Saturday, April 01, 2023

A story about my daughter Sara that is remembered in a song by Jörg Benzing

It was late one evening, and our five-year-old daughter Sara was in our neighbor Bea's backyard with her and her partner Jörg. Andrea must have asked me to go tell Sara it was time for her to come home, so I went the ten meters or so out our back gate, through Bea's creaky back gate, and over the bridge over her pond. After I told Sara it was bedtime, she asked for one more glass of water. — I don't remember this scene at all, but Jörg wrote a song about it, "Nur ein Glas Wasser", which he performed with sixteen-year-old Sara in the audience at his concert in Basel tonight. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 1 April 2023)

Friday, March 31, 2023

Applause at an indictment — and exhaustion

Both "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" and "The Daily Show" (with guest host John Leguizamo) were recorded early enough yesterday that the hosts could comment on the announcement of the forthcoming indictment of former President Donald Trump in the hush-money case involving porn star Stormy Daniels. When the hosts referred to the indictment, their audiences applauded enthusiastically, with Colbert's audience being shown giving a standing ovation. While I also appreciate that Trump might finally face consequences for one or perhaps soon more of his many criminal actions, the bang of the indictment just makes me whimper with exhaustion from the almost eight years since he announced his candidacy in 2016. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 31 March 2023)

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Moving stories on Facebook, and then Townes Van Zandt’s “Tecumseh Valley"

Earlier this evening, I read a friend's sad and beautiful Facebook post about his memory of a friend he lost about a year ago. He'd just discovered an email he hadn't seen before, written by his friend just before his death. Among the many moving comments on the post, someone shared a similar story. But this time it was an unwatched video that he'd only seen after a friend's death, of the friend singing Townes Van Zandt's "Tecumseh Valley". Along with thse two stories of lost friends, the thought of that beautiful song overwhelmed me: "And her ways were free and it seemed to me / That sunshine walked beside her." (Andrew Shields, #111words, 30 March 2023)

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

My twenty-something students and video stores like the one in Anne Carson’s “Autobiography of Red” (1998)

Regarding the mention of a "video store" in Anne Carson's 1998 verse novel "Autobiography of Red" (which I wrote about two days ago on Monday, 27 March), I asked my students in the Verse Novels seminar this morning who were born in 1998 or later — and that was most of them — whether they'd ever been in a "video store". To my surprise, some of them said they had — but it was back around 2010, when they were still schoolchildren. And to my further surprise, one student mentioned a video store that still exists in Basel, although it is a second-hand video and DVD store where he recently sold some old videos. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 29 March 2023)

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Remembering Lutz Bertram, the blind morning radio host I listened to in Berlin

The other day, I remembered the blind morning radio host I listened to in Berlin in the early 1990s. I couldn't remember his name, but I remembered his story: During the 1970s, he was slowly going blind, and the East German Stasi offered him a visa to have an operation in West Germany that might save his eyesight — but in return, he had to work as an informant. He took the opportunity, and when his work for the Stasi came out in 1995, he lost his morning radio program. A quick search was enough to find his name and the station I listened to again: Lutz Bertram of Ostdeutscher Rundfunk Brandenburg. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 28 March 2023) 

Monday, March 27, 2023

Going to the video store in Anne Carson’s “Autobiography of Red” (1998)

In her 1998 verse novel "Autobiography of Red", Anne Carson sets the ancient Greek myth of Geryon and Herakles in the late twentieth century, as in the opening of the chapter "Memory Burn": "Herakles and Geryon had gone to the video store." From the mythological perspective, the "video store" moves the story forward in time — but from our perspective in 2023, when we have streaming services instead of video stores, the image pushes the story back in time, into a very specific span of time of only two or three decades. Writing the book in the 1990s, Carson surely could not have imagined how imminent the disappearance of video stores was. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 27 March 2023)

Sunday, March 26, 2023

How I learned about American history

For her history class at her Swiss high school, my daughter Sara has a test tomorrow on the American Revolution, so I spent much of the evening going over the details with her. As we discussed the progression from the Declaration of Independence in 1776 to the Constitution in 1789, she wondered whether I remembered all this from high school. While I learned some of the details then, most of them come from two sources: the lecture courses I taught in Saarbrücken in 1994 and 1995 ("A Brief History of Conspiracy in the United States" and "American Revolutions"), and thirty or so years of reading "The New York Review of Books." (Andrew Shields, #111words, 26 March 2023)

Saturday, March 25, 2023

If the states in the United States of America were separate countries

If the states in the United States of America were separate countries, my family would have first moved abroad in 1967, from Michigan to California. By the time I was 27, when I moved to Berlin, Germany, I would also have lived in the countries of Ohio and Pennsylvania. In each of those countries, I would have experienced what I experienced during the year my family lived in England when I was nine, and what I have experienced in Germany and Switzerland: I would have been a foreigner. But in all these states and countries, I have always been able to "pass" as local – as long as I don't say anything. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 25 March 2023)

Friday, March 24, 2023

Epanorthosis in Elizabeth Bishop’s “The Monument”

I was amused — no, I was thrilled — when a student taught me the rhetorical figure of epanorthosis: the correction — no, the emphatic replacement — of a word by another word or phrase that is more precise — as in my uses of the figure in this sentence. The student was discussing the opening of Elizabeth Bishop's "The Monument" (from her 1946 collection "North & South"): "Now can you see the monument?  It is of wood / built somewhat like a box. No. Built / like several boxes in descending sizes / one above the other." In our Bishop course, we had followed Mark Doty in calling this and other constructions "Bishop's characteristic hesitations". (Andrew Shields, #111words, 24 March 2023)

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Birdsong on a spring evening

It's just past six in the evening, the apartment's quiet, the sounds of the city are distant, the sky's lightly overcast, the warm spring afternoon is gradually cooling down, and I hear birds singing. The one nearby is a blackbird, not "in the dead of night" but at this time of day when they usually sing, saying "here I am." Further off, I can dimly make out two or three other distinct birdsongs that I cannot identify. And as I add the sound of typing to the sounds of the evening, I look outside just in time to see two crows fly by, on their way from one place to another. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 23 March 2023) 

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

How I “deeped my ear on the movietone” in a passage from James Joyce’s “Finnegans Wake” (1939)

