Monthly Archives: January 2011

Sun in an Empty Room: Edward Hopper at His Best

After hours of media and song and dart guns and bicycles; after beef steaks and potatoes and wine and coffeepots; bottles, chairs, trees, books and magazines, dictionaries and paintings–after all these things, I want nothing.  I want light in an empty room.  I want sleep after the light leaves.  I want love.  I want more sleep.  I pray for sleep and silence and the comfort of light, rather than light’s impending  morning doom.  Yes, I admit it, morning light frightens me because it means another noisy, busy day and no more chance to sleep.  I hate to say it, but I love sleep in the same way I love any treasure I can’t have.  I covet it, stupid distant mirage!

If you could fall headlong into a painting, which painting would it be? 

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William Wilberforce: A Man Willing to Speak the Truth

“It is indeed a most lamentable consequence of the practice of regarding religion as a compilation of statutes, and not as an internal principle, that it soon comes to be considered as being conversant about external actions rather than about habits of mind. This sentiment sometimes has even the hardiness to insinuate and maintain itself under the guise of extraordinary concern for practical religion; but it soon discovers the falsehood of this pretension, and betrays its real nature. The expedient, indeed, of attaining to superiority in practice by not wasting any of the attention on the internal principles from which alone practice can flow, is about as reasonable, and will answer about as well, as the economy of an architect who should account it mere prodigality to expend any of his materials in laying foundation, from an idea that they might be more usefully applied to the raising of the superstructure. We know what would be the fate of such an edifice.”

How much of our modern society is built in this way–everything outward, nothing inward?  How many people realize that even the outward is often missing, yet continue to compliment the emperor on his new set of clothes?

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Blogging Break Poem . . .

El castillo interior

Por el primero, agua;
en el segundo, luz;
la tercera, sí misma con palabras.

Por las quiebras y piedras
se escapan las gotas
como tinta de agua de luz de letras.

Son hogares sin fuego,
son pozales sin fondo,
adentro de castillos de sangre y huesos.

¿Que refleja la luz
sino espejos de agua?
¿Que espera adentro la sombra de la cruz?

Un retrato de Dios,
de la paloma y pluma,
con su corona y su nimbo unidos. 


Drawing of San Miguel by A. Leon Miler.
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Oliver Goldsmith: It All Amounts to the Same Thing In the End

      A quiet home had Parson Gray,
      Secluded in a vale;
      His daughters all were feminine,
      And all his sons were male.

      How faithfully did Parson Gray
      The bread of life dispense–
      Well “posted” in theology,
      And post and rail his fence.

      ‘Gainst all the vices of the age
      He manfully did battle;
      His chickens were a biped breed,
      And quadruped his cattle.

      No clock more punctually went,
      He ne’er delayed a minute–
      Nor ever empty was his purse,
      When he had money in it.

      
      His piety was ne’er denied;
      His truths hit saint and sinner;
      At morn he always breakfasted;
      He always dined at dinner.

      He ne’er by any luck was grieved,
      By any care perplexed–
      No filcher he, though when he preached,
      He always “took” a text.

      As faithful characters he drew
      As mortal ever saw;
      But ah! poor parson! when he died,
      His breath he could not draw!
by Oliver Goldsmith (10 November 1730 – 4 April 1774)

“[Goldsmith, Irish writer and poet] settled in London in 1756, where he briefly held various jobs, including an apothecary’s assistant and an usher of a school. Perennially in debt and addicted to gambling, Goldsmith produced a massive output as a hack writer for the publishers of London, but his few painstaking works earned him the company of Samuel Johnson . . .

Goldsmith was described by contemporaries as prone to envy, a congenial but impetuous and disorganised personality who once planned to emigrate to America but failed because he missed his ship.” (from this Wiki article)

Hack writer, great poet, perfect parson–it all amounts to the same thing, doesn’t it?  Thank you for reminding me, Mr. Goldsmith, the perpetually low self-esteem author.  Yes, he was, because he knew he was a hack.  That is, he wrote what publishers wanted.  But he also had the confidence to know he was better than that.  At least Samuel Johnson thought he was!

p.s. God knows I don’t mean that publishers pick up and promote hack writers.  Publishing hacks only occurred during the 1700s.  Never after.  Ever.

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Why are Writers Self-Deprecatory?

That’s my question for today.  It’s a question that’s been bugging me for a while.  Writers seems to lack confidence in their very natures.  They wear masks of humility to spare themselves criticism and pain.  Occasionally, an arrogant writer surfaces from the depths of the blogging circles, but the arrogance seems only another mask meant to cover a defensive and self-protective nature.

Where are the confident among us?  Why must writers live this way?  Why can’t we boldly step up to our laptops and say, “I’m going to break the rules.  I’m going to write the story of my heart.  And I’m going to do it because I know I can.  Damn those negative thoughts that tell me I can’t!”

I wonder if my writing would improve if I were to take on this air of confidence–if it would bring zest and life to every story.  I wonder if writer’s block is simply another form of self-deprecating nonsense, in which I tell myself all the reasons why I can’t, instead of why I can.

Humility is a virtue.  I get that.  But, for heaven’s sake, I’m tired of reading the humble entreaties on writers’ blogs– including my own.  I’m tired of living in my self-deprecating mind, cursing myself and my own work.  Just to clarify, confidence is not the same thing as pride.  Pride says, “I don’t need improvement, so don’t even bother to criticize me.”  Confidence says, “My work needs improvement, but it’s better than it once was and, by gum, I know I’m capable of bringing it to that final level!”

I want this to be my year of confidence.  What about you?

p.s. In case you can’t tell, the image above is supposed to be of Sor Juana’s hand.  She was one of the greatest writers and poets of Mexico, and yet she renounced her writing and books, and signed this renouncement in blood with the words yo, la peor de todas!  Translated, that means, I, the worst of all!

p.p.s Sor Juana was forced by the Inquisition.  The only Inquisition forcing us into self-flagellation is ourselves.

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