Thursday, April 22, 2021

a cart, a ball, and two boxes of wooden bricks

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Above Roy R. Behrens, Cavern (© 2021). Digital montage.


John Ruskin (Victorian-era writer and art critic), Prataerita [Of Past Things], 1899—

…I was never permitted for an instant [as a child] to hope, or even imagine, the possession of such things as one saw in toy shops. I had a bunch of keys to play with, as long as I was capable only of pleasure in which glittered and jingled; as I grew older, I had a cart, and a ball; and when I was five or six years old, two boxes of well-cut wooden bricks.

With these modest, but, I still think, entirely sufficient possessions, and being always summarily whipped if I cried, did not do as I was bid, or tumbled on the stairs, I soon attained serene and secure methods of life and motion; and could pass my days contently in tracing the squares and comparing the colors of my carpet; examining the knots in the wood of the floor, or counting the bricks in the opposite houses; with rapturous intervals of excitement during the fillling of the water cart, through its leathern pipe, from the dripping iron post at the pavement edge; or the still more admirable proceedings of the turncock, when he turned and turned until a fountain sprang up in the middle of the street. But the carpet, and what patterns I could find in the bed covers, dresses, or wallpapers to be examined, were my chief resources, and my attention to the particulars in these was soon so accurate that, when at three and a half I was taken to have my portrait painted by Mr. [James] Northcote, I had not been ten minutes alone with him before I asked him why there were holes in his carpet.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

one legge / testy forward imperious tyrannical

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Above Roy R. Behrens, Revisiting Thomas Eakins (© 2021). Digital montage.


Anthony à Wood, Life and Times

Sir Arthur Aston was governour of Oxon at what time it was garrison’d for the king, a testy, forward, imperious and tirannical person, hated in Oxford and elsewhere by God and Man. Who kervetting on horseback in Bullington green before certaine ladies, his horse flung him and broke his legge: so that it being cut off and he therupon rendred useless for employment, one Col. Legge succeeded him. Soon after the country people coming to market would be ever and anon asking the sentinell, “who was governor of Oxon?” They answered “one Legge.” Then replied they: “A pox upon him! Is he governor still?”

song, carols, hymn, chants or even a drone

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Above Roy R. Behrens, Paul's New Acquisition (© 2021). Digital montage.


Joseph Langland (Poetry! What in the World are You Saying?)—

I wanted to sing to you to say, not to be forgotten, that poetry is among other things, song, varied carols, hymns, chants, or even a drone. But it is verbal music; the word is its god, and the poet its worshipper. I never was much interested in helping anyone into poetry because he had exciting ideas, but the moment I find someone who is enchanted by a phrase I think that he might be trained to lift whatever he thinks into a whole holy city of the imagination.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Inez McAlister Faber / Out Here on Soap Creek

Roy R. Behrens, Snake Eyes (© 2021). Digital montage.


Inez McAlister Faber, Out Here on Soap Creek. Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1982, pp. 23-24—

Probably many people wiser than I dislike some of the things I like, such as hoeing, canning, cleaning house, cutting corn fodder, living in the country, being in my thirties, dahlias, roses, meals on time, empty houses with flowers still growing in the yards, old furniture, small boys, books, newspaper editorials, astronomy, chickens, dogs, cows, horses, meat or gravy cooked in a cast-iron skillet, waffles, carrots and spinach.

It is quite likely that others, and I have no quarrel with them, like many of the things I hate, including petunias, cats, children who have been taught that they are cute, grown-ups who try to act kiddish, male or female sissies, superiority complexes, machine hemstitching, tablecloths hemmed on the machine, cows with horns, weedy gardens, dwelling houses painted green, rain on washday, so-called living rooms that are only used for company, and overstuffed davenports. Large women in striped or checked dresses, bad table manners, being flatly contradicted, people who handle books roughly or who lay an open book face down upon a table, people who read over my shoulder, inquisitiveness, concrete walks in front of farm homes, fried parsnips, mashed potatoes, interruptions while ironing, washing milk pails, cleaning muddy overshoes, cooking for visitors who do not come, going to bed, getting up, washing yesterday’s dishes, and talking over the telephone.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

a cool clutch and four gears and even reverse

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Above Roy R. Behrens, Hammer Smith (© 2021). Digital montage.


