Lickona Young & Old

Read: nobody reads any more, but here’s a once-famous guy whose life — hard-drinking, hard-loving, full of shooting and explosions, capped off with pills, depression, electroshock therapy, and suicide — makes for good TV.

Tulips Sans Chimneys

Tulips for Elsie cover image

Mr. Potter’s given us a bold adventurous book with plenty of sharp turns at high speed, with some gestures toward Neruda and Merwin but also “Sk8,” a gr8 skateboarding poem, and sonnets, and brave ventures into rhymed verse, poems for friends and relatives, “Stopping by Blogs on a Frosty Evening,” and poems of passionate love with angels looking down from above. Plus tulips and Elsie. —Garrison Keillor

I have enjoyed the company of Jonathan Potter’s poetry for years and rejoice at the arrival of this new collection with its unabashed delight, authentic intimacy, and emotionally convincing, often playful music. Potter is at turns a graceful, organic monologist and a wry, deft formalist. These are poems of generous mythmaking, self-deprecating humor, passion, and the glories of fatherhood. They inhabit a Seattle of historical icons and the poet’s own skateboarding youth, a London of “tidy grime” and love, and the derelict and divine streets and poetry community and waterfall of Spokane, this poet’s answer to Williams’ Paterson. By the time Potter wishes he could “become myself with vengeance / and take you with me,” he has done both. —Jonathan Johnson

In an era of poetry that plumbs humanity’s darker depths, it is a pleasant respite to read Jonathan Potter’s Tulips for Elsie, a collection that wears its pathos and its prosody lightly as it confronts life’s familiar concerns—love, sex, family life, and his beloved native place (Spokane, Washington)— with full-bodied affection and gentle irony. Many poems here are sonnets—not just Petrarchan or Shakespearean but also Onegin stanzas!—yet Potter makes rhyming in these conversationally-toned fourteeners look effortless. Particularly engaging are the portrait sonnets featuring poets and writers associated with Spokane (Alexie, Howell, Walter among them), the longer poems about the poet’s lively and accomplished daughters, and the poetic palimpsests replying to or parodying well-known classics. By the time we finish reading, we may feel ourselves, with the poet, to have “co-authored  . . . a beautiful book of longing.” —Carolyne Wright

‘… His Sepulchre Shall Be Glorious.’

From the Armadio degli Argenti of Blessed John of Fiesole, OP (Fra Angelico), c. 1450

In that day the root of Jesse, who stands for an ensign of the people, him the Gentiles shall beseech, and his sepulchre shall be glorious.’

Isaiah 11: 10

‘Let Him Not Lose What He So Dear Hath Bought.’

From Cell 25 of the Convent of San Marco, by Blessed John of Fiesole, OP (Fra Angelico), 15th Century

Think on the very làmentable pain,

Think on the piteous cross of woeful Christ,

Think on His blood beat out at every vein,

Think on His precious heart carvèd in twain,

Think how for thy redemption all was wrought:

Let Him not lose what He so dear hath bought.

–Pico della Mirandola (translated by St Thomas More)

‘… He Shall Be Led as a Sheep to the Slaughter …’

From the Armadio degli Argenti of Blessed John of Fiesole, OP (Fra Angelico), c. 1450

‘He was offered because it was his own will, and he opened not his mouth: he shall be led as a sheep to the slaughter, and shall be dumb as a lamb before his shearer, and he shall not open his mouth.’

Isaiah 53: 7

Darkness

 

From the Dominican Office of Tenebrae (‘Darkness’) for Good Friday, A.D. 2009, at Blackfriars, Oxford.

The text for this portion of the service is the Benedictus, or Canticle of Zechariah. Though this canticle, comprising Luke 1:68-79, is part of the Church’s morning prayer every day of the year (at the hour of Lauds), it has a special resonance on these days.

Because of the compassionate kindness of our God,
the dawn from on high shall break upon u
s

To shine on those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
to guide our feet in the way of peace.

‘…My Victim, Which I Slay for You…’

From the Armadio degli Argenti of Blessed John of Fiesole, OP (Fra Angelico), c. 1450

‘Assemble yourselves, make haste, come together from every side to my victim, which I slay for you, a great victim upon the mountains of Israel: to eat flesh, and drink blood.’

