Tag Archives: poetry

… speed – falling upwards into spatial & temporal bewilderment …

Always keen to bridge and connect seemingly unrelated intellectual territories, I tend to dip into essays of poet-philosophers and cultural theorists stacked near my bed.

Paul Virilio’s ‘Open Sky’ is a recent addition, translated by Julie Rose in 1997. Not an easy read, but the analysis of the social destruction wrought by modern technologies of communication and surveillance drew me in. The last chapter, Escape Velocity, relates a striking experience by Buzz Aldrin during the Apollo 11 mission. I share it here, within a short excerpt from the chapter, curious to discover what my readers make of it:

… Inflated to fill the dimensions of the world’s space, the time of the present world flashes us a glimpse on our screens of another regime of temporality … Outrageously puffed up by all the commotion of our communication technology, the perpetual present suddenly serves to illuminate duration. Reproducing the alternation between night and the solar day that once organised our ephemerides, the endless day of the reception of events produces an instantaneous lighting of reality that leaves the customary importance of the successive nature of facts in the shade; factual sequences little by little lose their mnemonic value …

… In his memoirs of the first moon landing, Buzz Aldrin in his own way confirms this disqualification of sunlight. Listen to what he has to say from the surface of the night star:

‘The light is also weird. Since there’s no atmosphere, the phenomenon of refraction disappears, so much so that you go directly from total shadow into sunlight, without any transition. When I hold my hand out to stick it in the light, you’d think I was crossing the barrier to another dimension.’

It is as though, for the astronaut, shadow and light were two new dimensions, inasmuch as any kind of transition no longer exists for him. The loss of the phenomena of atmospheric refraction produces a different perception of reality …

Virilio draws a comparison to a similar loss for earthlings … the different degree of illumination which, before the invention of electricity, still marked the hours of the day or the days of the year has become of diminished importance. Under the indirect light from screens and other control centres of the transmission of events, the time of chronological succession evaporates, paving the way for the instantaneous exposure time as harsh as that floodlighting of which Aldrin tells us:

‘On the moon, the sun shines on us like a gigantic spotlight.

All three astronauts of the Apollo 11 mission had problems after their return to earth. Spatial and temporal disorientation are not easily reconciled with one’s reality identification. Virilio writes … as for Aldrin, after two nervous breakdowns, several detoxification treatments for alcohol abuse and a divorce, he was to wind up in a psychiatric ward.

Struck by Aldrin’s experience, I thought about the increased screen time, especially now so many of us engage in since the corona virus changed our rhythm of interaction with nature, local environments, family, friends, and the wider world.

I first pondered the cultural implications of the digital advent during  a mid-1990s film degree as a mature student. For those interested – my post from 2018 gives a flavour of my dissertation – click here for ‘Body Electric- – it’s worth a visit.

John Wheeler came up with the idea of the universe as self-observing system (being.) Light travels at 186 000 miles per second. When we look into deep space we are seeing galaxies over ten billion years old. In that sense everything we see is in a past, which our observing consciousness creates. So I ask myself what realities do we envision during this surreal corona time, individually and collectively?

Is Paul Virilio’s bleak vision justified? Is the hyper centre of present time becoming the sole reference axis of worldwide activity? Is the individual of the scientific age, with diminished positional reference, losing the capacity to experience him/herself at the centre of energy?

Click here for an article from the Frieze magazine.

And if you’re brave, read this fascinating & sobering interview of Paul Virilio by Caroline Dumoucel.

Or – can we create enough pockets of stillness to counter the acceleration of the fall upwards, of progress propaganda, and instead re-connect to body, earth and roots?

P. S. All links in the post open a new window.

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… the weirdest person I know …

… that’s me, a dreamer. Dreams re-appear, like a déjà vu. A trick of light will superimpose an image on a scene gleaned in passing. Or a sound, a name, a number, a movement, colour or scent may link up to a dream’s mood. Similarly, memories of seemingly unrelated events from years ago can pop up while doing mundane tasks. This reminiscing improves for me as I grow wiser (older,) a subtle re-organising of events.

One morning after the recent dark moon, and the solstice, while staring vacantly into the sky, a dream image returned from the blue – an empty studio space with interlocking rooms – the sun streams in, dappled light dances across pale shades of colour peeling from the walls, a space for friends to meet, play – bursting with intense creativity. There was a hint of nostalgia (I initiated like spaces in the past) and grief over not having access to such a creative hub. Grief aside, a sense of potential remained.

