Bring Up the Bodies: Some Haiku

We have recently been enjoying Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies, the second book in the Thomas Cromwell Trilogy, on audiobook. This is the first time that we’ve actually read (or listened to) the same book at the same time, and it’s been such a juicy, hilarious and infuriating book to discuss. I found myself making up haiku about the various courtiers in Henry VIII’s court, and Kimberly was kind enough to humor me. Here’s the best two that we came up with:

Thomas Wolsey, by Unknown artist, 1589-1595, based on a work of circa 1520 - NPG 32 - National Portrait Gallery, London

Thomas Wolsey, Artist Unknown; © National Portrait Gallery, London

Cardinal Wolsey / was fat and wore a red cape / only Tom liked him

 

Jane Seymour, after Hans Holbein the Younger, circa 1537 - NPG 7025 - National Portrait Gallery, London

Jane Seymour, after Hans Holbein the Younger; © National Portrait Gallery, London

I won’t open this / letter from you but I will / kiss the envelope

Recommended Reading:

Leave your best Tudorian-inspired haiku in the comments!

 

A Pairing: Robert Rauschenberg + Edwin Morgan

 

“I have nothing to say and I am saying it and that is poetry.” — John Cage

Opening the Cage: 14 Variations on 14 Words, Edwin Morgan

I have to say poetry and is that nothing and I am saying it
I am and I have poetry to say and is that nothing saying it
I am nothing and I have poetry to say and that is saying it
I that am saying poetry have nothing and it is I and to say
And I say that I am to have poetry and saying it is nothing
I am poetry and nothing and saying it is to say that I have
To have nothing is poetry and I am saying that and I say it
Poetry is saying I have nothing and I am to say that and it
Saying nothing I am poetry and I have to say that and it is
It is and I am and I have poetry saying say that to nothing
It is saying poetry to nothing and I say I have and am that
Poetry is saying I have it and I am nothing and to say that
And that nothing is poetry I am saying and I have to say it
Saying poetry is nothing and to that I say I am and have it

 

Artists in Far from the Madding Crowd

Thomas Hardy references a few artists in Far From the Madding Crowd and seems particularly influenced by those in the Dutch Golden age. The Golden age, which spanned the 17th century, paralleled the Baroque movement going on around much of Europe but favored realistic details over idealistic styling. In this time, many believed there was a hierarchy to paintings, listed here in descending order:

  • history paintings
  • portrait paintings
  • genre paintings
  • landscape paintings
  • still life paintings

The Dutch Golden Age saw numerous paintings produced in the “lower” groups. It is fitting that Hardy, who spends much of the novel describing the natural world surrounding his characters and developing his land of Wessex, would mostly reference the landscape artists of this time.

“but the grey, after years of sun and rain, had been scorched and washed out of the more prominent locks, leaving them of a reddish-brown, as if the blue component of the grey had faded, like the indigo from the same kind of colour in Turner’s pictures.”

J M W Turner (1775 – 1851) is an English Romanticist landscape painter. Like Hardy, he had a beginning in architecture. Turner is called “the painter of light” and is well known for his maritime scenes. He is also credited with elevating landscape paintings to the same status of historical paintings in his time. Despite the fact that more durable pigments existed at the time, Turner used paint materials that looked pleasing when freshly applied but faded very quickly, which Hardy may have been alluding to in the quote above.

Goldau and Fishermen at Sea

“The beauty her features might have lacked in form was amply made up for by perfection of hue, which at this winter-time was the softened ruddiness on a surface of high rotundity that we meet with in a Terburg or a Gerard Douw; and, like the presentations of those great colourists, it was a face which kept well back from the boundary between comeliness and the ideal.”

Gerard Terburg (also ter Borch) (1617 – 81) is a Dutch painter in Dutch Golden age known for his genre scenes and work with cloth textures. Gerard Douw (also Gerrit Dou) (1613 – 75) is another Dutch painter who lived in the Dutch Golden age. He was a pupil of the renowned Rembrandt and is known for his genre scenes and use of trompe l’oeil and strong chiaroscuro to create 3D forms. (For non-art people like myself, trompe l’oeil is French for “deceive the eye” and refers to creating the optical illusion that the subjects painted exist in 3D by using perspective. Chiaroscuro refers to the technique of using strong contrasts between light and dark tones to create 3D forms via highlights and shadows).

Lady at her Toilette (Terburg) and Girl Chopping Onions (Douw).

“The rain had quite ceased, and the sun was shining through the green, brown, and yellow leaves, now sparkling and varnished by the raindrops to the brightness of similar effects in the landscapes of Ruysdael and Hobbema, and full of all those infinite beauties that arise from the union of water and colour with high lights.”

Jacob van Ruisdael (Ruysdael) (1628 – 82) and Meyndert Hobbema (also Meindert) (1639 – 1709) are both Dutch landscape painters in the Golden age. Hobbema was actually a pupil of Ruisdael, who was considered the landscapist of his time. Ruisdael comes from a family of painters (his father, uncle, and cousin were painters as well). Nearly 700 paintings have been attributed to Ruisdael (though it is difficult to be sure when he and his family all signed using their last names), and his works went on to influence many following movements including the American Hudson River School. Both Ruisdael and Hobbema are known for their extraordinarily detailed portrayals of natural forms.

