Monday, August 08, 2011

Merz Pause

Kurt Schwitters, “Merzbild 5 B (Bild rot Herz-Kirche = Picture Red Heart-Church),” 1919

Ceding to the demands of various fronts—in combo with an intended lurch “up north”—means scant writing hereabouts in the offing. I battle a recurrent malaise, being, briefly: why bother putting additional notes into the note-choked air? Why continue to agitate the existing notes with the persistence (without mollycoddle) of an amateur, that lover blind-sided by scrub jactancy of the pro? I think of Kurt Schwitters routinely carrying off the proof sheets and discards of Molling’s printers in Hannover, clenching a dog-eared sheaf under one arm, steering the bicycle with the other, scooting home to Merz away. The masturbatory relish of constructing a mountain of spunk (requiring the sawing of a hole up through to the deuxième étage). Merz growing like a coral reef, each new malleable polyp a con, a temporary brooch pinned to the white and dying substrate. Merzing “up” the banalities of commercial outrage, its refuse measured by inconsistency. Schwitters, in some Gestalt of Merz-banal, designing, too, an ad for Pelikan inks. “A consistent work of art can never refer to anything outside itself without loosening its ties to art.” Thinking one ought go dig a pit to sit in the bottom of. Cover it with deadwood and offal. Wait for the world to impinge (happily, it never will). Rereading Cormac McCarthy (All the Pretty Horses):
I wanted very much to be a person of value and I had to ask myself how this could be possible if there were not something like a soul or like a spirit that is in the life of a person and which could endure any misfortune or disfigurement and yet be no less for it. If one were to be a person of value that value could not be a condition subject to the hazards of fortune. It had to be a quality that could not change. No matter what. Long before morning I knew that what I was seeking to discover was a thing I’d always known. That all courage was a form of constancy. That it was always himself that the coward abandoned first. After this all other betrayals came easily.
      I knew that courage came with less struggle for some than for others but I believed that anyone who desired it could have it. That the desire was the thing itself. The thing itself. I could think of nothing else of which that was true.
Isn’t it the sentimental desire of language to be the “thing itself” (happily, it cannot)? McCarthy: “The world is quite ruthless in selecting between the dream and the reality, even where we will not. Between the wish and the thing the world lies waiting.” A riot of impingement: what’s culled or discarded that one might claim a transient spell of “meaning.” (Or talk oneself into a nether patch, a region of imprecision and languor, mote-sized particulates, the duff of meaning ascending in sun-shafts “up” off the piney floor, oceanic noises descending “down” out of the branch-sway: a region of continuous exchange, the world’s circular breathing.) Eugène Delacroix (out of the Journal):
The precise quality that renders the sketch the highest expression of the idea is not the suppression of details, but their subordination to the great sweeping lines that come before everything else in making the impression. The greatest difficulty therefore, when it comes to tackling the picture, is this subordination of details which, nevertheless, make up the composition and are the very warp and weft of the picture itself.
My malaise: how obligingly and unexpunctably a note—a reading—makes itself sourly pertinent to the current “era.” Think of, say, Ron Silliman’s “sketch” for The Alphabet (that “sketch” being nothing, apparently, beyond that of the conventional sequence of the alphabet itself, Silliman noting only “what I knew was the sections would have to differ one from the other and fit into a larger intuitive logic” and that “there are no great diagrams hidden in the archives anywhere that shows the plot of the poem . . . I’m working it out as I go along”). So that, buttering my morning toast with the Journal juste à côté, I butter my own thumb at how aptly the nineteenth century Delacroix critiques (23 April 1854) Silliman’s project:
A picture built up bit by bit with pieces of patchwork, each separate piece carefully finished and neatly placed beside the rest, will look like a masterpiece and the very height of skill as long as it is unfinished; as long, that is to say, as the ground is not covered, for to painters who complete every detail as they place it on the canvas, finishing means covering the whole of that canvas. As you watch a work of this type proceeding so smoothly, and those details that seem all the more interesting because you have nothing else to admire, you involuntarily feel a rather empty astonishment, but when the last touch has been added, with the architect of this agglomeration of separate details has placed the topmost pinnacle of his motley edifice in position and has said his final word, you see nothing but blanks or overcrowding, an assemblage without order of any kind. The interest given to each separate object is lost in the general confusion, and an execution that seemed precise and suitable becomes dryness itself because of the total absence of sacrifices.
Endless accumulatory utterance, a kind of Merz. To Silliman’s credit: the rather late-emerging announcement that The Alphabet makes up only one part of some proposed larger structure, apparently called Ketjak (“a single poem or lifework”) seems to indicate Silliman’s own sense that mere end-stopped assemblage fails, and must needs be contrived as a “form of constancy,” the putting of endless notes “into the note-choked air.” Delacroix the next day (24 April 1854): “I here affirm my preference for short, concise books that do not tire the reader, because they have not tired their authors, etc.”

