I like to send
packages to friends
with sweets, brownies,
and small bundles of poems.
It my ambition
that, someday, upon opening the package,
sometimes sent to the very most far corners
of our fair and beautiful Earth—join me here
in blessing the mails of the world—that my
dear friends might, perhaps just once,
go straight for the poems.
The violence which manifests
everywhere in North American culture
is in no way surprising.
People get sick if they
drink bad water.
What IS surprising is the blind
refusal to face the primary problem
What is making the water bad?
Think of metaphor here as the transfer of
similarity in difference,
the X IS Y of comparison.
For example, ‘moral compass’ maps the
similarity of the need to orient and navigate
in the world of abstract ethical principles on to
the clear and simple physical magnetic north
of the compass.
At a deep, unconscious level, metaphor forms
our perception and behavior.
Which metaphors are active in this
formative way is a central question
Music is play.
Or: Music is sport, or game, or competition.
Or: Music is love, or love-making.
Or: Music is war, is conflict, is fighting.
Pondering formative metaphor reveals
meaning, both good and bad. Saying music
is good or bad is largely meaningless if we
do not first address the much larger question
of these deeper formative forces, and whether
they are essentially creative, or destructive.
Friendship is only friendship when it is
rooted in place. Like a tree we come back
to again and again, after many, many lifetimes,
it has weathered the storms, it still embraces
the light of each turning day.
We shape the world and the world shapes us.
The way of non-violence is not merely the deeply held
intention to live a life without conflict and the use of force;
it of necessity actively seeks to make explicit the
contradictions of thought, culture and convention
that lead to violence (and waste) of any kind, against
oneself, against one’s fellow human beings, or against
the Earth. The voice of frustration of the current era,
amplified a thousand fold by the populist rhetoric of ad
hominem Attack Radio and TV, flirts with violence of the
most insidious kind as a misleading means of releasing
equally misguided rage. This is a profound mistake.
The way of non-violence, as an alternative, takes the
rule of law and civil stability as its point of departure,
and seeks by means of argument, dialogue, or, when
necessary, civil disobedience, to widen the circle of ethical
awareness and discourse to include in a radical and
uncompromising way the whole of the human community
and the living Earth.
from THE LITTLE CLAVIER
631 pages / pdf 110.7 Mb
Here a two metaphysical miniatures which I think
are worth meditating upon.
By this, I mean simply considering slowly and
carefully the ideas as a kind of instrument, a kind
of musical play.
Water is one of my central themes. How we think
about it, how we treat it, what it means to us.
And resonance — a kind of basic ‘moving together’
of not just bodies but other movements which are
not actually contiguous or physically touching — is
a central idea in my work.
I become aware of water in walking the world.
Frequently on a trek, finding sources of good water
is THE problem, more important than any other
And I become aware of resonance as a performing
musician and composer. Especially conducting ensembles,
and I suppose it needs to be said, of acoustic instruments.
Awakening, developing sonorous ensemble sound, a
sound which carries in space, can fill a hall, can touch
listeners deeply. But also especially teaching performance.
With young classical musicians.
One of my primary convictions — to me it is self-evident –
is that we, say in Europe or North America, have become
largely and remarkably insensitive to what I think of as
living sound. We have surrounded ourselves with noise,
so what needs to explained really is how one could possibly
think that language, poetry and the other musical arts
could flourish in such a hostile environment.
So when it comes to an ethical imperative in Music,
the first we need to do for children is very simple:
turn off the noise. In other words, create a protected
space where tension releases, and natural intelligence
can freely unfold.
LOVE & WATER
We shape the world and the world shapes us.
There may well indeed be another planet in the Universe
with high mountains and streams of pure, fast-flowing
water, but we do not know that for a fact.
There may also be other beings in the Universe capable
of Love and Compassion, but also that we do not know
for a fact.
Love is like water: wherever it is there in abundance,
life flourishes; And water is like love: wherever it is wasted,
polluted, blocked or dammed, we abuse not just Earth’s
defining essence, but also somehow
We shape the world and the world shapes us.
See the electronic keyboard—the synthesizer—with
its brittle octavesmade of wired concrete, and its complete
lack of sympathetic resonance.
I say to you, when similar sounds no longer spontaneously
vibrate together, when like sounds no longer reflect one
another, no longer mirror each other’s energies, upon
which instrument shall we play our songs of love? Upon
which instrument shall we teach our children the principles
of Nature’s way?
MORE at DIPPER FALLS . . .
I’M BUSY down at my little canyon-country office
doing website housekeeping & redesign. (Any suggestions,
just let me know . . . !)
One of my primary metaphysical concerns is what I
think of as the colonization of both Space & Time.
The former is to most of us by now painfully
obvious. For example, where I’m working right
at the moment, was first colonized by the Europeans
with the 1805-06 Lewis & Clark expedition. That’s
only two hundred years, five or six generations. But
more dramatic change could hardly be imagined.
Time, we give less attention to. Think of natural
time, how we mark the season, how we attune
to the rhythms of natural change.
I’ve had the privilege to live in a traditional
mountain farming community in the Alps for
many years, am still very close with what I
think of ‘my village’ there. One of the things
watched or meditated on very closely is the
movement of the traditional Catholic Calendar.
Especially how the later simply over a period
of two thousand years came into a much older
alpine culture — think Ötzi — and took over or
colonized the metaphysics of time.
