Why the Classics
By Zbigniew Herbert
Translated by Czeslaw Milosz
in the fourth book of the Peloponnesian War
Thucydides tells among other things
the story of his unsuccessful expedition
among long speeches of chiefs
battles sieges plague
dense net of intrigues of diplomatic endeavours
the episode is like a pin
in a forest
the Greek colony Amphipolis
fell into the hands of Brasidos
because Thucydides was late with relief
for this he paid his native city
with lifelong exile
exiles of all times
know what that price is
generals of the most recent wars
if a similar affair happens to them
whine on their knees before posterity
praise their heroism and innocence
they accuse their subordinates
Thucydides says only
that he had seven ships
it was winter
and he sailed quickly
if art for its subject
will have a broken jar
a small broken soul
with a great self-pity
what will remain after us
will be like lovers' weeping
in a small dirty hotel
when wall-paper dawns
From Poet's Choice by Edward Hirsch in Sunday's Washington Post Book World. Hirsch had attended a symposium last month at which writers gathered to protest the USA Patriot Act, believing that it compromises freedom of expression, and noted that two of the fifteen readers chose a poem to read by Zbigniew Herbert, a poet forbidden to publish in his native Poland for many years.
"Herbert deliberately cultivated a cool, economical and anti-rhetorical style, dispensing with punctuation in his poems and eschewing grandiose effects," states Hirsch. He viewed inanimate objects as steadfast and immutable, as opposed to human beings, who are given to "cant and half-truths," and so developed an understated, uncluttered style. "Many of his poems address the issues and problems of accurate description. As he put it at the end of 'Never About You': 'Don't be surprised we don't know how to describe the world/and only speak to things affectionately by their first names.'"
Fall has arrived on the tails of Hurricane Ivan, which provided thunderstorms and winds that brought down many leaves and branches already weakened by cicadas early in the summer. The temperatures never rose above the low 70s -- for most of the day it was in the 60s, and damp -- and the streets in our neighborhood are now littered by small branches and clusters of leaves. It's gorgeous.
the_reverand has sent me a most wonderful and awesome gift. I am not certain whether I am allowed to share the details for copyright reasons but I wish to express my affection and gratitude in public. *snogs the_reverand*
The kids had a birthday party, the eighth birthday of the oldest son of my oldest friend. I met her when we were both six, which is rather inconceivable to me when I think about it now. At this point we have three regular dates a year: my son's birthday, her son's birthday and the annual Superbowl party she and her husband throw; we have been terribly inconsistent about getting together otherwise, which is more my fault than hers I suppose as she is better about telephoning than I ever am. Sunday's the birthday party for the oldest son of my second-oldest friend, whom I didn't meet until junior high school but whom I talk to far more often, not least because she has a LiveJournal. Hey vertigo66, want an unopened DVD copy of The Grifters?
I ask because the party was at a bowling alley, so apaulled and I left the kids there for awhile and wandered down to the Best Buy nearby, where I made a marvelous discovery: Miramax has released a collector's edition of The Grifters (a movie I very nearly put on my list of must-sees two days ago, but I figure it's famous enough and anyway I had the lesser-known modern noir House of Games and Anjelica in Crimes and Misdemeanors)! The new DVD has commentary by Anjelica, John Cusack and Stephen Frears! This is a movie I wrote a paper on for an academic magazine, a film I admire unconditionally, and one of the reasons for my affection despite its brutality is that Anjelica said such brilliant things about it and its use of noir convention (and how Frears made subtle reference to her father) in interviews when it came out. I am so delighted about this. And it cost less than I paid for the no-frills DVD when it first came out.
Testing LiveJournal's new pics feature. Look, a cock!
(Addendum: Photo from Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts, a recreation of the Mayflower settlement. I am sure the Puritans would not approve of the rooster's use in this manner. *snerk*)