Kurt Schwitters, “Das Undbild (The And-Picture),” 1919

Kurt Schwitters, “Merz 163,” 1920

Kurt Schwitters, “Merz 133,” 1921

Kurt Schwitters, 1887-1948

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Julian T. Brolaski’s gowanus atropolis

The other day I caught a YouTube’d Rahsaan Roland Kirk barking out a thing about making a sound, with, he says—the mischief of it palpably tongued—“climaxical (or maybe climaxiple) force.” Damn. Had to write that word out in its versions, and screw up my eyghen obtykes at that word. Had to work the very cud of that word like a ruminant undeterred by the bevy of green-bottled flies . . . and try it out every hwælch weg with my toongue. Ah, materiality, foist (meaning, d’abord), ought be that fun. Even though it border the fey. Or camps it up to the Nth. That’s the kind of thing I think looking at Julian T. Brolaski’s gowanus atropolis (Ugly Duckling, 2011). For there, forsooth, lines like “xe is my enemigma / & shall endure all my privlege // sconced hilt orr rod dilf / you may check me tomorrow” (out of “what ys my anatomie”) and “my present page             in l-l-livery // liminal             ack             posserity // divest by number” (out of “buried at sinrise”) and “todo el tiempo quelque new atrocity / met w/ flies” (“the pit of tutivillus”) and
wanton until noon
wel cd they speke englysshe

polymorphously, it’s the juice
n I stand by my ambivalent sidekick

beat up for being the wrong kind of pretty
outlander skeeters suck after
                        (“to be kush is not to be chronic”)
Beyond “materiality,” isn’t there, too, in Brolaski, an insistently inventing cusp of “homotextual” lingo? John Shoptaw’s slippery term, referring to texts liable to “‘behave’ differently, no matter what their subject.” Texts full of “distortions, evasions, omissions, obscurities, and discontinuities.” Shoptaw points to Ashbery’s “trademark ‘it’ . . . as a neuter-gendered homotextual signpost.” I use it here to point, too, to Brolaski’s relentless neologick’d teasing of supposed grammatical certainties, a kind of continual on the fly making of new temporary structures. Brolaski (“what ys my anatomie”):
one ynvents a grammatical order
                (& haf done)

tromp loy ramshacklry
Look how that “ynventing” is both something one “haf”—long s reading, has done—and is—phonetic reading—half-done, never wholly completed. And how such “ramshacklry” is both deceiving, an illusory surface—“trompe l’œil”—and, French in its versions throwing off sparks, result of “wronging” the law (French, loi), a tromp’d down law. The fury of signifiance here, exfoliant in a phrase, is a direct result of Brolaski’s pliable, malleable lingo.

I recall, reading gowanus atropolis, days back in the hetero-norm of my youth, wondering at something like O’Hara’s “cold in the dull heavens, / drowned in flesh, / it’s the night like I love it all cruisy and nelly / finger fan of boskage fronds the white smile of sleeps” (“Easter”) or “when the Vitalità nell’ arte catalog came in the mail I laughed / thinking it was Perspectives USA but it wasn’t it / was vitality nellie arty ho ho that’s a joke pop” (“Biotherm”)—thinking I’d likely missed something there (like the joke). Danger of cleaving to the lordliness of one’s own idiolect, or milieu. Though I think of Robert Motherwell’s adages in a letter to O’Hara (18 August 1965):
The problems of inventing a new language are staggering. But what else can one do if one needs to express one’s feeling precisely?

