Category: non-fashion musings

john ashbery some trees new york school poet poem poetry

John Ashbery

John Ashbery

Today’s poet of the day is John Ashbery, who passed away Sunday at age 90.

I am so sad I never got to meet him. He was one of my favourite poets of all time, and he’s the reason for my love of all New York School poetry.

john Ashbery’s poem ‘Some Trees‘ is one of the most amazing works of modern poetry. Although I talked about it in the linked post, I wanted to revisit this beautiful poem. I think they are different every time we read them.

john ashbery some trees new york school poet poem poetry

Someone asked me to read this poem at a wedding once. I had to say no, I don’t really believe this is a love poem. John Ashbery was very young when he wrote this, and instead of reflecting the blind idealism some associate with youth, this poem shows us a sense of disillusion. It’s almost as if he already knows that no matter how amazing something is, in the end reluctance always creeps in.

When I first read it, I thought this poem was about meeting someone who saw the world the same way you did. And I still think it is about that, only now I can’t help but think it is about settling as well. Eventually, no matter what a whirlwind something was, it all must settle down.

I’m sure in the future I will have a different interpretation for this poem, but in the mean time, share your thoughts with me.

Rest In Peace John Ashbery

Some New books

Some New Books

Some New Books

So remember when I wrote a post about books I wanted to read? Well, I haven’t read them yet, but I bought some new books to read in the future! Because can you really have too many?

Some New books pushcart prize penn Hemingway prize awards best selling book

This time I wanted to read some new books that have won awards and were considered some of the best of 2017.

The Pushcart prize anthology is a yearly compilation of all the best works from small presses. It contains poetry, articles, and short stories, all carefully chosen to reflect the best of the best. This is a great choice if you are like me, and read multiple books at a time.

Another collection of short stories is the pink book, Leopoldine Core’s When Watched. I haven’t checked it out yet, but it was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway prize, so it must be very good.

Another finalist for he PEN/Hemingway prize was Bill Beverly’s Dodgers. This is a crime procedural type book. I’ve never read anything of the sort, so it should be a nice experience.

The winner of the PEN/Hemingway prize is Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi. I have no idea what this book is about, but it beat out a lot of other candidates. Also, it is a woman author, which I feel is lacking in my collection. I’m glad some new books of mine will include women.

I usually choose books based on whether or not they ‘speak’ to me. The Hemingses Of Monticello was one such book. It looks like it is non fiction as well, so I’m looking forward to it.

Since I liked Patti Smith’s Just Kids so much, I wanted to give Bob Dylan’s Chronicles a chance. This is just volume one, so stay tuned.


I hope you guys will check out some new books this year!

London calling Lucian Frdud kitty garman

London Calling — Art Of The Day

London Calling — Art Of The Day

For today’s art of the day, I wanted to take it back to the London Calling exhibit I saw at the Getty last summer. I loved his exhibit, all the artists were incredible. But what really grabbed my attention are the changes I noticed in Lucian Freud’s work.

London calling Lucian Freud kitty garman

London calling Lucie Freud portrait of bowery

The painting of Kitty Garman with her cat was painted in 1947, one of Freud’s earlier works. The portrait of Bowery was painted in 1991. Lucian Freud was a painter who questioned sexual identity and chose subjects whose sexuality was inconsistent or ‘fluid.’ Leigh Bowery was a gay icon who died shortly after this painting was made, from complications from AIDS. Freud himself was involved with both men and women throughout his life. What all of this says about Freud’s own sexuality is something his grandfather Sigmund would have to answer.

What grabbed my attention is the insane attention to detail in the portrait of Kitty, versus the harsh rendering of Bowery. The first painting was done in 1947, and other paintings of Kitty in the years to come were also done in the same style as the portraits of Bowery. It could be argued that Freud was just discovering his style. However, I think this was something more; perhaps another question for Freud’s grandfather. The ‘unflattering’ way he drew his later subjects is in direct juxtaposition with the almost manic attention to detail in his earlier works. I wonder what goes through an artist’s mind when they make these kinds of changes.

I can say that London Calling was one of the best exhibits of modern art that I have ever seen.

five life-changing books Solzhenitsyn Hemingway Memoirs of a geisha herman hesse glass bead game albert camus a happy death

Five Life-Changing Books

Five Life-Changing Books

No longer able to choose just one book to talk about, I bring to you five life-changing books to read this summer. Yes, I know it’s almost August, you better get started!

five life-changing books Solzhenitsyn Hemingway Memoirs of a geisha herman hesse glass bead game albert camus a happy death

Cancer Ward – Solzhenitsyn.