Consequently, I finally opened my ‘Shaper’ MS again and got stuck into editing, this after many months of having lost faith that what pours from my mind in terms of stories will be appreciated by anyone.

With little chance of publication, giving this sequel once more editing time seems irrational; then again, I’m the weirdest person I know. The irrational has always impelled me forward from deep states of being, in search of wholeness. Like some writers, I juggle for rhythm and balance with a multitude inside, until a character, a theme, or a poem persists and generates engagement.

In this way Ana, Cara and Mesa came to be – three stories that comprise the odyssey of three soul sisters across time.

Even when it comes to my posts here, I don’t plot, nor aim to be topical. Every day brings new thoughts and connections, while something incubates in want of wings. The process of information weaving continues during sleep, and dreams bring home glimpses of this process.

‘Shapers’ was already complete when I published Course of Mirrors. Both my beta readers/editors love this sequel, even after several rounds of reading, which is encouraging.

Yesterday I came upon a note from one of my readers with a plea – make Ana real, please.

I scratched my head, giggling about the irony, since Anna’s quest is in search of the real. How to explain what is mysterious? The paragraph my reader, Susan, referred to does need adjusting, to avoid confusion. Myth or not, Ana’s story is Cara’s deeply meaningful and internal truth.

Maybe this is the time to add, my felt sense of reality was confirmed by the innovating ideas of modern physics, quantum potential being one such case. A friend, Rob, reminded me of this yesterday when he forwarded a wonderful video about David Bohm. Please watch the film. It sheds light on my fascination with time, and also poignantly illustrates how innovators of new ideas were /are blocked by the establishment.

In Shapers time moves back and forward and often becomes simultaneous. Both Ana and Mesa meet up with Cara, the suspended story teller.

Like me, Cara feels most at home on bridges. Anyway, why am I writing this post? To give thanks to a dream that drew me back into editing ‘Shapers,’ irrespective of outcome.

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… a dream of being in the dark …

How to reconcile moments of pure beauty and light our restless world offers, with the heavy darkness of human ignorance? How is it the guiding spirit that is shining through everything so often escapes the unseeing eye? Is it our wounded hearts, or our anxious busy thoughts that prevent spontaneous being?  Many of us like twilight, the dawn, the dusk, mist, where darkness and light do not negate but enhance each other. They mingle. As friends do, or lovers.  Twilight is poetry in motion.

And what, you may ask, does she mean by the guiding spirit that shines through everything. It’s a core in me that connects to the one soul-being I belong to, the only self I really know. And while I’m not enlightened, I do experience timeless moments, glimpses into the sixth dimension, nodal points around which the fiction of my existence is woven.

The other day, my long-ridiculed romantic fool tossed out these lines:

like tiny cherubs

white butterflies loop across

green teeming canvas

thou – sweet silent mystery

do you sense me sigh

when the cold moon-rock rises

as luminous globe – hello dear ones lost in time – your intense living – is forever part of me

‘Long live the dead because we live in them.’  …  Clarice Lispector, A Breath of Life

When there is no other near to share such paradoxical quickening with, I may call on those who enriched my life but are no longer present. I adore the moon, the ancient chunk of earth, reflecting and making tolerable the blinding beams of the sun, granting us poetry and symbolic language.

That night I had a dream and remembered its last facet … I’m floating through a soft, vibrant darkness. A small voice says, ‘You’re the light, look again.’ Sure enough, I spot the outline of a building and bright points, like glittering stars. A series of scenes unfolds, which brings clarity to a puzzling questions. Darkness holds memories, visions and vital knowledge, though it requires trust in the guiding spirit as a mode of orientation. Insights are shy; they wait to be found.

Nature, being energy manifested in slow motion, breathes life into countless rhythms and tunes from the recorded symphonic sounds of the universe – to continuously re-animate the one being of eternal life. Yet we humans, who pride ourselves in aiding this process with heightened consciousness, are increasingly busy destroying the homeostasis life depends on. Can a virus offer a long enough pause for the powers in charge to acknowledge this self-destructive madness? Below anger, I feel the deep sadness, the spiritual starvation, an unfulfilled longing for meaning, for being worthwhile, accepted and loved.

