terrible angels

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Wallace Stevens

2 poems with the word ice in them in which the image for the poet and/or artist is the snow man and the emperor of ice cream, which, aside from the fact that they both refer to things that are cold, are actually very different, although not necessarily contradictory.

The Snow Man

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

The Emperor of Ice-Cream

Call the roller of big cigars,
The muscular one, and bid him whip
In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.
Let the wenches dawdle in such dress
As they are used to wear, and let the boys
Bring flowers in last month's newspapers.
Let be be finale of seem.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

Take from the dresser of deal,
Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet
On which she embroidered fantails once
And spread it so as to cover her face.
If her horny feet protrude, they come
To show how cold she is, and dumb.
Let the lamp affix its beam.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream

-- Wallace Stevens

further info to come . . .

Monday, March 12, 2007

james joyce

NOTE: this is part of my series on alternative ways of celebrating the Irish on Saint Patrick's Day: check archives or click here for more information.

James Augustine Aloysius Joyce
2 February 1882 -- 13 January 1941


the brazen head
The Brazen Head is the Web's largest and most comprehensive general resource site for James Joyce.

James Joyce Centre
Run by the Joyce family, this elegant Georgian building in North Great George's Street is the centre of activity on Bloomsday.

Zurich James Joyce Foundation
Includes articles from their newsletter and information on events, workshops, and scholarships.

International James Joyce Foundation

Finnegans Wake and Ulysses
HTML and other electronic versions of James Joyce two major novels

New York Times Featured Author
In addition to reviews and interviews this resource includes information on the censorship trials of Ulysses.

"A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals to discovery." — Ulysses

"Writing in English is the most ingenious torture ever devised for sins committed in previous lives. "

— James Joyce

Sunday, March 11, 2007

samuel beckett

NOTE: this is part of my series on alternative ways of celebrating the Irish on Saint Patrick's Day: check archives or click here for more information.

[click on image to go to source]

Samuel Barclay Beckett
April 13, 1906–December 22, 1989

Yeats is the great poet, Wilde and Shaw are the great wits, Joyce is the brilliant literary stylist: the greatest shapeshifter of the English language. Joyce's writing is lush. Beckett's work is hungry. Beckett is the philosopher--or anti-philosopher. He is the most profound. He is the most intellectually challenging. He is challenging not only in his style and content but in the darkness of his vision. He is also the greatest comic writer of them all. Like all great Irish writers he is capable of all types of humor from wordplay and punning to the bawdy and utterly scatalogical. But no other writer than perhaps Kafka sees the comic so intimately tied to despair. He is not despairing but he is pitiless. Beckett refuses to provide the kind of sustenance we often want from literature but he gives us something in that refusal. I don't know how I'd survive without him.

Samuel Beckett On-Line Resources
This site has most thorough list of online links to resources including writings by Beckett available online : Links to on-line texts by Samuel Beckett

Maintained by collaborators Tim Conley and Allen Ruch Apmonia is the Web's largest and most comprehensive general resource site for Samuel Beckett.

The Samuel Beckett Endpage
The official page of the The Samuel Beckett Society.

The Samuel Beckett Foundation
Originated in the University of Reading Samuel Beckett Exhibition of 1971 and grew rapidly, through material donated by Beckett himself as well as his friends. It is now the most extensive collection of Beckett materials in the world.

Samuel Beckett Nobel Laureate Page
Prize for Literature Awarded in 1969 "for his writing, which - in new forms for the novel and drama - in the destitution of modern man acquires its elevation."

Fathoms from Anywhere
Samuel Beckett Centenary Exhibition at Univerity of Texas

the onion.com
Scholars Discover 23 Blank Pages That May As Well Be Lost Samuel Beckett Play

kora in hell | beatrix | kerry blues and beckett
Fun facts about Samuel Beckett's favorite dog: a Kerry Blue Terrier.

Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1964

"Words were my only love and not many."

A few famous quotes (others are available on the general Beckett sites):

Waiting for Godot (1952)
We are all born mad. Some remain so.

ESTRAGON: Well, shall we go?
VLADIMIR: Yes, let's go. (They do not move.)