While we were looking at our passage from James Joyce's "Finnegans Wake" (1939) in our reading group this evening, we came across a parenthetical phrase: "(if you are looking for the bilder deep your ear on the movietone!)" (FW 62.8-9). "Bilder" is the German word for "pictures", and I "deeped my ear" into the recesses of my brain and heard that "Movietone" was the brand of newsreels shown in old movie houses, which we confirmed. It can take reference books, dictionaries, and the minds of several people to "deep your ear on" "Finnegans Wake", but sometimes someone turns out to know something, even, as in this case, to my own surprise. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 22 March 2023)

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

“Primordial” memory in Denise Levertov’s poem “Becca” in “Evening Train” (1992)

I wrote in January about how two of the poems in Denise Levertov's "A Door in the Hive" (1989) make long-lost moments vivid through recollection (of a family story about her grandmother in "Inheritance") and imagination (of a medieval mason in "The Past II"). In Levertov's "Evening Train" (1992), the poem "Becca" does this with a personal memory of herself as a small child running between the clotheslines hung with washing by the family's washerwoman: "Lodged in my head / forever, primordial. Becca. / Known. Unknown." The poem's rendering of this "primordial" memory makes this "unknown" woman "known" to me, reading of her in 2023 (the 100th anniversary of Levertov's birth). (Andrew Shields, #111words, 21 March 2023)


Monday, March 20, 2023

"The context might change my reading”: Quotations from Denise Levertov poems as epigrams

In my daily reading of Denise Levertov's poems (and John Ashbery's before that), I quote a passage from each day's poem. Today's line is from "Letter to a Friend": "It’s against the rules to tell your own fortune." I realize that my practice takes the lines I choose out of context and makes them into epigrams. The context might well change the sense of the epigram — and "Letter to a Friend" is about context: Levertov is replying to a postcard with an image of a woman that her friend identified with: "The image is only / a detail, a fragment of a larger whole. / The context might change my reading." (Andrew Shields, #111words, 20 March 2023) 

Sunday, March 19, 2023

25 Andreas Schärer concerts from August 2012 to March 2023

25 Andreas Schärer concerts: Hildegard Lernt Fliegen (HLF), Willisau, 20120826; HLF, Basel, 20130126; Rom Schärer Eberle (RSE), Baden, 20130316; HLF, Zurich, 20130414; ARTE Quartet and Wolfgang Zwiauer, Basel, 20140227; HLF, Zurich, 20140517; with Lucas Niggli (SN), Zurich, 20141129; HLF, Basel, 20150429; RSE, Basel, 20160317; SN, Basel, 20160428; SN, Strasbourg, 20160430; A Novel of Anomaly (ANOA): Andreas Schärer, Lucas Niggli, Luciano Biondini, Kalle Kalima, Biel, 20170316; HLF with Orchestra (HLFO), Basel, 20170506; HLFO, Lucerne, 20171125; ANOA, Basel, 20180429; HLF, Lörrach, 20180718; with Emile Parisien, Vincent Peirani, Zurich, 20200114; HLF, Freiburg, 20200311; ANOA, Winterthur, 20210703; HLF, Burgdorf, 20210814; HLF, Liestal, 20211106; HLF Zurich, 20211112; Solo, Dornach, 20211125; HLF, Zug, 20230318; HLF, Freiburg, 20230319. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 19 March 2023)

Saturday, March 18, 2023

James Joyce’s “Finnegans Wake” (1939) and Christoph Irniger’s Pilgrim at the Bird’s Eye in Basel

While reading James Joyce's "Finnegans Wake" (1939), I arrived at a thunder word: "Lukkedoerendunandurraskewdylooshoofermoyportertooryzooysphalnabortansporthaokansakroidverjkapakkapuk" (FW 257.27-28). Just then I heard clapping from the audience; Christoph Irniger and his band Pilgrim were just going on stage at the Bird's Eye in Basel last night. The next word caught my eye: "Byfall" (FW 257.29), an English spelling of the German for "applause" ("Beifall"). And I saw the next word: "Upploud" (FW 257.30). The "upplause" at the end of the first set was indeed loud; the last tune was "Back in the Game", which the next sentence in "Finnegans Wake" also seemed to comment on: "The play thou schouwburgst, Game, here endeth" (FW 257.31). (Andrew Shields, #111words, 18 March 2023)

Friday, March 17, 2023

Little boys chattering in a shopping cart

While I was putting my groceries on the belt, two boys of perhaps four and three were chattering in the shopping cart behind mine. The older boy was telling his father what sounded like a story but kept turning into bursts of sounds; the younger boy was half-scatting and half-beatboxing. I caught their father’s eye and said, “Ah-loo-ba-doo-bah”. He laughed, and I listened to the boys until I had to pay attention to the cashier. — As I put the groceries into the car and then drove off, those boys inspired me to scat and chant and sing and improvise with my voice and mouth until I got to the gas station. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 17 March 2023)

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Gregor Samsa from Franz Kafka’s “Die Verwandlung” (1917) in Bruno Latour’s “Ou suis-je? Leçons du confinement à l'usage des terrestres" (2021)

Gregor Samsa from Franz Kafka's "Die Verwandlung" (1917) runs through Bruno Latour's "Où suis-je? Leçons du confinement à l'usage des terrestres" (2021) as a figure for the pandemic experience of "confinement" (lockdown), from Latour's first introduction of Gregor with a comparison to his own experience ("C'est comme si j'avais subi, moi aussi, une vrai métamorphose") to the book's final lines about people like Gregor today: "Ils s'émancipent enfin. Ils se déconfinent. Ils se métamorphosent." For me, the most beautiful moment in Latour's treatment of the figure of Gregor comes early on when he echoes the conclusion to Albert Camus's "Le Mythe de Sisyphe" (1942): "Il faut imaginer Gregor Samsa heureux ..." (Andrew Shields, #111words, 16 March 2023)

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Sherlock Holmes with Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller

Preparing for an exam on Arthur Conan Doyle's first two Sherlock Holmes novels ("A Study in Scarlet", 1887; "The Sign of the Four", 1890), the first episode of "Sherlock" (2010, with Benedict Cumberbatch) and the first two episodes of "Elementary" (2012, with Jonny Lee Miller), I confirmed my previous experience: despite great performances from Miller and Lucy Liu, Elementary gets tiresome over time, while the resolution of that first "Sherlock" episode is so disappointing I didn't want to watch any more. Sherlock should have laughed at that taxi driver: "Is that your thing? A narrative cliché? You watched 'The Princess Bride' and thought, 'I can do that.' What an utter letdown." (Andrew Shields, #111words, 15 March 2023)