I sense a change of mood in the collective mind, a call for change. Upfront are manic voices using the language of warfare against the invisible enemy – let’s control it – defeat I – kill it – get on top of it. I feel this kind of rhetoric misses the point entirely.

In Sept. 2012 I did a blog post on the unseen stuff.

We must see things fresh, not through tired ideas our establishments bank on, that destroy nature’s homeostasis and spill imbalances into cultures too poor to afford resistance. I say – let our children and young people decide what’s worth living for?

 ‘A day, whether six or seven years ago or whether six thousand years ago, is just as near to the present as yesterday. Why?  Because all time is contained in now.’   – Meister Eckhart

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… impromptu garden do under apples and stars …

as this wet August

ends in glorious hot days

a mild night brings round

friends to guard a fire

and surreal stories circle

high into midnight

 

under ripening apples

and sweet stars glowing

in the deep violet dome

calm nature absorbs

the quirky suppositions

of weird human minds

talking birth, death, consciousness

possible futures

superficial differences

global politics

recent IT advances

plant-drugs and cyborgs …

 

are we indifferent

to overwhelming data

can we make choices

on how limited knowledge

is being applied

do we have sacred values?

 

once ice-cream arrives

a silence charms the garden

tongues put thoughts on halt

body and soul nudge closer

senses celebrate

taste – sight – smell – touch – sound – this night

everything matters

for now – though must fade in parts

the very next day

when our best ideals give way

to daily routines

and we survive best we can

 

hard questions endure

take shape-shifting neutrinos

… so much goes missing

yet for all our dares it is fine

to have mystery

define this amazing life

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… loss and restoration …

This time of year I like reading in the garden. Last week I forgot to take a book inside – ‘The Hand of Poetry,’ collected poems from Sanai, Attar, Rumi, Saadi and Hafiz, translated by Coleman/Barks, with introductions taken from talks by Inayat Khan. During a short but heavy shower that night, the book greedily feasted on rain. I found it blown up, like a balloon, to double its size.

Restoration would atone for my failing. Gently lifting page after page, I placed toilet paper between each, twice and three times over. On the third day I hung the book by its spine on the washing line. Once dry, I managed to press the volume with a heavy vintage iron into reasonable shape again. The ordeal required my undivided attention. The re-read pages during those hours lodged themselves with refreshed presence in my heart.

I recalled a scene from ‘Shapers’ –  the not yet published sequel to ‘Course of Mirrors.’ The story starts with a shipwreck.  Surviving this tragedy, my protagonist finds her diary drenched to pulp. The irreplaceable loss gained her unexpected access to internalised memories, and the ability to exchange virtual letters with her soulmate of the future, scripts made visible in the thin air before her.

This phenomenon happens to me frequently these days. Just before sleep, or waking, I see screens with writing, sometimes even Twitter pages, which later turn out real. Beats me – explanations are welcome.

Memory is fluid. The child in us not only imagines the future, but also re-imagines the past. While I was lifting apart the soaked poetry pages during my restoration, it struck me they resembled crumpled and discoloured reminiscences of my father a trailing grief about our dissonance brought to light in dreams, with messages to abandon this nonsense. Can you miss a surreal projection? Yes you can – releasing a feeling of rejection that ruled years of your life takes getting used to. Had I not taken my dad’s anger with the world, and me,  so personal, I might have implored deeper into his heart pain, and mine, since, after all, deep down, our sensitivity for beauty and nature, even our humour, were much alike.

I had resisted my father’s expectations and boldly followed my heart, which, while gratifying, brought its shadow of existential anxieties. My rare brave attempts to cross the dividing bridge were met with contempt for my quixotic worldview. Bridges then became imaginary sanctuaries between varied realities, a neutral zone for my rebel to gather strength for the next quest ahead. Bridges became a major theme in my novel ‘Course of Mirrors’ – see book page on this site, or my twitter page @mushkilgusha

Rejection can add fuel to a journey. But what if a regular fuel runs out? Consider the weird silence when a monotonous background noise stops … suddenly. I identified my inner background noise as the subtle lament of blame that long ago slyly settled in my unconscious. Blaming something or someone can achieve an emotional distance, displace resentfulness, a hurt,  – but now – this peculiar silence …

The symbolic intelligence of psyche’s inner dimension communicates not only through dreams, but also through our surroundings: world events, people, objects, images. My restoration of ‘The Hand of Poetry’ resonated. Compulsive energies shift when time slows,. Familiar scripts may assume fresh meaning, and re-write themselves with different rhythms and new pauses for the spirit of surprise to enter.

