar harp,
Or screamed in hell, or was nothing at all.
Do not imagine this is unimportant.
He was a part of the night, part of the land,
Part of the bitter and exhausted ground
Out of which memory grows.

Michael and I
Stared at each other over chess, and spoke
As little as possible, and drank and played.
The chessmen caught in the European eye,
Neither of us I think had a free look
Although the game was fair. The move one made
It was difficult at last to keep one’s mind on.
‘Hurt and unhappy’ said the man in London.
We said to each other, The time is coming near
When none shall have books or music, none his dear,
And only a fool will speak aloud his mind.
History is approaching a speechless end,
As Henry Adams said. Adams was right.

All this occurred on the night when Leopold
Fulfilled the treachery four years before
Begun—or was he well-intentioned, more
Roadmaker to hell than king? At any rate,
The moon came up late and the night was cold,
Many men died—although we know the fate
Of none, nor of anyone, and the war
Goes on, and the moon in the breast of man is cold.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


At the airport he bought a ticket to Tucson. While he was waiting, leaning on the counter at a coffee place, he remembered the dream he’d had the night before about Antonio Homes, who had been dead for several years now. As before, he asked himself what Jones could have died of, and the one answer street in Brooklyn, Antonio Jones had felt tired, sat down on the sidewalk, and a second later stopped existing. Maybe it happened that way for my mother, thought Fate, but deep down he knew otherwise. When the airplane took off from Detroit a storm had begun to break over the city.

Fate opened the book by the white man who had been a professor at Sandhurst and started to read it on page 361. It said: Beyond the delta of the Niger, the coast of Africa at last begins to turn south again and there, in the Cameroons, in the late eighteenth century, Liverpool merchants from England pioneered a new branch of the slave trade. Further on, and well to the south, the River Gabon, just north of Cape Lopez, was also coming into full activity as a slave region in the 1780s. This area seemed to the Reverend John Newton to possess “the most humane and moral people I ever met with in Africa,” perhaps “because they were the people who had the least intercourse with Europe at that time.” But off the coast the Dutch had for a long time used the island of Corisco (the word in Portuguese means “flash of lightning”) as a trading center, though not specifically for slaves. Then he saw an illustration—there were quite a few in the book—showing a Portuguese fort on the Gold Coast, called Elmina, captured by the Danes in 1637. For three hundred and fifty years Elmina was a center of the slave trade. Over the fort, and over a small nearby fort built at the top of a hill, flew a flag that Fate couldn’t identify. What kingdom did it belong to? he wondered before his eyes closed and he fell asleep with the book on his lap.

“Part About Fate” in 2666 by Roberto Bolaño. (page 263). Translated from Spanish by Natasha Wimmer. Published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux

HAI ZI (Zha Haisheng)- Teardrops

The last of the summit’s leaves slowly redden
The mountain range seems a poor child’s gray and white horses
In October’s final night
Fallen into a pool of blood.

In October’s final night
The poor child, carrying a lamp in night, is on his way home tear-flow covers
the face
All die midway to the distant home’s small town
In October’s final night

That man with his back to the tavern’s white wall
Asks about the man buried in the pea-field at home
In October’s final night
Asks for whom the white horse and the gray horse die…… blood blackish-red

Whether their master, carrying a lamp, has returned home or not
Whether the specter of autumn is keeping him company or not
Whether they are all corpses or not
All madly stampeding on that road to the Abyss

Whether this specter opens a window for me
To toss me a worn-out collection of poems
In October’s final night
From now on I’ll never write you.

Translated from Chinese by Gerald Maa
Circumference Poetry in Translation Issue 6

Francois Villon - Le Testament

...I regret the days of my youth, when I enjoyed myself more
than another man, right up to the threshold of old age, while youth
was slipping away. He did not leave on foot, nor yet on horseback;
alas! how then? He suddenly flew away, and left no gift for
me behind him.

He is gone, and I am left, poor in wisdom and in knowledge,
sad, worn out, blacker than a mulberry, with neither property, income,
nor money. The least of my relations, I can truly say,
hastens to disown me, forgetting his natural obligations because I lack
a few worldly goods.

And I need have no regrets for having spend money on feasting and dissipation;
and too much loving has not made me sell anything that my friends
could reproach me with, nothing at least that cost them very dear.
I think I can say that without lying; from that accusation I can defend myself;
he who has done no wrong need not confess.

