Tuesday, July 31, 2018

answer to Yoruba riddle

answer to the Yoruba riddle (which posted yesterday):

humanity between heaven and earth

source: Yoruba Poetry: an anthology of traditional poems
compiled and edited by Ulli Beier
illustrations by Susanne Wenger
Cambridge University Press, London

Monday, July 30, 2018

Yoruba riddle


A pile of shit on a leaf, and covered with a leaf.


source: Yoruba Poetry: an anthology of traditional poems
compiled and edited by Ulli Beier
illustrations by Susanne Wenger
Cambridge University Press, London

Thursday, July 26, 2018

possible epigraph

once I gave a party
and some of the people who should have come, didn't,
but all of my books were there,
enjoying themselves immensely,
murmuring lightly,
and discussing so many things


lines from "Books" by William Baer
as the poem appears in Anthology of Magazine Verse and Yearbook of American Poetry 1981, edited by Alan F. Pater

I wonder if these lines would make a good epigraph for Autobiography of a Book.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Notes Toward an Autobiography by Others

Xavier de Maistre, in his whimsical Journey around my Room, describes the way the body will go on doing things, even competently, while the mind is somewhere else. One of his examples is an activity that one might not think would be capable of going on without the mind’s participation — reading. Addressing the reader, de Maistre says:

When you read a book, sir, and a more agreeable idea suddenly strikes on your imagination, your soul straight away pounces on it and forgets the book, while your eyes mechanically follow the words and the lines; you come to the end of the page without understanding it, and without remembering what you have read.

De Maistre calls “soul” what I was calling “mind.” But it’s the same thing.

On the other hand, I don’t think I can completely miss what my eyes have read. The mind will capture some of the meaning of the words the eyes bring in, even if it’s not enough for comprehension. When I have gotten to the bottom of a page and realize I couldn’t tell you what was said, my conscious mind having been busy with other concerns, I will often reread the missed passage. And it will always be at least a little bit familiar. If you slapped the book shut before I had a chance to reread, then put before me a multiple-choice test covering the material, I bet I’d do significantly better than chance. Still, I do tend to read slowly, an internal voice sounding out the words as they pass. I wouldn’t have thought so if you’d asked me, but reading without connection to voice, I guess that is something I do now?

source: A Journey around my Room by Xavier de Maistre; translated by Andrew Brown. First published in French in 1795; this translation published 2004.
Hesperus Press Ltd, London UK

Monday, July 16, 2018

Superman will not save you

In the years after the Dayton Accords ended the Yugoslavia civil war, outside investigators went into the conflict regions to verify possible war crimes. There were many. Thousands of civilians had been rounded up by the Serbs and murdered. The bodies were dumped into mass graves, the graves often just convenient holes in the ground. Polish forensic anthropologist Ewa Klonowski was one of the most conscientious about the exhumations, doing her damnedest to reunite (dead) family members with those who had survived. In this passage Dr Klonowski describes what she found on the floor of what the author of the a book on the investigations calls “a sixty-five feet deep … beautiful chimney-shaped cave [with] honey-beige walls … full of stalagmites*” :

”I was digging with the knowledge that I’d found some children … [C]hildren have more small bones; they are less durable. And I came upon some small bones of the kind I was expecting to find. And a toy next to them — a Superman doll. I had to put it in a plastic bag. … I was holding [the doll] in my hand, and the child’s father was there above me. … I was about to start crying. I rationalized it to myself by thinking, ‘Ewa someone has to work here. Bones are bones. This is a toy found next to some bones. You must put in the plastic bag and get on with the next body.”

source: Like Eating a Stone: surviving the past in Bosnia by Wojciech Tochman
2002/2008. Atlas & Co. Publishers, New York NY