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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

robert motherwell

so I went to Provincetown to celebrate Robert Motherwell, whom I loved, the largeness and physical ungainliness of his so gainly and large soul and mind.... and it was overwhelmingly grand, the prints and the audience and the discussion in the gallery - the Hudson Walker Gallery next to the very super Fine Arts Work Center and then the mseum, PAAM, and everyone so receptive and you could really talk about what you wanted to talk about, so i got to talk about Joyce and Alberti and Lorca and Melville,  and Catherine Mosley, who worked with  him so many years, was magificently clear and interesting, never a word too much, anyway, very grand it was, in the light of P'town, and I had coffee both days at the Wired Puppy, to walk on the beach after...

Walter Pater

just rereading Walter Pater on Pascal, his last essay, and for my Pascal book, always finished and never finished...
and I had quoted Pater at too much length, I thought, but
goodness me, his writing on colors, in his Miscellaneous Studies, which is where the Pascal is...
wow, and the blue distance/blue flowers/blue bits of heaven, must quote it for Maggie Nelson, who appeared tonight with her films and one of Harry Dodge, but too many people waiting afterwards to wait for her so will write
her Bluets is super stuff!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Motherwell Delights

So I am so delighted that I get to go to P'town this next weekend and talk about Robert Motherwell (whom I loved and loved talking with and love the works of) and various writers, and it is every time I think how fortunate I am, we are, that Rene Char gave us the Vaucluse and Motherwell gave us Provincetown as well as Greenwich and since I am still still still (yes, I haven't forgotten Pascal) thinking about something called "gathering places" or the equivalent, like Worpswede and Provincetown and the Florence Griswold house and Prague's literary cafe, it is especially heartwarming!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Night of Philosophy

What a night it was, April 24, when lots of us, 5000 Manhattanites or from elsewhere, like 22 philosophers from France, all huddled and swarmed and rejoiced from 7 pm to 7 am in the French Cultural Services and the Ukrainian Institute next door to it: I got to write it up for the very beloved Brooklyn Rail I have had such fun writing for these last months, so won't repeat it here, except to say it was some night!


In my more than irregular column for the Oxford Gazette,I wrote this time about Thomas Ades and Paul Taylor and Noguchi, so why not put it here too, and it began with being sent to write up the Martha Graham dancers for Performa:
For Performa 2015

Mary Ann Caws

Here was last night: seeing the Paul Taylor American Modern Dance company at the Koch theatre, in its classic and very moving Aureole set to music by Handel,  had you listen to the music even more closely. It  felt FIGURED by the dancers, if I may put it that way.

But what overcame me later in the program was the quite amazing presentation of  the world premiere of Paul Taylor’s  Death and the Damsel,  with the Cello Sonata No. 2. of Bohuslav Martin,  with all its resonances of past death dances from long ago and more recent times.  
They add up exponentially, here augmented by the startling neo-expressionist sets by Santo Loquasto, where the roofs slant down so drastically upon the scene, the music, and the dancers.  You are remembering Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden,” surely. And yet just as strongly for me – having just seen last week Thomas Adès directing the New York Philharmonic in his own Totentanz, which premiered at the London Proms of 2013 – all the dances and sets and workings out of the ah so deadly serious play started to take on their own rhythm of convergence. Dreadful and magnificent at once. 

The Adès piece is based on a frieze painted on a cloth that used to hang in the interior of  the Marienkirche of Lubeck,  dating from around 1463,  subsequently destroyed by the bombing on Palm Sunday of 1942. Every detail about it speaks loudly, and every broad view of it speaks with a muted tone – for as Adès says, about the descending order from pope to babe as it is each one’s turn, the babe is everyone. This symbolic dance is, in his words, “ terrifying, leveling, and absurd “ – comically grotesque.  The inescapable resonance with other deathdances haunts every occasion.

And it sent me back to the Martha Graham rendering of Lamentation, performed by Janet Eilber after Martha Graham herself, and of the his guest company - Shen Wei.
 year’s Performa festival. Since Paul Taylor was so strongly associated with Martha Graham, and since the sets for her dances by Isamu Noguchi so haunted my mind in their stark simplicity, like so many white bones, like the bones to be played on in the Adès piece,  the sets of the Paul Taylor Death and the Damsel began to develop that layering of memory that deepens and widens all our associations with these differing spectacles and sounds. When the scene changes from the Nosferatu-type roofs to the Dance Club Café with its enormous sign so garishly red overhead, so opposite to the damsel in her flimsy pink dress on her virginal bed, before the deadly embrace, we are swept up in the mental dance, entangled no less than the damsel.

In this last piece, the rings of dancers in their terrible circling, as they came and went around the maiden, brought back all those other friezes of death dances, how they come for all. Panicked  and legs outstretched, she was victim recalling the Rite of Spring, which the Shen Wei dancers enacted during the Paul Taylor Company appearances -- what remains remarkable, just as inescapably remarkable as the enacted scene itself, is the way in which each of these pieces, each of these groups of deadly revelers, and each of the dancers in their individual poses and performances,  all relate finally to each other in the viewer’s mind, as we are all partaking, all of us, in a chorus and dance of lamentation.

oh, it's may!

I remember how it is in Paris on May 1, and you give (and we did) a lily of the valley to people you like or want to like...and how it always was on the day you remembered "the events" of 1968, which you would call by whatever name your political personality chose: "May" or "68" or "the events:... must remember to tell my class in translation/adaptation about that, how delightful they are, those participants
April I loved this year: loved being in Prague, with wonderul Irena Murray, whose brother wrote the biography  f Havel, with whom he was very close, and clambering with her up steps after stps to the tops of buildings from which  we could see the roofs of Prague spread out, like a cubist painting -- she being a famous and greatly admired historian of architecture, and being from Prague, was the absolutely perfect person to go there with, and she had come from afar -- as I had -- to be there those three days.. the soups! foamy carrot broth poured over chicken ravioli, or was it clear broth poured over carrots, whatever and wherever it was sumptuous, in her favorite cafe-restaurant or inthe one her family owned, the whole thing... then I loved being in Liege to talk on the prose poem, itself a joy, and this time i could project a powerpoint of Joan Mitchell's Bluets, and three poems about them:
from Maggie Nelson and James Schuyler and Lydia Davis, and then being in Brussels, oysters on the corner stall, a nd walking up to the Magritte museum, and being with Lucy Swan and her small children, one with large green glasses, the other bouncing about... and i loved Boulder and wandering its long street, staying in the Boulderado, being the art person at the University of Colorado for 2 days, geting to Handel's "Orlando" on a side street, sort of a magic time...
So it's time to get back to my little book on Pascal, fun to  write about  someone who has always haunted me.. tell me whom you haunt and I will tell you who you are, said Breton in  --  or more or less that  -- certainly not the religious side of him, but his own haunting by that night of revelation he never mention but kept the memorial of sewn into whatever garment he was wearing: the secrey of it, the unshowingoffness ot it....

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

copyright worries

oh good heavens, there ARE people who don't worry about copyright! whoof! so one can spend hours, days, and weeks doing translations that, it turns out, or might, in uncopyrighted fashion... maybe that's not to get up in the night to worry about
there are far more important things to worry about, yes indeed but what is that about we all have the worries we deserve or pick up and it's like that bag of burden unlabeled you don't want anyone else's of, right?
this is a 3 a.m. worry, sometimes the most interesting of all