Saturday, January 28, 2012

Rembrandt and the Darkness

It’s been quite a while since I had the opportunity to look at a painting by Rembrandt close up and personal, but last week, quite unexpectedly, I ran into one, in an art gallery.

I’ve always viewed Rembrandt’s paintings with curiosity and respect, from the distance where the seemingly glacial veneer of his brush met me, halfway (or so I thought) in what appeared to be a rather forced  intellectual dialogue, akin to a conversation carried out of a social obligation.

Last week, on an icy winter day, I found myself in front of the Portrait of an anonymous musician and my old opinions of Rembrandt slowly disintegrated.


I was struck by the smoky, pitch-dark black of the musician’s doublet and the enigmatic aura it projects onto the viewer. Fused darkness, all encompassing, drawing us in. Inescapable.

I was equally carried away by the white froth of the ruffs, working my way up towards the eyes of the musician, who gazes back at us, with a look that’s both sensual and anxious.

However, the focal point of the painting appeared to me to be the paper roll with the musical notes that the musician holds carefully, as one would hold an offering.

A question insinuated itself: and the musical sketch inside the paper roll, whatever became of it?

It must be, I thought, an unfinished tune, to which we are compelled to come back, again and again, once we have run out of words. 


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Picture courtesy of Wikipedia. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Year of the dragon & a marble steps complaint

The Chinese New Year is celebrated on January 23rd.

In this post we begin the year of the water dragon with a link to an amazing poem:

Marble steps complaint by Li Po/ Li Bai -(701-762)




Vase with tiger and dragon - Gardiner Museum, Toronto, Canada





Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Winter and its tintinnabulations



Ah, winter - the complicated season.
All wrapped up in snow and nowhere to go.
Perhaps the time has come to flip through some poems of the affable, fluid and imaginative variety.

And what exactly is the mark of this variety?
Basically the kind of poetry that writes itself, finds its own rhythm, adjusts its length of verse, tweaks the appropriate figures of speech in a balanced, off-hand and self-deprecating manner, to yield a mini-masterpiece without worrying too much about footnotes.

Might this be the one? -the opening stanza from Sir Walter Raleigh’s poem Nature,That Washed Her Hands in Milk:

“Nature, that washed her hands in milk,
 And had forgot to dry them.
Instead of earth took snow and silk,
At Love’s request to try them.”

Or perhaps:

"  This morning of the small snow
I count the blessings, the leak in the faucet
which makes of the sink time, the drop
of water on water as sweet 
as the Seth Thomas 
in the old kitchen"

(from Song 3 by Charles Olson)

...if not the ending of A.M. Klein’s poem Winter Night: Mount Royal?:

"One would say the hidden stars were bells
dangling between the shafts of the Zodiac.
One would say
the snowflakes falling clinked together their sparkles
to make these soft, these satin-muffled
tintinnabulations."

And then again?


Thursday, January 05, 2012

The common cold

 ....browsing through the book Abimes (Abyss) by Pascal Quignard I found the following  quote from a letter by La Rochefoucauld to Madame de Sablé:

"The craving to write spreads out like the common cold ."  





credit Wikipedia 

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