Landscape with Dune and Small Waterfall (Ruisdael) and Marshy Wood (Hobbema)

“The strange luminous semi-opacities of fine autumn afternoons and eves intensified into Rembrandt effects; the few yellow sunbeams which came through holes and divisions in the canvas, and spirted like jets of gold-dust across the dusky blue atmosphere of haze pervading the tent, until they alighted on inner surfaces of cloth opposite, and shone like little lamps suspended there.”

Rembrandt (1606 – 1669) (also a Dutch painter in the golden age) is the most well known artist that Hardy references. Unlike the other painters on this list, Rembrandt’s works span across all types of paintings, not only landscapes. Known for his use of chiaroscuro, he is sometimes called the King of Shadows.

Philosopher in Meditation and Landscape with a Stone Bridge

A Pairing: Francis Picabia + Jeffrey McDaniels

francis picabia.jpg

Francis Picabia, Têtes-paysage (1928)

In an effort to get people to look
into each other’s eyes more,
and also to appease the mutes,
the government has decided
to allot each person exactly one hundred
and sixty-seven words, per day.
When the phone rings, I put it to my ear
without saying hello. In the restaurant
I point at chicken noodle soup.
I am adjusting well to the new way.
Late at night, I call my long distance lover,
proudly say I only used fifty-nine today.
I saved the rest for you.
When she doesn’t respond,
I know she’s used up all her words,
so I slowly whisper I love you
thirty-two and a third times.
After that, we just sit on the line
and listen to each other breathe.
– Jeffrey McDaniel, The Quiet World (1998)

A Pairing: Jana Prikryl + Benvenuto Tisi

Vestal Virgin Claudia Quinta Pulling a Boat with the Statue of Cybele

Benvenuto Tisi, Vestal Virgin Claudia Quinta Pulling a Boat with the Statue of Cybele (1535)

Benvenuto Tisi’s Vestal Virgin Claudia Quinta
Pulling a Boat with the Statue of Cybele                                                     
[a painting at the Palazzo Barberini in Rome]

A solid quarter
of it is blotted burnt umber
for the hull, a scripted curve, as if color
bricked over and over
could send a sailboat blowing from the canvas as matter.

Similar:
shipping the goddess from a backwater
then setting her up here.

And I’m the golden retriever.

Eyeballed from behind, female with yellow hair
contending with a hawser.

Manifestly unafraid to show my rear.

“Sip antiquity from my spot on the Tiber!”

Daylight buzzing like an amphitheater.

Not everyone is born to be a master.

He did sketch Michael roosting with his sword
on the grave of the Roman emperor
in perspectival miniature,
echo of the statue in the fore.

More on her later,
all the eunuchs and bees you can muster.

If you had to name the gesture
of the frontman with the beard
and frock of a Church Father
gaping at me from the future,
you could do worse than basta—hands perpendicular
to the ground, each white palm a semaphore,
head tilted halfway between concern
and something he won’t declare.

To all the girls Bernini loved before
I’d say, caveat emptor.

The deathless ars
longa, vita brevis guys will have me clutch a carved
toy boat but this provincial follower
of Raphael goes for the ocean liner.

Reality’s my kind of metaphor.

The heavens circulate with the times on the far
horizon and I don’t have anywhere
to be except this unambiguous shore.

Happy Friday, pals! To kick off the weekend, here’s a painting pairing that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately as I make my way through Jana Prikyrl’s The After Party. Here’s an interesting interview she did about this poem.

A Pairing: Zhang Daqian + Carl Adamshick

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 2.42.29 PM

Zhang Daqian, Peach Blossom Spring (1982)

I love incorrectly.

There is a solemnity in hands,
the way a palm will curve in
accordance to a contour of skin,
the way it will release a story.

This should be the pilgrimage.
The touching of a source.
This is what sanctifies.

This pleading. This mercy.
I want to be a pilgrim to everyone,
close to the inaccuracies, the astringent
dislikes, the wayward peace, the private
words. I want to be close to the telling.
I want to feel everyone whisper.

After the blossoming I hang.
The encyclical that has come
through the branches
instructs us to root, to become
the design encapsulated within.

Flesh helping stone turn tree.

I do not want to hold life
at my extremities, see it prepare
itself for my own perpetuation.
I want to touch and be touched
by things similar in this world.

I want to know a few secular days
of perfection. Late in this one great season
the diffused morning light
hides the horizon of sea. Everything
the color of slate, a soft tablet
to press a philosophy to.

– “Confessions of an Apricot”, Carl Adamshick (2011)

A Pairing: Hieronymus Bosch + Linda Pastan

garden of earthly delights

Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights (1503-1515)

 

In the end we are no more than our own stories:
mine a few brief passages in the Book,
no further trace of plot or dialogue.
But I once had a lover no one noticed
as he slipped through the pages, through
the lists of those begotten and begetting.
Does he remember our faltering younger selves,
the pleasures we took while Adam,
a good bureaucrat, busied himself
with naming things, even after Eden?
What scraps will our children remember of us
to whom our story is simple
and they themselves the heroes of it?