The ultimate allegory, Cancer Ward uses cancer as an analogy for the sweeping effects of Stalinism. It affects everyone, doctors, high-ranking officials, and the common man. The reason this book is number one on the list of books that have changed my life is because I am tremendously touched by Solzhenitsyn’s lack of anger. Cancer Ward is basically a memoir of his life after imprisonment in Stalin’s gulag. Solzhenitsyn has every right to be bitter, resentful, and downright furious at this point in his life. He was imprisoned for no reason, and now, once ‘free’ (or as free as possible, living in exile), he has cancer. However, the main character, Kostoglotov, has so many tender and gentle qualities.

Once he is free (from cancer this time), he walks around town and sees the world in a different light. This ending taught me a lot about seeing everything from a different perspective. Once you let go of anger, everything is seen anew. I hope to carry that lesson with me for the rest of my life.

The Sun Also Rises – Hemingway.

Every Hemingway book has had a tremendous effect on me. The Sun Also Rises was yet another lesson on how to see things from a different perspective. This book was a close tie with Number one on my list of five life-changing books. I’ve read Hemingway’s works many times over, and each time they affected me differently. Most recently, I saw his endings as not a loss, but a chance to start over. Many people believe he is depressing, but he doesn’t portray emotions. Hemingway is the father of showing without telling. He just writes words, what you perceive as ‘the meaning’ is a reflection of yourself.

The beautiful scene of the bulls goring the steers, with Bill constantly repeating, “must be no fun to be a steer,” was yet another allegory – my favorite rhetorical device. The whole book is filled with opportunities to add your own interpretation to what’s happened. This book taught me to find hope and faith in a situation where it seemed there was none. This is something I have used time and time again throughout my life.

A Happy Death (La morte heureuse) – Camus

I never read Camus knowing full well he was an Existentialist writer. Later on, I sought out to read Camus to learn more about Existentialism and to become more philosophically advanced. I never knew A Happy Death was his first book either. Turns out, it is a study of the Existentialist concept of creating your own happiness. In a way, this book was a kind of prediction for my future behavior (or maybe my behavior is a result of having read it?). I always believed that happiness is something you need to make for yourself, will for yourself.

Another aspect of Camus’s books that always stays with me is his descriptions. He is an excellent painter of landscapes. I constantly learn from him how to describe surroundings to make the reader genuinely see the places around him.

The Glass Bead Game – Herman Hesse

If you’ve never read anything by Hesse, The Glass Bead Game is a compilation of all his most famous themes: the meaning of life, following your heart, and the harmony and flow of life. There are a lot of allusions with the names of the characters, and in the German language, a lot of word play. For me, the concept of the main character leaving his post to pursue what he feels he really is destined to do, is invaluable. In this book, music works to create a sense of harmony between the mathematical and artistic aspects of the Glass Bead game. It’s a beautiful foray into a fantasy world where intellectualism is of greatest reverence.

Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

Probably the only modern book I actually like. I read this book at a time in my life when I was “in love” with someone who did not love me back. This book, taking place in Japan at the cusp of – and during – World War II, made me feel like it is possible for me to have true love. It was one of those Romeo and Juliet type things, where it seemed like so much stands in their way, it will never work out. But it did. This book filled me with hope, and even though now I realize how silly my little crush was, the hope is something I chose to keep with me.


I hope this post didn’t bore you to tears, and I urge you to check out one of these five life-changing books if you haven’t already!

Mapplethorpe orchid shadows flowers

Some More Mapplethorpe

Some More Mapplethorpe

Today’s art of the day is some more Mapplethorpe. In my last post about him, I talked about his balance of delicacy and toughness by using flowers to render phallic objects. This photograph is from the same series. Mapplethorpe shows the delicacy of the flower, and it’s toughness in the shadow.

Mapplethorpe lily shadows flowers

It is amazing how something can look so different in the shadow.

The shadow of the orchid is so different in character from the original object.

Seeing this, I am reminded of perspective. Sometimes we get so lost in our thoughts, we get tunnel vision. Our problems seem unsolvable. Seeing this photograph reminds me to look at things from a different angle. There’s something quite beautiful casting this menacing shadow.

Things are not always as they seem.

michel leiris alberto Giacometti art drawing sketches

Alberto Giacometti — Art Of The Day

Alberto Giacometti — Art Of The Day

Today’s art of the day is Michel Leiris Frontal View, by Alberto Giacometti.

michel leiris alberto Giacometti art drawing sketches

Michel Leiris was a surrealist writer and later published magazine articles on his friends, one of whom was Alberto Giacometti. It’s interesting how the two friends ‘paid each other back.’ Leiris by sitting for him, and Giacometti for letting himself be interviewed.

Giacometti was a draughtsman and I find it interesting how he chose to render the face. He treated this sketch as a draft with all the horizontal and vertical lines. This drawing is dissecting. Like my last post about Harold Edgerton, this drawing once again makes me think of a bridged gap between art and science, engineering.

