17 December 2012


A few years before Michaux's labyrinth poem, Sartre was laying the foundations for his ontology based on consciousness, decreeing in The Transcendence of the Ego "Nothing can act on consciousness because it is a cause of itself," gracing the Cogito with nothingness, situating forms of consciousness in relation to an object perceived.  I have noted here the belief that a labyrinth is an incomplete mandala, inviting the interpretation that one's situation in time and space is what brings about this incompletion, as opposed to a pure immanence like Deleuze's: "a transcendental empiricism in contrast to everything that makes up the world of a the subject and the object."  As I also noted then, some Japanese mandalas contain actual places - Shintoist holy sites like Kumano (right) included to win the stubborn over to Buddhism.

The inclusion of actual physical topography and temples in a mandala approaches, perhaps by accident, the Tantric belief that saṃsāra equals nirvāṇa. René Daumal, in his novel Mount Analogue: "The symbol has had to take refuge in mythical mountains, such as Mount Meru of the Hindus. But if Meru has no geographical location, it loses its pervasive significance as a way uniting Earth and Heaven; it can still represent the center or axis of our planetary system, but no longer the means whereby man can attain it."

Jerome Rothenberg in a letter to Creeley in 1960: "as Buber says: 'one cannot reach the kernel of the fruit except thru the shell': i.e. the phenomenal world is to be read by us: the perceived image is the key to the buried image: and the deep image is at once husk and kernel, perception and vision, and the poem is the movement between them." Gary Snyder, who like Clayton Eshleman lived in Japan in the early 60s, prefers to use only imagery that he actually sees in the world. Baudelaire and Rimbaud drew from Eliphas Levi's belief "the visible is the manifestation of the invisible."

Sartre wrote several years later in Outline of a Theory of Emotions that passive grief over the uncontrollable is similar in structure to all the emotions, in which "the world itself sometimes reveals itself to consiciousness as magical instead of determined.." 

Two unidentified women, Seville

I mention this because it is the much revered saeta - songs of lamentation before the crucifix or the Holy Mother developed over the past few centuries in Andalusia, believed to have originated East of Seville (""A city that lurks/ for long rhythms,/ and twists them like labyrinths" Lorca Poem of the Saeta*) - that, aside from certain works of art, remains in my memory as offering one of the most striking perceptions of being removed from time and space. I was walking back to my room in Madrid one evening and found that I was alone in the narrow street between rows of people on the sidewalk - a Holy Week procession was making its way towards me - and so I crossed to the sidewalk amid some stares and made my way to the room. Processions from working class districts, which come into the city center to march, often have brass bands while bourgeois processions are usually silent. When I looked out the second floor window, it was making its way closer, and then I heard from an unseen balcony - for the first time - a saeta from a female singer that had, as I recall, the fragile sound of a cantoractión that seemed to be coming from the 18th Century.  At its end the brass band was directly below me, and they picked up a melody that seemed similarly outside of time and, perhaps aided by my stewing over an ill-fated romance with a local painter, I began to sob uncontrollably for the longest time.  Though the brass melody was much different than that of Miles Davis' Saeta, Gil Evans' ensemble's bookending of the song, sung here by Miles' trumpet, was as I remember..

Silliman, in stating his preference for the more semantic Creeley that began with 1965's Words, expressed his disagreement over Creeley with Charles Simic with the analogy "Simic’s like the jazz fan who likes Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain or Kind of Blue, or Coltrane’s Giant Steps, only to freak out at their later work because it demands more from him as a listener."  Creeley mentions a movement towards semantics and form over the Deep Image's emphasis of content in the 1960 correspondence with Rothenberg: "(Robert) Kelly describes all this question of mode too briefly, i.e., 'The image is the measure of the line. The line is cut to fit it ...'  Of course, but in quite what sense? Isn't then the image as much that cut of line" and, in response to Robert Bly's indirect praise that though Creeley was the best poet going then, poetry should respond to European and Latino traditions of Bly's choosing: "We are too far along, in many grounds so-called, now, to back off, e.g., from Ginsberg in his opening KADDISH sections, to Dorn's long line in THE AIR OF JUNE, to O'Hara's casual line, or Duncan's formal organization of 'canto' structure in POEM BEGINNING WITH A LINE BY PINDAR -- Olson's MAXIMUS and 'field,' Williams' late poems, etc. i.e, it seems a bad time to lose sight of those areas."  Like Rothenberg, O'Hara, and Spicer, though, the former Mallorca resident Creeley himself wrote a Lorca tribute, but Lorca's statement that the duende "is defined by an exact present" and "all countries.. are capable of duende" vindicates Creeley's localized approach.

Jerez de la Frontera, 23 miles North of the South Coast port of Cadiz' labyrinthine streets that Richard Ford called in his 1845 guide "a sea-prison," which had its own Occupy 120 years before Manhattan's, lending its name to Sherry after the Moors turned the Roman name Asido Caesaris into Sherish and so central to flamenco lore it hosts the primary research library on the art, features the regional style Saeta jerezano de siguiriya:

Daniel Ovieda, Jerez de la Frontera
The siguiriya is one of the primary flamenco cante jondos (Deep Songs) of which Lorca wrote "the melody of the siguiriya.. escapes from our hands as we see it withdraw from us toward a point of common longing and perfect passion where the soul will never disembark." Lorca tells the anecdote of Pastora Pavón, one of the master saetaras of their time, needing one evening to "get rid of the scaffolding of the song" in favor of "not.. forms but the marrow of forms.. pain and its sincerity." This understated rendition is perhaps out of these the most sincere:

Angel Vargas, Jerez de la Frontera
Málaga, the Costa del Sol birthplace of Pablo Picasso that was an anti-Franco stronghold before it was invaded with the help of Mussolini two months before the bombing of Guernica, features the Saeta Malagueña which "incorporates both the siguiriya and the martinete; the voice weaves its way around long mournful notes that have a rather Gregorian religious echo. This style of saeta is rather long and quite difficult to perform correctly.."

Diana Navarro, Málaga 

Daumal's sketch of his analogical mountain may have been influenced by Stendhal's similarly doodled mountains in his memoir The Life of Henry Brulard, bypassing the refined draftsmanship of Lermontov's mountain landscapes. Sebald in the Beyle, or Love is a Madness Most Discreet section of Vertigo reproduces Stendhal's drawing of the St-Bernard Pass from when he was a seventeen year old Napoleonic soldier in 1800 to recount how his drawing drew not from memory but from an engraving of the mountain he had purchased, inspiring Stendhal's advice "not to purchase engravings of fine views" for "they will displace our memories completely." I'd like to think the invisibility of that saetara and the shock of emotion will keep that first saeta from becoming one of these. Stendhal recalls after the day noted by Sebald came an evening "I experienced a sensation I shall never forget. I went to the theater in spite of the captain who, rightly judging of my childishness and my ignorance of swordsmanship, my sabre being too heavy for me, was no doubt afraid in case I got myself killed on some street-corner... They were doing Cimarosa's Matrimonio segreto, the actress who was playing Caroline was missing a tooth in the front. That's all that remains with me of a divine happiness."

* "The word saeta comes from the Latin, Sagitta, which means arrow.." is the key to Lorca's opening to Poem of the Saeta "Los arqueros oscuros/ The dark archers" and its close "pero como el amor/ los saeteros/ estan ciegos" "like love/ the archers/ are blind"

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