I woke that first day with Adam for company,
and the tangled path I would soon follow
I’ve tried to forget: the animals, stunned
at first in the forest; the terrible, beating wings
of the angel; the livid curse of childbirth to come.
And then the children themselves,
loving at times, at times unmerciful.
Because of me there is just one narrative
for everyone, one indelible line from birth to death,
with pain or lust, with even love or murder
only brief diversions, subplots.

But what I think of now,
in the final bitterness of age,
is the way the garden groomed itself
in the succulent air of summer—each flower
the essence of its own color; the way even
the serpent knew it had a part it had to play, if
there were to be a story at all.

– “Eve on Her Deathbed”, Linda Pastan (2010)

A Pairing: Winslow Homer + E.E. Cummings

incoming tide.png

Winslow Homer, Incoming Tide, Scarboro Maine (1883)

maggie and milly and molly and may 
went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang 
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing 
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone 
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me) 
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

- "maggie and milly and molly and may" by E. E. Cummings (1956)

A Pairing: Diego Rivera + Jack Gilbert

calla.jpgDiego Rivera, Nude with Calla Lilies, 1944

I came back from the funeral and crawled
around the apartment, crying hard,
searching for my wife’s hair.
For two months got them from the drain,
from the vacuum cleaner, under the refrigerator,
and off the clothes in the closet.
But after other Japanese women came,
there was no way to be sure which were
hers, and I stopped. A year later,
repotting Michiko’s avocado, I find
a long black hair tangled in the dirt.

– Jack Gilbert, Married

The Pulitzer Project: The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton (1921)

the pulitzer project

I’m reading my way through the Pulitzer Prize winners and finalists! I’ve just recently finished reading The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton, the recipient of the 1921 Pulitzer Prize for the Novel.

This award was quite controversial, because the Pulitzer Jury did not actually recommend this book as the winner. The Jury discussed Sinclair Lewis’ book Main Street, but the chairman deemed it to be too vicious and vengeful. Instead, he proposed giving “no award” because he said “All the novels I have read recently are lacking in style, workmanship. I cannot vote a prize to any of them.” However, the Board disagreed and decided by a split vote to award The Age of Innocence, which was had been very intentionally passed over by the Jury. Although the public was outraged at the time, I think The Age of Innocence has stood the test of time, and I found it a worthy recipient of the Prize.

the-age-of-innocence.jpg

A Brief Summary*: This book follows Newland Archer, a young man in New York’s high society. Newland is to be engaged to May Welland when May’s cousin, Ellen Ollenska, arrives in New York followed by scandal and gossip. Newland becomes intrigued by Ellen, “who flouts New York society’s fastidious rules. As Newland’s admiration for the countess grows, so does his doubt about marrying May, a perfect product of Old New York society; his match with May no longer seems the ideal fate he had imagined.”

Fun Fact: It is thought that the title of the book was inspired by Sir Joshua Reynold’s 1785 painting, The Age of Innocence.

The Age of Innocence ?1788 by Sir Joshua Reynolds 1723-1792

Setting: New York City

Time Period: 1870s – 1900s

Review: I found this book much more enjoyable than my first attempt at reading Edith Wharton earlier this year (I read Ethan Frome). The characters were much more human and fully developed than in Ethan Frome. Also, unlike the previous two winners of the Pulitzer, I didn’t think this book was too didactic or over-the-top pushing any type of agenda. Instead, I found The Age of Innocence a smart social commentary that examines the constraints of society in the 1870s. It’s a lovely time period, and I enjoyed the descriptions of the outings, opera, and houses.

I especially liked Ellen, who is a tragic but powerful figure; she rebukes the rules of society and has to live with the consequences.(It seems like Ta-Nehisi Coates really liked her too!) I think she is one of the original bad-ass feminists. I have even been thinking a little about whether she helped lay the foundation for the stream of “manic-pixie-dream” girls that have flooded literature and movies today. I don’t know a lot about this trope, but I think Ellen is more human and fully realized than a stereotype. I have a hunch that I’ll be thinking about this for quite some time.

NYTimes Book Review: Who is your favorite fictional hero or heroine?

Ta-Nehisi Coates: Maybe Ellen Olenska from “The Age of Innocence,” who so understands the tragic limitations of the world, who understands that there is gravity in human relations. “Oh, my dear,” she tells Newland Archer after he proposes flight to another life. “Where is that country?”

I wrestled with whether or not I liked the epilogue for the past week, but I think it works, even if it is not ideal. Without giving away any spoilers, the epilogue flashes forward about twenty-five years and shifts from a very narrow third-person POV to a much wider one. While it threw me off, I think it tied everything together and gave me a lot to think about after I closed the book. However, I don’t think I would call myself an Edith Wharton fan, and I am looking forward to getting through this decade of the Pulitzer winners (is that a terribly harsh thing to say?)

I’d recommend this book to people who liked Anna Karenina but wished there was just a slightly less tragic ending, who like reading books that take place in New York City, and who are always looking for books that realistically portray relationships and the constraints of society.

***

Additional Resources: