Friday, January 26, 2007

a solitary decoration...






robert creeley founded the divers press in 1950 while living in palma, mallorca, spain. divers was a small press that published a series of beautiful small editions for about 4 years, until creeley started working at black mountain college in 1955.

creeley met katue kitasono, a japanese artist, through kitasono's connection to kenneth rexroth. kitasono was a poet as well as an abstract painter and publisher in the 1930's of the avant garde poetry journal vou. vou,"introduced sound poems, dadaist absurdities and work harkening the eventual development of surrealism in japan." the journal was also championed by ezra pound, with whom kitasono had a lot of influence, through a 30 year written correspondence even though they'd never met.

in 1954 divers published a beautiful small book of kitasono's poems and pictures. it contains 5 poems and several geometric abstractions. in a 1987 interview, creeley said it was one of the divers books he remembered most vividly, and i think it was probably because of these crisp and quiet josef albers influenced images.

there are many beautiful moments in this little book, including phrases like "the lightning paints the street like a zebra" and "kissing is sad with smells of lead and gasoline and sea-weed"- that connect the seemingly simple language constructions, to the sweet little abstract images pictured above.

i really love the language; and since the english is kitasono's own translation from japanese, the words feel very particular - especially if you read the poems out loud. as with the images, if any bit of the language was changed, the whole thing would fall apart.

here's my favorite poem:

'a solitary decoration'

i lightly dodged, today too from my destiny
and went across a bridge of melancholy
passed through a small pagan town
which smelled of onion and leek;
then there came to be seen scattered under the cloudy sky,
decayed pales, boards, and roofs:
such a sight soothed me and gave
a balance to my heart.
i tread on the seaweeds, the drifting fragments,
and look at the waves bristling up, the sea-gulls on the wing:
i lie on the poor nettles like a withered collie
to recollect my little fame, my dispute, and my time of pleasure that are gone,
i muse on my light boat, my body, and my liquid medicine,
with my cheek against the slope of this dark century of calamity
i sadly call for an eternal cure.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

For those interested, there is a large archive of Rexroth writings and translations at

9:47 PM  
Blogger sroden said...

cool, thanks for the link...

7:48 PM  

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