Saturday, June 11, 2011

Dearest, sitting here musing, thinking, free-associating as I click through various web pages, do google searches as thoughts occur to me, and one thought occurs to me as I listen to ambient sounds. There are so many sounds that are on the periphery of my awareness, that E.D. never heard. A siren from the firehouse. A prop plane passing. The whir of the innards of the computer. The tapping of my fingers on the keys. (So different from playing piano, which E.D. played; I read somewhere the other day a detail that I was surprised to learn: "Emily was often at the piano, playing weird and beautiful melodies, all from her inspiration" - yet another manifestation of her necessarily eruptive creative genius, that arranged herbarium compositions, wrote poems & poetic letters.) The clink of ice in a glass - I doubt there were ice cubes in her day - I imagine she took her sherry straight. There are more sounds that I could catalogue, but I'm not hearing them at the moment, a car passing, fridge kicking on, etc.

I also hear occasional birdsong - that of course, she heard. But what a sonic stillness must have enveloped her, behind closed windows, or open in June. One can hear one's self think - and so she did.

I do a google search to get at the quote - emily dickinson piano improvise weird, and Richard B. Sewall's Life of Emily Dickinson comes up. I open the result, and on a single page is a bounty of wonderful apposite quotes:

The top of page 407 reads, "Emily's letter describes one of those haunting moments: I play the old, odd tunes yet, which used to flit about your head after honest hours - and wake dear Sue, and madden me, with their grief and fun - How far from us, that Spring seems - ." Sewall continues, "... the tunes she played for John were apparently her own... Her particular talent, it seems, was for improvising..."

I like this one too: Emily wrote to Thomas Higginson, "the noise in the Pool, at Noon - excels my Piano." I'm not sure what small body of water she's referring to, but I understand what she means, as Sewall eloquently notes: "all this time she was getting deeper and deeper into music of a different sort." And perhaps it was easier for her to hear the "noise in the Pool," without either suddenly intrusive or constantly ambient sounds of machines around.

I am hardly complaining, having moved up here from Brooklyn, land of the constantly and randomly inflicted assaults of noise pollution, such as easily tripped high-decibel car alarms - or not so random, such as, twice an hour, when the now-defunct B51 bus would roll with high-octane grand machismo down the narrow street setting off car alarms all along its wake, to name but one nerve-jangling example of urban noise about which I was disturbed every time and completely powerless. Up here in the country there is none of that at least, except on rare occasion when I accidentally trip some button on the car keys causing the horn to go off again and again, some kind of alarm system - I think D told me it's for if I were ever say cornered in a dark isolated parking lot, that's the panic button.

(Are you laughing yet? Do you suppose that if I were ever in that dire situation, someone with a mind to get at me, that I would have the presence of mind to think of that panic button, let alone figure out how to get it to work? Ha!)

And of course - up here, in broad bucolic daylight, cats doing their synchronized swimming driveway dance rolling around on their backs to greet their incoming Queen, instantly scattering when I've somehow set the thing off - I don't know how to turn it off once I've tripped it.

Ah, Emily. And just now I hear some children yelling & screaming. Now that's something she might well have heard. Unless in Amherst children were only seen...

That's it for now my love. It was a chilly, rainy day all day. I should have cleaned the house but didn't. Took two walks, no workout. Spent much of the day reading/skimming Arianna Huffington's biography of Picasso. So despite this evening's post's digression about E.D., mostly I was immersing myself in Picasso's world, and considering him. It's too vast a subject - I have not a thing to say about it at the moment, except maybe this, very off the cuff. I don't see his erotic imagery of himself as Minotaur having intercourse with whoever of his goddesses (before he transforms them, rather prosaically, into doormats - so unZeuslike) as evidence of "sexual sadism." I'm not sure, as yet, that's what A.H. is implying either, but it's just a term that seems to get bandied about. To me the sadism transpires in the conversion of once-goddess to instant doormat (and the conversion, while perhaps long-contemplated in the lover's mind, comes as a shock and precipitous rejection to the once-goddess.). So whatever kinkiness transpires between the sheets - and yes, I would like details, I would, I don't just want to read about how Picasso was able to fulfill every of his sexual desires with a particular mistress - "including sadism" - as A.H. salaciously, but without detail or explanation, notes (page 189). (A.H. does go on in subsequent pages (192-194), I discover, to describe what she means, but I am unconvinced that Picasso's boundary-busting objectification and dominance of his marginally underage lover Marie-Thérèse (she was 17 when they met in January 1927) constitutes sadism.)

I don't know. Of course, as always, my mind is all over the place. How stupid about that NY congressman. But what's stupid is - well, yeah his behavior was, but I'm not willing to take down a brilliant, very effective legislator for what amounts to an all-too-human transgression. We're in puritanical culture wars here, and frankly if I have any complaint about the congressman - it's simply about his lack of style, not that he had the hots, or got excited, or anything like that. (I agree with Andrew Sullivan's point of view on the matter - link here.)

And other than that I had my moments in the spare bedroom and not to flatter myself but my own body reminded me of some of Picasso's more rounded, elliptical, graphic, totemic images. I do my best with what I have (battery operated machine) (E.D. "heard a fly buzz" but certainly not this noisy toy - she improvised I'm sure with her fingers to achieve her transcendent state of which I'm convinced she sought & was familiar) and I do what I can with my imagination, and memory, and desire, but there is just no substitute for skin on skin is there, no matter how cerebral we are sometimes supposed to be.



"... so as to have make him make you live in the minds of later generations. I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, the refuge of art. And this is the only immortality you and I may share, my Lolita. - Vladimir Nabokov
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), La Lecture (1932), oil on panel, 65.5 cm × 51 cm (25.8 in × 20 in), private collection.

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