"I am trying to check my habits of seeing, to counter them for the sake of greater freshness. I am trying to be unfamiliar with what I'm doing." - John Cage

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Last week at PSP

Monday after workshop I visited the contemporary Kampo Museum on the Vltava river in Prague. A staircase climbs to the roof where mirrors set off the sky and funnel the heat onto your skin. In the garden a reflecting stream flows under the wall into the gallery. I stood before a sculpture in black shiny stone called “Anxiety” by Otto Gutfreund, 1911-1912. Stanley Plumly in workshop today said that you must find the form of the poem within the content, the shape of the sculpture within the material of the stone. The stone is the block, content is discovered within? The figure hunches his shoulders into his ears, arms and hands large, robe bunching around his cheeks and down into the pedestal. The face is closed shut so that the entire piece is interior. A quote on the wall says, “To see the invisible, you must penetrate the visible as deeply as possible.”

In Tuesday’s lectures we listened to Ivan Klima speak of Samizdat and Cynthia Hogue lecture on sound in poetry. Hogue spoke about thinking in song/singing in words. She looked at the musical non-verbal element in poetry, comparing sonic drive to the maternal babble and doodle of poetry. Samizdat was the underground publication of writings by Czech poets, playwrights, other artists. Typewritten, read in 24 hours and then passed on to a friend. Later, the manuscripts were smuggled out of the country by the French embassy and others, to be published by Czech publishing houses in other countries, then smuggled back to be passed secretly. Hundreds of books, 30 people reading them in 30 days, staying up all night to read. Now people watch tv. Reading is not as valued an activity. We have other sources of information, and we don’t need to fight to get them. But is the information we are receiving as stimulating, as original, as true? What is true?

At the Strahof Monastery (and brewery) are books made from the bark of trees, moss and lichen growing from the spines. Beautiful living books. And the beer was very flavorful. Those monks had the life back then. Also, a collection of dried sea creatures, painted library ceilings, bright illuminated books.

Friday night was our last night celebratory party (the drink of choice seemed to be Fantanay – Fanta with Chardonnay) with desert at Kaverna Slavia. Since it was my last night, I walked up through the castle streets late on the way back to the dorm.

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