As many of us know too well, New Year’s can bring us dejection as we review, unkindly, all that we have and haven’t done to date. Having been hard on myself lately almost to the point of cruelty, the passages from Rumi below, which I wrote out for myself just yesterday, seemed blessings. And, of course, Rumi intended them to be blessings for me – and for you, and for anyone else who might come to read them at any point on the space-time continuum.
. . .In dejection from all the awful and discouraging news about reactionary political victories, rampant viral sub-variants, catastrophic droughts, and increasing violence (as well as, for me, unhappy views about my own self), I found myself doing something that I’ve done on occasion over the years, especially under stress: I was hand-writing, long past midnight, a list of my favorite artists and mystical writers. That exercise can calm and comfort me. not just as an obsessive-compulsive ritual, but as a reminder of real treasures that I’ve been given, for inspiration and illumination.
In certain of these posts, I’ve put together two stories or quotes that go at one thing from different directions, or whose common ground isn’t obvious on the surface, aiming to spark for you some realization that can’t just be given or explained. This time, the two sets of words that I’ve joined come from two seemingly-almost-comically-different sources. The first is a poem by Juan Ramon Jimenez, the Spanish poet who won the 1956 Nobel Prize for Literature and was a leading figure in what is sometimes called (with good reasons, like the writing of his kinsmen Antonio Machado and Lorca). The second set of words is from a speech by the American comic actor Jim Carrey. Jimenez may not have had the same kind of extremely zany humor that Carrey has shown in his movie and TV career, but Jimenez was anything but a stiff. One of his most wonderful books is a work of prose, Platero y Yo (Platero and I). Platero was his donkey.
. . . With some difficulty, that’s what I’ve been doing. Concentrating on healing, living in some ways like a mole. I’ll wait to see what the world looks like when I can poke my head out again and peer around. I’ll see what I seem like to myself after time in this underground burrow. I’ll see what guidance comes to me about what God wants me to do in the new spring.
In the meantime, though, I see no reason not to send out Springtime greetings to you. Here’s something that will probably seem a little different for me. . . .
The poet, essayist, translator, and magazine publisher and editor, Robert Bly, died toward the end of last year. I think it’s unfortunate that he became best-known as a father of the “men’s movement,” because in the public’s mind that overshadows his tremendous contributions to American literature. His literary work in all the capacities that I just listed had a tremendous and priceless effect on me and others, opening up the cloistered world of an American poetry controlled excessively by stiff-minded academics to the timeless and global world of a poetry of imagination and spirituality, of what Bly called “news of the universe.”
In going through some boxes of my books, I unearthed a couple of treasures that I hadn’t seen in oh-too-many years. (Too few shelves, too little time!) One of them, called Dialogue with Photography, is a collection of interviews with master photographers. . . The book is filled with rareties and realities. When Imogen Cunningham is asked if Edward Weston ever bought one of her prints, she replies that he never had enough money to buy anyone’s work. In this and later posts, I’ll share with you some passages that I like especially, beginning with this from the wonderful Robert Doisneau. . . .
. . . But now I’ve posted a new – well, almost completely new – portfolio on my photography website, called “At the Parking Lot on Center Street.”
Its previous incarnation, “A Brief Walk on Center Street,” has been largely replaced, and what hasn’t been replaced has been re-edited. When I took the original photos, mostly impromptu, I didn’t have with me the gear that I really needed for the “job.” From time to time in my pandemic confinement, I thought about getting back and doing the work better. And the confinement gave me the opportunity and the obsessive push (how many photography videos did I watch, sometimes more than once!) to explore new gear, new techniques, new software, all of which played roles in producing this portfolio.
Dear Readers, I’m sorry to be so late with this “next” post. But you all know that sometimes we seem to be having even more difficulties than we usually do. And sometimes the world seems to give us even more causes for grief than it commonly does.
All of the people who know me pretty well know that I adore my wife, Marion. It’s a central fact of my person and my life. You yourself may, just possibly, have gathered this from my earlier post, “The Heroines’ Unpinned Hair” (posted February 13, 2013) https://lruss.com/2013/02/15/the-heroines-unpinned-hair/ . If you didn’t guess it before, you’ll likely guess now that she’s the model in all the images in my “Marion under the Moon” series, which began with the photograph (above) of that name. . . .
“. . . there is only one thing valuable in art and that is the bit that cannot be explained. To explain away the mystery of a great painting – if such a feat were possible – would be irreparable harm . . . if there is no mystery then there is no ‘poetry,’ the quality I value above all else in art.”
Tomas Transtromer, the Swedish poet and psychotherapist, won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2011. Transtromer, who died in 2015, wrote this poem after the assassination of President John Fitzgerald … Continue Reading An Unhappy July the 4th
“When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice.” Robert Frank