Stephen, his Pussycat & Michelangelo's Poems
Wednesday, November 20, 2019
Because I am a product
of that past century (I believe I may have a dozen blogs within my 4886 of
them that begin like that) books have been part of my life.
Almost four years ago, faced with around 4000 books and the
difficult prospect to moving to a small duplex, I attempted to give away books.
The Vancouver Public Library spokespersons told me that they were not a
repository of books. Few of my friends were interested. Don Stewart at Macleod Books
accepted about 300. A mystery book store in upper Hastings in Burnaby took some
150. I then personally threw into a neighbourhood construction bin 1000 books.
In my mind was the memory of Peron’s minions burning books before his fall in
It was painful, and to make it worse (it helped sink in my
melancholy), I threw my Dostoyevsky books (softcovers) while loudly saying in
the middle of the night, “Goodbye Dostoyevsky, old friend.”
All this, because it seemed to be less stressful to throw
them away than find a home for them.
When we finally moved to our present Kitsilano little house
I swore I would never buy any more books. With the exception of a fewer than
10, I have stuck to my guns with new books. With used books it has been a
terrible but ultimately pleasant relapse. Don Stewart
at Macleod’s has been
responsible for many of them. The others come from random searches in wheeled carts with books not wanted by our neighbourhood Vancouver Public Libraries. Neil Young's Waging Heavy Peace
($0.50) is making the rounds of my daughter Ale's community in Lillooet.
Today at a nearby thrift store (a beautifully posh one)
called Hob Too on West Broadway I found, Portrait – The Life of Thomas Eakins
by William S. McFeely, Madame Valentino –The Many Faces of Natacha Rambowa
by Michael Morris and the little slim book featured in today’s blog.
I have chosen my favourite of Michelangelo’s poems which in
this case is opposite one of his drawings (with no connection that I can
discern to the poem) and I am left with wonder at who was the mysterious Stephen
who seemed to have been working in the exclusive London, S.W.1. district and
who addresses his equally mysterious Sue as Pussycat in the lovely little card
that I found in the book.
My grandmother often told me, “La ignorancia es atrevida,” or,
“ignorance is daring.” I must admit that I never heard of Michelangelo’s poems.
And that the lovely and challenging introduction by Michael Ayrton is of an
English artist I had no prior knowledge of.
no te quemen las llamas
Monday, November 18, 2019
|18 November 2019|
primaveras al marcharse dejan las lloviznas de otoño preparadas… Pequeña, ve
despacio, mucho juicio, no te quemen tus llamas.“
When springs march away they leave ready, fall drizzle ... Little one, go slowly, use judgment, should your flames burn you...
In this recent NY Times Sunday Book Review entitled Cult of the Literary Sad Woman much is written about Sylvia Plath and other literary women who committed suicide.
I have a friend, a very well read friend in Buenos Aires who like quite a few Argentines cannot speak or read English. I often tell him all he misses. But there is another side to this coin. This is that Latin America has a rich literary output and a lot of the very best is not known north of the equator. One such literary giant (and definitely a sad woman) was Argentine (Swiss-born) poet Alfonsina Storni (
29 May 1892 – 25 October 1938) who did commit suicide and somehow wrote many poems about her death including the last one which she sent to La Nacíon newspaper a few days before her death.
While most of Jorge Luís Borges and Mario Vargas Llosa has been translated into English little of Storni and not all of Julio Cortázar has. This is a pity, particularly since those living north of the equator have been championing Frida Kahlo for her independence and proto feminism. Little has been written about other fisty women like Tina Modotti, Lee Miller and Alfonsina Storni. Storni was a single mother when to be so was anathema. Her poetry is erotic and sad, most of the time.
Today I scanned these rose leaves and their beauty instantly reminded me that Storni's first poems were published as La Inquietud del Rosal (1916) or the Uneasiness of the Rose [bush].
What is most interesting is that this 77-year-old just six years ago had no knowledge of Storni. Before I visited Buenos Aires in 2013 I was approached by a young Argentine woman (Roxana but I call her Yuki) who said she would be pleased to pose for me and that she wanted to do something related to Alfonsina Storni. And so it happened and Storni's book (Antología Mayor) shares space on my bed table with Emily Dickinson, Jorge Luís Borges and Julio Cortázar.
November left - then clambered up
Sunday, November 17, 2019
|Top rose hips, Rosa complicata, right, rose hips Rosa 'Souvenir du Docteur Jamain', leaves Rosa sirecea ssp. omeiensis var. pteracantha 17 November 2019|
Now that it is past mid November I might be able to retire my scanner for repair. Littel is left in our garden to scan. After a few years of using it (this has happened once before) the solvents from the plastic in the works underneath the scanner bottom glass has a thin opaque coating. And the placing of many plants and hard objects on the glass has left scratches. It is a pain to correct them with Photoshop. So the time has come to have my Epson PerfectionV700 Photo looked after.
