Monday, January 25, 2016

The museum




[Image source (above and below): http://www.rugbooks.com/advSearchResults.php?action=search&orderBy=relevance&category_id=0&keywordsField=afghanistan]



These fragments I have shored against my ruins  

Somehow, modernism was in favour of museums. It was also anguished by them, by catastrophic history and a distasteful present, so the characteristic mode was irony.

By the time of the New York school, history seemed more catastrophic still. The poets begin to see the museum's contents in a different way. The details of the history you are supposed to be interested in became ridiculous. Irony died. A strong feeling of healthy irresponsibility blew through the room. It became apparent that the museum and its spaces and the items on display are crucially about now and here.

                                     whether it's the form of
Some creator who has momentarily turned away,
Marrying detachment with respect, so that the pieces
Are seen as part of a spectrum, independent
Yet symbolic of their spaced-out times of arrival;
Whether on the other hand all of it is to be
Seen as no luck.

(from John Ashbery's "Clepsydra", in Rivers and Mountains 1966. The first couple of pages of "Clepsydra", which include the above extract, are online here)

The third poet in Penguin Modern Poets 19, Tom Raworth, perceives the modernity too:

looking at the etruscan statues in the louvre there is a green
       patina on my hands my expression has taken its final
       shape
everything becomes modern inside these cases there is
       nothing without touching

children crawl under the glass      things are reflected several
       times

(from "Six Days", in The Relation Ship (1966))

Ashbery's idea of the "spectrum" becomes a "prism" in Lee Harwood's "The 'Utopia'" (Landscapes, 1967).

The table is very old and made of fine mahogany
polished by generations of servants.
And through the windows the summer blue skies
and white clouds spelling a puffy word.
And on the table the books and examples
of embroidery of the wild hill tribesmen
and many large and small objects - all of which
could not help but rouse a curiosity.

-----

At times it is hard to believe
what is before one's eyes -
there is no answer to this except the room itself,
and maybe the white clouds seen though the window.

------

*

ISIS destroys triumphal arches in Palmyra

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/06/world/middleeast/isis-syria-arch-triumph-palmyra.html?_r=0

As has often been pointed out, Daesh is philosophically just as western as it is eastern; indeed, the example of Daesh reveals such distinctions as inadequate to account for moves within a globalized world (though, of course, much remains in the stereotypes to be deftly exploited).

Daesh's intention to make a bonfire of both the nation-state and accumulated cultural riches is something that many of us will uncomfortably recognize as our own deep aspirations put into hideous practice.


*

"embroidery of the wild hill tribesmen".

Khamak and other Afghan embroideries are of course the art and labour of women. But owned and displayed by men, at least until they end up, - as a result of what transaction? - on this so-polished table...



*

Interview with Lee Harwood by Andy Brown in The Argotist Online - no date is given, but I should think it was around 2008.

http://www.argotistonline.co.uk/Harwood%20interview.htm

Recent short (but helpful) take on Ashbery's "Clepsydra", by John Koethe.

http://atlengthmag.com/poetry/short-takes-on-long-poems-volume-2/









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