ESTRAGON: I can't go on like this.
VLADIMIR: That's what you think.

Endgame (1957)
NELL: Nothing is funnier than unhappiness, I grant you that. But– [...] Yes, yes, it’s the most comic thing in the world. And we laugh, we laugh, with a will, in the beginning. But it’s always the same thing. Yes, it’s like the funny story we have heard too often, we still find it funny, but we don’t laugh any more.

Kora's selected Samuel Beckett Quotes to Inspire (i.e., Words To Live By), most of which are also funny as all hell:

Molloy (1951)
... you would do better, at least no worse, to obliterate texts than to blacken margins, to fill in the holes of words till all is blank and flat and the whole ghastly business looks like what it is, senseless, speechless, issueless misery.

Oh the stories I could tell you if I were easy. What a rabble in my head, what a gallery of moribunds. Murphy, Watt, Yerk, Mercier and all the others. I would never have believed that – yes, I believe it willingly. Stories, stories. I have not yet been able to tell them. I shall not be able to tell this one.

But the idea of ageing was not exactly the one that offered itself to me. And what I saw was more like a crumbling, a frenzied collapsing of all that had always protected me from all I was condemned to be. Or it was like a kind of clawing towards a light and countenance I could not name, that I had once known and long denied.

To restore silence is the role of objects.

All the things you would do gladly, oh without enthusiasm, but gladly, all the things there seems no reason for your not doing, and that you do not do! Can it be we are not free? It might be worth looking into.

In me there have always been two fools, among others, one asking nothing better than to stay where he is and the other imagining that life might be slightly less horrible a little further on.

Yes, there were times when I forgot not only who I was, but that I was, forgot to be.

Tears and laughter, they are so much Gaelic to me.

Malone Dies (1951)
Decidedly it will never have been given to me to finish anything, except perhaps breathing. One must not be greedy.

Decidedly the night is long and poor in counsel.

I pause to record that I feel in extraordinary form. Delirium perhaps.

I must be happy, he said, it is less pleasant than I should have thought.

The Unnamable (1953)
And all these questions I ask myself. It is not in a spirit of curiosity. I cannot be silent. About myself I need know nothing. Here all is clear. No, all is not clear. But the discourse must go on. So one invents obscurities. Rhetoric.

That the impossible should be asked of me, good, what else could be asked of me? But the absurd! Of me whom they have reduced to reason.

If I have said anything to the contrary I was mistaken. If I say anything to the contrary again I shall be mistaken again. Unless I am mistaken now. Into the dossier with it in any case, in support of whatever thesis you fancy.

Is not a uniform suffering preferable to one which, by its ups and downs, is liable at certain moments to encourage the view that perhaps after all it is not eternal?

The tears stream down my cheeks from my unblinking eyes. What makes me weep so ? From time to time. There is nothing saddening here. Perhaps it is liquefied brain.

Deplorable mania, when something happens, to inquire what.

What can it matter to me, that I succeed or fail ? The undertaking is none of mine, if they want me to succeed I’ll fail, and vise versa, so as not to be rid of my tormentors.

Bah, the latest news, the latest news is not the last.

. . . perhaps they have carried me to the threshold of my story, before the door that opens on my story, that would surprise me, if it opens, it will be I, it will be the silence, where I am, I don't know, I'll never know, in the silence you don't know, you must go on, I can't go on, I'll go on.

How It Is (1961)
My mistakes are my life.

Worstward Ho (1983)
Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

oscar wilde

NOTE: This is part of my series on alternative ways of thinking about the Irish for Saint Patrick's Day. That is, the Irish are the storytellers, poets and wits of the English language and yet for some reason on the day that we celebrate the Irish we don trucker hats and t-shirts with moronic slogans like: "Drink Til Yer Green"; "Irish Drinking Team"; "Irish I was Drunk"; "Kiss/Spank/Fight/Bite/Blow Me I'm Irish" or any other variation on that theme including the (I kid you not) historically idiotic "Kiss Me I'm English." [fyi: my shop has items with book of kells images if you feel like getting festive for St P Day you only have the weekend to order something from my shop (it takes several days for them to print the items plus delivery).]

Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wilde
October 16, 1854 -
November 30, 1900


The official site of Oscar Wilde
This is a great resource but if we know anything about oscar wilde it is that one will not have the whole picture of him from anything that has the word "official" in its title.

CELT chronology and links to Wilde's writings

Fireblade Coffeehouse resources

The Trials of Oscar Wilde
By Douglas O. Linder at the UMKC School of Law. Documents from Wilde's trial and imprisonment with links to the larger issues of homosexuality and the law. These resources are part of Linder's fantastic Famous Trials project. Warning: you could spend a lot of time there at that site.

Wilde and His Circle : Photographs of Oscar Wilde and His Circle at the Clark Library.

Oscar Wilde action figure

Wilde Quotes
Oscar Wilde is one of the greatest wits that ever lived (Mark Twain and Groucho Marx!) There are a myriad of quotation sites for perusing Wilde's wonderful quips. However, be wary of sites that do not list the sources for the quotes. The best place I have found for Wilde quotations is Wikiquote's Oscar Wilde page. Also, since many of Wilde's writings are on line (at CELT) it is easy to confirm the quotations.

from Lady Windermere's Fan
We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

I can resist everything except temptation.

In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.

Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes.

What a pity that in life we only get our lessons when they are of no use to us.

from Phrases and Philosophies for the use of the Young
Ambition is the last refuge of failure.

Religions die when they are proved to be true. Science is the record of dead religions.

If one tells the truth, one is sure, sooner or later, to be found out.

Only the shallow know themselves.

On Art & Fashion
And, after all, what is a fashion? From the artistic point of view, it is usually a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.
from Literary and Other Notes

Art never expresses anything but itself.
from The Decay of Lying

The difference between literature and journalism is that journalism is unreadable and literature is not read.
from The Critic as Artist
On War
As long as war is regarded as wicked, it will always have its fascination. When it is looked upon as vulgar, it will cease to be popular.
from The Critic as Artist

A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it.
from The Portrait of Mr. W. H.

Famous Last Words:
My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go.
[Wilde reportedly said this in the Paris hotel room where he died on November 30, 1900.]

This is my favorite image of him. He was the apex of the dandy. Everything before was a prelude; everything after, homage. *Coming soon: related information on the history of the dandy. Keep checking the "fresh hell" postings on the home page for updates.

Tomorrow's writer: Samuel Beckett. He is one of my greatest inspirations.
Fail better.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

irish writers

NOTE: This is part of my series on alternative ways of thinking about the Irish for Saint Patrick's Day. That is, the Irish are the storytellers, poets and wits of the English language and yet for some reason on the day that we celebrate the Irish we don trucker hats and t-shirts with moronic slogans like: "Drink Til Yer Green"; "Irish Drinking Team"; "Irish I was Drunk"; "Kiss/Spank/Fight/Bite/Blow Me I'm Irish" or any other variation on that theme including the (I kid you not) historically idiotic "Kiss Me I'm English." [fyi: my shop has items with book of kells images if you feel like getting festive for St P Day you have through the weekend to order something from my shop (it takes several days for them to print the items plus delivery).]

a few resources on irish writers:

philip casey's IWO [irish writer's online] : a concise dictionary of irish writers

CELT : corpus of electronic texts

Voice of the Shuttle Ireland links:
General Resources in Irish Lit.

Samuel Beckett
James Joyce
George Bernard Shaw
William Butler Yeats
missing: Oscar Wilde (inexcusable) and Arthur Synge
International Association for the Study of Irish Literatures

Island Ireland: Irish Literature

Luminarium Irish Links

The Celtic Quill

I will be posting individual blogs on individual modernist Irish writers in the following days, starting with Oscar Wilde.

Monday, March 05, 2007

book of kells

Even though Saint Patrick's Day is kind of a bogus holiday, I have some items at the Kora in Hell Shop because I do think there are reasons to celebrate Ireland and Irish culture, like the Book of Kells.
click on the image to go to the shop page for the item

I don't really care about the historical reality of St. Patrick's Day. I mean it isn't like Christmas is on solid ground in that regard. I also think it is interesting that there are cultural traditions that are celebrated in America that are far more important here than they are in the home countries -- like St. Patrick's Day or Cinco de Mayo.