It is the effort to respect one’s feelings, one’s integrity that leads to radical notions. No revolutionary was ever one for the hell of it: it is too painful a condition. But the pain is eased by its inevitability, given a real problem.
I think of O’Hara, too, in the way Brolaski is capable of high-speed register shifts, the sudden thrilling amp up to the blunt:
if s/o is making a mockery
& yew liable to get thwarted
one needs a quiet room
who hands out thir fucking pronoun paradigm at parties??!!
                        (“if s/one is mocking let it be tender”)
(Who said of O’Hara that he’d’ve likely found gay liberation “silly . . . but he would have loved the dances”?) Brolaski’s “pronoun paradigm”: a wholly unstable “crew” of available pronouns beyond the “usual”—xe, hir, xem, em, thir, es (one piece accuses the mercenary force now known as Xe Services: “blackwater stole my pronoun”: “one can be in a abîme, complete ruin / as jwlhyfer observd / once you start fucking in the bed / the relationship’s over”). Here’s Brolaski’s taut “Poetics” statement (at Elective Affinities):
My recent work explores etymology as a potential path to knowledge, whereby (to paraphrase Marx) to be radical is to go to the root of the problem. It is also partly an argument for a malleable lexicon: alternative spellings, macaronics, and third gender / gender neutral pronouns: xe, sie, ze, zie, e, ey, they (etc.) in English, li in French, ey in Spanish, etc. This is not wholly neologistic work, at least for English, which has always utilized a great many pronouns, but a way of articulating the legibility of trans & gender variant persons who might fall through the cracks of the binary. I would also consider this a queer poetics that privileges wandering over telos. My studies in linguistics, medieval literature and Apache song tradition also infiltrate my lyric which may manifest (typographically) as prose or verse but is always wanting to be capable of being sung.
That lovely awkwardness of “always wanting to be capable of being sung” evident in something like the opening to “gotham in arrears”:
since one immured is not forgot
I let a pansy wilt for rot

and vowed the banker’s misunderstood
what crowned the leafy bray of cottonwood
let all the trim gone daisies
be forgot. let bloodbaths
fill the dailies
Evidence both of Brolaski’s adhering to the contemporary (its works and days, its ways and disasters—one reads “tech support in tatters” and “awash in petrodollars” and “alphalegions to the max” and “you think it’s music but it’s like lilies when they fester / all ovular moonlight tusking the apparatus” and “the bees are up to their knees / in a noxious nectar” and, in a poem (“fin city”) “for Sludgie,” the minke whale calf that died in 2007, disoriented in Gowanus Bay, “these itinerant times / one’ yukked getting / toxicity”) and the casualness with which he’s capable of tossing down lyric swetes in unstudy’d English Lit. mimic mode (“last swan of avon”):
socalled swan of avon
n/t but a beaurocrat
buggering the buttercups
goy from the waist up

now soldiers’re the ones making offers
and fucking caravaggio posters . . .
A Brolaski poem complete, rather randomly plucked:
opticianry in yorkville

like the ramble
carl schurz park’s

famed for

trimmed by giuliani
not not getting some

the barber tells me
I dabble in opticianry

selly maillarde
blindies near the board

to the putch
hir shutterybuggery

millefeuille herm
& goat at the ends of mannahatta

attributed to plutarch

who believes
in parallel lives

autobulus and ammonius
pithy delphic

all spyes for the metropolis
its edge

androgundd tompeepery
                  —suuu’eh! greekish-roman
Is it the hog-calling finale? Here it’s Guy Davenport I think of, the revved up vocab, the sex-hint indelibles. How one thinks he’d admire a solid Anglo-Saxon word like “putch”—no other (meaning, all other) meanings forthcoming. Putch (out of pitch), “to thrust a pointed instrument into or through (a solid body), to stab, run through, pierce.” Putch (out of pouch), “a small bag or sack used for carrying personal items, a (detachable) pocket worn outside a garment.” Putch (out of putsch), “an attempt to overthrow a government by violent means, an insurrection or coup d’état.” Climaxiple delights.

Julian T. Brolaski
(Photograph by Scott Hightower)

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Glut and Rubble


Glut partout, with its outrider uneasiness, its chum loss of focus. Evening of pawing “at” one book after another, a dog discontented with its lot, the whole backyard filled up with chewed up and discarded bones.
“What did you say?”
“I said: Fantômas.”
“And what does that mean?”
“Nothing. . . . Everything!”
“But what is it?”
“Nobody. . . . And yet, yes, it is somebody!”
“And what does the somebody do?
“Spreads terror!”
The whole history of the twenty-first century there in a brusque exchange of a century ago, opening salvo of the “two inspired hacks” (John Ashbery) Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre’s Fantômas (1911). The empty signifier filling with the blood-stained gauze of the desire (fear) that obstructs the sight the eyes it intends to mend. (Ashbery, rather mystified by the success of the series—“The prose, the plots, the personages of what has come to be known as the geste de Fantômas were constructed of the requisite industrial-strength fustian”—points to a famous engraving by Félicien Rops, “Satan Sowing Tares,” suggesting that Gino Starace’s lurid cover for the initial Fantômas owed it a nod.) Agreed on both counts.