Ezekiel 39:17

A Timely Passage from A Tale of Two Cities

Far and wide lay a ruined country, yielding nothing but desolation. Every green leaf, every blade of grass and blade of grain, was as shrivelled and poor as the miserable people. Everything was bowed down, dejected, oppressed, and broken. Habitations, fences, domesticated animals, men, women, children, and the soil that bore them—all worn out. Monseigneur (often a most worthy individual gentleman) was a national blessing, gave a chivalrous tone to things, was a polite example of luxurious and shining life, and a great deal more to equal purpose; nevertheless, Monseigneur as a class had, somehow or other, brought things to this. Strange that Creation, designed expressly for Monseigneur, should be so soon wrung dry and squeezed out! There must be something short-sighted in the eternal arrangements, surely! Thus it was, however; and the last drop of blood having been extracted from the flints, and the last screw of the rack having been turned so often that its purchase crumbled, and it now turned and turned with nothing to bite, Monseigneur began to run away from a phenomenon so low and unaccountable. But, this was not the change on the village, and on many a village like it. For scores of years gone by, Monseigneur had squeezed it and wrung it, and had seldom graced it with his presence except for the pleasures of the chase—now, found in hunting the people; now, found in hunting the beasts, for whose preservation Monseigneur made edifying spaces of barbarous and barren wilderness. No. The change consisted in the appearance of strange faces of low caste, rather than in the disappearance of the high caste, chiselled, and otherwise beautified and beautifying features of Monseigneur.

Just give me one thing that I can hold onto

From Fiona Whelan Prine…

Our beloved John died yesterday evening at Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville TN. We have no words to describe the grief our family is experiencing at this time. John was the love of my life and adored by our sons Jody, Jack and Tommy, daughter in law Fanny, and by our grandchildren.

John contracted Covid-19 and in spite of the incredible skill and care of his medical team at Vanderbilt he could not overcome the damage this virus inflicted on his body.

I sat with John – who was deeply sedated- in the hours before he passed and will be forever grateful for that opportunity. My dearest wish is that people of all ages take this virus seriously and follow guidelines set by the CDC. We send our condolences and love to the thousands of other American families who are grieving the loss of loved ones at this time – and to so many other families across the world.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the outpouring of love we have received from family, friends, and fans all over the world. John will be so missed but he will continue to comfort us with his words and music and the gifts of kindness, humor and love he left for all of us to share.

In lieu of flowers or gifts at this time we would ask that a donation be made to one of the following non profits:

thistlefarms.org

roomintheinn.org

nashvillerescuemission.org

“Quel Giorno Più Non Vi Leggemmo Avante.”

                          —Inferno V.138

We lean above the book and fateful page
    And lean into its words. You speak. I hear
    The husked seeds split, and they bleed down the page:
You tuck a strand of hair behind your ear
    And strings that knit the constellations twinge
    Like mandolins beneath the earth —so near
Commingled shade and soil to unhinge
    The grave; yet far as moonlight in a pond
    That blinks with nightjars rippled on the wing.
Though grassy spring now shimmers green with frond
    And shoot within your eyes, your beauty stares
    From violet shadow, Cimmerian, beyond
The swallowed source of bowered light that flares
    Within your eyes. They tear my heart away
    With a single glance. Eurydice wears
Your smile — anticipating hope, yet fey
    As autumn apples dropping from their limbs
    Will roll, gather into gullies, and lay
In wait: a sudden winter rain floods and brims
    The world in multiples of fallen time,
    The same that fuel in sullen throb the hymns
Of Orpheus, hemorrhaging grief in rhyme.
    But different tunes ignite our desire’s root –
    Their trace, emerging vines that merge and climb
The walls within the halls of Hades. Mute
    And vanished as night, yet here you remain
    A muse that breathes her fire upon a flute:
The pomegranate and its crimson stain
    Upon your lips, at dawn, upon my lips —
    Yet I am sure of nothing but the train
Of Venus, gown of ebony which strips
    This morning’s meaning, held out as a gift.
    My tongue takes these words as one, but trips
Upon your name. I hear each quench and sift
    It murmurs, blown upon the wind, and us
    With it, now bound by cords, now set adrift,
Regret our only landfall, tremulous
    Desire our only compass – this final page,
    The desperate map that charts us in our loss.
You arch your back and lean into the page
    Again, again I dare to lean as near —
    And further — but no farther than this page,
The compass needle driving through the air.

Must See

“This footage has been around for 100 years and these men had been buried behind a fog of damage, a mask of grain and jerkiness and sped-up film. Once restored, it’s the human aspect that you gain the most.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/16/movies/peter-jackson-war-movie.html

The Secret of Phantom Lake

(To the tune Identikit, by Radiohead)

Our country club was one tennis court
in the middle of a marsh,

and a large, rectangular pool

doubling a small, moon-shaped lake,
whose surface was always as black

as cannonballs stacked in the sun.

The girl was saved from drowning
in the deep end under the diving boards,

as I ran back and forth along the edge,

dripping dry, nothing to assuage
my guilt choking on action

even as it tried to swallow inaction.

Anger, that dispels all phantoms
and then creates more of its own.

To have a will as clear as water
without urine and chlorine.

Next morning, steam rose from the lake,

pieces of a ragdoll mankind,
that we can create, that we can create

as witnessed by reeds and cattails.

I.N.R.I.

