April 19, 2009KR BlogKR

Dig a Thousand Feet Deeper

A whole day’s threatened rain’s arrived, shaking something from air. The ground is covered with the sticky buds of imported ornamental cherries. I’m tired of trying to inadvertently show anyone anything about my soul. I’ve been reading about Su Tung-P’o (Su Shi): born into the Sung Dynasty in 1037, producer of the first Chinese travel literature, student of iron-smelting, famous pork stewer, author of 2,700 poems, seer past brightness. Kenneth Rexroth (his most devoted translator this century) wrote admiringly of his “all-dissolving systemic doubt,” a product of his Buddhist and Taoist upbringing, cheerful but unsentimental and not even particularly pious. His “Terrace in the Snow” (in Rexroth’s translation) ends with a rush unlike the stately, reticent loveliness of his predecessors Tu Fu and Li Po, or like much classical Chinese poetry I’ve read ever. Watch the hairpin turns:

…The mud of the streets is covered
With white. No cart track has marked it.
Ice has turned the shop roofs to
White jade. Snow has filled the doorways
With rice. The last cicadas
Have long since gone to earth. Now
They will have to dig a thousand
Feet deeper. Some clouds pile up,
The color of dried moss. My
Chest bothers me again.
I feel I have lost the
Ability to write.
The icicles on the eaves
Drone in the wind like the swords
Of murderers.

In Holy the Firm, her essay of two years living in a cabin on Puget Sound, Annie Dillard repeats the question of some gnostic: If we see the divine– and the divine in ourselves– as immanent (reality as a horizontal glow), what does salvation or hope mean? Where do we go? Or, if we see the divine– and the divine in ourselves– as transcendent (reality as a chainlink-lifted elevator), what is the meaning or use of the physical world, the fleshly blooming muddy litter we rise from? What’s what’s around us?

The poet Jack Spicer wrote to Lorca of time renewing one’s poems as it replaces one’s images. “The garbage of the real still reaches into the current world making its object, in turn, visible– lemon calls to lemon, newspaper to newspaper, boy to boy. As things decay they bring their equivalents into being.” It’s still raining out, I have a jones for Grape Nuts with strawberries: the words make new cereal somewhere.

Also, four things to lure you to stay longer in the foreign city that is the internet.

Inspiration. I bought a mint this week to strike a medal to give to Van Choojitarom just for being himself.

Accommodation. This webcomic is like, well, if Egon Schiele doodled his hip, or dirty, or monstrous private jokes from his job at a Boston cake shop.

Nightlife. Kutiman makes music off you. He is probably making music off you right now.

Brochures. Until today I never even had a mental category for something called abstract comics (or “graphic poetry”)– non-representational art of a mixed sequential-and-cumulative presence. The venerable Fantagraphics is publishing a huge book of them very soon.