Monday, 25 July 2011

Bird without wings

As a young man Joë Bousquet came to England to study, Southampton I believe, and liked it so much he changed his name. In 1915 he was shot in the back and paralysed. Aged 19 he returned to his hometown of Carcassonne to a top-floor flat in the Rue De Verdun and, apart from a very few trips out in a wheelchair, never left it till he died 35 years later.


But he was a poet, a strange poet whose work drew the attention of people like Max Ernst, Luis Aragon and Paul Eluard who all saw in him something at once tragic and heroic. Here was an embodiment of the wounded king (or the Fisher King of the Grail legend) imprisoned by his injuries yet granted a vision of Truth witheld from ordinary mankind.

First, two rather beautiful observations (from recalltopoetry.blogspot)
"Beauty has no other origin than the singular wound, different in every case, hidden or visible, which each man bears within himself, which he preserves, and into which he withdraws when he wants to leave the world for a temporary but authentic solitude....Art seems to me determined to discover this secret wound in each being and even in each thing."
Jean Genet

"My wound existed before me, I was born to embody it."
Joe Bousquet

And now,(in rather crude translation):

The Bird Without Wings

The light glimmers in your eyes, but it is not yet day. You awoke too soon - but there you are. 
The street, the morning, the house and you; not that you care 
If this city, hauled from the fog, is yours or not.

Twelve silver bells ring out across the waters  
To the bed-steed and the bird of mercy  
And the soothing needle. Twelve iron bells ring
In the locks to open up a day filled with fallen leaves;
Ring in the rape of the sealed eyelids of the pallid sleeper.

The flotillas of day have slept beneath the snow.  
In but a few hours, with her golden buttons, her thorns and pink mayflowers,
That fresh-faced girl will wipe your face as she wipes you out.
Grasp the unseen flower, more faithful than a star. 
Carry it without looking.

The winged cherry-picker returns, with hair flying, and feet of clay.

His last years were spent surrounded by great art and books in a room whose curtains were never opened, and a fever of morphine, opium and poetry.

The room has been preserved exactly as he left it, smoke-stains and all, save for the pale impressions of paintings that have been sold to pay for its upkeep. La Maison des Memoires.

Maison des Mémoires
Esprits Nomades

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Of stray dogs and fossils...

Spot the difference: On the left a sea-creature sighted between Antibes and Nice in 1562 as reported by the naturalist Conrad Gesner; on the right Jorges Luis Borges, unsighted since 1986.

In The Analytical Language of John Wilkins Borges mentions 'a certain Chinese encyclopedia called the Heavenly Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge. In its distant pages it is written that animals are divided into 
a) those that belong to the emperor; 
b) embalmed ones; 
c) those that are trained; 
d) suckling pigs; 
e) mermaids; 
f) fabulous ones; 
g) stray dogs; 
h) those that are included in this classification; 
i) those that tremble as if they were mad; 
j) innumerable ones; 
k) those drawn with a very fine camel’s-hair brush; 
l) etcetera; 
m) those that have just broken the flower vase; 
n) those that at a distance resemble flies. 
The Bibliographical Institute of Brussels also exercises chaos: it has parcelled the universe into 1,000 subdivisions…”

In A Book on Fossil Objects, Chiefly Stones and Gems, their Shapes and Appearances, Conrad Gesner classified fossils into:.

  1. Those whose forms are based upon, have some relation to, or suggest the geometrical conception of points, lines or angles
  2. Those which resemble or derive their name from some heavenly body or from on of the Aristotelian elements
  3. Those which take their name from something in the sky
  4. Those which are named after inanimate terrestrial objects
  5. Those which bear a resemblance to certain artificial things
  6. Things made artificially out of metals, stones, or gems
  7. Those which resemble plants or herbs
  8. Those which have the form of shrubs
  9. Those which resemble trees or portions of trees
  10. Corals
  11. Other sea plants which have a stony nature
  12. Those which have some resemblance to men or to four-footed animals, or are found within these
  13. Stones which derive their names from birds
  14. Those which have a resemblance to things which live in the sea
  15. Those which resemble insects or serpents

F is for Feeble-minded

Charles Davenport (1866-1944), American eugenicist, produced this diagram to illustrate how all sorts of defects can be attributed to inheritance. His abbreviations include N for normal, A for alcoholic, E for epileptic, F for feeble-minded and I for insane. 
I would add B for beauty.
Happily Mr Davenport died of pneumonia, though he left it rather late.

Site for sore eyes: 

Monday, 18 July 2011

Deane's Electro Spoons and Forks

I was given these two packets a while back when some friends came for dinner. I was told they came from the dump by the river down in Woolwich where Bottle-bitch gets her stuff. The paper is the Times, Wednesday May 4th 1870.

Amongst the small ads for books are:
THE CRUISE of the KATE; or, a Single-handed Voyage Round Great Britain. By EMPSON EDWARD MIDDLETON, Author of "The First Two Books of the Aenid of Virgil in Rhymed Verse." Price 6s.
New Edition, much enlarged, with Engravings, by post 3s 8d.,
STRICTURE of the URETHRA; its Causes, Symptoms and Successful Treatment...


8:50 Monday morning, I found this under a pile of papers in a knackered folder at the back of my laptop marked 'The day is bright'. The disturbing thing is that I have forgotten when and why, but not whether I wrote it.


A fine rain of brick-dust and plaster falls continually from the dense cloud that hangs above the streets. It sparkles softly in the pale filtered light and trembles with the shock of each explosion. Despite the endless roar of collapsing buildings and the scream of falling shells one can still hear footsteps on the pavement: their urgent tapping bounces back off the smothering cloud of dust.

The street is a trench cut into the city, a grave without end whose five-storey sides are belching gouts of smoke and spattered with shrapnel flowers. Heaps of rubble lie forced to the roadside, burying the pavement but for a thin, strangled rat-run.

In an agonising pocket of silence, clenched about with the endless fists of detonations, two blurred and bundled figures stumble this way, whimpering. Two women, a mother and daughter perhaps, clutching their family relics. They scuttle past the boarded shops and toothless doorways propelled by the violent wind.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

On my desk


Raining. Like the Deluge. The studio is an Ark brimming with bones about to lift off from the grass. 

So anyway, I got a whole load of skeletons from this guy, brought them back and couldn't stop. I made lists, packed things in boxes. Labelled everything then took the labels off and mixed them up. You should see my ass. No really, it's so like the horse but not quite - you can tell right away, like the mannerisms of the beast are still there in it's bones. Architecture with personality.

Have you ever really looked at a rabbit's nose?

(Please try not to get distracted by the dentures - I just needed something to prop up the rabbit). Dead or alive, things move around till they find their place or at least find something to play with. Another rabbit:

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Old World Monkey

I once had a friend with the same name as me who phoned me to say that his old college was closing down. He said the zoology department had some bones I might be interested in and gave me a number to call. 
It was raining.
The guy at the other end was brief- he asked if I had a car and told me to go to the side entrance on Acanthus Road, Hackney.
I did.
The corridoors were painted an institutional green. The air smelt of formaldehyde. In an upstairs room I was told to help myself from the one-legged rabbits and disabled doves.
I came away with a carload of leg-bones and turtles, cockerels and rabbits. And the skull of an Old World Monkey.