Friday, August 28, 2009


Haiku by Matsuo Basho, born 1644.

How reluctantly
the bee emerges from the deep
within the peony

Seen in plain daylight
the firefly's nothing but
an insect

Come out to view
the truth of flowers blooming
in poverty

Winter showers,
even the monkey searches
for a raincoat

Ungraciously, under
a great soldier's empty helmet,
a cricket sings

Sick on my journey,
only my dreams will wander
these desolate moors

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Vernian Art

We have art inspired by French author Jules Verne, who wrote, among other works, A Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1869–1870), Around the World in Eighty Days (1873), and The Mysterious Island (1875).

Jules Verne was the theme for sand sculptures at Schlitterbahn Beach Waterpark, 2003. This creation is by sculptor Dan Doubleday, photo by Amazin' Walter.

Nautilus from Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, designed by Harper Goff.

A sampling of Belgian artist François Schuiten's fabulous illustrations for Verne's Paris au XXe siècle:

In Nantes, France, home of the Jules Verne Museum, the Machines of the Isle of Nantes includes this rideable mechanical elephant inspired by both Verne and Leonardo da Vinci:

Must include Verne's grave, sculpture by Albert Roze:

~ The Illustrated Jules Verne
~ Check out the coolest Jules Verne-inspired plane -- it's made of straws, tape, thread, and sandwich wrap.
~ The Smithsonian's Jules Verne Centennial
~ The Jules Verne Festival

Friday, August 21, 2009

Drown Us In Persuasion

This week, we've got Roman philosopher-poet Titus Lucretius Carus (known also just as Lucretius). I'm not sure if I've posted any poetry older than this. He died around 50 B.C.

Here's one of the most "wow!" requests for peace I've ever read.
from The Way Things Are
by Titus Lucretius Carus, translated by Rolfe Humphries

In this piece, Lucretius is writing to the goddess Venus:

Your blessing has endowed with excellence
All ways, and always. Therefore, all the more,
Give to our book a radiance, a grace,
Brightness and candor; over land and sea,
Meanwhile, to soldiery's fierce duty bring
A slumber, an implacable repose --
Since you alone can help with tranquil peace
The human race, and Mars, the governor
Of war's fierce duty, more than once has come,
Gentled by love's eternal wound, to you,
Forgetful of his office, head bent back,
No more the roughneck, gazing up at you,
Gazing and gaping, all agog for love,
His every breath dependent on your lips.
Ah, goddess, pour yourself around him, bend
With all your body's holiness, above
His supine meekness, drown him in persuasion,
Imploring, for the Romans, blessed peace.


In another section, Lucretius vividly describes the seasons:
Autumn is one season when the starry halls
Of heaven are shaken, like our world below,
And blossoming spring is such another time.
Not winter, though, when the fires fail, and wind
Blows cold, and the clouds are meager and mean. Halfway
Between the winter and the summertime
We find, in combination, every cause
Of lightning and of thunder. Heat and cold
Mingle and clash, things are discordant, air
Seethes in a turbulence of thermal winds,
And all of this is needed for the clouds
To manufacture thunderbolts. Heat's head
Devour's cold's tail; there's spring for you, a time
Of warfare and confusion, bound to brawls.
The same in autumn, turned the other way,
Winter's raw vanguard chopping at the rear
Of summer's ragged veterans. Call such times
The foul rifts of the year, and do not be
Surprised if many and many a thunderbolt
Is then hurled loose, if skies are dark with storm,
If winds and rain are allies against fire
In wars of which no augur knows the end.


He explains how porous the world is:

...once again
I hammer home this axiom: everything
Perceived by sense is matter mixed with void.
Rocks drip with moisture in caves, and sweat breaks out
All over our bodies. We grow beards, have hair --
No only on our faces. All our food,
Distributed through the bloodstream, nourishes,
Brings growth to even our toe-nails. We can feel
Both cold and heat pass through a bowl of bronze
Or cups of gold and silver at banquet time.
And voices penetrate through walls of stone,
As odors trickle through, and heat and cold
And fire can force a passageway through iron.
Even the chain mail armament of sky
Is penetrable; through its chinks there come
Diseases from a world beyond, and storms
In earth or sky engendered make their way
To sky or earth, reciprocal; wherefore
We say once more, How porous things are!