INRI

A rough quiet was universal in the grain,
The world was sunk with a thud in its post-hole,
The land planed smooth with a dead calm
On a length of rude wood. This somber season
          Lends itself to bare scenes
          Seen in bone white of moon.
Sorrow’s sisters, the winter constellations
Sink below spring’s crowned horizons
To lend the cruel thorn of remembrance to time
As old cares cease with cold easterlies
          Like history’s cessation itself.
Seasons hewn down and lumbered out,
          These ordinary passages
          Are timbered to mean less with knowledge.
          And so, drawing us close to a return
          From exile, our souls, sand blasted
          In desert treks, are polished like bone
To dry exultations. Cuttings and witherings
Are tossed to burn, texts of ash on our tongues.
          —It is the loneliest madness to know.
          And yet, even as the moon rises,
          Dividing the sea up in a surge,
          So, too, the huge will of the eternal
          Will interpolate exalted
Histories, bitterly salted, old and new,
With nature dethroned, denuded as never before
And man besieged, bereft as never again.
          So, our wills now testify to deserts
          Our minds return to wilderness
Our hearts hold crossed-lengths of wood
Blood-soaked in a single word saying,
          “All time is made minion of
          The rising horror of love, love
          Risen once in a creak of wood
          Rising ever in a darkened sky
          Risen again, in the closing book,
          Rising ever in the suffering eye.”
So we give up the world’s passions
For one passion. And naked thus we pray:
                We will drink not now to drink no more
                We will eat not now to eat no more
                We will feast not now to eat and drink forever.

“Natural order? You sound like one of those insane Neo-Catholics.”

Altered-Carbon-2

…is an actual line of dialogue from Altered Carbon, Netflix’s dense and gorgeous sci-fi series about life after death has been digitally defeated. Consciousness has been codified, so you can get “spun up” into a new bodily “sleeve” for all eternity — provided you have the means. But wouldn’t you know it, there’s this weird bunch of religious zealots who object — who make noises about soul and body having more to do with each other than ghost and machine, who think it devilish to deny death and what comes after. Who make noises about human dignity. Remarkable.

It’s chock full of sex and violence, and the dialogue isn’t always the strongest, and the acting isn’t always spot-on. But there’s a lot there, and I’m kinda fascinated. It’d be fun to see some smart Catholic critic dig into it. Heh.

Hostiles

A very good movie, which reminded me a little of (the also very good) Meek’s Cutoff in its consideration of the mutual antagonism between Native Americans and White Settlers. The year is 1892, and the now safely united US government has all but finished clearing the way for westward expansion. Captain Joseph Blocker, who has himself done a fair amount of this clearing, has now been tasked with escorting a former adversary, Cheyanne Chief Yellow Hawk, from a fort in New Mexico Territory to the Chief’s ancestral lands in the newly created state of Montana. Violence ensues and then recurs like bad spells of the weather, meted out by both the U.S. Army and what Native warriors remain. Though, interestingly enough, not between Chief Yellow Hawk and Blocker, who need one another to fight other hostiles, Native American and Caucasian alike.

The friend with whom I watched it praised the movie for its story of a man growing beyond the racism with which he performed his duty to clear the territories by subjugating or killing people he refers to as “savages”. I saw that, but what interested me more was the way the knife’s edge between sanity and insanity was even sharper than that between violence and peace. In the end I decided that it was because of Blocker’s stubborn insistence on sanity that he is able to rise above the genocidal racism by which he has fought, and lay claim to the humanity he’ll need away from the battlefield. Uniformly well acted, especially by Christian Bale, and director Scott Cooper’s best yet.

Dreams

It is, of course, common internet knowledge that bitches love mixtapes.

19323566

But dudes like mixtapes too. I know, because The Wife made one for me early on in the whole “she loves me/she loves me not” stage of things. Side A was titled “From love’s first fever…”; Side B, “…to her flame.” (A nice tweak on Dylan Thomas.) First song on Side B was “Dreams” by The Cranberries. (This was before it got used in every film trailer ever.) It was enough to give a young swain hope that he was not a swain in vain.

Anyway, it’s part of our history, and I was sad to hear of lead singer Dolores O’Riordan’s death.

Gerasene ’17: The Kollektiv at Notre Dame

4a52b04c-9854-4f8d-857b-c68d95a89614-002[Image: the Mississippi gravesite of Senator LeRoy Percy, Walker Percy’s uncle.]

CONFIRMED: Two [hopefully three] members of the Korrektiv as panelists at this summer’s Trying to Say “God”: Re-enchanting Catholic Literature, June 22-24 at the University of Notre Dame. Rally, Korrektiv, rally!

More Violent Protests by Angry College Students

bob pic

Sure, they’re not overturning cars yet – but just you wait until they get their rosaries in women’s ovaries. Then it will be all over!

Full story about these anti-women, anti-choice terrorists here.

(And watch that sassy Barbara O’Brien lassie in particular (yeah right – that’s her real name!) – she’s probably hiding a pressure cooker bomb behind that placard she’s holding – and getting ready to set fire to cop cars to boot!)