589 – Emily Dickinson
The Night was wide, and furnished scant
With but a single Star —
That often as a Cloud it met —
Blew out itself — for fear —
The Wind pursued the little Bush —
And drove away the Leaves
November left — then clambered up
And fretted in the Eaves —
No Squirrel went abroad —
A Dog's belated feet
Like intermittent Plush, be heard
Adown the empty Street —
To feel if Blinds be fast —
And closer to the fire —
Her little Rocking Chair to draw —
And shiver for the Poor —
The Housewife's gentle Task —
How pleasanter — said she
Unto the Sofa opposite —
Pianos & not so pianissimo
Thursday, November 14, 2019
|Filomena de Irureta Goyena |
Because I have written 4885 blogs to date I have no memory
of many of them. This one
on pianos (and see below) suddenly appeared in my memory during a
midnight bout of my usual insomnia. Thinking about it I do know I have written
blogs about ties, beds
. Looking at this one on pianos I rather enjoyed
Just today I located a review of a March 1966 concert by Thelonius Monk
in Geneva by Argentine writer Julio Cortázar. Alas as nice as it is only those who can read Spanish will savour it as I did!
|Corey Hamm - September 4 - 2017 - Roy Barnett Hall UBC School of Music|
The piano as a musical instrument has been in my mind as of
late. Thinking about it I realized I have quite a few photographs of people by
pianos either pianists or simply sitting by one.
My first introduction to the piano came at age 8 when my
parents took me to the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires for a concert featuring
My mother did not own a piano but my grandmother did. We
would often go in Tram 35 to my Abuelita’s flat and my mother would first
accompany my her (she was a coloratura soprano) and my Uncle Tony who was a
fine tenor. They would sing American musical songs. Then my mother would play
(she read very well) Chopin and in particular I have a fond memory of Beethoven’s
|Jane Coop at Cecil Green, UBC My inspiration for the Corey Hamm portrait|
My mother did not have access to a piano until she began to
teach at the ALCOA Aluminio School in Veracruz, Mexico in the late 50s. The few
students who attended the school did so at my mother’s home so a piano was
bought. When I visited her she would play at my request the US Marine Corps
In the late 60s she bought an upright piano a black
Bechstein. When she moved to live with us (Rosemary, Alexandra and Hilary) we
were having money problems so she sold the piano. I was heartbroken at her
decision. I have never forgotten her sacrifice.
|Filomena de Irureta Goyena (my mother) at the piano sometime in the late 30s in Manila|
Around 1998 our neighbour across the street on Athlone
Street (she was in her 80s) told us that she was looking for a home for her
Chickering baby grand. Her grandmother had given it to her when she was a
little girl. She offered it to us for $500. I was easily transported from her
living room to ours.
after we obtained the Chickering I decided to give a summer party
featuring alto saxophonist Gavin Walker and pianist Eric Vaughn. It was a
beautifully warm summer evening and I remember sitting at the front
entrance smoking a Montecristo accompanied by Malcolm Parry.
My eldest daughter Ale who plays the classical guitar can
handle a piano nicely and she likes to play with my youngest granddaughter,
Lauren, 15, music for four hands.
Because of my mother’s sacrifice in selling her piano and my
deep guilt, a year and a half ago we had the piano restored by Mike Storey and
soon it will be tuned. The piano sits in what we call the piano room. We have
old lawyer’s stacking bookcases and my vermillion upholstered psychiatric couch
(the piano bench is also upholstered in the same material which also matches
the brand new red piano felts.
|Olena with Curtis Daily's baroque bass in our piano room|
Some reading this (and this is long) might notice some
photographs that have harpsichords.
For many years I was not impressed by the instrument. In
large baroque orchestras I could never hear it. Solo harpsichord playing left me cold.
All that changed when Alexander Weimann landed in Vancouver
to be the Artistic Director of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra. He explained how
in many instances nothing he played as a continuo performer for a baroque
orchestra was written and he had to improvise. With the connection between the
harpsichord and my love for jazz my ears suddenly opened to the charms of the
Finally on taking photographs of pianists. This is really a
cliché. I discovered that all has been done before and the one exception was
the Stravinsky portrait by Arnold Newman. I ripped off the idea for a Globe&Mail
article on Vancouver artist Rodney Graham.
|Igor Stravinsky - Arnold Newman|
Some years ago I was asked by Vancouver Pianist Jane Coop
to take her portraits. I found a way which I liked (and so did she). It was
that method that I used a few days ago on Corey Hamm
. Another time I had to
photograph noted local pianist Robert Silverman who had recorded Beethoven’s 32
Piano Sonatas. I decided to skip the piano on that occasion.