Severo Sarduy (Christ on the Rue Jacob) in the Beckett-echo (“Texts for Nothing”:
      Writing is useless. It does nothing to rescue those who are swept away by a sea of lava, who lie already beneath that stone.
      Writing and the rest. A lesson in the ephemeral for anyone who looks helplessly at those bodies covered with mud, shielded, asphyxiated by a scab that slowly hardens, marble-white hair, blood-drained faces. Vomited by the earth, the water, black with coal and ash, rises until it suffocates the pale praying mouth, their sex organs ripped off with one stroke.
      In the face of these passing images, a healthy divertissement is the diligent threading of words, aligning them precisely and rhythmically: absurd hobby of the idle, benign vice of the unemployed.
      Blink your eyes, string a phrase together, and an entire city has been buried, every sleeping citizen petrified, the children hugging their toys, their dogs: porous statues of larva.
      Writing presumes a lack of awareness, or slight irresponsibility, on the part of the one who forgets or wades while, caught in the magma, the precipitous shroud solidifying around her, a little girl asks her mother to pray.
(Beckett, out of “Texts for Nothing” #4: “The truth is he’s looking for me to kill me, to have me dead like him, dead like the living. He knows all that, but it’s no help his knowing it, I don’t know it, I know nothing. He protests he doesn’t reason and does nothing but reason, crooked, as if that could improve matters. He thinks words fail him, he thinks because words fail him he’s on his way to my speechlessness, to being speechless with my speechlessness, he would like it to be my fault that words fail him, of course words fail him. He tells his story every five minutes, saying it is not his, there’s cleverness for you. He would like it to be my fault that he has no story, of course he has no story, that’s no reason for trying to foist one on me.”) Backhandedly akin to a squib of Rilke’s (“Memory”):
I repeat: I find it quite comprehensible that those who have to depend entirely upon themselves, upon their own life’s usefulness and bearableness, should feel a certain relief, if there is induced in them a spiritual nausea which enables them to rid themselves piece-wise of the misunderstandings and indigestible experiences of their childhood. But I? Am I not, indeed, born to form angels, things, animals, if need be, monsters, precisely in connexion with such experiences, which were beyond experiencing, were too big, too premature, too horrible?
How’d Clark Coolidge put it in “Arrangement,” propping the phenomenal smear up with Heraclitus? “The most beautiful world is like a heap of rubble tossed down in confusion.” Or there’s Blake’s letter to the Reverend D. Trusler (23 August 1799):
I perceive that your Eye[s] is perverted by Caricature Prints, which ought not to abound so much as they do. Fun I love, but too much Fun is of all things the most loathsome. Mirth is better than Fun, & Happiness is better than Mirth—I feel that a Man may be happy in This World. And I know that This World is a World of Imagination & Vision I see Every thing I paint In This World, but Every body does not see alike. To the Eyes of a Miser a Guinea is more beautiful than the Sun, & a bag worn with the use of Money has more beautiful proportions than a Vine filled with Grapes. The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the Eyes of others only a Green thing that stands in the way. Some See Nature all Ridicule & Deformity & by these I shall not regulate my proportions, & Some Scarce see Nature at all But to the Eyes of the Man of Imagination Nature is Imagination itself. As a man is So he Sees. As the Eye is formed such are its Powers You certainly Mistake when you say that the Visions of Fancy are not to be found in This World.
“As a man is So he Sees.” So that one in the unforced perusal of the hardly abstruse, the pilings up and tossings down, one comes to think of James Tate’s 1979 “Goodtime Jesus” as being “in cahoots with” Gertrude Stein’s 1935 “Mark Twain Centenary”:
Goodtime Jesus

Jesus got up one day a little later than usual. He had been dreaming so deep there was nothing left in his head. What was it? A nightmare, dead bodies walking all around him, eyes rolled back, skin falling off. But he wasn’t afraid of that. It was a beautiful day. How ’bout some coffee? Don’t mind if I do. Take a little ride on my donkey, I love that donkey. Hell, I love everybody.
Mark Twain Centenary

Mark Twain did a great many things and everything he did was all he did and he did make a dead man dead. I think he was the first man to ever do that and it was a great American thing to do.
Stein’s never at a loss for words. She says (“Emp Lace”): “Eight o’clock. / Rubbish.” She says: “Eight o’clock pussish. / Eight o’clock radish. / Eight o’clock and a lump.” A Heraclitean lump.