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

More adventures on my musical quest with Christoph Irniger’s Pilgrim and Andreas Schärer’s Hildegard Lernt Fliegen

This coming weekend I'll continue my quest for musical transformation. On Friday in Basel, saxophonist Christoph Irniger's Pilgrim will be at the Bird's Eye; the band features two musicians I saw last month, pianist Stefan Aeby and drummer Michael Stulz from the Stefan Aeby Trio, as well as bassist Rafaele Bossard (whom I've heard before with Joe Haider) and guitarist Dave Gisler (whom I'm looking forward to hearing for the first time). Then on Saturday in Zug and on Sunday in Freiburg in Breisgau, I'll be "looking for adventure" again with vocalist Andreas Schärer and Hildegard Lernt Fliegen — the thirteenth and fourteenth times I will have seen this extraordinary band live. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 14 March 2023)

Monday, March 13, 2023

Ted Gioia’s “Music to Raise the Dead” and my experience of the transformative power of music with John Scofield, Dave Holland, and The Grateful Dead

From the perspective of Ted Gioia's ongoing serial publication of "Music to Raise the Dead" on his Substack "The Honest Broker", the two concerts I saw last week (Dave Holland and John Scofield) were each a transformative experience. But they also linked with when I saw Holland and Scofield for the first time in the mid-eighties (Scofield even with Miles Davis). After previously discovering The Grateful Dead, only jazz also gave me that same sensation. That link gave Scofield’s concert an extra twist: he played Dead tunes in jazz arrangements that themselves transformed the songs and took them to new places even beyond the many places the Dead had taken them. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 13 March 2023)


Sunday, March 12, 2023

An “old man” playing “somewhere” with “uncle John’s Band”: John Scofield and Yankee Go Home at the Volkshaus Basel, 11 March 2023

Last night at Basel's Volkshaus with Jon Cowherd (piano), Vicente Archer (bass), and Josh Dion (drums), guitarist John Scofield arranged Neil Young's "Old Man" with a brisk tempo. Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim's "Somewhere" showcased Scofield's rich tone, while Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter's "Uncle John's Band" featured a lively duet from Cowherd and Scofield, with a refrain of unison octaves by Archer and Scofield. Dion sang on Garcia-Hunter's "Black Muddy River" and on "Turn On Your Lovelight", with its long, loud, rocking duet from Scofield and Dion. In the encore of Young's ballad "Only Love Can Break Your Heart", Archer and Scofield offered especially beautiful solos to conclude the show. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 12 March 2023)

John Scofield, photo by me

Saturday, March 11, 2023

John Scofield and Yankee Go Home at the Volkshaus Basel tonight – with tunes by The Grateful Dead?

John Scofield is at the Volkshaus Basel tonight with his Yankee Go Home band: Jon Cowherd on piano, Vicente Archer on bass, and Josh Dion on drums. My Facebook memories just reminded me I saw Scofield at the Theater Basel ten years sago today, with Larry Goldings on organ and Gregory Hutchinson on drums. The other day, I wanted to listen to Yankee Go Home, but Scofield hasn't released an album with them yet, so I searched on YouTube and had a pleasant surprise: among the "Yankee" songs they play are several by The Grateful Dead: "Uncle John's Band", "Eyes of the World", and "Black Muddy River" (with Dion on vocals). (Andrew Shields, #111words, 11 March 2023)

Friday, March 10, 2023

Train of thought triggered by a boy singing as he got off the bus

On the bus, I overheard a mother and her son talking English on his way to kindergarten. As they were getting off, he sung the refrain of "Chim Chim Cher-ee" from "Mary Poppins". I thought of John Coltrane's version, and his "My Favorite Things" from "The Sound of Music" — who* wrote that? The Sherman Brothers** wrote "Mary Poppins" — and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" (based on Ian Fleming's novel). Have songs from that been done by jazz musicians? There's "Truly Scrumptious", for example. Oh no, now that I have that song in my head, it will keep coming back to me all day. *Rodgers and Hammerstein. **Robert B. and Richard M. Sherman. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 10 March 2023)

Thursday, March 09, 2023

Sun Ra, Octavia E. Butler, and Afrofuturism on the History of Africana Philosophy

"The Space Race: Afrofuturism", the latest episode in the "History of Africana Philosophy" podcast series by Peter Adamson and Chike Jeffers (a subseries of Adamson's podcast on "The History of Philosophy without Any Gaps"), offers the wonderful surprise of a discussion of the philosophy of jazz musician Sun Ra (1914-1993), as well as a lengthy discussion of the ideas of science-fiction novelist Octavia E. Butler (1947-2006), especially her 1979 novel "Kindred". I saw two mesmerizing concerts by Sun Ra and his Arkestra in the 1980s, one in Oakland and one in Philadelphia, and I taught two short stories by Butler, "Near of Kin" and "Speech Sounds", just last semester in Basel. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 9 March 2023)


Wednesday, March 08, 2023

“Walt Meagher” in James Joyce’s “Finnegans Wake” (1939) and “Walter Meagher” in my life

The passage we read in the Basel "Finnegans Wake" reading group this evening concluded with a figure named Meagher (FW 61.13). That's the name of a family my family knew in California around 1970; they moved first to Canada and then to Devon in the United Kingdom as tax exiles who did not want to pay taxes in the United States because of the Vietnam War. But then Joyce's Meagher is given a first name, Walt (FW 61.19) – and the father of that family was Walter Meagher. As is always the case, it's nice to find anachronistic moments in James Joyce's 1939 novel – and even nicer when the association's so personal. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 8 March 2023)

Tuesday, March 07, 2023

Intensity and dynamics: Dave Holland, Eric Harland, and Kevin Eubanks at Moods in Zurich, 6 March 2023