What gets me is that for most dunderheads the way one celebrates the Irish is by getting drunk. Now, don't get me wrong. The Irish themselves have a long tradition of celebrating drinking. Fair enough. If you can drink and rattle off a good story or song and carry on with the poetry and wit of the Irish then you are indeed celebrating the spirit of the olde country. But just going out and getting blasted until you barf is, among other things, not about how the Irish drink but about how drunks drink.

I'm not the first to point out that this is the one cultural stereotype for which there is no cultural taboo -- indeed it is celebrated and encouraged by "Irish Americans" themselves. As to who is Irish-American, that is another matter. The largest and most ethnically cohesive group are the Irish Americans whose ancestors went through Ellis Island and who continue to live in the generally Irish neighborhoods of New York, Boston and Chicago. They are also connected to the older Irish Americans who came over during the famine as well as those who came over later, after Ellis Island closed. Those groups have also dispersed and how much someone continues to identify with being "Irish American" depends upon a variety of factors including, family, job, and where one lives.

On St. Patrick's Day everyone with an Irish name is Irish. I don't know the percentage of Americans with Irish surnames but it is certainly a very high percentage. My own name is Irish, from an ancestor who came over during the famine. The fact is, I am an American mongrel from half a dozen different nations and technically I am as much Cherokee as I am Irish (one sixteenth for what it's worth) but that is another topic.

On St. Patrick's Day everyone who is drinking is Irish. It was my Irish (and English) grandfather who was the alcoholic. You don't have to be Irish to be an alcoholic, but it helps, so the joke goes. (There are other ethnicities for which this could be said but we wouldn't consider the joke very funny, would we?)

There is so much more to the Irish, of course. Oh, like, Beckett, Joyce, Wilde, Shaw, Yeats, Synge, just to start with the modernists . . . which is where I tend to start and then I never really leave.

However, I'll start today with the Book of Kells because of the rather profane reason that I have some items in my shop with images from it. Here are a couple of places for sources of information. Frankly the web is a little thin on resources for the BoK. That said, I think the history of printing link is quite nice. I will add a reading list later. A couple of brief descriptions of the Book of Kells are provided below and at the bottom I have added a few images of items for sale at my shop.
click on the image to go to the shop page for the item
the tote bag is double sided:
cat on one side, dog/wolf/woflhound on the other

Created around 800A.D., the Book of Kells has been in the possession of Trinity College since 1661.

In the Middle Ages, it was the Church that carried the torch of learning as well as the propagation of the faith. Irish monastics, living disciplined lives of obedience, work, and frugality, were also missionaries whose influence was felt throughout western Europe. They carried pocket books of the gospel for use in their work. But the Book of Kells was not a work for day-to-day use; it is thought to have been altar furniture used for special occasions. Scribes (who held high status within the ranks of the monks) painstakingly copied, in Latin, the four gospels of the life of Christ, with quill pens on vellum - stretched calfskin. (It is estimated that 185 calves' skins were used for the Book of Kells.) Beyond the handsome calligraphy, though, it is the embellishment and illustration of the book in brilliant colors that transforms it into a masterpiece of medieval art. The glowing colors were achieved with an astonishing range of pigments, from crushed oak apples to lapis lazuli to beetles' wings. Complex imagery with multiple symbolic meanings includes peacocks, snakes, animals, spirals and triskeles, and, of course, crosses of various styles. Images of saints are used, some rendered with great style and draftsmanship. Together these elements achieve both an immediacy and a sense of mystery; scholarly research will doubtlessly continue to interpret and reinterpret the work endlessly. Source: Trinity College Library

Mystical Testimony to Early Irish Christendom
Irish monks, once the storms of the mass migrations had quietened down, took to spread the Christian faith all over Europe by their dedicated mission during the 5th, 6th and 7th centuries. The age-old Irish-Celtic culture began to fuse with the impressions gathered by the monks during their extended dangerous travels. At that time, also called The Time of Scholars and Saints, the Irish monasteries were influential cultural and spiritual centres of Europe. At the height of Irish monasticism its most precious work was created, the Book of Kells.

