My Blog List

Friday, May 28, 2010

Room 3333.3333

I just read Goethe's "The Sorrows of Young Werther" (in English) for the first time. I was surprised how good it is. As I haven' t posted for a while, so I thought I would drop a (Romantic) poem perhaps relating to that and also [in the next post or so] some poems on Art, New York itself etc here to fill a space so to speak.

I became interested in Joseph Cornell (an important modernist and surrealist and creative artist who put 'trash' and all kind of objects carefully in display cases)) when I learnt about hm in booklet I got from the Guggenheim when I went there in 1993. I went that year to New York.

The only other place outside New Zealand I have been to is Fiji which I went to in 1974 when my (then) wife won a trip to that place

New York - didn't see much of big America, and in fact I stayed in Manhatten while in NY with a brief "visit" to Brooklyn. I was very interested in the Brooklyn Bridge and the history of its construction - built (designed and commissioned) by a father and son who were engineers. But the son contracted the bends while assisting with caisson placement, and while in that state, in a wheel chair, as his wife then proceeded to study mathematics, engineering, business and other subjects, and it was she who completed the bridge after her husband's death.

It is a suspension bridge and figures basically in Hart Crane's long poem 'The Bridge'. Before I went, Bob Orr urged me to pay attention to Brooklyn Bridge (as he is / was keen on Crane's poetry), and indeed the bridge is extraordinary. Crane's poem seems to me to be rather overwrought. Like Werther, Crane committed suicide.

While in N.Y. I wrote a poem about (or my reactions to) the place and I read it at the Nuyorican on the Lower East Side which is still going. Back in Auckland I read that on a local radio station.

Also on the radio (it was at AIT in Auckland, John Reynolds was the host - a kind of Community Radio) I read out my poem about Salvador Dali which I will drop in here also.

I will put two poems up then some images of and from my trip to N.Y. in some more posts to come. Or I may add some and some images here.

Re Goethe. He has a deserved reputation as a great writer, philosopher of sorts, dramatist, poet (even a scientist or "explorer of nature"), and much else... and wrote across genres. "The Sorrows" while it is "romantic" and of his "storm and stress" period (in the book I have) the editor says that G. got out of (or moved away from) this, seeing the dangers of it - the precurse to Kafka and Nieztsche (I can never spell his name!) is there..)...ends with a suicide that is such a botch up, and is so awful (Werther dies slowly in a horrible way after only half killing himself with shot to the brain) it is a "counter" to the other "mad love" letters and 'self-ragings' of Werther. (I feel this was Goethe's realism* that deliberately "undercuts" and puts in perspective the whole book - which is Balzacian in its intensity.) Such a death makes one wonder how or why Schubert and others put this (or poems of similar import) to music (but his great Romantic Lieder is surely some of the most the most wonderful music ever written) - or were inspired by it - but the short epistolary novel written in 1774 was a great success and "Made Goethe one of the first international literary celebrities". Goethe knew Beethoven. One of the first poems I wrote when I started up writing poetry again was an imaginary meeting between Goethe and Beethoven (I had them both drinking - then I realised my error - as I should have known - my interest in Beethoven goes back to when I was 16 and I had books about him) - Beethoven didn't drink at all. None of this to disparages the huge importance of the Romantic Movement of which such as Goethe, Schiller, Shelling, Wordsworth, Shelly, Bryon and Beethoven himself were a part. (I even see William Carlos Williams as a "descendant", say, of Wordsworth.) The echoes of that movement still resound even now (even in the endless tormented and hormone fueled love songs of pop music).

But here is the "romantic" poem -

La Mujer

The beauty of the woman
makes us sad, because
it is uncatchable, untouchable
like the scent of music,
a magic drink, a potion:
and we, we who were not
invited to this earth -
we are insatiable…
The beauty of the woman
- she is a goddess in disguise -
cannot be spoken,
but it causeth,
a gigantic shudder
thru the loins of the

Lovely, wild, and thinking

As if, frozen in a stone
a vision of a city
collapsed to a dust, that,
Generates in a rose:

The joy and anguish of a bone

*Goethe was a realist and a Romantic. And he moved past Romanticism as such...I see now that he in many ways regretted writing his novel - and the copy cat suicides that ensued - and also that in fact his description of Werther's death was overlooked by the (mainly young and "feverish"...!) Romantics who became obsessed with Werther. But Mary Shelley gives Frankenstein a copy of 'Werther' to "enable him to become human." But his novel remains one of the primary novels and is great writing.