Friday, May 22, 2009

Henry Miller Died Happy//Poets' Forum/Swede&Haiku/DiPrima (scroll down to see everything)

Flash: Congratulations to our good friend Amy Trussell selected as a finalist in the Crazyhorse Linda Hull Memorial Poetry Prize competition.
Henry Miller On Painting

The more I paint, the more I appreciate Henry Miller and his philosophy of painting. These are 3 of his. What follows are some of his remarks and those of others in his great essay "Paint As You Like and Die Happy."

"Usually what is taught in school must be is the teacher, and one of the first questions thrown at one is 'Who influenced you? That one looks like a Chagall.'....another looking at the same painting says 'I see that you have been influenced by Paul Klee' (Ed: I've gotten both of these)...certainly I (Miller) have, but there are hundreds of painters who have influenced me."

And Lawrence Durrell in his preface says "If you wished to draw the arm of a chair or an airplane, you closed your eyes and wished for it to form under your brush. Also you used whatever resources you had of memory or drawing... but the main effort was just to will the image...this image would form itself...without all the effort of building it by rule or precept but taking it as one...not a life had short circuited all the drudgery of practice by this immoral and low down procedure...but I must not pretend that it was did not always fall out as you might wish...sometimes obstinacy set in, and, instead of what you wanted, you got an unwanted Japanese umbrella or a runaway horse or a forest this instance, nothing could be done but to have good humor and fall in with the inevitable entitled the work "Fire At Night" and people praised your 'savage realism'...but what's to be done, you just nodded gratefully and walked away. Henry and I consoled ourselves with the realization that many of the masterpieces of this world were accidents or at least semi accidents and that even the expectations of the great artists did not match their works...Sometimes too, haphazard work deviated into sense dropping the original intention....

"I never had formal training, and the lessons I took from artist friends convinced me that I am incapable of learning through instruction, that I must find out for myself through trial and error. In other words, I learn as I go along, absorbing only what I need for the time being. I alwaysread with glee that certain painters I adore were failures at the academy -- sometimes pronounced "hopeless" by their instructors. And who were their instructors? Their names are unknown or forgotten. One thing is certain: they never became great painters (Even a great painter like Gaugin, who was also a great teacher, could get nowhere with Van Gogh.) Usually what is taught in school must be unlearned, life is the teacher.

"Naturally in the work of self taught artists there occur what might be called "monstrosities" -- monstrosities that are accidental, not willed-- in such paintings, all the canons of art seem to be violated (Now, David, you understand why I shrink a bit from you and Harris attempting to emulate the "canon" something like Harold Bloom, who, by the way, is a valuable critic) One might imagine that such products are the work of an insane person but if one is really familiar with the work of the insane, one would not make such a mistake.

"In the case of my own work I must confess that these monstrosities often grow on me, that I get to like them and appreciate them more than the more successful ones. (Success, of course, as judged by my own standards of realization.) I have friends who request me to save my 'failures' for them. Months later, when I see these failures framed and hanging on their walls, I realize that they have qualities that I never dreamed of when I tossed them aside. What I regarded as the bad elements in them suddenly acquire charm and distinction. No real artist could make such mistakes, such meaningless forms or patterns, as these failures reveal. The very wrongness adds spice to the painting, it would seem. After one has acquired some mastery over the medium it is obviously difficult to do the wrong thing. To my amazement it has often happened that another artist, a good artist, looking at one of my failures has spoken warmly of it. Sometimes I have even heard them murmur, 'I wish I had the courage to do one like that!' Which makes me think about why we are so often bored with so-called good people, or with artists who are perfectionists. Or why, sometimes, we have to admit to ourselves that a touch of evil in an individual lends him a magnetic quality....

"...What I am trying to point out is that these failures, or monstrosities, are a result of my faith in the virtue of letting things happen. When looking at these products many individuals think that I am expressing my sociological views. They look for ideas, for signs of protest, for rebelliousness. They do not want to believe that the painting in question just happened. Or, if they concede this, then they begin to talk about the subconscious or such-like twaddle. There must be a reason for everything, even the accidental, they think. Perhaps there is; perhaps the spectator is capable of telling things about one's work that the creator himself does not know. But my quarrel with these analytical individuals is, why can't they accept what they see without trying to explain it? After all, the truest thing one can say about creative work, in whatever field, is that there is an element of magic in it. Pure reason leads nowhere, unless it be to the analyst's couch. The necessity to analyze, to understand, to categorize, answers to some basic need in the onlooker. He cannot rest suspended in thin air. He must know,know the reason why, and in doing so he kills what he sees. How much more interesting and instructive it is to ask a child what he thinks of one's work. Often, after a session with intellectual individuals I feel like saying, 'It's your problem. Don't ask me what it means."

Now try this on from Jean Dubuffet as quoted by Miller:

This much is sure, a picture interests me to the degree I succeed in kindling in it a kind of flame -- the flame of life of presence, or existence, or reality, depending on what we take these words to mean. To be sure, it often happens with me that my picture lacks this quality...In any case, I go on working, I add and I take away, I change, I revise (notice that I work empirically, like a blind man, experimenting with every kind of means), until a certain extraordinary release occurs in the picture, and from then on it seems to me endowed with this very life -- excuse me, reality. How can this be accounted for ? I have no idea. I never know how I produced it, or how to repeat the same effect. It is a mysterious happening, and because of its very mysteriousness it drives me again and again to renew the experience each time I make a picture....

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Poets' Forum (water color by Ed Coletti)

If you're a poet and missing, take comfort that so are Geoffrey Chaucer and John Milton.

fyi - Diane DiPrima is San Francisco's New Poet Laureate

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George Swede's Guidelines for haiku:

Swede makes it abundantly clear what he thinks constitutes a good haiku. In the Global Haiku intro, he outlines eight commonly used haiku guidelines, then eliminates a few to come up with his five ultimate rules of good haiku.

1. haiku must be brief: one breath long

2. haiku must express sense of awe or insight

3. haiku must involve some aspect of nature other than human nature

4. haiku must possess sense images, not generalizations

5. haiku must present an event as happening presently, not past or future

As long as the haiku gives the reader short yet sensual images, a haiku can be effective.

A few examples of Swede's work:

on the face
that last night called me names—
morning sunbeam

almost unseen
among the tangled driftwood
naked lovers

Young widow
Asks for another
fortune cookie

first warm spring day
I take my shadow
for a walk

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paulagraph said...

hey thanks for including me on the "tombstone" poets' forum. Paula

Vilma said...

I read your every blog when it arrives, and have always enjoyed them I should have told you more often.

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Kit Kennedy said...

especially loved Poet's Forum (watercolor). A
treasure hunt of the best kind. Peaking around your website: all to the good. Kit