June 10th 2012 pt 1
I don’t know who the Unthanks are but I do know that thing about a piece of music.
Yochai Matos, You are a Saint
(via Cob Cottage)
Bess Lomax Hawes (1974) has examined the “when you wake” formula in this song, concluding that on the surface, it seem to contain a bribe, a promise of a reward for good behavior. But on closer examination it is revealed as a simple prediction: “When you wake, you shall have….” This future-orientation distinguishes “Pretty Little Horses” from other American lullabies, which are generally “expressed in present tense and filled with descriptive terms about the surroundings and the activities of various people” (p146).
Other characteristics distinctive for this song involve the spatial isolation of the baby. Most American lullabies situate the sleep-induced baby elsewhere:
“All the people around him in song are actually somewhere else—shaking dreamland trees, gone hunting, out watching sheep, or what have you. Baby, meanwhile, is up in a tree, or sailing off in a boat made out of the moon, or driving away with his “pretty little horses.” When he does sleep, he is described as being in a place called “dreamland” which, wherever it is, clearly isn’t his own bed; and he is variously requested or ordered to take himself to that “land of Nod” by the linguistic convention that requires English speakers to “go to sleep.” Even the most widespread choice of a lulling nonsense syllable takes the form of a spatial metaphor: “bye bye,” after all, means both “sleep” and “farewell.” (p146)
Hawes believes that in this respect, lullabies form part of the bedrock of American individualism. “If we want independent children,” she says, “we must thrust them away from us, and, equally importantly, we must thrust ourselves away from them.” As a ritual act, then, lullabies shape the consciousness not so much of the infant as of the caretaker. They are “a mother’s conversation with herself about separation” (p148).
(via 1950s Unlimited)
we must leave something dear behind
there ain’t no ash will burn
every time. gets me every single time.
Five Choirs, 1928
Jacquard weave in cotton, wool, rayon and silk 229 x 143 cm
While we are (not) on the subject of poetry (I am on the subject of poetry because I just read a poem) I will tell you that I have a lot of feelings about Lena Dunham, most of which I am keeping off the internet because if there is one thing the corners of the internet I always end up being swept into currently have enough of, it is feelings about Lena Dunham, but this quote from Tiny Furniture is RIGHT ON to me, mostly because I HATE hearing other peoples’ dreams but also because I kind of hate poetry despite secretly admiring it and pining for it and wishing it could be my own thing. But it is really only interesting to me when it is my own (my poems are small I know/but they’re not yours, they are my own) and even then it is only interesting to me during the moment of its making and then immediately afterward my feeling is either revulsion or BURN IT NOW. Usually a combination of both, or one leading to the other.
My dad is a writer and forever and forever I get the question—usually it is not actually a question but a statement—“oh do you write too?” and the answer is and will always be and always was an emphatic no, even during the few faltering moments that I thought I wanted the answer to be yes. I find writing to be so tremendously unpleasant. Even if something starts out shapely in my head, something happens between brain and wrist that makes it into a lumpy and deadened thing. I write checks and I write papers when they are assigned. I write emails but belabor those until I finally decide to end every sentence with an exclamation point so no one thinks I am being grumpy (I also belabor the reading of emotion in emails; therefore I have heightened awareness of the myriad ways people can seem accidentally terse). But poems are the WORST because at least in a novel or even an essay you can have a clunker of a sentence and the thing as a whole can recover but what greater stress is there than a poem, where you have to get things right? This is something I generally avoid having to do—getting things right—so keep your poems and don’t bring them near me, and definitely, please, good god, keep your dreams.
Never not into text art. I blame this giant Ed Ruscha show I went to at the Art Institute of Chicago when I was younger. I was obsessed for months with trying to make my own drawings of words and failing. I can’t even make bubble letters, so who was I kidding?
Edit: Google tells me this was in fact not at the Art Institute and actually at the National Gallery, and it was in 2005. [side note: I think it also had that thing he did where he photographed every building on the Las Vegas strip and I remember getting into the “it’s art/it’s not art” argument for probably the first time about it. Want to say I was on the “it’s art” side, but not so sure] but I thought it was when I went with Mrs. Henley’s art history class to Chicago, even though I wasn’t in that class but some of my friends were going, so I argued that I could make it work for AP Euro so I had to write 3 journal entries about 20th century European paintings. I know that I wrote something ridiculous about Kandinsky and how one of the shapes looked like a cannon and that this was significant re: World War One. I told one of the parent chaperones about this when she was rotating through the museum to make sure none of us were making out/stealing things/leaning against the walls, and she was very impressed. But again, thanks to Google, I have found that apparently the piece is called “Improvisation No. 13 (Cannons)” so I guess that wasn’t really a stretch. I am fairly certain I also wrote about that really big painting of people in Paris in the rain (I did not take Mrs. Hensley’s art history class so that is as specific as I can make it. Maybe it is Caillebotte? It’s really big and right as you enter the gallery. Or at least it was It’s rainy. I think I talked about the French revolution, which makes no sense. I might have well have said it was a painting about Sarkozy.) I wrote all this down in one of those chunky, pocketsized notebooks with big spiral rings, but it had all the pages torn out except for about 8, so the rings were ridiculously, disproportionately huge and kept getting snagged on things.
Then I never turned in the assignment and got a C- in AP Euro. Not because I kept my dinky and wan little Kandinsky notebook, but because I never could remember anything about Bismarck and Kaiser Wilhelm. I never did the IDs even though we’d divide up the long list of history definitions and I would do enough of my share to swap with classmates and ensure that they did not fail, but then not bother to re-word the ones they gave me and instead opted to just not hand them in. I don’t know why I couldn’t handle rephrasing them. They were about as long as a tweet. Lord knows I can spend fifteen minutes rephrasing a tweet, so it seems stupid now that I didn’t just buckle down, write my IDs and turn in my genius writings about the industrial revolution and some Monet painting of a train station that I wrote in the hotel we stayed at while the art history students I was sharing a room with watched the video for Ashlee Simpson’s “Lala” (I know that I watched this in some hotel room on some school trip, the timing of Ashlee’s astronomical rise to fame eludes me, so maybe this was actually in Arlington, Virginia).
Anyway: text in art, awesome, thanks Ed Ruscha, I still have the brochure from that show as I am a packrat and save all museum brochures, Shannon Ebner, that is all.
I wouldn’t mind going back to Marfa.