It is very true that I have loved and would willingly love again,
but a sad heart and a famished stomach, not a third part filled,
keep me from paths of love. Ah! well let someone with a well-filled
belly profit from my absence, for a man can't dance on an empty stomach.

Oh! God, if only I had studied in the days of my foolish youth,
and taken up good habits, I should now have a home and a soft bed.
But alas! I ran away from school like a naughty child.
As I write these words my heart is fit to break

I gave the Sage too much credit (much good did it do me!)
when he says, 'Rejoice, oh! young man in they youth'; but elsewhere
he serves up a very different dish, for 'Childhood and youth are vanity',
these are his words, neither more nor less.

My days have flown by, as Job says, like the threads of the weaver's cloth,
when he holds in his hand a burning straw: then if any end of thread projects
he has it off in a moment. And I have no fear now of anything
that may assail me, for Death pays all scores.

Where are those handsome gallants whose company I used to keep
in the old days, singing so true, speaking so fair, pleasant in all
they did and said? Some of them are dead and stiff, nothing now
is left of them; may they have have rest in Paradise,
and God save those that are left!

And others have become, thanks be to God, great lords and masters;
others go naked, begging, and never see bread except in shop windows;
others have gone into monasteries of Celestines or of Carthusians, booted
and gaitered like oyster-fishers: see to what varying estates they have come!

As for those in high estate, may God grant them to do good,
living in peace and quiet; in them there is nothing to amend,
and it is best to say no more about them. But to the poor who have
nothing to live on, like me, may God give patience; as for the rest,
they want for nothing, they have bread and they have their monk's

Good wines they have, often freshly broached, sauces, broth and fine fish,
flans, tarts, eggs fried, poached, scrambled, and in cooked in
every kind of way. They are not like the masons, who have to be served
with so much trouble; they do not need any butlers, each one takes
the trouble to pour out for himself.

I have embarked on this digression, which in no way serves
my purpose; for I am neither judge nor appointed to punish
or absolve crime. I am the most imperfect of all men,
praise be to the sweet Jesus Christ. Let them be satisfied as far as I'm concerned:
what I have written is written.

So much for that! Now let us speak of something more attractive;
for that subject does not please everyone, it is tiresome and unpleasant.
Vexed and grieving Poverty, spiteful and rebellious, is ever apt to speak
the wounding word-- and if she does not speak it,
still she thinks it.

I have been poor from my childhood, of poor and humble origins;
my father never had great riches, nor his father, who was called Horace.
Poverty follows us all, and tracks us down: on the tombs of my ancestors,
whose souls may God take to himself, you will see no crowns or sceptres.

When I lament my poverty, my heart often tells me: 'Do not grieve like that,
man, and bewail yourself so much: if you are not so well provided as Jacques Coeur,
it is better to be a poor man alive under the coarsest woolen garment than to have
been a lord and lie rotting in a rich tomb.'

Than to have been a lord? What am I saying? A lord-- alas! is he that
no longer? According to the words of David, 'Thou shalt not find
his place.' Further than that I will not venture; it would ill become me,
a sinner. I leave it to the theologians, for it is the province of a preacher.

And I am well aware that I am not the son of an angel crowned
with a star or any other heavenly body. My father is dead, God save his soul.
As for his body, it lies beneath the tombstone. I realize that my mother is going
to die, and she, poor woman, knows it well; and her son will not stay
long behind.

I know that poor and rich, wise and foolish, priests and laymen,
nobles, peasants, the open-handed and the miserly, the small, the great,
the handsome, and the ugly, ladies in their upturned collars,
whatever their rank, whether they wear atours or bourrelets, death
takes them all without exception.

And even if it be Paris or Helen who is dying, whoever dies, dies in such pain
that he loses air and breath; his gall bursts over his heart, and then he sweats,
God knows with what a sweat, and none can relieve him of his ills,
for he has neither child nor brother nor sister who would take his place.

Death makes him shiver and turn pale, curves his nose and draws tight his veins,
swells out his neck and makes his flesh go limp,
stretches and extends his joints and muscles. Body of woman,
so tender, polished, smooth, so precious, must you, too, expect these ills?

Yes, or go straight to Heaven alive.