Sunday, August 13, 2017

Simon Leake writes

Divine Comedy
 after Rebecca Solnit

The rain gives way to blossoms and blossoms
give way to snow that never drifts but scatters.

In this way now the weather intervenes;
the legacy of a child’s breath upon a popsicle.

With only one hand on the steering wheel
we still find it hard to let go our designs;

a glance in the mirror of a mirage, of carnage?
The territory swallows us all the same,

only the precision of the map is at stake:
how well the landscape bends to the road.

To be lost in this world and not afraid
is a skill we have yet to remember;

to master life in the ruin of life: life
dissembling in the rings of the ash tree.

What looks like rot is just the caterpillar
giving way to the nascent butterfly

but not like your smile gives way,
breaks, before the latest tyrant.
Butterfly Metamorphosis Art
 Metamorfose -- Mike Newman

1 comment:

  1. California provides the backdrop and sensibility for much of the work of Rebecca Solnit. Her essay "The Uses of Disaster: Notes on Bad Weather and Good Government" was published by “Harper’s” magazine on the day that Hurricane Katrina hit the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. When it was expanded into a 2009 book, “A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster,” partially inspired by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in San Francisco, she told BOMB magazine, "What happens in disasters demonstrates everything an anarchist ever wanted to believe about the triumph of civil society and the failure of institutional authority." In “Check out the Parking Lot,” from the “London Review of books” in 2004, she discussed Sandow Birk and Marcus Sanders’ recreation of “Dante’s Inferno,” which may have been at least a partial inspiration for Simon’s poem. Birk is an artist whose work frequently satirized California restaging “Washington Crossing the Delaware” as a surfing scene,, for instance, and Sanders is a surf journalist. As a lead-up to the main event she discussed the new Getty Museum in Los Angeles as “Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’ as a theme park, and just as in the ‘Divine Comedy’, the Inferno [the parking garage] is the most compelling part….. You come out of the smog-filtered Los Angeles light (which always gives me the impression that a thrifty God has replaced our incandescent sun with diffused fluorescent light) into a dark passage. The garage is underlit, with a low-slung ceiling and construction that evinces the massive weight first of the cement slabwork and then of the floors and earth above. The weight presses down on you as the signs urge you onwards. Down you go, and down, and further down, spiralling into the seismically unstable bowels of the Los Angeles earth in circles of looming darkness, questing for a parking space of your own, further and further down. I believe there are nine circles, or levels, in this vehicular hell. Finally, you find a place for your car in this dim realm, stagger to an elevator, and move upwards more quickly than Dante ascended Purgatory.”
    “LA has little to give Dante, but Dante via Birk has much to give LA. The city’s invisible territories and Dante’s phantasmagoria go together beautifully…. Birk has got at the parts of LA that recall Piranesi, not David Hockney, the sinister noir terrain of freeway overpasses and cuttings and drainage ditches that create a stacked-up, tangled vertical landscape far from the flat, sunshiny LA of the usual iconography…. The cover … remodels Frederick Church’s gargantuan 1862 luminist painting “Cotopaxi, Ecuador” into a vision of all California as Hell. The same belching volcano is there on the horizon filling the sky with sun-reddened smoke, the same vast gorge in the central foreground. But Birk has turned the gorge’s sublime waterfalls into a sort of terraced lava-bottomed mining pit around which emblems of all California gather. There are palm trees and oil derricks and power lines in the foreground, along with signs for chain stores and … a skull sitting on a plinth inscribed ‘Inferno’. In the middle distance a shattered Golden Gate Bridge reaches toward the gorge then breaks off, and birds, black against the backlight, fly through the ruddy scene and perch on the power lines. Freeways snake throughout this vision of Hell, the red tail-lights of departing traffic balanced with the yellow-white of approaching headlights in what looks like California’s most frequent invocation of Hell: the rush-hour traffic jam…. History is what gives a place meaning, and Birk has wrestled with the conundrum of California, a place full of amnesiac erasures of history and impositions of histories that never happened, a place whose roots are, in some strange way, in the future. Rome was the eternal city; California, as Heaven, Hell and Purgatory, is the eternal present tense."


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