One last bit:

Also, as years go through their revolutions
A ring wears thin under the finger's touch,
The drop of water hollows the stone, the plough
With its curving iron slowly wastes away
In the field it works; the footsteps of the people
We see wear out the paving-stones of rock
In the city streets, and at the city gates
Bronze statues show their right hands, thinner and thinner
From the touch of passers-by, through years of greeting.
We see these things worn down, diminished, only
After long lapse of time; nature denies us
The sight we need for any given moment.


When tiny salt eats into great sea cliffs,
You cannot see the process of the loss
At any given moment. Nature's work
Is done by means of particles unseen.

For more poems, visit Poetry Friday at The Boy Reader.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ah, the Louvre!

I've been fifty thousand times to the Louvre. I have copied everything in drawing, trying to understand.
~ Alberto Giacometti

Today, we aren't visiting what's IN the world-renowned museum, exactly, but paintings OF the Louvre.

Painter copying a Murillo in Le Louvre
by Louis Beroud 1912

Egyptian room and big sphynx, Le Louvre
by Guillaume Larue

The flood. Painter copying a painting in Le Louvre
by Louis Beroud 1910

Room of the 7 chimneys in Le Louvre
by Louis Beroud

Flower seller near bridge of Louvre
by Victor Gabriel Gilbert

This pastel is my exception; it is in the Louvre rather than of it. (Yes, you read that right -- this is a pastel!) Amazing!
Portrait of the Marquise de Pompadour
by Maurice-Quentin Delatour

~ Here you can see a list of virtual tours of the Louvre.
~ A history of the museum.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Nosferatu: The Face You Remember Without Having Met

Can the "weakest" among us resist the strongest? Today we're looking at the opera, Nosferatu, composed by Alva Henderson. Dana Gioia wrote the libretto (words) for the opera and he graciously agreed for me to post excerpts here on PF.

The story of Nosferatu comes from the 1922 movie of the same name, which itself was inspired by Bram Stoker's Dracula. In the opera, the character of Ellen, known for being frail of health, senses that her husband Eric will be in danger if he embarks on the journey he is planning. Despite Ellen's unease, Eric goes to visit Count Orlock (who is actually Nosferatu). In a duet with Nosferatu, Ellen fights from afar for Eric. Here's a little bit of what Nosferatu has to say:

excerpt of Duet: The Battle
By Dana Gioia

Day is only
Half of life--
Bitter hours
Of toil and strife.
But night restores
The body's ease.
Darkness cures
The soul's disease.


Count Orlock wins, but Eric is the real loser, as he goes mad:

Eric's Mad Song
By Dana Gioia

I sailed a ship
In the storm-wracked sea,
And all were drowned
Except for me.
I swam all night
Through death-cold waves
Till my shipmates called
From their sunken graves,
A lucky life for you, lad, a lucky life for you!

I fought through wars
In a barren land
Till none were left
Of my rugged band.
On a field of dead
Only I stood free.
Then a blind crow laughed
From a blasted tree,
A lucky life for you, lad, a lucky life for you!

I scaled a mountain
Of cold sharp stone.
The others fell,
And I climbed alone.
When I reached the top,
The winds were wild,
But a skull at my feet
Looked up and smiled,
A lucky life for you, lad, a lucky life for you!

Now I sit in my mansion
With my art and my gold,
And a dozen servants
Who do what they're told,
But the nights are long,
And dawn brings no cheer,
And I wake alone,
And the paintings all sneer,
A lucky life for you, lad, a lucky life for you!