An unidentified aging British chaffeur and auto mechanic, recalling his youth as a worker on an estate, in Ronald Blythe, The View in Winter: Reflections on Old Age. New York: Penguin Books, 1980, p. 65—

I’ll tell you how I learned to drive. There was a shooting party and I had just got this car all washed and polished and clean, ready for the pick-up—the guns—when a boy came out of the house to put some dirt in the dustbin. I called out, “Come for a ride, Harry?” just as a joke, laughing, you know, but then in Harry jumps aside of me, looking pleased and excited. So what could I do? I was sixteen. I'd watched old Crossley [the estate chauffeur] with the gear-lever and the brake, and I told myself, “If he can do it, I can do it.” So I reached for the pedals and suddenly there we were, dashing down the front drive! That drive was a mile long and ended at the bottom lodge, where the village policeman lived. I was driving straight to prison, I told myself, for taking the motor. And could I turn it round and bring it back? But that lovely motor had a cool clutch and four gears and a reverse, and by luck I managed them all—brought it back safe, washed it all over again, and nothing was seen or said. That was the first time I had a drive and I’ve been driving ever since.

a car came down the street and ran into them

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Above Roy R. Behrens, Moon River Dog (© 2021). Digital montage.


Frank Jacobs, The Mad World of William M. Gaines. NY: Bantam Books, 1973, p. 77—

In the fall of 1954, [William M.] Gaines [founder and publisher of MAD Magazine] and Nancy [a close friend and staff member] were turning into a gas station on West 96th Street in Manhattan. As they made their turn, a car came down the street and barreled into them. No one was hurt, and Gaines exchanged the usual insurance data with the driver of the other car, whose name was Gene Zahn. About a year later, two blocks from the gas station, Gaines pulled up to a newspaper stand. After buying his paper, he returned to his car, backed out a few feet, and was struck by a car rounding the corner. No one was hurt, and Gaines exchanged the usual insurance data with the driver of the other car, whose name was Gene Zahn.

“Didn't we have an accident a year ago?” Gaines asked.

“I believe we did,” answered Zahn, giving a polite nod to Nancy, whom he remembered from the previous run-in. “Say, don't you think it's time you two got married?”

Gaines thought if over and decided that the point was well-taken. Within a month, he and Nancy were married.

a picture in which a dot is the lobe of a man's ear

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Above Roy R. Behrens, Rhythm and Discernment (© 2021). Digital montage.


Bennard B. Perlman, The Golden Age of American Illustration: F.R. Gruger and His Circle. Westport CT: North Light Publishers, 1977, p. 294—

The Composition Class instructor, Henry J. Thouron, sought to stimulate the creativity of his students. He would draw a rectangular area, then locate within it a few freehand lines and a dot. “Now I want a picture where this dot is the lobe of a man's ear and these lines are incorporated,” he would advise. All of the elements would have to become part of the composition; that was the challenge. Each student then evolved an original picture where the design was controlled by the novice artist, rather than by happenstance.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

or dance-like beatings the boy endured

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Above Roy R. Behrens, Papa's Waltz (© 2021). Digital montage.


The title of this digital book montage (I sometimes call them “visual poems”) is intended as an homage to what some people regard as Theodore Roethke’s finest work, a sixteen-line autobiographical poem, titled “My Papa’s Waltz” (c1942). It is beautifully constructed, filled with engagement and gesture—and is yet at the same time disturbing in its beneath-the-surface suggestions.

Roethke, as a poet should, makes apt use of figures of speech, and we (the readers) are left to decide what to make of it. Does “papa’s waltz” simply describe an innocent dance, in which an inebriated father is engaged in ritualistic fun with his son, a small boy. Or, as certain components suggest, is it not a literal waltz, but instead a frightening memory of dance-like beatings the boy endured at the hands of a drunken parent?

You must read the entire poem, which is available online at the website of the Poetry Foundation. At the same, it also helps to read the article about this poem on Wikipedia, and to learn about the life of Theodore Roethke.

rum, agony, complete carnage, noise and death

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Above Roy R. Behrens, Table Talk (© 2021). Digital montage.


Anonymous (a retired, 79-year-old British man, who, at age eighteen, while serving in France during World War I, had survived crippling battlefield wounds), quoted in Ronald Blythe, The View in Winter: Reflections on Old Age. UK: Penguin Books, 1980, pp. 135-136—

[While serving in the trenches] we reached a line the Germans had just vacated and on the next morning, after being made to drink a lot of rum, I went over the top for the first time. Everybody has written about it and nobody can describe it. Not really. The legs and arms of the dead stretched out, the ripped bellies of the horses steaming and stinking. And the dead faces of mates looking up at you out of the filth. Filth. Men made into filth before your very eyes. “He’s finished,” you’d say to yourself, and in a way you were glad he was! Because there was this useless agony because you’d got to go. How I prayed then! “Over the top!” it was, and there you were, running and falling. After the first time I fell asleep in a trench filling with water and was nearly drowned. We were on the Somme. It was solid carnage, noise and death. There was so much death then that it doesn’t matter to me now. Or should I say, it doesn’t worry me now. Now that I’m getting on for eighty, and when there’s not a morning when I don’t thank God for it. Day come, day go.