Time Out

Morgan Letter

Barbara Morgan, Martha Graham, Letter to the World (or: “The Kick”) – 1940 

Barbara Morgan’s Martha Graham, Letter to the World (1940) embodies tension poetically. In addition to its dramatic contrast of black and white, the photograph brilliantly captures a paradox of time. The composition immortalizes an intense moment of dance, however photography is an inherently static medium. This tension is my favorite aspect of the work. It is beautiful and so human. We have always been fascinated with time: mapping it, stopping it, collecting it, owning it.

People crave time. We always want more of it. More to spend with the people we love, or to go somewhere new, or to have a moment to relax, or some extra time to work. Time is a commodity, not one that we want to save, but rather to invest. When spent wisely, time can yield great returns, which makes us greedy for more.

That is the problem with time: we cannot simultaneously have it and still live. We can’t preserve it perfectly within a frame and have it remain authentic.

So what do you do when you realize you are running out of time – when a deadline is drawing ever closer?

I haven’t figured that one out yet.

 

Image: http://www.afterimagegallery.com/morgankick.jpg

 

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Courting the Universe: Romantic Beauty vs. the Romantic Sublime

In the Romantic Era (late 18th century to approx. 1850), poetry developed and blossomed through the works of beloved writers such as Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, and Byron. Today people remain captivated by their words and the stories they told. I believe this is – at least in part – because of two ideas: beauty and the sublime.

Romantic beauty is the appreciation of lovely things. Perhaps this is the delicacy of a flower of a stream. It is the sweet feeling of calm appreciation of (often) small things from nature.

The romantic sublime is very different. Though also an appreciation of beautiful things, it is of monumental scale rather than of that which can fit in the palm of your hand. Romantic sublime imagery includes the Alps, or a magnificent sunset. The sublime reveals human smallness and the fragility of mortality, instead of the fragility of nature.

These two types of beauty inspire two types of awe: titanic and gentle. They are two parts of humanness, manifested in poetic terms – arguably the best way to explore and define humanness. They truly are romantic ideas, not just because of their period, nor in the Valentine’s Day kind of way, but because they ignite the soul.

These two poetic devices merge internal and external and person and nature, contextualizing humanity on a grand scale. This literature turns readers into Gulliver as he learns about human nature from the view of a Lilliputian or a Brobdingnagian. There is nuance. There is playfulness.

Ultimately the beautiful and the sublime establish a flirtation between the poem and the Universe – a courtship not taken lightly.

#2: Woodstar Cafe

There is no lack of coffee shops in Northampton, Massachusetts. A college town with an artistic flare, every other block seems to have a cafe, art gallery, or fair-trade-oriented boutique.

A top choice of mine is Woodstar Cafe. Down a little side street off Main, Woodstar doesn’t boast its presence. But it doesn’t need to. The shop maintains standard cafe hours – not staying open late (which is perhaps my only qualm) – and it seems to always be busy. The lunch rush can leave students and community members alike with difficulty finding a table – though in warmer weather there is sometimes better luck with the outdoor seating. This is a testament to the food, drinks, and feeling of the quaint cafe. Huge windows let in natural light over blue tiled tables. A long bench is set against the big windowed wall, with individual chairs facing this seating across the small, European-feeling tables. Though it can sometimes get rather loud during the lunch rush, the cafe maintains a positive and open vibe. People are friendly and the space, though the tables are close together, is never uncomfortably packed. The environment is conducive to good conversation, relaxation, or some studying over tea, coffee, sandwiches, bagels, cookies, or other delicious options.

I search out natural light wherever I can, and any time I can position myself by a window at midday in the little cafe, I do. With a book in hand and a spicy ginger chai in reach, I am more than content to spend time at Woodstar on any day.

Between Paint and Poetry: A Dialogue with Keats and Turner

Study of Sea and Sky, Isle of Wight 1827 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

Study of Sea and Sky, Isle of Wight 1827 Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851); Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856; http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N02001

ON THE SEA

By John Keats

It keeps eternal whisperings around
Desolate shores, and with its mighty swell
Gluts twice ten thousand caverns, till the spell
Of Hecate leaves them their old shadowy sound.
Often ’tis in such gentle temper found,
That scarcely will the very smallest shell
Be moved for days from where it sometime fell,
When last the winds of heaven were unbound.
Oh ye! who have your eye-balls vexed and tired,
Feast them upon the wideness of the Sea;
Oh ye! whose ears are dinn’d with uproar rude,
Or fed too much with cloying melody, –
Sit ye near some old cavern’s mouth and brood
Until ye start, as if the sea nymphs quired!