The face is not something traditionally drawn with science in mind. A portrait is traditionally artistic, and conveys emotion. Giacometti showed a more scientific approach to portraiture. Even the title of the painting, “Frontal View,” conveys a scientific approach. This is the title of building drafts. Yet the artistry is not sacrificed. The emotion is still conveyed on Leiris’ face.

I think bridging the gap between science and art is an artist’s greatest strength.

on the beach at night walt whitman poetry poet view trees

On The Beach At Night

On The Beach At Night — Walt Whitman

Today’s poem of the day is Walt Whitman’s On The Beach At Night.

on the beach at night walt whitman poetry poet view trees

I probably should have taken this photo on the beach at night, but the light might not be too good :PPP

One of m favourite lines in poetry is found in this poem:

‘They are immortal, all those stars both silvery and golden
shall shine out again,
The great stars and the little ones shall shine out again, they

Lately, I’ve been thinking aout how we feel we’re not getting what we want, like we’re not even close. I’ve had that feeling a lot, and I always remember that I don’t know what’s happening behind the scenes. Everything we get can be thrown away if we think it’s not what we want. Or we can take everything we receive with gratitude and trust that it is a component of something much greater. And we will see only in the future how it all comes together.

I love that about art. How it makes us think and puts our lives in perspective.

Later on in the poem Walt Whitman changes his tone and style of the poem. He goes on to say that there is something much greater than all the stars, planets, and moons. What do you think he was talking about?

Just Kids Patti Smith Robert Mapplethorpe book art photography history musician

Just Kids — Book Of The Day

Just Kids — Book Of The Day

Today’s book of the day is Just Kids by Patti Smith.Just Kids Patti Smith Robert Mapplethorpe book art photography history musician

Okay, can I just say, it took me two days to finish this book AND I was at work the entire time. Just Kids grabbed me and totally pulled me in. I love Mapplethorpe, so it was a no brainer why I would read this. But if you’re interested in history, how our modern culture came to be, pick up this book.

I usually just walk through a bookstore and read titles and take whatever gets my attention. I trust some other higher power to direct me to the book I need to read. There was something about this book that made me pick it up. Just the title alone is absolutely perfect. It’s about when Patti Smith came to New York with just the clothes on her back, and met Robert Mapplethorpe. They were just a couple of kids.

I seriously can’t explain how much this book touched me. It wasn’t anything in particular, but I felt like her depiction of Mapplethorpe was exactly how I’ve imagined him to be. It is amazing that he was able to project himself so clearly through his photography, that I felt like I knew him.



richard wilbur death of a toad

richard wilbur

Richard Wilbur

Today’s poet of the day is out Poet Laureate from 1987, Richard Wilbur, and his poem The Death of a Toad.

richard wilbur death of a toad

When I first read this poem, my thought was that it is the original hashtag: white people problems. The poets of this literary period were interested with bringing back the formal structure of poetry. As I discussed in my post about Claude McKay, structure sends a big message regarding the poet’s attitude.

To me, this poem is a bit sarcastic. The obituary-like style of the poem is almost over the top. It’s like Richard Wilbur is making fun of the reader, or the person who ran the toad over with the lawn mower. This is what got me thinking about the trendy ‘hashtag: white people problems’ that swept the interwebs some time ago. Where the poets of previous generations wrote about injustice and prejudice, Richard Wilbur picked at the entitlement of the surging middle class. It just always struck me as a bit tongue-in-cheek the way Richard Wilbur described the scene. This person ran over a toad, and now, a whole eulogy ensues. I can’t think of a way to showcase his privilege more.

Let me know what you think!

rothko house of cards lacma claire underwood

Rothko and House Of Cards

Rothko and House Of Cards

I’ve been watching House Of Cards and of course noticed (what I think is) the Rothko painting Claire Underwood got for her office. Then I found this article, which talks about how House of Cards has the rights to reproduce Rothko for season five (they don’t use originals in TV shows).

I thought the choice was interesting for this show. Rothko is one of the most symbolic artists, and I wondered what was the meaning behind Claire’s choice. Maybe it’s that she is tapping into her own darkness.

Ms. Davis mentioned that she preferred the reds, so I found this video I got at LACMA last month, of one of his reds. She also mentions he was a very depressive person.

It’s interesting to hear other people’s opinion on his art. A lot of them say ‘I could have painted that.’ Well, that’s not entirely accurate. Seeing this in person is very evoking. It’s almost like a piece of himself is in it, which is not something anyone could do.

This season of House of Cards is filled with symbolism. I don’t want to give it away in case you haven’t watched it, but maybe the Rothkos are in place to really force us to see how everything has some double meaning.

Have you seen this season? What did you think of it?