Before the band began playing at Moods in Zurich last night, bassist Dave Holland first introduced drummer Eric Harland and guitarist Kevin Eubanks (with Eubanks introducing Holland) and then announced that they would play straight through without further comments. After a short quiet beginning with Holland and Harland, the band quickly reached a crescendo as Eubanks entered with psychedelic guitar. The band maintained that loud intensity for minutes on end – and maintained a similar intensity even in later, quieter passages, especially in one in which Harland offered a wide range of variations of what a drummer can do when just playing snare, hi-hat, and an occasional touch of toms and cymbals. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 7 March 2023)

Monday, March 06, 2023

Emily Dickinson’s house from outside (Michael Longley) and inside (me)

During his reading at the University of Basel in late 1995 or early 1996, Irish poet Michael Longley told the story of how he ended up not having time to visit Emily Dickinson's house during a visit to Amherst, Massachusetts. But he did drive by it at night, and a light shining in a window made him imagine Dickinson up late writing a poem. I told him during the discussion that his experience of Dickinson's house was better than mine: I actually went into it one summer a few years before that reading, but the items on view there were not Dickinson's original things, which were all at Harvard University instead. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 6 March 2023)

Sunday, March 05, 2023

Writing a text in my head and then forgetting it completely

While working out on the cross trainer at the gym today, I listened to another Dave Holland record, "Aziza" (2016) with Chris Potter on saxophone, Lionel Loueke on guitar, and Eric Harland on drums (Harland and Kevin Eubanks will be with Holland in Zurich tomorrow). I wasn't going to write about the album this time; in fact, while listening, I was writing another text in my head, which I figured I'd be able to type up a version of later. I remember smiling about what a nice text it was going to be – but by the time I got home, I had even forgotten what the topic of the text was. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 5 March 2023)

Saturday, March 04, 2023

Listening to Dave Holland, enjoying Alex Sipiagin on trumpet and flugelhorn, and remembering hearing him in the 1990s

Continuing my anticipation of the Dave Holland concert at Moods in Zurich on Monday with Kevin Eubanks and Eric Harland, I listened today to Holland's 2010 octet album "Pathways", which was recorded live at Birdland in New York City in Janaury 2009. In an album full of beautiful arrangements, wonderful solos, and nonstop interplay, I especially enjoyed Alex Sipiagin's trumpet and flugelhorn solos. I saw Sipiagin once at the Atlantis in Basel in the late 1990s with the Gil Evans Orchestra, where he also stood out with one gorgeous solo after another. (Gil Evans died in 1988; the band I saw, led by Gil's son Miles Evans, was playing his arrangements.) (Andrew Shields, #111words, 4 March 2023)

Friday, March 03, 2023

Listening to Dave Holland and discovering he’ll be at Moods in Zurich on 6 March 2023

Listening to Dave Holland's two big-band albums, "What Goes Around" (2002) and "Overtime" (2005), made me wonder if Holland is on the road in Europe – and he's playing at Moods in Zurich this coming Monday, 6 March, with Kevin Eubanks on guitar and Eric Harland on drums. Holland's most recent album, "Another Land" (2021), is also a trio with Eubanks and Obed Calvaire on drums. Yesterday, I listened to an old favorite with Holland, "Gateway" (1976), with John Abercrombie on guitar and Jack DeJohnette on drums – and I wondered if Holland might play any of his tunes from earlier albums with the current band, as he did with the Big Band. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 3 March 2023)

Thursday, March 02, 2023

A moment from “Juju”, by Wayne Shorter (1933-2023)

On 3 August 1964, Wayne Shorter (1933-2023) took his tenor saxophone to Van Gelder Studios in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, not far from his hometown of Newark. There, he recorded six of his compositions with pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Reggie Workman, and drummer Elvin Jones. One way to pay homage to his long career as a composer and improviser (on his own albums, with Miles Davis, and with Weather Report, among many other things) is to listen to "Juju", the title cut of the album they recorded that day, and hear the explosiveness of Shorter's return to the main melody at the 6:15 point, at the end of Jones's drum solo. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 2 March 2023)


Wednesday, March 01, 2023

The secrecy of the young in Charles Dickens’s “Great Expectations” (1861) and Carol Shields’s “Larry’s Party” (1998)

When Pip in Charles Dickens's "Great Expectations" (1861) is bullied by an escaped convict to steal food for him, he reflects on his youthful feelings: "Since that time, which is far enough away now, I have often thought that few people know what secrecy there is in the young under terror." While this reminded me of the depiction of the Terror during the French Revolution in Dickens's "A Tale of Two Cities" (1859), I also thought of Carol Shields's "Larry's Party" (1997), when Larry recalling what his parents knew about the bullying he experienced: "[...] they didn't have an inkling, and [...] it takes a thousand inklings to make a clue." (Andrew Shields, #111words, 1 March 2023)

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

“That kind of stuff”: Keith Jarrett playing one-handed piano and listening to old recordings (“I think I had more hands”) in his interview with Rick Beato

Starting at 10:27 in Rick Beato's recent YouTube interview with Keith Jarrett, Jarrett, who has been lame on his left side since he suffered two strokes in 2018, plays two minutes of riveting one-handed piano with his still healthy right hand. When he abruptly breaks off, he chuckles about what he can play: "That kind of stuff." After several other one-handed passages, Beato, starting at 31:25, plays a recording of a 1980s Jarrett solo-piano performance of Miles Davis's "Solar". The contrast between the young Jarrett's physicality and his slow movements today is extraordinarily moving, and at the end he jokes again about his younger self: "I think I had more hands." (Andrew Shields, #111words, 28 February 2023)


Monday, February 27, 2023

The unpredictability of comments on the translations I do

Handing in a translation has been a mixed experience for me over the years. At times, I get positive feedback with several (and sometimes many) excellent questions that help me make the translation even better. At others, I get negative feedback that might even question my ability to speak German properly. One writer first admitted that his English was not very good but then went on to challenge some of the phrasing in my translation as incorrect. But at least he mentioned details rather than just telling me to revise my "terrible" translation without any comments or suggestions. Unsurprisingly, I can never predict what kind of response each translation will get. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 27 February 2023)

Sunday, February 26, 2023

The only reference to photography in a novel by Charles Dickens: In “Great Expectations” (1861)

The opening lines of Charles Dickens's "Great Expectations" (1861) find Pip forced to imagine what his parents might have looked like, since no pictures of them exist: "[...] I never saw my father or my mother, and never saw any likeness of either of them (for their days were long before the days of photographs) [...]." In part because I noticed a reference to a "machine for taking likenesses" in Dickens's "Oliver Twist" (1838), which I noted could not have been a photographic camera, it struck me that this is the first reference to photographs in Dickens's novels – and apparently the only one, according to my search of a Dickens concordance. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 26 February 2023)