Félicien Rops, “Satan Sowing Tares,” 1906

Fantômas, 1911
(Cover by Gino Starace)

Monday, August 01, 2011

Reading Notes (The Journals of Grace Hartigan, 1951-1955)

Grace Hartigan, “Frank O’Hara, 1926-1966,” 1966

Something Grace Hartigan copied down 11 November 1952 (out of The Journals of Grace Hartigan, 1951-1955), a few lines of Frank O’Hara’s “essay” (Hartigan’s word—“a tremendous work & I’m not sure I deserve it”) called “Hartigan on Sunday, 1952”:
Do you remember in far December how the spokes glittered and wheeled and promised? I fainted near the door, knowing I was you and you disappeared in charge of the currency which had risen, had fallen, on your own sable brow. Could you have meant less, could you have trapped me and forgiven me, could you have relented and freed me? Is that the meaning of these faces in your eyes, the same faces though infinitely varied and colored and hung?
Writ, seemingly, between, say, “Day and Night in 1952” (“Grace may secretly distrust me but we are both so close to the abyss that we must see a lot of each other, grinning and carrying on as if it were a picnic given by somebody’s else’s church”) and “Hieronymus Bosch” (“So he has a funnel instead of a penis / and has put his mediaeval pianist’s hands / on the thighs of a contemporary romance / listening to Brubeck at Birdland. It’s just / too very very.”) Is “Hartigan on Sunday, 1952” lost? Not in Art Chronicles, 1954-1966. Not in What’s With Modern Art? Not in Standing Still and Walking in New York. Took by the fragmentary, its lyrical (nigh Tin Pan Alley lyrical in that remember / December ambuscade) pith. (Think of a scanty O’Hara, kin to how we know, say, Anakreon, or Sappho’s lover Alkaios of Mytilene, through some little picklings of Greek somebody copied out “for personal use only.”) I am “took,” too, by the itch for a lyric criticism (see, something like O’Hara’s hugger-muggery about “the 1958 series of gouaches” in “Growth and Guston,” how the “larger (in scale) and brighter forms . . . pose, stand indecisively, push each other and declaim: they are all purposefully directed and prepared to play subtle comic or mock-histrionic roles in scenes which may have the flooding delicacy of a light-jell or the density of a back-drop”).

Ah, morning becomes disjecta membra. My supposed recovery of an authentic O’Hara fragment a botch. Thumbing Poems Retrieved I find it is “merely” a speech—by “George,” that is, by Hartigan’s nom de brosse—out of O’Hara’s “Grace and George, An Eclogue.” Opening:
Grace and George are showing themselves some scenery and history. The Alps are rising under them like escalators and their blonde hair is tossing in the waves of an advancing sea of problems which, having been faced yesterday, seem only to have grown bolder. They have a very sweet attitude toward each other as if to say, “Well here we are,” which however you will never hear that pair say, not if you listen by the hundreds.
Phooey. I’d intended to patch O’Hara’s lyrical art writing against an early rare Robert Motherwell outburst (out of the 1949 “Preliminary Notice to Marcel Raymond, From Baudelaire to Surrealism,” in the Collected Writings), after quoting Baudelaire (“The arts aspire, if not to complement one another, at least to lend one another new energies”):
A weakness of modernist painting nowadays, especially prevalent in the ‘constructivist’ tradition, is inherent in taking over or inventing ‘abstract' forms insufficiently rooted in the concrete, in the world of feeling where art originates . . .
And: “True painters disdain ‘literature’ in painting. It is an error to disdain literature itself. Plainly, painting’s structure is sufficiently expressive of feelings, of feelings far more subtle and ‘true’ to our being than those representing or reinforcing anecdotes; but true poetry is no more anecdotal than painting. Perhaps the ‘plasticity’ that we painters so admire is no less than the poetry of visual relations.” Whereat Motherwell, in seeming hommage to such a disclosure lighting up within, offers a kind of prose poem:
The miners’ graveyard. Beyond, the town’s ruins, burnt sienna, pink, yellow ochre—arid and clear in the distance, as the hill towns of Italy. Here silent monuments of the past rest, in white October sun, wind sweeping from the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Crystal light! Vertical personages gaping, a broken grave. Here, too, in the midst of gold and silver, there were yearnings for the word, but what confusions! Jenny Lind, the Great Patti, Mark Twain, General Tom Thumb, Uncle Tom’s Cabin companies. As with French poets, desire for the sensuous “new.” Dragged up the mountains from California in eight-span wagons, wood, to construct French baroque mansions. Glass chandeliers from Vienna. But the desert air is white, Mallarmé’s swan.
(Writ, apparently, in Virginia City, Nevada, where Motherwell’d travelled to divorce the Mexican actress María Emilia Ferreira y Moyers: source of the motifs à l’ouest?)