This was just a forceful and violent act as
was the Jeffersonian utterly contradictory concept
of “Empire of Liberty.”
In short, one of the primary tasks of cultural
philosophy, as I see it, is to free ourselves of
this colonial baggage. Why? Because it distorts
and takes away, in my opinion, far more than
Thinks of Christmas. For me, Winter Solstice Time,
and it is a time, that is, a period of one or two weeks,
like a special place in a cathedral of time, and not just
a sliver of time, or a day. I dislike the Christian colonization
of this special time for its own propagandistic ends,
well, to no end. Especially how the end-phase of
total commercialization lets us ‘drop dead’ after
New Year’s Day in a black hole of nothing. Take
down the tree. Turn off the lights. Return the gifts.
Well, what I did come to appreciate in the Alps, is
how the traditional solar calendar looks ahead.
A Solstice, one looks ahead to Candlemas, around
the 1st of February. This is about 1/8th of the solar
year. My sense is that this is an important rhythm.
A movement of change that is good to be aware
of. And perhaps to celebrate in some new way,
free of the corrupt and corrupting reach of Rome.
That is what this little meditation below is about:
RINGING THE CHANGES AT CANDLEMAS
Perhaps empty time
just as wood has a grain.
The central moments
of the natural year
manifest much like
upon in a journey
of a thousand miles.
How shall we
Drifting, cold, deep snow everywhere,
filling all the unseen cracks in the houses.
The furry snow bunnies are meeting up on
winter mountain, and the priests have run
out of money and have all gone home.
The children light candles for each
star in the night sky while the
grownups drink hot coffee, sit at
the round table, and speak in earnest
of getting rid of all the tanks.
Heavy metal, slow metal, cold metal,
the sound of bells, thousands
of bells, swaying back and forth,
a wave of joyful sound,
passing on from city to city
to city, some say,
as swiftly as
the turning of the Earth itself.
Whitebark Pines are in trouble around the mountains of the Northwest.
For me, they have become a sentinel species because they are not only
the grandest and, in my view, most powerful of pines to reach the upper
limits of treeline—even in death the sun-bleached white snags stand tall
for centuries—but also, like wounded watchful elders, the Nestors of
the high-country, they are sounding a message of warning.
In the Alps, a related species of stonepine, Pinus cembra, is
an object of much veneration and folklore. Just the act of an old mountain
farmer saying its name in dialect, Arve, seems to fill him with a kind
of primeval religious awe. Indeed, it has for hundreds of years been
the favored wood for carving, and remarkably, for works of Art which
show when seen within the traditional European cultural categories both
sacred and profane aspects, ie., both crucifixes & ‘wildman’ masks for
mountain carnival, Fastnacht.
I mention this only because I am repeatedly reminded that no similar
tradition, as far as I know, exists in North America. Perhaps that is why
only a handful of dedicated scientific researchers seem to be listening
seriously to what the Whitebarks are saying, and not the culture at
large. For as always—and this is sad to say, and is of course only my
own opinion—North American culture is largely indifferent, is largely
uninformed by the spirit of its great mountains.
Perhaps that is why I feel somehow compelled to mark in image and
word as many of the sick stonepines as possible that I meet along
from r2c update, my little website for Dutch poetry
in new english translations . . .
When I see a photo like “Snow Tables”, the first thing
that comes to mind other than the form and the nearly
black and white quality of the image, is its starkness.
Picnic tables, yes, but now in the middle of winter. There are
no happy people about, no one engaged in Sunday conversations,
or children playing, no one busily preparing food.
There is simply the flat, bare surface of the wood, with on
top a cold sweep of wind-driven snow.
Time and Space. Just as a photograph is always a kind
of window on time and space, so, too, is frequently a poem.
That is why titles are so very important, because they instantly
set the tone, as it were, or draw a frame of a very
subtle kind around a time and place. But whereas we have
come to expect a one-to-one kind of direct relationship between
the photograph and what it represents—that one particular scene
was only fully there at that moment and is now gone forever—
a poem can conjure up many different times and
spaces all at once.
Indeed, this need to orient ourselves in time and space is a
kind of perennial theme of poetry, albeit largely implicit,
existing silently on the periphery, as it were. We all know that
to be without orientation, to be lost, is a very disturbing
experience. Even worse, no doubt, is losing someone else.
But the 10 poems I’ve brought together here in new English
translations are not simply about losing something or someone.
They are more than this, in a way, because they are all about
finding something—a place, a time in the rhythms of the
natural year (Gellings), a belovèd lost to death (Achterberg),
a land one has been forced to leave behind (Marsman), or
even finding a kind of ecstatic happiness in the ordinary dull
gray of Dutch city life (J. C. Bloem in his classic
The sequence ends with a charming miniature of Gerrit
Achterberg’s, Blackbird. (This is the European Blackbird (Turdus spp.),
master musician, and closelyrelated to the North American Robins).
In a culture that measures time down to the fraction of a nanosecond
and can no longer go into the wilderness without GPS hardware in its
backpacks, we are in that magical middle realm of everyday
life arguably quite lost. At least, one can gather that our poets,
Dutch or otherwise, are working hard to find their bearings. Perhaps
the blackbird can help. After all, he does seem to know exactly when
and where to sing.
I’m often asked what ‘r2c’ stands for: it’s just the code/
working title of a book of Dutch poetry I hope to get
together someday soon called, Slow R-ivers, Straight R-oads,
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