The Crow Is Beautiful — He Duoling

The Crow Is Beautiful, 1988 by He Duoling (b. 1948)

Black Grouse in Gliding Flight — Hans Emmenegger

Black Grouse in Gliding Flight, 1915 by Hans Emmenegger (1886-1940)

“Peach” — D.H. Lawrence

“Peach”

by

D.H. Lawrence


Would you like to throw a stone at me?
Here, take all that’s left of my peach.

Blood-red, deep:
Heaven knows how it came to pass.
Somebody’s pound of flesh rendered up.

Wrinkled with secrets
And hard with the intention to keep them.

Why, from silvery peach-bloom,
From that shallow-silvery wine-glass on a short stem
This rolling, dropping, heavy globule?

I am thinking, of course, of the peach before I ate it.

Why so velvety, why so voluptuous heavy?
Why hanging with such inordinate weight?
Why so indented?

Why the groove?
Why the lovely, bivalve roundnesses?
Why the ripple down the sphere?
Why the suggestion of incision?

Why was not my peach round and finished like a billiard ball?
It would have been if man had made it.
Though I’ve eaten it now.

But it wasn’t round and finished like a billiard ball;
And because I say so, you would like to throw something at me.

Here, you can have my peach stone.

Pastoral (Angel Hunters) — Leonora Carrington

Pastoral (Angel Hunters), 1950 by Leonora Carrington (1917–2011)

Buddhist Lama — Vasily Vereshchagin

Buddhist Lama, 1875 by Vasily Vereshchagin (1842-1904)

“Hymn from a Watermelon Pavilion” — Wallace Stevens

“Hymn from a Watermelon Pavilion”
by
Wallace Stevens

You dweller in the dark cabin,
To whom the watermelon is always purple,
Whose garden is wind and moon,
Of the two dreams, night and day,
What lover, what dreamer, would choose
The one obscured by sleep?
Here is the plantain by your door
And the best cock of red feather
That crew before the clocks.
A feme may come, leaf-green,
Whose coming may give revel
Beyond revelries of sleep,
Yes, and the blackbird spread its tail,
So that the sun may speckle,
While it creaks hail.
You dweller in the dark cabin,
Rise, since rising will not waken,
And hail, cry hail, cry hail.

Ben Shahn’s The Shape of Content (Book acquired, 23 July 2021)

I went by my favorite used bookstore the other week to pick up the copy of Tatyana Tolstoya’s novel The Slynx last week. (I’m halfway through it, and it’s fantastic stuff—dirty, cruel, funny, unexpectedly moving—like a filthy generative loam that isn’t exactly poisonous, but will certainly yield side effects.) After seeing this diagram earlier in the week, I looked for a copy of Thomas C. Oden’s 1969 multidisciplinary

text Structure of Awareness. I was unsuccessful there, but I did spy something called The Shape of Content by the artist Ben Shahn. I’ve long been a fan of his work, so I picked it up and thumbed through. I ended up reading most of it this weekend.

The Shape of Content (the title now is not exactly ironic, I guess) collects a series of lectures Shahn gave to Harvard students in the late 1950s. The first lecture is a somewhat boring apologia, a kind of What the hell am I doing here?, but the following material is good stuff, if not exactly fresh. There are plenty of illustrations too, mostly unrelated to the, uh, content of the words (although they are of course intimately related). Illustrations like the one above, and this one, below, make the 144 pager seem, well, kinda short.

Here’s Harvard UP’s blurb:

In his 1956–57 Charles Eliot Norton Lectures, the Russian-born American painter Ben Shahn sets down his personal views of the relationship of the artist―painter, writer, composer―to his material, his craft, and his society. He talks of the creation of the work of art, the importance of the community, the problem of communication, and the critical theories governing the artist and his audience.

“Victory” — Denis Johnson

“Victory”

by

Denis Johnson


the woman whose face has just finished breaking
with a joy so infinite

and heavy that it might be grief has won
a car on a giveaway show, for her family,

for an expanse of souls that washes from a million
picture tubes onto the blank reaches

of the air. meanwhile, the screams are packing
the air to a hardness: in the studio

the audience will no longer move, will be caught
slowly, like ancient, staring mammals, figuring

out the double-cross within the terrible progress
of a glacier. here, i am suddenly towering

with loneliness, repeating to this woman’s
only face, this time, again, i have not won.

Eve — Dorothy Webster Hawksley

Eve, 1927 by Dorothy Webster Hawksley (1884-1970)

The Water-Melon and Three Red Peppers — Eugène Berman

The Water-Melon and Three Red Peppers, 1949 by Eugène Berman (1899-1972)

Sailing Boats – Morning — Hiroshi Yoshida

Sailing Boats – Morning, 1926 by Hiroshi Yoshida (1876-1950)

Forest Heart — Hans Emmenegger

Forest Heart, 1933 by Hans Emmenegger (1886-1940)

“A Little Called Pauline” — Gertrude Stein

“A Little Called Pauline”

by

Gertrude Stein


A little called anything shows shudders.

Come and say what prints all day. A whole few watermelon. There is no pope.

No cut in pennies and little dressing and choose wide soles and little spats really little spices.

A little lace makes boils. This is not true.

Gracious of gracious and a stamp a blue green white bow a blue green lean, lean on the top.

If it is absurd then it is leadish and nearly set in where there is a tight head.

A peaceful life to arise her, noon and moon and moon. A letter a cold sleeve a blanket a shaving house and nearly the best and regular window.

Nearer in fairy sea, nearer and farther, show white has lime in sight, show a stitch of ten. Count, count more so that thicker and thicker is leaning.

I hope she has her cow. Bidding a wedding, widening received treading, little leading mention nothing.

Cough out cough out in the leather and really feather it is not for.

Please could, please could, jam it not plus more sit in when.

Olga Knipper-Chekhov as Nastasia — Boris Grigoriev

Olga Knipper-Chekhov as Nastasia, 1923 by Boris Grigoriev (1886-1939)

Spiral Head III — Pavel Tchelitchew

Spiral Head III, 1950 by Pavel Tchelitchew (1898-1957)

Fisherman with a Crab — Boris Grigoriev

Fisherman with a Crab, 1923 by Boris Grigoriev (1886–1939)

Philosophers — Gely Korzhev

Philosophers, 1990 by Gely Korzhev (1925-2012)