Artless

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Last night I went to my first ever poetry reading at the KGB Bar in 4th E street in the East Village….I had no idea what to expect – the last time I heard poetry being read was during first year English Literature at Rhodes. The two poets were Erin Belieu and Brenda Shaughnessy and it was really lovely to bask in literature all evening without an air of pretentiousness.

It isn’t easy to listen to poetry being read because sometimes an image catches your imagination and you lose track, but I’m convinced now that all poetry should be read out aloud, even just for yourself.

Here is a snippet from one of my favourite poems by Brenda from last night – and I loved the melody of it when she read it. You can read more about her here: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/244536

Artless

is my heart. A stranger
berry there never was,
tartless.

Gone sour in the sun,
in the sunroom or moonroof,
roofless.

No poetry. Plain. No
fresh, special recipe
to bless.

All I’ve ever made
with these hands
and life, less

substance, more rind.
Mostly rim and trim,
meatless

but making much smoke
in the old smokehouse,
no less.

I died for beauty

Johannesburg cemetary

I died for beauty, but was scarce
Adjusted in the tomb,
When one who died for truth was lain
In an adjoining room.

He questioned softly why I failed?
“For beauty,” I replied.
“And I for truth,—the two are one;
We brethren are,” he said.

And so, as kinsmen met a night,
We talked between the rooms,
Until the moss had reached our lips,
And covered up our names.

I have had a little bit of an Emily Dickinson obsession lately. Just before leaving Johannesburg I bought an old poetry book at Collector’s Treasury and this was the first poem I read in it. Then a few weeks ago walking near Central Park I came across the Strand Bookshop’s little outpost and there is was – a whole collection a Emily Dickinson poems. I think I will post my favorites along with photos from time to time.

This is the sun’s birthday

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This past weekend was absolutely glorious in Johannesburg and all I felt like was walking around outdoors to enjoy the sunshine. However, if you live this city you will know that it really isn’t a walking city. But there is one place that never lets me down when I feel like being outdoors – Emmarentia Dam. Yes, you have to drive to get there, but it is pretty big and usually not too crowded, which is perfect when you don’t feel like any human interaction. (The dog in the photo is not mine – but I did want to steal him).

While I was walking around, it made me think of the most famous of all ee cummings poems – and the one through which I came into contact with in Grade 9. The only thing that was missing was the ‘greenly spirits of trees’ – they were most brown. But it certainly felt like the sun’s birthday.

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

The photos below are some of my favorites from previous visits to Emmarentia.

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Chase the blues away

Bird in a tree, Paul Roos Park, Johannesburg
I spotted this little bird sitting in a tree at the Paul Roos park in town today when I walked up to photograph the flowers. I think he goes perfectly with the line from this ee cummings poem I read for the first time the other day:

I’d rather learn from one bird how to sing
than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance

I’m still trying to decide whether I want a tattoo with writing, and where, and which cummings poem line I would use…this is one is a strong contender if I ever decide to get it done.

From my bookshlef – the brilliant Mr Capote

«Never love a wild thing, Mr Bell,» Holly advised him. «That was Doc’s mistake. He was always lugging home wild things…But you can’t give your heart to a wild thing: the more you do, the stronger they get. Until they’re strong enough to run into the woods. Or fly into a tree. Then a taller tree. Then the sky. That’s how you’ll end up Mr Bell. If you let yourself love a wild thing. You’ll end up looking at the sky.»

This is my favourite passage from Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s (to those who didn’t know it was a book before a movie, shame on you). Mr Capote came to my attention a few years ago when a movie about him came out, starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman. I was hooked immediately – I went out and bought the biography (by Gerald Clarke) on which part of the movie is based and spent years searching for a copy of In Cold Blood, which I eventually found in vintage form at Collector’s Treasury.

Capote’s life reads like the most bizarre fiction; you really have to remind yourself that you a reading a biography. Sometimes it is hard not to dislike him – he was often manipulative and difficult, but always brilliant.

It has been a few years since I read the biography, and I really hope I have an opportunity soon to read it again. To those of you who love reading biographies, this one is a must. To those who are unsure, it is perfect too, because you hardly ever feel like you’re reading a biography anyway.

«…it’s better to look at the sky than live there. Such an empty place; so vague. Just a country where the thunder goes and things disappear.» – Holly Golightly, Breakfast at Tiffany’s