Hartigan quoting O’Hara’s “Second Avenue” lines—“. . . and when the pressure asphyxiates and inflames, Grace destroys / the whirling faces in their dissonant gaiety where it’s anxious, / lifted nasally to the heavens which is a carrousel grinning / and spasmodically obliterated with loaves of greasy white paint / and this becomes like love to her, is what I desire / and what you, to be able to throw something away without yawning / ‘Oh Leaves of Grass! o Sylvette! oh Basket Weavers’ Conference!’ / and thus make good our promise to destroy something but not us.” Moving, in the context of Hartigan’s notes full of floundering, uncertainty, reworking. (She quotes, too, a comment of O’Hara’s regarding “the danger of painting from experience (or observation) instead of talent of style.”)

Some late entries (The Journals of Grace Hartigan, 1951-1955):
I think what I feel for is the point where the paint seems to resist me, to come from the canvas outwards instead of being “layed on.” I work slowly until things seem to become inevitable, and then it all speeds up so fast I can hardly put it down. Perhaps my sphere of interest or “subject material” could be called “façade,” the empty gesture, the dead ritual, the costume, the mask. Painting is not putting on a mask but taking it off.

[Recalling O’Hara’s insistence at the end of “In Memory of My Feelings” regarding “the scene of my selves, the occasion of these ruses”: “which I myself and singly must now kill / and save the serpent in their midst”?]

I am reading Flaubert’s letters . . . The one to du Camp on success seems so acute—“‘To be known’—is not my chief concern—that can give complete gratification only to very mediocre vanities. Besides, is there ever any certainty about this? Even the most widespread fame leaves one longing for more, and seldom does anyone but a fool die sure of his own reputation. Fame, therefore, can no more serve you as a gauge of your own worth than obscurity.—

I am aiming at something better—to please myself. Success seems to me a result, not a goal.”

I have been dissatisfied with my work lately. Not only don’t I work enough, but the Daisy [Aldan] & Olga [Petroff] picture see to me to be thin, and not to have enough excess in it. Flaubert says some things about this in a letter to Louise Colet—“. . . you can judge the excellence of a book by the strength of its punches and the time it takes you to recover from them. And then the excesses of the great masters! They pursue an idea to its furthermost limits. In Molière’s Monsieur de Pourceaugnac that is a question of giving a man an enema, and a whole troop of actors carrying syringes pour down the aisles of the theatre. Michelangelo’s figures have cables rather than muscles; in Rubens’s bacchanalian scenes men piss on the ground;—I think that the greatest characteristic of genius is, above all, energy. Hence, what I detest most of all in the arts, what sets me on edge, is the ingenious, the clever. This is not at all the same as bad taste, which is a good quality gone wrong. In order to have what is called bad taste, you must have a sense for poetry; whereas cleverness, on the contrary, is incompatible with genuine poetry.”

Aug. 11 [1954, at Fairfield Porter’s house in Southampton]
Frank said to-day he thought we were the opposite of the previous generation who left the distractions of the city in order to be alone with themselves & their work in the country.

On the contrary there seem to be so many diversions out here, even to lying in the sun and turning over—I think I won’t get anything done until I return to NY. Nature, if you love her very much, is infinite in her diversions.

Dec. 7 [1954]
All through the ages artists have either been pulling art all apart or putting it back to-gether again. It seems as though we I have to put it to-gether—that makes us me a classicists, I guess. It’s a sometimes unfortunate position for one of a revolutionary temperament.

One of the reasons for Cézanne’s greatness is that he not only put art all to-gether again after the impressionists, but he gave all the clues for a future tearing apart—the cubists.

Feb 9th [1955]
To make a virtue out of mediocrity seems to me a most horrific kind of daring, like a beggar showing his sores for pity and profit.

Grace Hartigan and Frank O’Hara