Meanwhile I enjoy some treasures close by …

 

 

 

 

 

And I’d like to share a Hafiz poem from the restored collection. Hazrat Inayat Khan says of him:

The mission of Hafiz was to express, to the fanatically inclined religious world, the presence of God, which is not to be found only in heaven, but to be found here on earth.’

THE BANQUET

A gathering of good friends

talking quietly outdoors,

the banquet being served, a dry Rosé

with a bite of Kebab afterwards,

a wink form the one who pours,

Hafiz telling some story,

Hajji Qavam with his long laugh,

a full moon overhead,

the infinite mystery

of all this love.

If someone doesn’t want the pleasure

of such an openhearted garden,

companionship, no, life itself,

must be against his rules.

Hafiz

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… souls roam and arrange impressions …

let sleep do its work

so the spirit will guide you

and leave helpful dreams

in that rich abode

of our collective being

– the only being –

 

awake souls roam and arrange

streams of impressions

rebel angels see

the judge slaves under man’s law

… while nature rules all …

in this earthly home

we catch our face in mirrors

that slowly unveil

through rhythms of remembrance

the source of freedom

 

heeding the heart’s pulse

your hand cascades poetry

and transmits secrets

I really must start to sort my poems …

The left sketch is a possible cover for my first poetry chapbook …

I was recently encouraged when two of my poems were published with Queen Mob’s Teahouse:

https://queenmobs.com/2019/05/poems-photographs-ashen-venema/

And then mentioned once more in a Berfrois magazine article by Joe Linker. Thank you Joe.

Paintings and Poems: City on a Hill

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… to let in a blessing …

I read daily, in bed, for an hour or so before escaping to dreamland. Apart from novels or essays on the go, I keep a stack of books close by to dip into when dark clouds need lifting. One such book is John O’Donohue’s ‘Anam Cara.’ (Bantam Press 1997)

Frequently, these days, my sarcastic imp dominates, and I’m deaf to wisdom, even my own. That said, I respect imps; they cut through the bullshit ignorant people spout around the globe. However, to tune down this sharp wit takes a firm request for silence. When I manage, the imp cuddles up, like my cat used to cuddle up every time I sat quiet.

I call it soul remembrance. You might try and trick your little imp into silence, if only to soften the heart enough to receive this blessing by John O’Donohue …

A BLESSING

May the light of your soul guide you.

May the light of your soul bless the work you do with the secret love and warmth of your heart.

May you see in what you do the beauty of your own soul.

May the sacredness of your work bring healing, light and renewal to those who work with you and those who see and receive your work.

May work never weary you.

May it release within you wellsprings and refreshment, inspiration and excitement.

May you be present in what you do.

May you never become lost in the bland absences.

May the day never burden.

May dawn find you awake and alert, approaching your new day with dreams, possibilities and promises.

May evenings find you gracious and fulfilled.

May you go into the night blessed, sheltered and protected.

May your soul calm, console and renew you

my boy – used as poster for a workshop once

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

I want to also share a joy. The poetry editor of Queen Mobs, Joe Linker, has published two of my early poems yesterday. A wonderful perk …

https://queenmobs.com/2019/05/poems-photographs-ashen-venema/

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… poetic trash – miniature sculptures …

Miniature scupture - 2981The eye-catching miniatures created by Yuji Agematsu pulled me back to my student phase in Munich during the 1970ies, when a group of friends looked out for small items like roots, twigs, leaves, seeds, grasses, feathers, stones, shells, dried or fresh flowers, the occasional bottle top or bits of shiny sweet wrappers, and sampled such bits into cellophane bags. We then handed these tiny poetry worlds to pedestrians or people sitting outside cafes in the then student district of Munich, Schwabing. It gave us thrill when recipients expressed a shock of surprise.

Yuji Agematsu is drawn to trash. Since mid-1990, his daily ritual is collecting small debris from New York’s streets. From the harvest he creates dreamlike dioramas inside cellophane sleeves of cigarette packets.