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Translating (or not) Boris Lurie’s use of “KaZet” for “Konzentrationslager” (concentration camp)

One of the first texts I translated in Boris Lurie's "Geschriebigtes Gedichtiges" was the first poem in the book from 1955, "Hier, in New York, Friedl" (which is also the only poem included in the book from before the 1980s). Here, Lurie uses the expression "KaZet", which is his phonetic spelling of "KZ", an abbreviation for the German word for "concentration camp": "KonZentrationslager". Not being sure what I should do with it, I put in "concentration camp" as a placeholder. But as Lurie uses the expression often (by my count, in fourteen texts in the book in all), I ultimately decided to always leave the phrase in the original German: "KaZet". (Andrew Shields, #111words, 25 February 2023) 

Friday, February 24, 2023

The Claus Raible Trio and the Stefan Aeby Trio in contrast at the Bird’s Eye in Basel in January and February

At the concert by the Claus Raible Trio at the Bird's Eye in Basel on 31 January, pianist Raible, bassist Giorgos Antoniou, and drummer Xaver Hellmeier played standards and originals in a straight, tight style with room to explore subtleties that grew ever richer as the set continued, with Hellmeier in particular finding ever new variations on swinging grooves. The concert by the Stefan Aeby Trio at the Bird's Eye on 22 February offered a contrast: pianist Aeby, bassist André Pousaz, and drummer Michael Stulz played originals in a loose style that was all exploration in the first set before settling into ever tighter grooves in the course of the second. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 24 February 2023)

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Schrödinger’s cruelty to animals

My sixteen-year-old daughter Sara is fascinated by physics, and this evening, she asked me questions about quantum mechanics. I did my best to explain my understanding of the history of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, first in terms of observers measuring the position and momentum of particles, and then in terms of a fully probabilistic interpretation of quantum mechanics. (My neighbor doing her doctorate in physics would surely correct the details.) When I began to explain Schrödinger's cat, I immediately thought that she would not like the idea of the cat dying – and she didn't. Her reaction made me wonder about why Schrödinger formulated his thought experiment in terms of cruelty to animals. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 23 February 2023)

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

From verse novels in the morning to a jazz piano trio in the evening

Today was the first session of my verse-novels course: we discussed why novels are usually written in prose. After meeting a student to discuss her essays, I went home and had chili for lunch. After a nap, I did the final preparations for classes tomorrow, then went to the supermarket, the gym, and home again for more chili. The day ended with the Stefan Aeby Trio at the Bird’s Eye, with André Pousaz on bass and Michael Stulz on drums. The rich, vibrant tradition of the piano-bass-and-drums jazz trio offers one answer to the day’s question: novels are usually written in prose because there’s a lively, centuries-long tradition to engage with.  (Andrew Shields, #111words, 22 February 2023) 

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Finishing a cycle of Toni Morrison courses with her “late novels"

This semester, I'll be completing my cycle of spring-semester courses on Toni Morrison's novels with "Toni Morrison's Late Novels". We'll be reading "Love" (2003), "A Mercy" (2008), "Home" (2012), and "God Help the Child" (2015). This is the first of the three courses where I had not read any of the novels before I began preparing the course, but by now I've read all four twice. Of the four, my favorite is "A Mercy", which is set in the seventeenth century and shifts perspective from character to character with Morrison's characteristic complexity and virtuosity. Yet it remains clear and vivid even on the first read, while unfolding richly on the second. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 21 February 2023)

Monday, February 20, 2023

Meeting jazz bassist Dave Holland on the street in Manhattan in the 1980s

I remembered this today, and thought I'd write about it, but I'd already written on Facebook about it in 2017. It was 104 words then. — In the 80s, I once ran into jazz bassist Dave Holland in Manhattan. Standing in front of a corrugated iron sheet pulled down in an entryway, he told me he'd just finished recording an album with Steve Coleman and Jack DeJohnette and was waiting to be picked up. When the album came out, the pictures of the players in the booklet were all in front of the same corrugated iron! I concluded we'd been standing downstairs from the Power Station, where it was recorded and mixed. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 20 February 2023) 

Sunday, February 19, 2023

The naturalization and medicalization of the French Revolution in Charles Dickens’s “A Tale of Two Cities” (1859)

While Charles Dickens offers a quite negative portrayal of the Jacobins and the Terror in "A Tale of Two Cities" (1859), especially in the figure of Madame Defarge, he does not defend the Ancien Régime either: “Physical diseases, engendered in the vices and neglects of men, will seize on victims of all degrees; and the frightful moral disorder, born of unspeakable suffering, intolerable oppression, and heartless indifference, smote equally without distinction.” While Dickens here empathizes with the revolutionaries, his naturalization and medicalization of both the pre-revolutionary excess of "suffering, oppression, and indifference" and the excesses of revolutionary "disorder" makes social change a matter not of politics but of morality and hygiene.  (Andrew Shields, #111words, 19 February 2023) 

Saturday, February 18, 2023

“The deadly nature of her wrath”: Madame Defarge in Charles Dickens’s “A Tale of Two Cities” (1859)

In Charles Dickens's "A Tale of Two Cities" (1859), Madame Defarge drives the excesses of the Terror with "the deadly nature of her wrath". She wants vengeance against the Evremonde family and its last survivor, Charles Darnay, for her family's deaths: “[...] that peasant family so injured by the two Evremonde brothers [...] is my family. [...] that sister of the mortally wounded boy upon the ground was my sister, that husband was my sister's husband, that unborn child was their child, that brother was my brother, that father was my father, those dead are my dead [...].” I would love a feminist revenge version of the novel from her perspective. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 18 February 2023) 

Friday, February 17, 2023

The joy of listening to David Murray

One of my favorite musicians when I first discovered jazz in the 1980s was tenor saxophonist, bass clarinetist, and composer David Murray. I saw him live with Jack DeJohnette's Special Edition and the World Saxophone Quartet. When I moved to Europe in 1991, he went off my radar a bit (though I have seen him twice since then), but in the last few days, after once again enjoying his duo album with pianist Aki Takase, "Cherry Sakura", I've been listening to all my Murray albums, and just now my morning has been made by the beautiful version of his "Flowers for Albert" on his 1982 David Murray Octet album "Murray's Steps". (Andrew Shields, #111words, 17 February 2023)



