Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Opus 14

Dove-stain’d memory: that perfect composure that allows one to continue with one’s warring. How thinking abuts it. Thinking about Pound of a day suddenly clad too heavily by spring. (Sitting here, zoom, zoom, zoom, in my four-corner’d room tossing off the Campari and bitters, so angrily, bye-the-bye at the Villa Hermitage where the pout-fisher’s go to pout, oh yeah.) Pout: “a fish with a large head.” I am working “through” Dante—whatsoever that means. I am “in the process of” “accumulating” my “final” de Kooning notes. (“Irony” stuck to me “like a burr to a jarhead’s butt.”) “Stop it.” “Nah.”

Painting as a record (trace) of brush velocity, tempo. Joan Levy reports de Kooning (early ’eighties) saying, of the late and terrific “figures emerging out of landscapes” (or “figures merging into landscapes”): “They just poured out of me like water.” (See Bukka White, “That song’s ’s old as water.”) And de Kooning, about how he handled the built-up lush material of the paint: “Miles Davis bends the notes. He doesn’t play them, he bends them. I bend the paint.” (Late Davis, performing with back to the audience. There’s a model some of the “locals” ought try, no?)

De Kooning quoting Constantin Brancusi: “All sculpture is water.”

De Kooning’s preferred painting au Louvre: Jean-Baptiste Pater’s cow with “eyes in the back of its head.” (For all the various Pater paintings of “fêtes champêtres” and other country doings, I locate no wild-eyed bovine.) Joan Mitchell loved it, too.

Triggers for forms other than drawing with eyes closed—being ways to subvert the hand’s own knowing facile draftsmanship (akin to “automatic writing,” scribbler’s intoxicants, thievery, &c.): drawing upside down, drawing with “wrong” hand, &c. The curse of ease and accuracy.

De Kooning’s often lovely orthography. “All the noice and continuous shatter of the men.” In a letter. (Bustle of workmen in unfinish’d studio.)

“I don’t want to be new anymore.” (Approaching sixty.) And: “I don’t know the names of trees but I see things in nature very well. I’ve got a good eye for them, and they look back at me.”

In Rome, liking “the melodrama of vulgarity.”

Theory versus whatsoever may erupt out of some (inner, uncontrollable) necessity. (See the enormous numbers of, say, poems, that exhibit no need of existing beyond vanity of a bibelot, another cursory pebble in a careerist’s “pile.”) De Kooning: “The group instinct could be a good idea, but there is always some little dictator who wants to make his instinct the group instinct.” Versus:
Spiritually I am wherever my spirit allows me to be, and that is not necessarily in the future. I have no nostalgia, however. If I am confronted with one of those small Mesopotamian figures, I have no nostalgia for it, but instead I may get into a state of anxiety. Art never seems to make me peaceful or pure. . . . I do not think of inside or outside—or of art in general—as a situation of comfort. I know there is a terrific idea there somewhere, but whenever I want to get into it, I get a feeling of apathy and want to lie down and go to sleep. Some painters, including myself, do not care what chair they are sitting on. It does not even have to be a comfortable one. They are too nervous to find out where they ought to sit. They do not want to “sit in style.”
Rejection of any “esthetic beforehand.” Rejection of purity in lieu of tension.

How de Kooning remark’d of Frank O’Hara: “I liked him immediately, he was so bright. Right away he was at the center of things, and he did not bulldoze.” (Hint for the current crop of bulldozers.) O’Hara’s deft unslinging of the too taut hunting bows of the fatuous, the loud, the besottedly showy (in a 1957 letter to Kenneth Koch):
As a result of reading Howl I have written two little meditations which are so quiet as to be absolutely vaporous and as indecisive stylistically as the orchestral part of a Chopin piano concerto played by itself. It’s like one of those missing solo recordings where the reader has to supply everything on his 88 key home set. I’m calling it “Play-a-Part-Poetry.”
And managing to prick the silly pretensions of that whole L=I=N=G=U=A=L rigmarole re: the reader’s participatory pant after the producting of meaning, yeah, and precisely avant la lettre. (In a note in Lytle Shaw’s Frank O’Hara: The Poetics of Coterie.)

“Play-Apart Poetry.”

Constantin Brancusi and Bukka White