In this delightful interview (press for link to a separate page) he shares how his passion for collecting started during his childhood. Here a few more snippets: ‘I see each object as a notation in terms of music. Each has its own sound and rhythm,’ or, ‘Each person has to find his or her own sense of scale,’ or ‘… my objects are accidental objects, already consumed. The object itself stimulates me. The subject relationship is reversed. I’d say that one is consciously unconscious, and the other is unconsciously conscious.’

The last thought rhymes with a recent thought of mine I shared on twitter … my mind is unconsciously magical, while my unconscious mind is irrationally pragmatic …  Like most poetically inclined people I embrace paradox to be able to function in daily life .

Yuji’s search for trash treasures developed into a language that emotionally embraces urban archaeology. He attracts bits of litter we may regard with a smirk, mostly ignore or simply not notice. While his miniature installations are scaled down to finger size sculptures, the mind-expanding and transformative effect equals grand scale installations. My experience, apart from the cognitive surprise, was being left with a bodily sensation, a deep feeling connection with these miniatures.

world objects 1 - smaller

World objects from my sand tray

This deep feeling of wonder can happen in sand play therapy; where in a tray of fine sand world objects are brought into relationship. The imaginary process can symbolise models of operation in the life of a client, bringing with it emotional clarity.

I have miniature installation in my home, on windowsills … unable to resist picking up feathers,  seeds, leaves, driftwood, pebbles and so on, which often hold the story of an eternal moment in time.

A small black stone, for example, features prominently  as a protagonist in my novel, Course of Mirrors..

 

You can glean more information about Yuji Agematsu and his impressive work here in this Guardian gallery, and in this article in Frieze … here.

The earlier images of Yuji Agametsu’s work are courtesy of the Miguel Abreu gallery, NY.

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… the film Albatross – elegy to beauty & grief for love lost …

Truly witnessing the tragedies on our planet is not the same as passive looking,  witnessing expands and transforms consciousness. As an individual I feel helpless, unable to solve the overwhelming problems, but by witnessing and accepting the sad truth of what is happening, and by grieving the losses, I, each of us, in a small way, can contribute towards a necessary and crucial paradigm shift.

Chris Jordan’s film about the Albatross, a labour of love that took eight years of intense collaborations – is a gift to the world, free to watch or download.

When you find a quiet hour, click here to watch the film.

The unusual documentary reveals stunningly beautiful, poignant and intimate openings into the life of these ancient bird families. The spellbinding scenes, shot on the lone Pacific island of Midway halfway between America and Asia, touches way, way deeper into our psyche than any factual or statistical report about the insanity of our throwaway cultures could ever do.

It is a meditation on love. And the soundtrack is an art in itself.

The birds mate for life (up to 60 years) and their mating dance, filmed in slow motion that reaches into the reality of their time, shows a mirroring ritual of sheer poetry, of a grace that sweetly chimes in our deepest cellular being. Once the egg arrives, the parents take turns to keep it warm and, with endless patience, guard the chick’s struggle as it squeezes itself out from the hard shell. It’s a tough and drawn-out entry, but help would not be helpful, since the little one’s birth-struggle develops the resilience needed for survival.

What made the stunning images possible is that these majestic animals have not learned to fear humans, whose latest habits hasten their demise. Without natural enemies, they trust life, and the ocean, which offered them food for millennia, even though it now includes plastic tidbits that spell their demise.

 

Some scenes near the end of the film bring home powerful metaphors – like what it takes to fly. Fledglings, to lighten their weight, must empty their stomachs of everything fed to them by their parents (in this instant plastic.) Mothers, forgive yourselves. We can hardly avoid dumping stuff on your offspring, be it psychic or material. Many fledglings don’t manage, but if lucky, and if the right wind comes along, their wings will carry them across the sea towards their adult adventure.

Click here to find out about the story behind the film.

And check out Chris Jordan’s other projects, or follow him on twitter @cj_artist

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… Alhambra – The Red One …

Me … less than a month ago at the Alhambra. I wonder how many people over the centuries sat on this ledge to gaze out over the Albayzin. Adding to my last post, and my images … ‘sunny places,’ these are images taken by my son on his IPhone … 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visiting the inspiring studio of a local artist.

Entry to our friend’s house.

‘Moto,’ our friend’s venerable old cat likes to be comfortable …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Talk of fitness … my son ran every morning 5am miles into the hills above Gualchos to catch the sunrise..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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