A Masterpiece Created 1200 Years Ago
The Book of Kells is thought to be the work of a number of unknown genius-artists living in the monastery Iona around the year 800. It is first mentioned in an account of the theft in a church in 1007 which describes it as "the great gospel of Columcille, the holiest relic in the Western world". Soon after that the manuscript was found buried at Kells. And it would remain there until, during the reign of Cromwell, it was brought to Dublin for safety reasons. Around 1661 Henry Jones, bishop of Meath, donated it to the library of Trinity College where it is kept to this day.

The Pinnacle of Early Medieval Bookmaking
There are very few other works which express a similar symbolic power and magical radiation as this magnificent Gospel Book. Its mysticism lies in its rich and complex decoration. The impression of the holiness of the text is enhanced by its decorative apparatus which seems truly supernatural. Analysts examining the style of the decorative elements used in the Book of Kells have come to ascribe it to an artistic tradition which is also found in other works of art of the same period. However, too little information survives to exactly localise and date the manuscript according to its geographical or historical background.

Letters Evolve into Pictures ­ and Pictures into Letters
The Book of Kells contains mainly the Four Gospels. However, other texts were also included in the book; at the beginning of the book, the canonical tables which contain the concordance compiled by Eusebius of Caesarea, and a number of property deeds relating to the monastery of Kells. The Latin text is written in proud insular semi-uncial, which like its magnificent illuminations, marks a highlight of Irish art creation. The Book of Kells must have been made in a scriptorium which knew even the most sophisticated tricks of the trade in manuscript production, as only the most profound technical know-how combined with excellent knowledge on contemporary and historic art could create such a wealth of symbolic and mystical illustrations.

Unique Wealth of Ornaments and Colour
The Book of Kells contains diverse miniatures of the Early Middle Ages which count among the most beautiful ever made. All, except two, pages of the manuscript are decorated with a truly unbelievable wealth of symbolic and mystical paintings. The manuscript fascinates not only by the great number but also by the sheer size of its vellum pages, measuring 33 x 25 cm on average. It was neither intended for daily use nor for study purposes but rather considered as a sacred work to represent the Word of God on the altar on high holidays of the Christian year. The book contains the Four Gospels as the most sacred texts of Christendom, and
also a number of amusing quotes. One of them shows a mouse, having stolen a consecrated wafer, which is chased by a cat across the page (fol. 48r). In the Bible verse "No one can serve two masters", the initial letter of the Latin word N(emo) (no one) is composed of two male figures pulling each other's beard. Source: Finn's Books

shameless commerce: more items from the kora in hell shop:

There are t-shirts, a beer stein, buttons, magnets, sweatshirts, & more. Check the main shop to see what else is there.
click on the image to go to the shop page for the item

click on the image to go to the shop page for the item

click on the image to go to the shop page for the item

Thursday, March 01, 2007

the collar

George Herbert (1593-1633)

I struck the board, and cried “No more!
I will abroad.
What, shall I ever sigh and pine?
My lines and life are free; free as the road,
Loose as the wind, as large as store.
Shall I be still in suit?
Have I no harvest but a thorn
To let me blood, and not restore
What I have lost with cordial fruit?
Sure there was wine
Before my sighs did dry it; there was corn
Before my tears did drown it.
Is the year only lost to me?
Have I no bays to crown it?
No flowers, no garlands gay? all blasted?
All wasted?
Not so, my heart: but there is fruit,
And thou hast hands.
Recover all thy sigh-blown age
On double pleasures: leave thy cold dispute
Of what is fit, and not. Forsake thy cage,
Thy rope of sands,
Which petty thoughts have made, and made to thee
Good cable, to enforce and draw,
And be thy law,
While thou didst wink and wouldst not see.
Away; take heed:
I will abroad.
Call in thy death’s head there: tie up thy fears.
He that forbears
To suit and serve his need,
Deserves his load.”
But as I raved and grew more fierce and wild
At every word,
Methoughts I heard one calling “Child!”
And I replied “My Lord”.
"The Collar" from The Temple: Sacred Poems And Private Ejaculations | 1633

Scanned pages from The Temple
Annotated version
Technical analysis of rhyme scheme