Archive | 2:44 pm

Anne Carson: To feel anything deranges you, To be seen feeling anything strips you naked

2 Feb

A poem by a Canadian poet and a classicist Anne Carson from her work “Red Doc” (2013); a collection of poetry, prose and drama which resumes the story of her novel “Autobiography of Red” from 1998.

Gustav Klimt, Two Studies of a Seated Nude with Long Hair, 1901-02, detail

To feel anything
deranges you. To be seen
feeling anything strips you
naked. In the grip of it
pleasure or pain doesn’t
matter. You think what
will they do what new
power will they acquire if
they see me naked like
this. If they see you
feeling. You have no idea
what. It’s not about them.
To be seen is the penalty.

Sei Shonagon: Things that make one’s heart beat faster…

2 Feb

Sei Shonagon (c. 966-1017/1025) was a Japanese court lady who wrote poems and lyrical observations on court life. Her most famous literary work is a collection of short texts and poems called “Pillowbook” which she wrote purely for her own amusement before going to sleep, hence the name “Pillowbook”. Perhaps she even kept it under her pillow, who knows. Some chapters, such as those discussing politics, were a bit tedious in my opinion, but others were brilliantly poetic and lyrical, often witty and a tad sarcastic as well. The book was written in 990s and there is something so poignant to me in the fact that there was a lady, both witty and intelligent, often cynical, who thought it interesting to write about things happening at court, about the change of seasons, and document her views on many topics, from having a lover to travelling in carriages made of bamboo. And now, more than a thousand years later, I have a privilege to read a collection of texts you could rightfully call a diary. Some people even went so far as to say that Shonagon was the first blogger!

Her observations seemed so relatable, even though cultures and time periods divide her life from mine. The book really brings the spirit of the times and I like their way of life; visiting shrines, belief in reincarnation, writing haiku poems and sending elegant letters with tree twigs attached to it, contemplating in beautiful rock (later Zen) gardens, and admiring the moonlight and the stillness of the lakes and the gentle plum trees in spring. If I had ten lives, I wouldn’t mind spending one of them living like that. In today’s hectic and instant society such serenity seems unimaginable to me. Today I wanted to share a fragment of the book titled “Things That Make One’s Heart Beat Faster”.

Shōson Ohara (Japan, 1877-1945), Sparrows and Plum Blossoms, 1925

Things That Make One’s Heart Beat Faster:
Sparrows feeding their young.
To pass a place where babies are playing.
To sleep in a room where some fine incense has been burnt. To notice that one’s elegant Chinese mirror has become a little cloudy. To see a gentleman stop his carriage before one’s gate and instruct his attendants to announce his arrival. To wash one’s hair, make one’s toilet, and put on scented robes; even if not a soul sees one, these preparations still produce an inner pleasure. It is night and one is expecting a visitor.
Suddenly one is startled by the sound of raindrops, which the wind blows against the shutters.

(Sei Shōnagon, The Pillow Book (枕草子, Makura no Sōshi), Translated by Ivan Morris)