Thursday, February 16, 2023

"Wouldn't it be wrong for Adidas to take Nazi money?": Sarah Silverman, Dulcé Sloan, and the Nazi history of Adidas

Last night on the Daily Show, in an exchange with Dulcé Sloan about the problems Adidas has been having since cancelling Kanye West's contract, Sarah Silverman posed a question after Sloan suggested that only West's supporters would still wear the shoes that Adidas no longer wants to sell: "Wouldn't it be wrong for Adidas to take Nazi money?" I'd like to think that Silverman, Sloan, and their writers are consciously playing here with Adidas's origins as the "Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik" in the 1920s; both Dassler brothers (Adi of Adidas and Rudolf of Puma) joined the Nazi Party in May 1933 and delivered shoes to the German Army throughout World War Two. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 16 February 2023)


Wednesday, February 15, 2023

George Eliot, "Felix Holt" (1866), and ChatGPT

A few days ago, a Facebook memory came up from my sixteen months of reading George Eliot novels back in 2017-2018; it was a quotation from "Felix Holt, The Radical" (1866): "There are two ways of speaking an audience will always like: one is to tell them what they don’t understand; and the other is, to tell them what they’re used to." Back then, I couldn't have had the thought which crossed my mind now: ChatGPT impresses people because it tells them "what they're used to" in a style they're used to – or if it's something "they don't understand", they assume it must be correct and feel like they've been informed. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 15 February 2023)

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

"Originalism fails its own test": David Cole on the fallacies of "originalism" in legal interpretation in the United States

In "Originalism’s Charade", his review in the New York Review of Books of 24 November 2022 of two books on legal interpretation in the United States, David Cole of the ACLU presents a devastating critique of the doctrine of "originalism" as a method of such interpretation, which "contends that the Constitution should be interpreted and enforced on the basis of its 'original meaning,' namely what it meant when it was adopted." His final criticism exposing originalism's emptiness made me laugh out loud: "Perhaps most fatally, originalism fails its own test. There simply is no evidence that the Constitution’s original meaning was that it should be interpreted according to its original meaning." (Andrew Shields, #111words, 14 February 2023)


Monday, February 13, 2023

A gym subscription renewed, three years later

In late January 2020, my subscription to the gym at the University of Basel expired, but I put off renewing it until after I visited my mother in Massachusetts that February. By the time I returned, the coronavirus had spread much further, so I thought I'd wait before renewing my subscription. That wait ended up being over three years long (though the three years in question seem much longer in retrospect), and today I bought another subscription and had a first, easy workout of thirty minutes on the cross trainer. Even that much reminded me that my long walks during the pandemic were good, but a good workout is much better. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 13 February 2023)

Sunday, February 12, 2023

"I shall have no scruple in asking you to take my place": Charles Musgrove, guns, and Anne Elliot's opportunity to respond to Captain Wentworth's proposal in Jane Austen's "Persuasion" (1818)

In Jane Austen's "Persuasion" (1818), after Anne Elliot reads the letter in which Captain Wentworth declares himself, she accepts her brother-in-law Charles Musgrove's offer to walk her home. When they run into Captain Wentworth, Charles passes on his responsibility for Anne: “[...] I shall have no scruple in asking you to take my place, and give Anne your arm to her father's door. [...] I ought to be at that fellow's in the Market Place. He promised me the sight of a capital gun [...]” — This single-minded focus on guns and shooting may make him look shallow, but here it gives Anne the opportunity she needs to respond to Wentworth's advances. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 12 February 2023)

Saturday, February 11, 2023

"Rat-hunting all the morning in my father's great barns": Charles Musgrove and Captain Benwick in Jane Austen's "Persuasion" (1818)

In Jane Austen's "Persuasion" (1818), Charles Musgrove tells his sister-in-law Anne Elliot why he's begun to appreciate his sister Henrietta's bookish fiancé Captain Benwick: "I got more acquainted with him last Monday than ever I did before. We had a famous set-to at rat-hunting all the morning in my father's great barns; and he played his part so well that I have liked him the better ever since." Amusingly, Charles only likes Benwick when they shoot together, even though the Captain has just returned from the Napoleonic wars, where he surely shot Frenchmen, not rats. — That's an interpretation, but really I'm just struck by the image of hunting rats in barns. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 11 February 2023)

Friday, February 10, 2023

Translating the title of Boris Lurie's collected writing, "Geschriebigtes Gedichtiges"

The two words in the title of Boris Lurie's collected writing, "Geschriebigtes Gedichtiges", are nouns derived from past participles (as the -tes endings and the ge- prefixes show); those participles are themselves derived from two unusual verbs: not the common "schreiben" (to write) and "dichten" (to write poetry) but neologisms formed from them with the not uncommon "-igen" ending for verbs: "schreibigen" and "dichtigen". So translate these two words, I need nouns that can stand alone and are based on forms of verbs that might themselves be unusual. I brainstormed many clumsy possibilities before finally coming up with something that I'm happy to say that I'm rather pleased with: "Pennings Poemings". (Andrew Shields, #111words, 10 February 2023)

Thursday, February 09, 2023

From Boris Lurie to the Grateful Dead to Wulf Wolodia Grajonca (Bill Graham) to Boris Lurie

While translating one prose text by Boris Lurie about his time in the Stutthof concentration camp and another about his complicated relationship to his languages (Yiddish, Russian, German, and English), I was listening to the Grateful Dead. When I noticed that juxtaposition, I remembered that Bill Graham, the promoter of concerts by the Dead and countless other bands until his death in 1991, was born Wulf Wolodia Grajonca in Berlin in 1931. In 1939, he was sent to France and then to the United States to live in a foster home in New York City. And like Boris Lurie's mother, grandmother, and sister, Wulf Grajonca's mother was murdered in the Holocaust. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 9 February 2023)