 

Aubude: The Finite Love Poem

Aubade: a poem in which dissatisfaction is expressed that the night is over and the dawn has come – signaling the end of the subject’s time with their lover

The cliche of poetry is that it is all about love and beauty. Ode to this and sonnet for that… There is no doubt about it: poetry is romantic.

And why shouldn’t it be?

People love love. We are obsessed with it. We crave it, looking around corners and checking over our shoulders until we find it. And then we let it fill us up completely – because people love the idea of love.

And we can love other things too, like light. I love warm, clear light coming through the windows while I read or write. I like the feeling of it brushing my cheek in the morning to tell me that it’s time to face the day.

So when I was introduced to the aubade genre of poetry, of course my reaction was positive since it combines light and love – with a twist.

The thing about aubade is that is not necessarily a cheery “rise and shine” poem, but rather the type that invites readers to hit the snooze button one more time. Here light means that your time with your lover has come to an end, but this type of poem resits that end with full force.

It captures a beautiful contradiction. On the one hand: how wonderful to wake up with someone who you love and who you know loves you back. But something else creeps in too: the realization that time is not infinite – even in a happy bubble. The day will go on and its gravity will pull you in, despite admirable efforts to stay snuggled up.

Aubade captures this paradox between love and time. Aubade – quietly, romantically, and with a melancholy sigh – reminds us that even in the most infinite-feeling moments there is an underlying recognition of the finite (a fact which many other types of love literature ignore).

So even though sheets and comforters are strong enough materials with which new worlds can be built, the sunlight still manages to sneak in; draping itself over you until you have no choice but to acknowledge the interruption of the third presence in the bed. You get up. And wait for the sun to be off duty once more. And do it all over again. And again. And again.

Because people love love.

Coffee Shop #1: The Bardo Coffee House

Bardo, located in Denver, Colorado, is a truly inspiring coffee shop. Tucked between faded brick businesses on Broadway, it is a place that could easily be missed if you aren’t looking for it.

Inside, the building is small and verging on crowded, with little tables tucked in across from a high counter, among posters for concerts and events. The posters seem to be layered on top of each other – they are a collage of the past that acts as a sort of shrine to memory; it is never taken down.

For a late night coffee fix this place is ideal: open until 1 AM Sunday through Thursday and 3 AM on Friday and Saturdays. Even at odd hours, this coffee shop stays busy (as the best ones do). Behind the large glass windows a tiny world constantly exists. An eclectic mix of students on laptops and groups playing games litter the small tables. A little back room, darker than the front, has a couch for more casual enjoyment of coffee, tea, and assorted sweet treats.

While perhaps not the “perfect” coffee shop, Bardo has character. Its small size keeps the atmosphere saturated with life. It is intimate, but alive, and just loud enough to create a space in which you can enjoy a conversation over a hot mug of happiness at all hours.

(Un)Focused

I feel like I am thrumming. The energy cannot find its way out of my body fast enough. Blink, bounce, tap, sway – no expulsion is thorough enough to bring me back down to Earth.

There is so much to do, and I could do all of it right this second if I could just get out of this room.

I am rested and happy and fueled by a smile and the way the coffee tastes in the morning.

Maybe it is the midnight milkshake still coursing in me, or maybe the sunshine, or something else altogether. I can’t pin it down just as nothing can pin me down.

Try.

I dare you.

It cannot be done – I am floating, flying, running at a pace that would shake the ground (if only I could get out of this room).

The future is just an idea and the past doesn’t exist – it is all in my head. Right now there is only right now, but right now I am not a person but rather the idea of a person – a mass of elements that is buzzing together so I look  like a person, but I feel like a billion tiny vibrating energies. Out of them wants to come shapes and colors. Words. More words. They need out now. They have to find their way down the highway of my arm: brain to fingers, racing without regard to the rules of the bloodstream. If they get a ticket… no. They will outrun it. I will outrun it.