Nosferatu can obviously ruin his victims' lives, but at the same time, he manages to be strangely attractive. He captures that mix of menace and temptation in this aria:

Nosferatu's Nocturne
By Dana Gioia

I am the image that darkens your glass,
The shadow that falls wherever you pass.
I am the dream you cannot forget,
The face you remember without having met.

I am the truth that must not be spoken,
The midnight vow that cannot be broken.
I am the bell that tolls out the hours.
I am the fire that warms and devours.

I am the hunger that you have denied.
The ache of desire piercing your side.
I am the sin you have never confessed.
The forbidden hand caressing your breast.

You've heard me inside you speak in your dreams,
Sigh in the ocean, whisper in streams.
I am the future you crave and you fear,
You know what I bring. Now I am here.


Why has he come? He seeks Ellen. Her husband is out of the way, so Nosferatu tries to persuade her that they were meant to be together:

Nosferatu's Vision
By Dana Gioia

You are the moon in a sunlit sky --
Pale, diminished, alone.
All of your life you have traveled toward
The night you have never known.
I am the darkness that falls from the sky,
The blackness that brings you light,
He who reveals your one true form --
Cold, eternal, and bright.


Does Ellen take him up on it? You'll have to read/see/hear the opera to find out.

~ Dana Gioia's site
~ Photos from the 1922 movie

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Fractals, Food, and Fingerprints...

This week, we have work by Nicole Dextras, Kevin Van Aelst, and Sven Geier.

Camellia Countessa
By Nicole Dextras

Cabbage Smock
By Nicole Dextras

Left Index Finger
By Kevin Van Aelst

Apple Globe
By Kevin Van Aelst

Digital Expressions of Fractals by Scientist Sven Geier
By Sven Geier

By Sven Geier

A bonus...
This week for Poetry Friday, I will be featuring excerpts from the vampire opera, Nosferatu, inspired by the 1922 movie of the same name. I like the poster from the 1979 movie a lot, so here's a link to it in all its creepy goodness.

Friday, August 7, 2009

You Took Away

Here's a haunting short work by Osip Mandelstam (1891 - 1938), translated by Clarence Brown and W. S. Merwin:

You took away all the oceans and all the room

You took away all the oceans and all the room.
You gave me my shoe-size in earth with bars around it.
Where did it get you? Nowhere.
You left me my lips, and they shape words, even in silence.

Nature in Riddle and Rhyme

Not sure how you would get permission to do this, but here's a free idea for you illustrators... Wouldn't the following poem make a marvelous picture book?

By James Reeves

I dance and dance without any feet –
This is the spell of the ripening wheat.

With never a tongue I’ve a tale to tell –
This is the meadow-grasses spell.

I give you health without any fee –
This is the spell of the apple tree.

I rhyme and riddle without any book –
This is the spell of the bubbling brook.

Without my legs I run forever –
This is the spell of the mighty river.

I fall forever and not at all –
This is the spell of the waterfall.

Without a voice I roar aloud –
This is the spell of the thunder cloud.

No button or seam has my white coat –
This is the spell of the leaping goat.

I can cheat strangers with never a word –
This is the spell of the cuckoo bird.

We have tongues in plenty but speak no names –
This is the spell of the fiery flames.

The creaking door has a spell to riddle –
I play a tune without any fiddle.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Stamp Extravaganza!

We've got our smallest art yet -- the art of postage stamps. There are so many that I got a little carried away, and I haven't even scratched the surface.

All the "Let's Dance" stamps are great. This one is by Rafael Lopez.

This famous design by Robert Indiana graced the first Love stamp in 1973.

I like Sherlock Holmes stamps:

Lord of the Rings:

Postage Stamp Bowl
By Amanda Hone

Tiger (postage stamps glued to silk)
By Hsueh Shao-Tang

~ Junior Duck Stamp program
~ Postage stamp design lesson plan
~ A collection of books and authors on postage stamps.
~ Pushing the Envelope: The Art of the Postage Stamp
~ Shakespeare Art Museum stamps