Wednesday, February 08, 2023

Translating and walking in Zollbrück in the Emmental

I'm spending six days in Zollbrück in the Emmental in central Switzerland to work on my project translating texts by artist Boris Lurie. I arrived yesterday at the apartment I'm renting from a couple I met at the Swiss Indoors in Basel last fall. After working for a while, I went across the Emme river and walked through town to go shopping. Today, I went shopping again when the sun came out at 3 pm. When I returned, I put the groceries in the apartment and went for a walk on a path along the Emme for forty-five minutes, just enjoying a sunny afternoon break in a day of translation work. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 8 February 2023)


View of the Emme from the path along the river


Tuesday, February 07, 2023

C. J. Dennis's "The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke", Raymond Longford's "The Sentimental Bloke", and Les Murray's "Fredy Neptune"

Before Fred Boettcher in Les Murray's 1999 verse novel "Fredy Neptune" ends up in Hollywood a few years later, he goes to the movies in Australia with his future wife Laura to see "The Sentimental Bloke." This critically and commercially successful 1918 silent movie by prolific Australian director Raymond Longford was based on Australian poet C. J. Dennis's equally successful 1915 verse novel "The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke", which was also made into a sound film in 1932 and has twice been turned into a musical. Murray's own verse novel has not made it to the screen or the stage yet, but its picaresque narrative would perhaps best be served by a television series. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 7 February 2023)

Monday, February 06, 2023

Thanking musicians

When I go to concerts, I like to thank the musicians, if the opportunity presents itself. This is especially possible at jazz concerts in small clubs like the Bird's Eye in Basel. When I thank jazz musicians, I always try to mention a specific moment I liked, such as a drummer's fills or a soloist's work on a particular song. When I mention such details, the musicians first thank me and then often ask if I'm a musician. While I am a "serious amateur" on guitar and mandolin, I play "psychedelic folk" (as I call it), not jazz. But after attending hundreds of jazz concerts, I've learned to hear the details. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 6 February 2023)

Sunday, February 05, 2023

Images and abstractions in Denise Levertov's poems

In my daily reading of poems by Denise Levertov (which has been occasionally interrupted lately), I find myself quoting lines that seem most like what Levertov taught in her creative-writing classes: "No ideas / but in things", as William Carlos Williams put it. But Levertov was clear about how she understood Williams's point: not "no ideas at all", but only "ideas through things". Indeed, while her poems are full of vividly described images, they often build on that imagery to arrive at more abstract passages. When I quote the imagery, I leave out her ideas, but if I quoted her ideas, they would seem flat without the images that ground them. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 5 February 2023)

Saturday, February 04, 2023

The overcast February sky over the highway from Zurich to Basel

Although it's overcast in most of northern Switzerland today, the sky over the highway as I drove from Zurich airport back to Basel late this afternoon had enough breaks between the clouds that I had to keep my sunglasses handy for the moments when I might suddenly be blinded by the sun bursting through. But then there'd be a tunnel, and I'd push the glasses up on the top of my head, and when the tunnel ended, the sky would be gray again. For the last half hour, the sky overhead was overcast again, but far in the distance on the horizon was a stripe of sunny blue to drive to. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 4 February 2023)

Friday, February 03, 2023

Listening to R.E.M. and remembering their debut "Murmur" when it came out in 1983

Today, my binge listening has been to R.E.M. First, my shuffle suggested their second album "Reckoning" (1984), then I turned to "Document" (1987) and "Fables of the Reconstruction" (1985). I also remembered how I first heard their debut album "Murmur" at KZSU, the Stanford student radio station. It came out in April 1983, according to Wikipedia, and I probably played and loved "Radio Free Europe" shortly after that, especially as it was very popular among my fellow student DJs. I finally heard them live at the Oakland Coliseum Arena on 13 November 1987 (a date I dug up on the internet recently), before they graduated to stadiums a few years later. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 3 February 2023)

Thursday, February 02, 2023

Finding an English translation of the German word "Schnittchen" by going through French

In the early 1990s in Germany, I learned about "Schnittchen", which my future mother-in-law would serve, often quite spontaneously: a platter of single slices of bread with various toppings on them. I only thought about what else to call them today, when the word appeared in a poem I was translating from German into English. I first thought of "open-faced sandwich", which is more a description than a name and didn't fit the poem at all, so then I tried something I'd never done before: I used a German-French dictionary to see if there was a good French word. And when I saw it, I thought it was just right: canapé. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 2 February 2023)

Wednesday, February 01, 2023

"Messrs Achburn, Soulpetre and Ashreborn" and the ingredients of gunpowder in James Joyce's "Finnegans Wake"

In James Joyce's "Finnegans Wake" (1939), a minor figure is introduced with his occupation, nickname, and employer: "A dustman nocknamed Seven-churches in the employ of Messrs Achburn, Soulpetre and Ashreborn, prairmakers, Glintalook [...]" (59.16-18). In "Annotations to Finnegans Wake" (2016), Roland McHugh points out that "charcoal + saltpetre + sulfur = gunpowder", but our reading group was confused at first this evening: "Soulpetre" is saltpetre, but how do "Achburn" and "Ashreborn" correspond to charcoal and sulfur, respectively? Only later did I notice that McHugh's list of ingredients was in a different order than Joyce's names: I'm not sure why "Achburn" corresponds to sulfur, but "Ashreborn" is a good characterization of charcoal. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 1 February 2023)

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Down a rabbit hole with Czech-American diplomat and professor Joseph Korbel

My rabbit hole today began with the childhood of Madeleine Albright, the first woman to be United States Secretary of State, and continued with her father, Joseph Korbel. Before World War Two, he worked at the Czechoslovakian embassy in Belgrade, and after spending the war in Britain (where he and his family converted from Judaism to Catholicism), he returned to Belgrade as Czechoslovakia's Ambassador to Yugoslavia. After the Communist takeover of Czechoslovakia, he received asylum in the United States, where he began a long career as Professor of International Studies at the University of Denver – and one of his students there later also became Secretary of State (from 2005-2009): Condoleezza Rice. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 31 January 2023)

Monday, January 30, 2023

Elton John's six albums in the four years from 1970 to 1973

This evening, I had one of my occasional urges to listen to Elton John. It started with "Bennie and the Jets" going through my head, so I listened to a few songs from "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" (1973), turned back to "Elton John" (1970), and dipped into the intervening albums, "Tumbleweed Connection" (1970), "Madman Across the Water" (1971), "Honky Château" (1972), and "Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player" (1973). I don't listen to Elton John much, and today I only listened to about a dozen songs in all, but those six albums in four years make for quite a run, each with multiple hits and many other good songs. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 30 January 2023)

