Sky and Earth

warnerskyearthMostly this post is a blatant attempt to get you to read Brad Warner’s blog Hardcore Zen.  My quote is only part of a great post about how we can all be too dense to get it. Train yourself to see more clearly every day. Get in the habit of asking yourself how are we the same. Read words, think about them, put them away to take out another day and look at them again, with fresh eyes, a fresh mind, and a different perspective.



Mountains and Forests

I’ve not had much time to read this week, but did sneak in a couple of movies. This one was beautiful to watch, Dersu Uzala (1975). I have subscribed to a new film service that gives me access to movies that previously have been unavailable in my little backwoods hamlet: FilmStruck. I highly recommend it.  These are the woods words I loved in the movie.


Wayward/Frozen Nuns

I’ve always thought of poetry as a kind of foreign language. It has its own logic and is accessible only through repeated exposure. You think you don’t get it, and then, one day, you find yourself thinking thoughts you simply cannot express in your first language.

I stumbled across two poems referencing nuns yesterday. Two nun poems in one day! One is cold and frozen, and I found her in a tweet from ModPo that lead me to this page. The other was Emily Dickinson (722). I found it in Susan Howe’s My Emily Dickinson praising the mountains themselves as the Madonnas, the abbess of all who worship the mountains.

Sweet Mountains — Ye tell Me no lie —
Never deny Me — Never fly —
Those same unvarying Eyes
Turn on Me — when I fail — or feign,
Or take the Royal names in vain —
Their far — slow — Violet Gaze —
My Strong Madonnas — Cherish still —
The Wayward Nun — beneath the Hill —
Whose service — is to You —
Her latest Worship — When the Day
Fades from the Firmament away —
To lift Her Brows on You —

Almost As Good

I got John Ashbery’s poetry collection, Commotion of the Birds this week. The very first poem! This is a tiny snippet. Please read the poem – it is so much more than what I’ve shared here. The collection is slow, (I’m not sure why I say that, but it certainly isn’t frantic), fully rounded, fun, true, beautiful and shines a bright light on what you didn’t know you knew.



I can’t decide if I love the uspassageglowye of penumbra or find it ridiculous in Justin Cronin’s The Passage. It is probably a better choice than glowy, which is how I think of this scene. One thing is for sure: it is a descriptive scene that caught my attention and found me thinking about it the day after I read it.

In Translation

When reading novels in translation, I like to find two different translations and compare them. I may read whole chapters of each translation, or I may refer to the the other translation for what I consider beautiful or odd phrasing. I’m  reading Les Miserables   by Victor Hugo primarily in the print version, translated by Lee Fahnestock and Norman MacAfee. It is a fairly modern translation and, I fear, sometimes simplifies the situations resulting in a lack of depth I find in the other translation.

Away from home I’m reading Les Miserables in the Kindle version, translated by Isabel F. Hapgood. Words matter. Some translators will try to catch the emotion and ambiance of a novel, some will be more literal. I hope you get to read two translations of the same novel some day.



I Don’t Know

I’ve finished the infamous section of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. It was a bit of a slog, but not bad at all. I definitely understand this period of world history better than ever before. I appreciate that Hugo took the time to show Reader what they needed to know to understand what happened next. Today’s quote is from that section.