Why this?

The occasional piece of my own and a generous helping of others' creations I find inspiring. Site is named for a beloved book by one of my favorite writers, Italo Calvino, whose fanciful work lights--and delights--my soul.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

As I Rewind

The hands of the golden oak clock spin
the wrong way on the wall of my childhood

house as I rewind the Christmas video. It’s over
twenty years ago. My young mother’s head

—sped up—jerks on the screen. Brunette
in a blue velour day robe. Rewound

her coffee mug fills a dark inch
each time she sips. The Maine Coon uncurls

from our peach couch, leaps to the window
in reverse. My grandfather’s scarred thumb

nudges into view—only once—and I pause
that second. Black shadow: he’s behind

the camera. He can’t stop
focusing the lens on me. I sit at the green wire

feet of the plastic tree. I smooth shut
the wrapping paper, re-secret the objects, seal

all the ripped seams. The stripes of winter
sun—rewound—run eastward,

and the smoke from my grandfather’s cigar
ciphers back into leaves.

--Anna Journey

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Alone for the Fifth Day

When I look at the ocean for a long time, the blue

and restless driven waves, I keep looking, I keep looking,
I keep looking at the waves swaying in the wind

like a metronome, wired for the sound of a sleeping heart,

and I keep looking with the silence of the sun
on the windowpane, and I keep looking and do not stop

looking deeper into waves as if into the middle

of a woman's body, where the soul and spirit
have no human bonds, and I begin never to turn away

from looking though I am frightened but keep looking

beyond what I know until I can hardly think or breathe
because I have arrived, with the need to be me disappearing

into the beautiful waves, reflecting no one, nothing, no one.

--Jason Shinder

Friday, December 10, 2010

W.H. Auden on Cavafy

"What, then, is it in Cavafy's poems that survives translation and excites? Something I can only call, most inadequately, a tone of voice, a personal speech. I have read translations of Cavafy made by many different hands, but every one of them was immediately recognizable as a poem by Cavafy; nobody else could possibly have written it. Reading any poem of his, I feel: 'This reveals a person with a unique perspective on the world.' That the speech of self-disclosure should be translatable seems to me very odd, but I am convinced that it is. The conclusion I draw is that the only quality which all human beings without exception possess is uniqueness: any characteristic, on the other hand, which one individual can be recognized as having in common with another, like red hair or the English language, implies the existence of other individual qualities which this classification excludes. To the degree, therefore, that a poem is the product of a certain culture, it is difficult to translate it into the terms of another culture, but to the degree that it is the expression of a unique human being, it is as easy, or as difficult, for a person from an alien culture to appreciate as for one of the cultural group to which the poet happens to belong. ... But if the importance of Cavafy's poetry is his unique tone of voice, there is nothing for a critic to say, for criticism can only make comparisons. A unique tone of voice cannot be described; it can only be imitated, that is to say, either parodied or quoted."

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Lines for Winter

Tell yourself
as it gets cold and gray falls from the air
that you will go on
walking, hearing
the same tune no matter where
you find yourself--
inside the dome of dark
or under the cracking white
of the moon’s gaze in a valley of snow.
Tonight as it gets cold
tell yourself
what you know which is nothing
but the tune your bones play
as you keep going. And you will be able
for once to lie down under the small fire
of winter stars.
And if it happens that you cannot
go on or turn back
and you find yourself
where you will be at the end,
tell yourself
in that final flowing of cold through your limbs
that you love what you are.

--Mark Strand

Two You's

I like this.

Monday, December 6, 2010


I like this: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poem.html?id=240814

And its corresponding Q&A: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poemcomment.html?id=240814

In Schumann’s Violin Concerto, the last movement is marked “Lebhaft, doch nicht schnell” (lively, but not fast), and if there’s anything that violinists want in the last movements of violin concerti, it’s something fast and flashy, which will open up the heavens and bring down the house. Schumann’s piece has a very odd final movement, a slowish polonaise, like someone dancing with lead weights in his shoes. Very few musicians have wanted to play it because it’s not showy, but the recording I have, by Gidon Kremer, has a performance in which it’s played at the marked metronome speed, which gives the music exactly the really weird feeling-tone that it deserves—like a birthday party seen underwater.

Also lovely: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poem.html?id=240816

And: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poemcomment.html?id=240816

The relationship between our actual, moment-by-moment, and fundamentally unknowable life and our sense of a fate (some declarable, nameable accounting) is a subject to which it seems I keep coming back. “Fate” is a summarizing idea, a constructed story. Its abstraction lives several elevator floors above the ground level of actual events. We have experiences, we make choices, they matter. But they do not add up to one sum. Summary is not the point of a life, nor are the stories we en-self ourselves by. Something closer to relationship is, and a full response (and responsibility) to the question each moment asks, as it runs through us.

We’ve all had the experience of lifting some fantastic stone out of a streambed or off a wet beach, and then finding it later, dry on the shelf, quite plain and dull. “Why is this here?” you wonder, when it catches your eye at all. Some experiences are like that. Their full inhabitance requires the moment in which they lived.


Real beauty, for me, is never a distraction. If it were, then it’s not beauty—it’s prettiness, or decor. If some sting of death-knowledge or transience is not present, beauty turns saccharine, or simplistic, and is no longer beauty. Wallace Stevens put it unsurpassably well: “Death is the mother of beauty.”