Sunday, January 29, 2023

A memory of bowling from forty years ago

When my daughter Sara told me she was going to go bowling with friends this afternoon, I lamented that the problems with my right elbow that flared up when I tried to learn to juggle a few years ago prevent me from bowling anymore. I mentioned that my best bowling sequence was four strikes in a row, but only when she asked me when that happened did I remember that during my freshman year at Stanford in 1982-1983, someone in my dorm organized a bowling team, and I joined it. I was only an okay bowler, but we had fun, and once I actually did bowl four strikes in a row. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 29 January 2023)

Saturday, January 28, 2023

"I want your eye, man": Jordan Peele's "Get Out" and the death of Black photographer Tyre Nichols

In Jordan Peele's "Get Out" (2017), blind white art dealer Jim Hudson (Stephen Root) explains to Black photographer Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) why he wants his brain transplanted into Chris's body: "I want your eye, man. I want those things you see through." White America wants what Black America sees, but without Black bodies. This crossed my mind when I read Heather Cox Richardson's "Letter from an American" for yesterday, 27 January, which is unusually brief for her. After Black photographer Tyre Nichols was beaten to death by five police officers in Memphis earlier this month, she discreetly refrains from comment but provides a link to Nichols's website with his photography. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 28 January 2023)


Whatever happened to Milton from Office Space?
Jim Hudson (Stephen Root) in Jordan Peele's "Get Out" (2017)

Friday, January 27, 2023

Reading Denise Levertov's "Settling" as "Seattling"

I bought Denise Levertov's "Evening Train" when it came out in 1992. I knew she had recently moved from Somerville, Massachusetts, to Seattle, Washington, so I misread the title of the first poem as "Seattling" instead of "Settling". I didn't notice my mistake until I'd finished reading the poem, whose reference to an eagle, a mountain, and "the grey foretold by all and sundry" were all consistent with "Seattling" down in Denise's new city. When I saw her again in Palo Alto, California, in 1993 and shared my misreading with her, she blessed me with her beautiful laughter for what turned out be the last time before her death in 1997. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 27 January 2023)



Denise Levertov, "Evening Train", 1992

"Collected Poems", 853


I was welcomed here—clear gold

of late summer, of opening autumn,

the dawn eagle sunning himself on the highest tree,

the mountain revealing herself unclouded, her snow

tinted apricot as she looked west,

tolerant, in her steadfastness, of the restless sun

forever rising and setting.

.                                        Now I am given

a taste of the grey foretold by all and sundry,

a grey both heavy and chill. I've boasted I would not care,

I'm London-born. And I won't. I'll dig in,

into my days, having come here to live, not to visit.

Grey is the price

of neighboring with eagles, of knowing

a mountain's vast presence, seen or unseen.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

The rising price of quinoa and its effects in South America

The other day, an article by Daniel Strassberg in "Republik" included a passing reference to how the growing global popularity of quinoa has driven up prices so much that Andean quinoa farmers can no longer afford to buy their own crop. Curious, I found an article in the "Guardian" that said this wasn't true, and I posted it as a comment. Then Sabin Bieri of the University of Bern posted a link to her ongoing research on such issues. The farmers are actually doing quite well, but they've stopped eating quinoa because it's seen as "poor people's food". It's the South American urban poor who have suffered from the higher prices. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 26 January 2023)


Firmina Castro harvests her quinoa in the highlands in Puno region, southeastern Peru
Photograph: Tomas Munita/ITC. From the linked article in the "Guardian".



Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Guidelines announced by "Nature" for the use of Large-Language Models in scholarship

Yesterday, in response to the continuing development and growing use of text-generating large-language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT, "Nature" and other journals published by Springer Nature added two new principles to their style sheet for authors: first, "no LLM tool will be accepted as a credited author on a research paper"; second, use of LLM tools must be acknowledged in papers. These guidelines establish that LLM tools can serve the writing of scholarship but cannot replace the role of authors and the responsibility that they must take for their work. The editorial making the announcement is also pleasantly dry, without the undertone of panic that otherwise accompanies so much writing about ChatGPT. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 25 January 2023)


Tuesday, January 24, 2023

"My hand on chiseled stone": A touch across the centuries in Denise Levertov's "The Past (II)"

In her poem "Inheritance", which I wrote about the other day, a family story takes Denise Levertov back over a century to her grandmother's childhood. In "The Past (II)", which is also in "A Door in the Hive" (1989), Levertov touches a stone church and imagines the masons who built it: "My hand on chiseled stone, fitting / into the invisible / print of the mason's own [...]." Taking her even farther than that story, that touch guides Levertov across the centuries to imagine a scene from the age of the church's construction: "The new dust / floated past, his mate / from the scaffolding reached down / for the water-jug." (Andrew Shields, #111words, 24 January 2023)


The Past (II)

Denise Levertov, A Door in the Hive, 1989

Collected Poems, 842-843


'The witnesses are old things, undimmed, dense

With the life of human hands' – Czesław Miłosz


My hand on chiseled stone, fitting

into the invisible

print of the mason's own

where it lay

a moment of that year the nave

was still half-risen, roofless . . .


There's a past that won't suffice:

years in billions,

walls of strata. My need roams

history, centuries not aeons.

And replica is useless.


The new dust

floated past, his mate

from the scaffolding reached down

for the water-jug.


This stone

or another: no inch of all

untouched. Cold, yes,


but that human trace

will burn my palm.

This is a hunger.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Images of the Great Siege of Gibraltar and its aftermath

Recently, having read a reference to the Great Siege of Gibraltar of 1779-1783, I went to Wikipedia, where I found information, but also several dramatic paintings that depict the siege, such as John Trumbull's "The Sortie Made by the Garrison of Gibraltar" (1789), which is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and Thomas Whitcombe's "Destructionof the Floating Batteries at Gibraltar, 14 September 1782" (1782), which is at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. But the picture that moves me most is from the aftermath, not from a battle: "Main Street after the Siege by Captain Davis looking South", from 1793, which is at the Gibraltar National Museum. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 23 January 2023)


"Main Street after the Siege by Captain Davis looking South", from 1793, Gibraltar National Museum.